Ohio Herb Center's Ghosts of Gahanna features spooky lore

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Amanda Ferguson, Ohio Herb Center coordinator and instructor, points to the Gahanna Area Arts Council house, 116 Mill St., where some claim paranormal activity has been observed on multiple occasions.

The sound of children playing in a vacant attic, a cold brush against the back of the neck or the eerie feeling you’re being watched. 

These occurrences and more are part of the Ohio Herb Center’s Ghosts of Gahanna tour.

Amanda Ferguson, Ohio Herb Center coordinator and instructor, takes participants on a tour of Olde Gahanna, spinning tales about some colorful characters who had spent time in the city, as well as some secrets about the not-so-well-known spooky history.

Amanda Ferguson, Ohio Herb Center coordinator and instructor, conducts a smudging, using sage as a cleansing and purification practice, at the Ohio Herb Center, 110 Mill Street.

On the night of Oct. 2, with the moon just one day past its Harvest Full Moon phase, Ferguson set the scene for a story about one of the city’s most infamous residents, Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was indicted for his wife’s murder Aug. 17, 1954.

What’s currently known as the Re/Max building at 130 Mill St. formerly was an apartment complex called the Executive, where Sheppard had resided on the second floor in the mid-1960s.

Murder mystery

On July 4, 1954, Ferguson said, Marilyn Sheppard was found bludgeoned in her bed. 

“And the story that Dr. Sam Sheppard gave was that he had been entertaining in their home and they had had workmen doing some repairs in their home,” she said. “While he was entertaining his guests, his wife had gone to bed. When he went upstairs, he found her dead.”

On July 30, 1954, Sam Sheppard was taken into custody for the murder of his wife. 

The 1970 movie "The Lawyer" is based on the case, according to IMDb.

In July 1961, Sheppard’s original defense attorney died, she said. 

“And another famous person gets pulled into the case – F. Lee Bailey, who, if you don’t know, was the defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson case,” Ferguson said. “One of the people on his legal team was Benjamin Clark, who just so happened to be an attorney from Gahanna.

"On July 16, 1964, Sam Sheppard was released from the Ohio (Penitentiary), which was in downtown Columbus. He was released on the bias of this media circus surrounding his case.”

Sheppard didn't want to return home to the Cleveland area, so Clark told him about the Executive apartments in Gahanna, Ferguson said.

“He starts practicing medicine, and when he starts taking appointments, 30 women were waiting in line to see him,” Ferguson said. “He lived here until 1966. He ended up moving to Whitehall. He stopped practicing medicine. He moved to Whitehall and became a professional wrestler and ends up marrying his wrestling partner’s daughter.”

Ferguson said people on her tours often give her a history lesson, as well. 

She said a fire station once stood on a site off Mill Street.

“A gentleman, who was a firefighter in the city of Gahanna, would see (Dr. Sheppard) driving down Mill Street in his Cadillac with two German shepherds in the back," she said. "He was a pretty frequent sight in Gahanna around that time.”

Paranormal energy

Ferguson describes a more permanent residency that seems to have taken up at what’s the current Gahanna Area Arts Council house, 116 Mill St.

The home was built in 1904, and when Barb Drobnick moved her Honey Grove Botanicals shop into the home in 2010, Ferguson said, she saw a child’s face looking at her from the banister railing.

“Before she could say anything, all she heard was a soft, high-pitch ‘hello,'" she said. “She reported hearing children playing in the upstairs attic.”

Drobnick’s granddaughter visited and, while she was in the back room, let out a blood-curling scream, Ferguson said.

“She said she saw the face of an angry man in the staircase,” she said.

On another occasion, when an internet installer was servicing the house, Ferguson said, he asked about accessing under the stairway.

The man, who was also a member of the Central Ohio Paranormal Society, said he was drawn to the enormous amount of energy he felt there.

Someone’s watching

Employees of the Ohio Herb Center have experienced so much unusual activity at the house at 110 Mill St., Ferguson said, that they have been keeping a journal.

“Activity stirred during a major renovation when a new slate roof was added in 2017,” she said. “The staff office was moved into the upstairs room above the parlor.”

While working on a laptop, an employee felt a cold brush against the back of her neck, Ferguson said. 

“She stopped working and had to leave the room,” she said. 

When you walk up the stairway of the house, Ferguson said, employees always feel as if someone is waiting and watching as they make their way up, she said.

Ghost hunters

Erin Staugh of Westerville said she thought the ghost tour was spooky.

“I could feel something, although it might have been the power of suggestion,” she said.

Sunbury resident Kelly Wampler said she thought it was interesting. 

As with Staugh, she said, she could feel things.

New Albany resident Jim Rousseau said he enjoyed the local lore. 

“It was a blast from the past, learning about Sam Sheppard,” he said.  “I thought it would be fun to hear about the Ghosts of Gahanna.”

Shelasia Miller of Gahanna said she felt something pull her arm in the upstairs of the Ohio Herb Center. 

“I think it definitely got more scary upstairs,” she said. “Outside, I thought this may be boring, but when I got inside, I said, ‘Oh, sh**!’”

Those who dare have one more opportunity to take a Ghost of Gahanna tour this season.

The fright starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Herb Center.

To register, go to ohioherbcenter.org/learn-classes-1.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla