On October 10, 2003 I went to Malabar Farm State Park with my parents to see the Ceely Rose play performed by the Mansfield Playhouse. While we were there we took a tour of the house, took a wagon tour to Pleasant Valley Cemetery, and of course ended the night by watching the play in the main barn.
As usual, I took too many photos, so I have divided them into the following sections:
Louis Bromfield, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, built Malabar Farm in 1939. Today visitors can tour the home, which still contains the original furnishings, and take wagon rides of the farm. You can learn more about the farm and Louis Bromfield by visiting these websites:
Malabar Farm and the nearby Pleasant Valley Cemetery are supposedly haunted by the ghost of Ceely Rose, a young girl who murdered her family in 1896. Ceely Rose and her family lived in a house on the grounds of Malabar Farm State Park. Ceely Rose had a huge crush on a local boy named Guy Berry. Guy, however, did not feel the same about Ceely. Ceely was so in love with Guy that she told her family, friends (in fact, anyone who would listen!) that she was engaged to him. Guy was afraid that he'd hurt Ceely's feelings if he told her he had no intention of marrying her, so instead he lied and told her that they could never get married because her family did not approve of him. That made Ceely furious, she couldn't believe her family would keep her from her true love. So she decided to soak flypaper in water and then pour the arsenic-laced water on the cottage cheese she served them. Within three short months her parents and brother died. Guy left town for several years, he was afraid what Ceely might do to him if she ever found out the truth. Some of her neighbors eventually got her to confess to the murder. She was locked away in a mental hospital for the rest of her life, which was about 41 years!
On February 28, 2004 I met Mark Jordan at Malabar Farm to discuss the Ceely Rose haunting. Mark wrote the Ceely play that was performed in October 2003, and he had experienced some pretty strange things while rehearsing the play in the old barn. He is a little bit of a skeptic when it comes to ghosts, and that made his stories even more believable!
Before I get into Mark's stories, I think it's interesting to mention that the big barn at Malabar Farm was originally constructed using beams from the old Schrack Mill. Ceely Rose's father was the last operator of the mill, and it was located right down the road from the barn. The barn burned down sometime in the 1990's, but they were able to salvage some of the original beams. Maybe that connection to the Rose family is part of the reason why the cast of the play experienced strange occurences while rehearsing there?!
On to the stories. The first odd thing that Mark witnessed during the rehearsals was a pulsing light. He said it wasn't flickering like a lightbulb that was about it go out, it was steadily pulsing on and off. The rest of the lights on that strand were fine. And to make it a little more creepy, it started the pulsing during the scene where Ceely poisoned her mother a second time!! The light never did the on and off thing again. If it was a short it probably would have continued to pulse until it went off for good.
Mark did have another interesting encounter with the lights though, however the next time it was a different light. The original plan for the opening of the play was to have all the lights out in the barn so everyone was sitting in the dark. Then electric signs would light up one at a time around the stage with words like "murder", "mysterious deaths", etc. However, this plan didn't end up working out since there weren't enough channels on the lighting equipment to use for all the signs. Mark came up with another idea to replace the lights (which was actually eerier, but I'm not going to tell you what they did instead of the lights in case you go and see it this year!). Anyway, the weekend before the play opened Mark was covering up an opening in the barn with black fabric to keep out light. One of the signs, "mysterious deaths", was still hanging up where he was stapling the black fabric. Instead of messing around with taking the sign down, he decided to just leave it up and cover it with the fabric. When he was stapling near the sign, he noticed that the sign flashed on and then went out quickly. Mark thought it might have just been his imagination, but after researching everything that could have caused the light to flash he discovered that there was no logical explanation!
The last creepy thing to happen during the rehearsals was only a few days before opening night. No light problems this time...the sound board stopped working! Mark tried to play around with the sound equipment to fix the problem himself, but he couldn't get it to work. He called the sound director at the Mansfield Playhouse, and the next night he came to Malabar Farm with replacement sound equipment. Mark and the sound director unplugged each piece of equipment one at a time and plugged in the replacement piece. And guess what...none of the replacement pieces worked either! They were both pretty frustrated by this point. Mark walked over to the other side of the barn and whispered (so no one would hear him and think he was crazy!) "Please Ceely, we can't tell your story without your help". When he went back over to the sound board, his friend turned the board back on and everything was working correctly!! They didn't have any problems with the sound after that.
