Cleveland Grays Armory Museum
Spirits here are not ready to leave yet, and choose to spend their afterlife here.
A deadly accident, the volunteer militia spectral members are still in service,
the love of speakeasy life, and being in a job hard to let go of are the central causes.
Wow! What a one-of-a-kind structure! Looking much like an immense castle, Cleveland Grays Armory is a masterpiece in Richarsonian Romanesque stonework, and has a “splendid mix of color and materials” which truly knocked our socks off when we visited this building during the fall of 2021! The building was closed, but the outside was truly impressive.
It is an enormous, rectangular three/four story brick, sandstone, and polished granite beauty with huge oak doors and a black iron gate. It’s made complete with a five story tower located on the northeast corner of this splendid building. Detailing on the stone is quite decorative and special, indeed. This structure was built to last forever, and definitely fire-proof!
Today, Cleveland Grays Armory works hard as a social organization whose mission is to promote patriotism, care for veterans of all wars and military service, to serve the community, and to preserve the military history and heritage of the great city of Cleveland.
The 1893 Cleveland Grays Armory building at 1234 Bolivar Road is used for projects and events of the Cleveland Grays. It has a 10,000 ft. rectangular Drill Hall/Ballroom on the first floor (with its original pocket doors), an active bar and pool table area on the third floor, and shooting range in the basement that has long been used by the Cleveland Police Force. There is another Ballroom on the third floor next to the bar area.
The interior spaces of this magnificent building have been admired by the people of Cleveland for years. Cleveland Grays Armory also rents out spaces to other groups to help bring in funds, and has done since 1977. The Cleveland Grays Armory has been the place for parties, concerts, artistic events, weddings, receptions, and even proms! The room inside spaces have long been a popular place for special events in Cleveland.
The lobby is lovely, and has the Civil War canon that was captured by members of the Cleveland Grays and brought back to their headquarters to be put on display in a place of honor.
Their Drill Hall/Ballroom on the first floor has a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ that had originally been in a theatre in Pennsylvania. It was restored by the Western Reserve Theatre Organ Society. Organ concerts are given here three times per year.
The castle turret has a meeting room and living quarters for their caretaker who lives on the premises.
A grand, central staircase leads the way up to the second floor, where their museum is found. It preserves not only artifacts, but also interprets and presents the military history of America, as well as the service of Cleveland’s Grays. They make it a point to regularly present open house events, inviting the greater Cleveland population, making these events interesting to a diverse population.
Second floor rooms are like a step back in time, and feel like a Gentlemen’s Club — with wood paneling, leather chairs, a fireplace, photos from another era of heroes, cases displaying old weapons, swords, pikes, powder flasks, other artifacts, uniform buttons, etc. In a place of honor is the tattered, charred remains of flag that was rescued from the City Armory that burned down. The Library has shelves of books and material of interest.
On holidays that celebrate the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families, the stops are pulled out in presenting a cultural and educational program that honors all veterans who have served our country.
Who are the Cleveland Grays?
The Cleveland Grays is an organization formed in 1837, in case the rebellion that was taking place in Canada escalated into the third war with Great Britain. The War of 1812 was still fresh in many minds. The need for a private group sprung from the fact that people were still war-weary, and the common militia was neglected by state politicians.
This volunteer private military company, made up of male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 65, stepped up to the plate to support the local police and law enforcement folks, as well as to be ready to defend Cleveland from an outside invasion by the ornery British who would’ve loved to retake the colonies.
The Cleveland Grays first called themselves The Cleveland City Guards and came up with their own motto: Semper Paratus, which means “Always Ready”. However, a year later, they changed their name to The Cleveland Grays, as their distinctive uniforms were gray with gold and black trim. Their ensemble was impressive with the addition of tall, black bearskin caps.
As a unit, they served in the Civil War at the first battle of Manassas, and Philipi as well, where they captured a Confederate canon that was mentioned above. They also served in the Spanish American War.
By 1903, politicians decided that private military companies were no longer necessary. This didn’t stop The Cleveland Grays from serving! They enlisted as a group of private citizens en masse into the Ohio National Guard where they served in the Mexican Punitive Expedition and rose with General Pershing in the efforts to capture Pancho Villa (and/or stop his villainy). They served in World War 1, which was the last time they served as an enlisted group.
In 1917, the Washington D.C. authorities declared that private militias were not prepared enough to serve as regular battlefield soldiers. After forming a national army, militias were told they could enlist in the National Guard, the reserve, or stand down. Cleveland Grays Armory decided to stand down, becoming an educational and social non-profit organization.
Cleveland Grays Armory Building
The organization’s first building where they set up their headquarters in 1837 was on the fourth floor in a newly built structure, called the Mechanics Block. By 1870, they needed more space, so they moved into an old fire station building on Frankfort Street.
Just ten years later, they moved again: into the newly built City Armory on Long Street, sharing the building with the 5th regiment of Ohio National Guard. This worked out fine until a fire totaled the building, as well as some of the equipment and guns belonging to the Cleveland Grays.
