Former local television news anchor Anietra Hamper calls her book "a labor of love."
"Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure" is the latest in a series of books showcasing what's special and perhaps a little odd about major cities around the country, including Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago.
Hamper, who grew up in northwest Columbus and whose parents still live there, discussed her addition to the series at the April 10 meeting of the Clintonville Historical Society. She acknowledged receiving assistance from society President Mary Rodgers when looking into aspects of the city that dealt with Clintonville.
Hamper, who spent nearly two decades in television -- starting at WCMH-TV (Channel 4) and concluding at WBNS-TV (Channel 10) -- told her audience that she started ThreeWord Press when she left television, concentrating on travel writing.
She said she was approached in 2016 by representatives of St. Louis-based Reedy Press to write the "Secret Columbus" book.
"They said, 'We feel like you're the right fit for this,' " Hamper said.
The book was to include 90 weird, wild and obscure aspects of the city -- and that seemed like a daunting task, she said.
"I said, 'Do it. You'll work it in. You'll be glad that you did,' " recalled her mother, Roberta Hamper, who attended the historical society's gathering.
Hamper said after deciding to take on the project, her approach was not to "regurgitate content" that had appeared elsewhere, but to use skills from her career to find original aspects of Columbus that fit what the publisher was seeking.
"I'm a journalist to the core," Hamper said. "I looked in places no one else looked. I talked to people no one else talked to. I asked questions no one else asked."
The main lesson Hamper said she learned in researching the book: Always ask the oldest guy in the building.
That proved to be the case when seeking to determine if an air-raid shelter existed in the basement of City Hall. It turned out to be in a sub-basement, Hamper said, and the person who knew about it was City Auditor Hugh Dorrian, who recently retired after nearly a half-century.
It also was the case, she said, in trying to track down how the Short North was named. Hamper said she'd always heard that it dated to the 1960s, a grim era of rampant crime for what's now a hotspot of development, and referred to calls that were "north" of one precinct house but "short" of another.
Lt. Karl Barth, who retired from the Columbus Division of Police in 2017 after 56 years on the force, confirmed that, Hamper said.
Hamper credited her mother with helping research entries for "Secret Columbus," including seeking graves marked "specimens" associated with the former State of Ohio Asylum for the Insane Cemetery on the Hilltop.
"It's not a place you want to go alone, and I say so in the book, so I took my mother," Hamper said.
"She had heard about it and said, 'Let's go see,' " Roberta Hamper said.