In addition to the eerie barn experience, Mark told me about another strange incident reported around the time of the 2003 performance. A friend of Candy Boyd's (Candy is the actress who played Ceely) who came to the show said to Candy afterwards, "That was a good idea for you guys to have someone in costume looking out the window at Ceely's house when the wagon tour came by...". However, no one in costume was in the Rose house!!
Mark also told me about his trip to Lima, Ohio to visit Ceely's grave. They went to the indigent patient's cemetery where the old Lima Mental Hospital was on a gray, cloudy day. When Mark took his last photo of Ceely's grave, the clouds parted a little and a bright ray of sunshine hit her grave.
Are all of Mark's stories just coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not! I'll let you decide :) I really want to thank Mark for sharing his stories with me to post on the site!!
In July 2004, I received an interesting story about Malabar Farm in my inbox from Myrrha Lisbon, a website visitor:
I live about 15 minutes north of the farm and my boyfriend works as a Naturalist there. I am there quite often and love the place. He loves working there as well. I have been aware of the Ceely Rose story for quite some time and have something else to add. The family that lives in the house at present has a 6 year old son who has seen "a strange lady" in the upstairs of the house. I do know that kids seem to be more suseptible to phenomenom, or maybe they just aren't afraid to talk about their experiences. But I know the family and trust what they have told me. The boy still sees her at times but the parents have not.
Myrrha's story is the first one I've heard about paranormal activity in the Bromfield house. Now I'm ready to go up there for another tour to see if I catch anything strange in my photos! I want to give Myrrha a big "thank you" for sharing her story with me!
In October 2004 I received an e-mail from Mark Jordan about some of the creepy things that happened at this year's Ceely performances:
Ceely has been going well up here on the farm, but things had been surprisingly quiet until recently. I thought I would let you know a couple of odd things that happened. Saturday night our performance was going great, but about half way through the first act, the right channel of my soundboard (or the speaker) went out. Then a while later, I noticed it was back on. Then back out. It never shorted in and out while music or sound effects were playing, it was always either completely on or off, no matter what I did to the switches and connections on the board. Toward the end of the second act, Amy (who is one of my backstage people) got annoyed with it and whispered at the speaker, "Knock it off, Ceely!" It worked perfectly the rest of the night and all day Sunday. Amy says she's also heard a girlish giggle in the barn at times when there's no one else there. She is convinced that it is Ceely, but is also convinced that Ceely bears us no bad will-- she just wants to play and get our attention.
In January 2005 I received an e-mail from Laura Callahan, the stage manager for Ceely, with more stories about the paranormal encounters experienced during the 2004 performances:
The Tuesday before we opened the show, I was out at the farm doing some painting and random stage work. I usually went to the farm with Gretchen (spoken of in other Ceely stories) but I went really early that day, around 1 pm, so I was alone in the barn except for tourists. Malabar Farm closes at 4:30, so the rangers came and told me they were leaving. That was fine with me. I was in a bad mood anyhow, so I kind of wanted to be left alone.
A few days after I received Laura's first e-mail, she sent me another story about strange things she experienced at Malabar Farm:
The last week of the show, we came in Thursday night for what we call "brush up" rehearsal. The weekend before had been the SUPER creepy weekend, lots of inexplicable things going on, not all of them nice. We don't usually use the lights or sound during brush ups, but for some reason I decided to run the lights that night. I sat down at the light board and had somebody turn off all the other lights in the barn. I turned the light board on and brought up the lights for the first scene. The light board is kind of hard to explain, I have 2 sets of switches, one up and one down. I can set the lights for the next scene while the current scene is going on. When I want to switch from scene to scene, I pull the master switch from top to bottom, or vice versa. Well, making a long story short, The first scene was over and I switched the lights...only nothing happened. I tried blacking out then, killing all the lights...and nothing happened. So we stopped the rehearsal for a few minutes while I checked the breaker box, even though I knew that wasn't the problem. I thought maybe something wasn't plugged in all the way, but everything was fine. Mark and I just kind of looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. I played with the board for a few minutes, but nothing would go out - everything stayed on once it was turned on. I sat there for a minute, trying to figure out HOW IN THE WORLD I was going to run lights for a sold out show the next night when I couldn't turn anything out. I asked Ceely to PLEASE stop messing with the light board, that I really needed it and we couldn't tell her story without it. Then I called my tech director and asked him to hightail it out there to bail me out. He was on his way, so we continued with rehearsal with me calling the light cues out instead of actually doing them. In the last scene of Act 1, I decided to try the lights again on a whim...and they worked. Just fine. The next night, the lights did the same thing...stayed on and wouldn't shut off. Of course, I panicked. But they started working just fine about 15 minutes before the show started. They did exactly the same thing the night after that. I think Ceely was just playing with me, I have this feeling that she wanted to make sure we knew she was still there and still in control. It sure was weird, though. I've never had that happen, before or since then.