Being well-supported by private means, they recovered quickly and made plans to build their own armory building made of fire-proof materials.
Building their dream armory started at its present day location on May 30th, 1893. When it was finished, it was a large, gorgeous, roomy, four floored “urban fortress,” ready for anything! They had storage for their equipment and guns, a bar, a shooting range in the basement, rooms for activities, and their own large Drill Hall/Ballroom.
When the Cleveland Grays were disbanded as a private security force, this versatile building was adapted and opened to the public with the goal of being the place for The Cleveland Grays community-focused events, museum, and service activities that promote patriotism and veterans.
There were many firsts here.
The Cleveland Orchestra held its first concert here, as did the New York Metropolitan Opera when they came to Cleveland to perform. The first auto show in Cleveland was held here, as well as the first home and garden show. When John Phillip Sousa came to town with his band, they played at Cleveland Grays Armory.
The Cleveland Grays Armory throughout the eras has remained strong and vigilant in the upkeep of their magnificent building. It is not surprising that spirits still love this place!
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
When spirits bond together in a joint purposes while alive, they like to gather in the place they knew each other. They enjoy being together once again in their afterlife, as well as remembering the good times they had in this structure or place.
General Wayne Inn, PA (Spirits of Hessian soldiers who fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War, still like to gather in the bar where they had a good tme together drinking.)
USS Iowa, CA (Spirits of soldiers who died in the 1980s explosion still serve together, finding ways to help: from painting to saving a clumsy tourist from falling to his death.)
USS Hornet, CA (Being in one fierce battle after another for 15 months in WW2, the casualty rate was high. These spirits have stayed on the USS Horney, and have taken up new responsibilities as well as enjoying each other’s company in their afterlife.)
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (Several members of this private volunteer security force, some of whom died in one of the conflicts they served in as a group, have decided to reside in their favorite place where they have great memories of camaraderie.)
Sometimes spirits attach themselves to items that were important to them while alive.
The John M. Browning Firearms Museum in Union Train Station, UT (Spirits like to visit their old weapons on display.)
Custer House, ND (The Custer Family enjoys all of their items and mementos on display in their reconstructed house).
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, NE (The spirit of Buffalo Bill likes to visit all his possessions and mementos that are on display at his ranch.)
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (A spirit may be attached to the captured Confederate cannon on display on the first floor. Other spirits may be attached to other items on display in the museum located here.)
Spirits like to visit or reside in places of entertainment where they enjoyed themselves while alive, forgetting any troubles they had.
Natatorium, TX (“Let the good times roll” is the focus of the spirits who still stay.)
Wabash Street Caves, MN (Known as the Casa Royal, this public entertainment club was romantic place to have a great time of fun and relaxation. Spirits still do.)
The Crystal Ballroom, OR (Holds many fond memories for spirits who were patrons while alive.)
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (A female spirit apparently is still reveling in her memories of good times at a special event, or other entertainment that was held here.)
People who die suddenly, sometimes don’t want to accept their own passing, especially if they had unfinished business or unfulfilled goals.
Kansas State Capitol, KS (A worker who died suddenly from falling from the outside of the dome while fastening down plates still wants to get paid!)
Peery’s Egyptian Theater, UT (A daughter of a workman, who had brought her father’s lunch, died in an accident in the construction zone.)
Moravian College, PA (A male soldier who had died in war isn’t going to let the fact that he is dead stop him from attending classes so he can graduate!)
Cleveland Grays Armory, OH (Two people suddenly died in this building. One of the original 1893 construction workers who built this massive structure died in an accident. Also, a long-time caretaker has a heart attack right in the middle of the first floor Drill Hall/Ballroom.)
It is hard to let go of a job in this world when you loved doing it with dedication.
Kennebunk Inn, ME (The spirit of a retired poet, and the inn’s former security guard keeps an eye on the living, and has expanded his former job into more areas.)
Stanley Hotel, CO (The spirit of a dedicated maid does her best to take care of the guests and keeps an eye out for hanky panky between unmarried people!)
Brewery Arts Center, NV (The spirit of a dedicated Masonic maintenance officer continues to fulfill his duties.)
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (The spirit of a long-time caretaker who died here still makes his rounds doing his job, not quite ready to retire.)
Renovations and change in a structure can cause activity to increase.
The 1890 House Museum, NY (When renovations and restoration projects were started, the spirit of Frederick became upset because he should be in charge of change.)
Monmouth Plantation, MS (The spirit of John Quitman didn’t trust the new owners of his forever mansion with the renovations and restorations. He showed his displeasure by stomping around until he saw that they knew that they were doing.)
Geiser Grand Hotel, OR (When construction workers started to restore this woe-be-gone structure, the spirits were so excited that they started to appear in front of them to let them know how happy they were.)
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, OH (Renovations and restorations done to this structure caused an increase in paranormal activity. Also, when the van that belonged to their late caretaker was moved out of the garage, activity increased.)
