Welcome to haunted Punderson Manor in Northeast Ohio.
This is an excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler
Some people avoid “haunted” hotels and lodges. Others flock to them. Those in the latter category will find esoteric thrills galore at the Punderson Manor State Park Lodge in northeast Ohio’s Punderson State Park. And it doesn’t have to be Halloween, or even a dark and stormy night, to bring on the action.
Some employees have heard the sound of children’s laughter when there are no children around. Fires go out. Pencils fly across a room. Doors open and shut of their own volition. Faucets turn off and on with no one near. Televisions turn on by themselves – or off. Usually at inconvenient times.
It’s enough to make a housekeeper cry, “Stop!” and sometimes these strange occurrences do. For example, guests sometimes hear loud noises coming from rooms next to them, which are in fact unoccupied or, in one case, from the room above (except that guest was on the top floor). Most of these happenings are just annoying – or entertaining, depending on how open the guest is to experiencing such strange events.
But at least one event was pretty grisly: The specter of a lumberjack was seen hanging from a beam in the lounge for nearly three hours. Many staff members saw it. This was the only really scary event of dozens reported since the elegant 31-room manor opened in northern Ohio in the 1950s.
The land was originally settled by Lemuel Punderson and his wife, Sybal who operated a grist mill and distillery. After their deaths, the family sold it to W.B. Cleveland, whose heirs sold it to Detroit millionaire Karl Long in 1929.
Historians believe the 29-room mansion (with 14 baths) was being built for Long’s wife. Rumor has it, she disliked Detroit while others say it was just a vacation home for the Longs. 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 employees began reporting the strange goings-on.
A self-proclaimed psychic spent some time on the property and says she spoke with a ghost who said he would continue to haunt the manor “until his rocking chair was returned.” Some think that the chair to which he refers is the rocking chair that belonged to Sybal Punderson, which was inherited by Cleveland and ended up in a historic collection.
Few clues can be found to explain the other happenings. No children ever lived at the manor, and there were no suspicious or tragic deaths there, as far as anyone can tell. The manor, however, was built across the lake from the old Wales Hotel, which burned in 1885 and where some children died in the fire.
Most guests don’t experience, or even seek out, these ghostly occurrences. They’re too busy playing golf on an 18-hole championship 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 resort is managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts and is open year round. To make reservations at the Punderson Manor State Park Lodge, call 1-800-282-7275 or visit pundersonmanorstateparklodge.com/.
To reserve rooms in these state parks or for more information, visit the individual web sites or ohiostateparklodges.com. Xanterra also operates the marina and facilities at Geneva Marina State Park in Geneva-on-the-Lake in northeastern Ohio.