Also in January 2005 I heard from Amy Stauffer, who worked with Mark and Laura on the 2004 Ceely production:
My 'station' was back-stage right (the audience's left... by the door that goes down the back to the outside). After the performance started on that "creepy" night, the back door was constantly banging and slamming, even though there was no breeze. My mind automatically switched to wind-tunnel effect, but when I stood near the door there was no air movement at all, just bitter coldness. It slammed especially hard when I stood by it. During the intermission I asked Laura if she could hear it from the booth, but she couldn't. I also opened the door, stood back, and said "Come on Ceely, you know you're welcome here. Come on in and please stop playing with the door." I think I may have upset the presence even more because it was even louder during act 2.
When Mark read Amy's story about the barn door slamming, it made him remember something similar that happened to him:
As for that door in the back that Amy mentions, that reminded me of how one evening I was standing at the bottom of the stairs on the other side of that door. Now, granted, this particular night it was windy, so the fact that the door opened may not mean anything, but it did slowly swing open and hold there for a second and just as slowly close again. It was as if someone had opened the door, looked down the stairs to see who was there, and then closed it. For some reason-- possibly nothing more than a writer's overactive imagination-- I pictured a tall, strong man in farm work clothes, wearing a hat as he opened that door. But I couldn't picture a face. The face was a blank, and I felt the whole image was malevolent. But like I say, this could have been nothing more than the wind and my imagination being fired by the creepy atmosphere of the place.
In April 2005, I received an e-mail from Chevy Troxell about her strange experiences at Malabar Farm:
I'm a ghost hunter myself as well a a photographer. One September evening I decided to take a ride out to Malabar Farm to take some pictures for a project I was making for the play that was being performed out there. I have done many shows with Mark and we have shared plenty of stories. This night was a spooky night, there was a light fog rolling across the farm land. Well I pulled into the parking lot about 8:30 pm, it wasn't real dark and I took some pictures of the Bromfield home, the farm animals, and strangely enough there was and old couple out for an evening walk. It started to get darker the closer we got to the Rose house, and the man was talking about how he was in some way related to the Berry Family. Wow I thought! He asked me if I was out there trying to see her. No, No thank you...It wasn't that thought hadn't even crossed my mind. He was telling me how Ceely was going to kill the Berry Family as well as her own...I said out in front of her house "Wow she sure was crazy", without even thinking about where I was. I had walked with the couple a little past the house to where that other barn is and that small pound when I stopped to tie my shoe. I said, "well you two have a nice and safe walk"... when I looked up and they were gone! By that time it was about 9:20. I went to turn my camara on and take a picture. When I heard my name being called. Loud and clear I heard "Chevy". From across the pond. I was sure my ears were playing tricks on me. So I ignored it and went on with going to take my picture of the house. When the camera would not work I pushed every button there was to push. I tried it one more time and it took in a real slow motion. I decided then to walk back to my car as fast as my legs could carry me. My camera would work again until I left the park, more til I was back in the city. I walk into my apartment and then my roommate said "what's wrong with you, you look like you've seen a ghost.quot; I thought you have no idea! I went into the living home with my camera and took a picture just fine. When I got the pics back there was a huge blur across it and scattered lights.
Matt Roberts also experienced some strange things when he visited Malabar Farm:
I met Mark out at Malabar with Laura. There was some kind of reception going on in the barn, so we took a slow walk towards the Rose house and the Berry house while Mark and Laura shared their experiences with me. All the while I was snapping pictures of the Rose house.
Just a few minutes later, I received another e-mail from Matt:
I just did a yahoo search on Ceely Rose because I was interested to see if there were any known pictures of her so that maybe I could figure out who the hell I was visited by in the barn at Malabar.
In March 2006 I received an e-mail from Brian about his trip to Malabar Farm:
I recently took a trip up to Malabar Farm, in search of Ceely Rose's house. I did not know which house it was, so I asked some locals. They provided NO information, and denied all accounts. Well, my friend and I drove around passing her house several times, without knowing it. Then, for no apparent reason, my cell phone starts playing "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago. Just rang "Hold me now, hard for me to say I'm sorry, I just want you to know"...freaked me out! Nobody has that ringtone. There was no reason for it to just do that while we were there.