Semper Paratus – “Always Ready” is the motto still embraced by the spirits of past members of The Cleveland Grays. Other spirits are attached to this structure as well, and fearlessly make their presences known to the living — even having a little fun spooking certain individuals!
Doors open and close without help from the living.
Footsteps, sounds of running, and shuffling feet are common occurrences.
The Spirits of The Cleveland Grays Militia
Apparently, spirits of the brave men of The Cleveland Grays Private Military Company find peace and support here from each other and their memories of their favorite place.
Author Chris Woodyard, who wrote a series of books about haunted places, can see and sense spirits. He saw “a handsome young man with light brown hair, parted on one side,” sporting a “crown imperial” goatee, who appeared just eight feet in front of him as he sat on a leather couch in one of the second floor rooms that has a yellow brick corner fireplace.
This spirit was wearing The Cleveland Grays uniform woolen jacket, decorated with a “graduated glockenspiel pattern” down the uniform front, formed by braids and buttons.
Some spirits of soldiers and other spirits of females still enjoy themselves in the Ballroom at the back of the third floor.
A female spirit wearing a white party dress still is dancing away at a special event in her mind lost in her memories and good times.
A spirit of a soldier walked through the wall to get into the Ballroom – why bother with the living’s door?
Orbs have been captured on film.
Visiting My Stuff
An apparition and an orb has been seen standing near the Confederate cannon on display on the first floor.
The swords and weaponry on display may have been spirits’ valued items and they may visit them.
Dagnabbit, I Died Here!
The spirit of a workman who died here continues in his job assignment, hoping not to fall again. He hopes his ending will turn out differently, but it never does.
Spirit of Lou the caretaker (who suddenly died of a heart attack, rudely interrupting the completion of his to-do list).
I Loved My Position Here!
Spirit of Lou the caretaker still makes his rounds, doing his chores, securing the building, and staying in his caretaker’s apartment in the tower.
He gets his chuckles by walking behind the living as they walk across the Drill Hall. The living hear the footsteps, but he is unseen.
He doesn’t always like sharing his space with the living. When the Civil Air Patrol was meeting in the first floor tower room, the potted plant located there began shaking uncontrollably until it fell over.
The aroma from his cherry-vanilla pipe can be discerned by the living.
Helping the Living Caretaker
A caretaker was working in the very back of the first floor behind the Drill Hall/Ballroom, with the door open.
He saw a gray-green hand pull the open door, but saw no one alive in the Drill Hall.
He quickly reopened the door, but saw no one alive in the Drill Hall.
Spectral Officers Supervising
A young college student was cleaning up the 3rd floor Ballroom, when an apparition of a soldier came through the south wall and watched him.
Mesmerized, the young man studied the spirit. When the young man coughed, the spirit melted into the air.
Keeping An Eye on the Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol members were cleaning up the first floor foyer. One of them went to check all the doors outside.
The other man saw an apparition in a uniform standing on the central staircase, watching him.
The patrol member made a hasty retreat, vowing not to be alone in the structure.
Restoration Spectral Critic
A restoration crew was working at re-detailing the decor in the lobby.
They stepped out for a moment, and when they came back, a spirit showed them what he thought of their work by making a deliberate mess with their paints.
Caretakers, workmen, members of the public, members of CAP, mediums, and paranormal groups have all had experiences with the spirits who reside here. Some hard evidence has bee caught on EVPs and cameras.
While the spirits of past Cleveland Grays members may be more reserved, the spirit of Lou can’t resist walking behind the living when they are going through the Drill Hall, so that they hear his footsteps but can’t see him!
TAPS Ghost Hunters (Season 11, Episode 2) investigated here, and had the experience of having footsteps follow them around in various parts of The Cleveland Grays Armory Museum. The spirit or spirits were having fun playing with them, shutting doors after they left a room. A spirit said “Hello,” to the female investigators when they were in a basement.
Cleveland Grays Armory Museum owners know that spirits are there and have their own ghost events to raise money for the museum.
Yes Indeed! The spirit of Lou likes to playfully announce his presence, and may try to help the living caretaker. Spirits of past members of The Cleveland Grays still find peace and a bond here with this structure, as well as fellow spirits.
1234 Bolivar Road,
Cleveland, OH 44115
The Cleveland Grays Armory Museum is located about half a block from the intersection of Bolivar Road and Prospect Avenue East. The Erie Cemetery is located right behind this structure.
- Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio, by Chris Woodyard, Kestrel Publications, 2000.
- Wikipedia: Cleveland Grays Armory
- Cleveland’s Most Haunted: 21 places were ghosts roam (and you can, too)
Updated: Sep. 19, 2019 | Published: Oct. 19, 2018 by Laura DeMarco, The Plain Dealer
- Cleveland Grays Armory Museum – Ghost Events
- A Haunted Evening at the Armory | Cleveland Grays Armory … Event Website.