An unexpected haunted house, just next door

Cleveland Museum of Art employees share spooky stories

Maria Fazal, Staff Reporter

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As residents of University Circle, Case Western Reserve University students have the privilege of living at a walking distance from the distinguished Cleveland Museum of Art. If we’re ever in the mood for an artistic journey covering a beautiful assemblage of art from all periods and places, we know where to go.

But did you know the museum has also been home to more chilling experiences?

Most of the museum’s otherworldly encounters appear to have taken place in the older 1916 building. Several workmen have reported odd occurrences, such as flashing lights and inexplicable changes in temperature. Things only get stranger from there.

Carolyn Ivanye, the museum’s protection services operation manager, has accumulated a number of reports concerning a painting, “Portrait of Jean-Gabriel du Theil at the Signing of the Treaty of Vienna.” Apparently, the person in the painting has been caught admiring himself on numerous occasions.

Ivanye says the wall on which the painting hung also had several issues, such as water leaks and electrical shorts. These problems ceased once the painting was removed and put into storage.

Interestingly, Ivanye is not the only one hard at work in the museum. William Mathewson Milliken, one of the museum’s former directors, has been spotted strolling through the museum with a file tucked underneath his arm. Milliken died in 1978.

However, perhaps the most widely reported spooky tale is that of the mysterious little boy. Several of the night shift watchmen have described seeing glimpses of a fleeting, childlike shadow. The most vivid account comes from former museum watchman, George Marker.

One night, Marker was on his usual watch when, out of nowhere, he heard a child’s laughter. A bit unnerved, he tried to rationalize the situation and decided to investigate the sound.

As he was convincing himself he was simply hearing things, a silhouette in his peripheral grabbed his attention. It was then that Marker realized he wasn’t alone.

A small figure stood in a corner, concealed by shadow. Marker was stunned. He instinctively raced away, a scream that had been caught in his throat reverberating throughout the museum.

After his decidedly life-changing experience, Marker set out to do some research on the museum’s past. As it turns out, the Cleveland Museum of Art wasn’t originally intended to be a museum.

The land on which the museum currently stands was originally donated by Jeptha Wade, who planned for a theology institute to be built on the plot. Unfortunately, Wade had a falling out with the school, and the land was used for the museum.

Additionally, Wade had hoped to establish communication with departed spirits through a couple of professorships in the institute. But why was Wade so interested in contacting the dead?

Marker unearthed that a tragic event occurred years before Wade donated the land. Wade had a son, Randal, who was only a child when he passed. The grief-stricken Wade had spent years attempting to contact his deceased son.

Marker believes this is the young boy he encountered on that fateful night at the museum.

It appears the Cleveland Museum of Art is filled with as much mystery as beauty. The expansive collection inspires visitors to keep their eyes peeled, which is good, because they might just get more than they bargained for.