In June 2006 I received an e-mail from Dawn about her trip to the farm:
I believe my 12 year old daughter had an encounter with the presence in the ladies restroom yesterday while we were at the Malabar Farm. We had driven to Mansfield to have dinner, and while we were at the restaurant I begged my husband to take me to Malabar Farm. I had always wanted to see it but we never had time while on trips to Cedar Point. After I told him it was either Malabar or the old Mansfield Reformatory, he picked Malabar :) My daughter wanted to know about the Farm and the story about the ghost, so I simply told her that the Farm was the home of a famous author and the ghost was that of a young woman who murdered her family for a boy that really didn't love her. I explained to her that Ceely lived in a house near the farm and, if we had time, I would show her what house it was.
In October 2006 I received the following e-mail from Brett Mitchell:
Last winter I made a typical after hours visit, along with my girlfriend at the time, to Malabar Farm. Going back to the 'office' is never an arduous endeavor when your 'office' is Pleasant Valley. Well, that night was one of our typical routines of looking for adventure in a seemingly mundane area. Of course this always meant pulling out those ancient 19th Century Plats of Richland County that have long ago been stored in my mind and searching for mounds, cemeteries and dilapidated farm houses.
Brett showed me the photo of the boxer. Now, you can ask almost anyone on the message board and they'll tell you I am HORRIBLE at seeing ghosts in photos. I can usually come up with a logical explanation. However, the photo Brett showed me is so clear - there is definitely a dog there! And it's also clear the photo isn't altered. There are no pets in the house now, so this dog is definitely a ghostly guardian.
In November 2007 I received the following e-mail from Michelle W. regarding her experiences at Malabar Farm:
My mom is a ghost hunter with a local group, and they were given permission in either 2005 or 2006 to investigate Malabar Farm. My boyfriend and I went along with them since we are avid ghost hunters ourselves. The men in the groups never experienced anything, but weird stuff did happen. One of the motion sensors went off, and when we went to check it out no one was around. In one of the bedrooms, I believe it was the honeymoon suite, we were sitting there, just waiting for any sign of activity. I had a video camera, and after shooting with no prevail for at least 15 minutes I went to shut it off. We deicded to leave. As me, my mom, and another woman were getting up to leave, the woman's audio recorder flew out of her back pocket and slid at least 10 feet on the hardwood floor, almost going completely under the bed. I managed to capture the very end of the recorder sliding on the floor. We tried to get it to slide that far again, but it wouldn't. On the way down the main stairs, my mom felt like she was pushed and almost fell.
I received the following e-mail from Lisa Leech in August 2008:
We visited Malabar Farm this morning. What a beautiful place to visit. We hadn't been there since the new Visitor Center had been built. Before we returned home, we stopped by the Malabar Inn for a delicious lunch. Afterwards, we called our daughter on our cell phone to tell her that we were returning home and that we wouldn't hear her calls for 55 miles (we rode the motorcycle). After I stated that to her, our conversation was broke up by a frightening, ghostly sounding voice that said about two sentences of garbled words. It was a demonic sounding male voice that sent chills up and down my arms. My husband heard it as well when I held the phone outwards toward him. We have no idea what that was all about? In fact,I suspected that we were interrupted by someone from the spirit world. That is how I found your website. I wondered if others had other experiences with them?
I received the following e-mail from Gloria L. in May 2009:
My son and I were visitors to Malabar Farm about four years ago, during the July summer. I took many pictures, which I need to fish out of storage to see if any unusual things appear. I am clairaudient and sensitive to touches on my body that have no logical explanation. I very strongly sensed spirit activity in the bedrooms, stairs, and especially the kitchen and surrounding area.
I received an update from Gloria L. in June 2009:
I would like to thank Beth Santore for her reply to my experiences at the hostel near Ceely Rose's house. It turns out that the hostel was once the home of Guy Berry, Ceely's love. This validates my intuitions about the paranormal feel of the hostel. Curiously, that would also explain why the hostel owner (a really sweet lady) totally locked herself in her living area downstairs while we settled down for the night in a second floor room. It all makes sense now.
I received an e-mail from Aubrey in February 2010 with an observation about one of my photos:
I might have found something in your pictures. It's the Bromfield House Interior. In the "looking down hall" picture I believe I see a man. His head is on top of the 2nd doorway. Sort of at the center. Maybe I'm just seeing things. But I thought I'd let you know.
If you ever visit Malabar Farm, maybe you'll get to "meet" Ceely Rose too! If you do, be sure to send me an e-mail and I'll post your story on the site!