Located in Northeast Ohio’s Punderson State Park about 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, the land was originally settled by Lemuel Punderson and his wife, Sybal. The Pundersons operated a grist mill and distillery. After their deaths, the family sold the land to W.B. Cleveland whose heirs sold it to Detroit millionaire Karl Long in 1929.
Historians believe the 29-room, 14-bath mansion that now comprises the state park’s manor house was being built for Long’s wife, but Long never completed the home as he lost his fortune during the Great Depression and died before the home was completed. The property reverted back to its original owners, the Cleveland family, and eventually to the state of Ohio.
The state finally completed construction on the mansion in 1956, turning it into a resort with both lodging and dining. It added 26 two-bedroom cabins, and by the 1970s, it was a popular getaway for Clevelanders as well as a stop for other travelers. It was about then that resort and park employees began reporting the strange goings-on.
Some of their stories include:
A park ranger, whose job was to make rounds through the building, said he heard a woman’s loud laughter as he climbed a circular staircase from the resort’s main lobby to the second floor. At the same time, the hallway turned unusually cold. “For a second, it engulfed us,” he reported. “Then it quickly went down the hallway and stopped. Once the laughter stopped, the hallway returned to its normal warmth.”
Employee after employee has reported strange and annoying occurrences such as fires going out, pencils flying through the room, doors opening and closing, and faucets being turned on and off. Seasoned employees would sometimes get so annoyed at the disturbances that they would simply yell out for the “ghosts” to stop. Often, the disturbances would indeed stop. At least for a day or two.
A restaurant hostess dozing on a sofa in the employee lounge said she was awakened by the sounds of children laughing and running around the sofa. Of course, there were no children to be found in the room.
Perhaps the most terrifying event of all occurred in 1979 when three employees were chatting late at night near the front desk. One employee left for coffee in the nearby kitchen and returned moments later urging the other two employees to join her. Walking to the room that now houses Punderson Manor’s lounge, all three saw an apparition dressed like a lumberjack hanging by the neck from a rope that disappeared somewhere near the ceiling. The apparition slowly rotated on the rope as the three employees watched for nearly three hours until the sun rose and the image slowly faded away.
A recent general manager told of a couple who checked into the resort’s Windsor Suite, the most elegant – and haunted – room in the hotel. Moments after they checked in, the man returned to the front desk clearly disturbed. “My wife is really a very stable person,” he explained, “but she insists on leaving at once.” The husband told the front desk clerk that as soon as the couple went into the room, the wife sat down on the bed. And that is where her husband, who was in the living area of the suite, found her seconds later. Her face showed extreme terror. “Get me off this bed,” she said slowly. “They’re holding me down and I can’t move.” He took her hands and easily pulled her up. She told him later that it felt like someone – or even several people – were sitting on her.
Frequently, guests call down to the front desk to report loud noises in rooms next to theirs. Usually, those rooms are unoccupied. One man asked the front desk to quiet the party going on above him. His room was located on the top floor.
Recently, a Xanterra employee staying at the lodge for business reported that a wastebasket in the bathroom inexplicably moved while she was in the shower. It was blocking the shower door and she could not exit the shower without moving it out of the way. She left for her meetings after carefully returning the wastebasket to its place near the sink. When she returned to her room that night the wastebasket was once again blocking the shower door.
And several members of a recent press group reported strange experiences during their overnight stay. While trying to sleep, one person reported the repeated tugs on the covers as if someone was trying to take them off the bed. Another person reported an unexplained green glow in the room that slowly faded with the night. And after reviewing photographs taken during a tour of the mansion, one photographer found strange cloud-like formations hovering around one of the tour participants. That participant remembered being suddenly cold during that particular part of the tour.
The Park’s Amenities
Most guests don’t experience, or even seek out, these ghostly occurrences. They’re too busy playing golf on an 18-hole championship course or on the park’s disc golf course, playing tennis or basketball, swimming in the pool, and boating or fishing at the nearby lake. There’s also great hiking in the summer and sledding, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing in winter.
The lodge is managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts and is open year round. To make reservations at Punderson Manor State Park Lodge, call 1-800-282-7275 or visit the website .