Visiting Punderson State Park on a sunny day may bring visions of swimming in the lake, golfing on an 18-hole course, playing tennis, fishing, hiking or enjoying a family picnic. However, some visitors venturing into the park’s stately manor lodge on a dark evening see more sinister visions as Punderson Manor ghosts reportedly roam the property.
I’ve roamed the property many times while attending a yearly writers’ conference at the manor lodge, searching out some of the corners and crannies reportedly haunted by Punderson’s most troubled apparitions. I’ve yet to spy a ghost, but I still enjoy hearing the puzzling tales of Punderson’s past residents.
The lodge, originally built as a 29-room home by Detroit millionaire Karl Long, sits on the shores of quiet Punderson Lake as park of Ohio’s Punderson State Park, a few miles east of Cleveland.
Lemuel Punderson settled on the property during the early 1800s, building a distillery, grist mill and home near the lake. The park’s namesake died under mysterious circumstances, with one of the more colorful rumors involving his reportedly committing suicide by drifting into the lake in a bathtub, pulling the plug and drowning.
W.B. Cleveland and his family next occupied the land, before its sale to Karl Long.
Long began building his Tudor-style mansion in 1929, but the stock market crash of that year led to a sharp decline in his fortune. Long died among unsubstantiated rumors of suicide and leaving behind the unfinished hulk of a home.
The State of Ohio acquired the property in 1948, eventually renovating the mansion and opening the property as a park and vacation resort in 1956. A second renovation in the early 1980s resulted in the addition of a new wing of hotel-like rooms in the lodge and conference center.
Park rangers, lodge employees and guests report numerous unexplained sounds and apparitions in the older portion of the lodge.
I’ve always stayed in the newer wing of the lodge, but I make it a point to ascend the lobby’s spiral staircase and prowl around the common areas of the original wing during each stay.
Laughing children playing on the spiral stairs, sometimes accompanied by a woman in mid-1800s clothing or a rush of cold air, occasionally appear to visitors and workers during the night. More disturbing visions like a man hanging from a chandelier in the dining room, the sounds of moans coming from supposedly unoccupied rooms or the uneasy feeling that something is sitting on the bed next to them sometimes spook visitors and park employees.
I always visit the supposedly spooky narrow hallway leading to the site of some of the most notorious ghostly tales, sit a spell in the small library of the old Tower wing and sometimes visit the library or a small lounge in the wing with friends to share a post conference bottle of wine.
While I’ve yet to spy any of Punderson’s uneasy spirits, I remember one of my fellow conference attendees reporting the unsettling experience of sensing an unseen visitor in her room one evening.
Punderson’s paranormal reputation makes it an interesting destination for those seeking supernatural experiences, like this geocaching travel bug we left along a hiking trail in the park. But the lovely lodge and park is also enjoyable for those who aren’t so easily spooked or sensitive to the site’s ghostly history.
© Dominique King 2008