In Search of Ghosts at Malabar Farm

In Search of Ghosts at Malabar Farm

When people hear that I am a writer, who lives in the state of Ohio, inevitably they ask if I had visited Malabar Farm, the American homestead (as opposed to the French one) of Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield. Sheepishly I would have to confess to the person posing the question that not only had I never visited the farm, but didn’t know who the world Louis Bromfield was.

That changed this weekend.

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Portrait of Louis Bromfield with his beloved dog, Prince.
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The front door of the “Big House”

The “Big House” otherwise known as Bromfield’s mammoth mansion on the farm was very much used as a family farm house, regarudless of its size. Bromfeild had his study on the first floor, and a replica of Thomas Jefferson’s desk. What I also loved about Bromfield was that he was a dog lover, owning six boxers in addition to a variety of poodles, golden retrievers, and other breeds during his life at Malabar. Hollywood stars Humphrey Bogart (a life long friend of Bromfield’s) and Lauren Bacall were married in 1945, making the farm a recognizable landmark around the United States.

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A (smaller) replica of Bromfield’s bed in his study along with boxer bed for his dogs.
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Bromfield’s work desk along with smaller typing desk behind it. Also love the Japanese wall screen that depicts Malabar and his boxers.
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Looking through the living room, dinning room (with a cardboard stand of Bromfield- it’s not a ghost) into the kitchen.

Bromfield also came into the ownership of one of Ohio’s most heinous murder scenes- the Rose Family home. It still stands, less than a mile from Bromfield’s mansion, just down the hill from it in fact.

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The Rose Family Home as it stands in 2014.

This case is one of the chapters in my upcoming book Ohio’s Haunted Crime. To quickly sum up the story of the Rose Family; Ceely Rose was a 23 year old girl who not only had two elderly parents and a brother (who was old enough to be her father too) but also heavily misunderstood and somewhat verbally abused growing up in Pleasant Valley according to testimony by locals. Neighbors called her “silly” Ceely, and seemed never to take her seriously because they perceived her to be an imbecile, which turned out to be a very deadly mistake. Ceely became infatuated with the son of her next-door-neighbor, 18 year old Guy Berry, who was described as been an all-around nice guy. Guy was civil to Ceely when others were not, and she would stop to talk to him on her way around town every day. Ceely misunderstood this kindness to mean he was attracted to her, and soon she started spreading word that they were to get married, something George Berry, Guy’s father, did not agree with. George complained to David Rose, Ceely’s father that Ceely was spending too much time around Guy and keeping him from working the family farm and so David Rose forbid Ceely from ever seeing Guy again. She kept away for about a week before going back to stalking Guy around the Berry family farm again. David forbid Ceely from seeing Guy yet again, but this time Ceely decided to get rid of the people who were holding her back from her “true love.” She did this by poisoning her family by lacing her family’s cream cheese dish at breakfast one June day in 1896 with a product called Rough on Rats, which was 100% arsenic . It took 10 days for her father to die of arsenic poisoning, 14 days for her brother Walter, but her mother managed to survive the small initial dose of the stuff. When a recovering Rebecca Rose, Ceely’s mother, told Ceely that they were going to pack up and move away now that Walter and David were gone (which also meant moving away from Guy), Ceely poisoned her mother yet again with arsenic laced milk and bread. Eventually she was found guilty by reason of insanity and ultimately was one of the first female inmates at the Lima State Hospital for the insane where she died.

Up until recently, it was not possible for park visitors to visit the Ceely Rose house since it was the home of the farm manager. However, three years ago the manager retired and the park started to allow visitors on the Night Haunt tour to enter! So you can guess what I made arrangements to do, visit the infamous murder scene in a legal way.

The June Night Haunt was from 8pm-12am, but I filled the day visiting the park, taking the farm and Big House tours, and even visiting my friends at the Ohio State Reformatory!

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The volunteer staff at the Ohio State Reformatory say “Hi!” Visit them in Mansfield, Ohio for a tour, or book a ghost hunt at the old reformatory!

You will have to wait for the book to be able to read about my experiences during the night haunt. But both the Big House and the Ceely Rose home are said to be haunted (oh, and the Berry Family home to boot!)

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The Berry Family home, now a youth hostel located on the Malabar Farm property. It sits just across a creek (located to the left) from the Rose Family home.

Also some fun photos from this weekend:

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Poncho, a 37 year old Yellow Headed Amazon who lives at the visitor’s center at Malabar Farm. He only talks to you when you’ve walked away…usually saying “Hello!”
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A goat at the petting farm. Small adventure for the day, a young kid (goat) wiggled through the bars of the fence (different fence than pictured) to come say “hi.” There were no state park officers around, so myself and another visitor gently slide the kid back into the pen. We didn’t want it to run away. The kid was fine and went back to grazing.
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Bunny! Little lop bunny really! Little guy needs to get his ears cleaned.
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Very pretty copper colored bun begging for pets at the farm.
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One of the many beef cattle that live at the farm. Malabar Farm State Park is the only working farm in the Ohio state park system. You can eat Malabar Beef burgers at the Malabar Inn…kinda chilling given the photo…