In 1896, a triple-murder was committed in Pleasant Valley that still lingers with a haunting chill that traditionally arises again this time each year as a true-life Halloween tale -- although it took place in the heat of summer, and with a matching passion.
Details vary greatly from story to story, but the case was made most famous by author Louis Bromfield, who purchased the home and surrounding property in 1939 and wrote of the events that happened within.
The house was home to the Rose family: David, who operated the mill on the property, his wife Rebecca, their son Walter, and their 23-year-old daughter Celia, often called "Ceely."
Although undiagnosed, it was well known that Ceely was mentally challenged. She was said to be a rather large, boyish girl but with the mind of a child and the inability to support herself. An 1896 newspaper described her: "She talked with a stutter and performed on the level with children seven years younger than her. She might be described as half-child and half-woman."
The area children often made fun of her, usually to her face, as she played in the yard.
One neighbor, 18-year-old Guy Berry, sympathized for her and would be polite while the others mocked her. Ceely fell in love, although the feeling was not mutual. Guy was simply being nice, but shared no attraction for her.
Ceely believed that one day her and Guy would wed, and she informed her family of their engagement. Guy, not wanting to hurt her feelings and tell her that he was not interested, claimed that her parents were the ones preventing their union. Ceely decided to fix that.
One morning in June, 1896, Ceely poisoned her family. She laced their cottage cheese with arsenic -- some accounts claim she used Rough on Rats poison, although Bromfield and others said she soaked the arsenic out of fly paper. Either way, the deed was done.
Her father, David, died only a day or two later on June 30. Walter, her brother, and Rebecca, her mother, were gravely ill but lingered on. Walter finally succumbed on July 4. Rebecca recovered, but knew it was Ceely that had committed the crime.
Rebecca attempted to help Ceely and protected her, misleading the police investigation into their death and claiming ignorance. She then decided that the only way to save Ceely was to move and escape the suspicions of neighbors. Ceely, however, refused to be separated from her only love: Guy Berry.
She poisoned her mother once again, who finally perished on July 19.
With the entire family dead, save a perfectly healthy Ceely, it became clear to everyone what had happened. Unfortunately for the authorities, there was no hard evidence; the sheriff did not arrest Ceely, but kept a close eye on her and the home.
With the aid of a friend of Ceely's, he was able to hide out of sight while the young girl confessed her love and bragged of taking care of anything preventing their marriage. Ceely was then arrested for the triple-murder, and confessed.
She was tried, on three counts of murder, but found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“The crime by this girl reveals a depth of depravity that can hardly be conceived,” the Richland Banner & Shield opined on Aug. 15, 1896. “How fiendish must have been her hatred for them when she could deliberately kill them and stand by and watch them die.
"That such an act could be done in an enlightened century is sufficient to make pessimists of all kinds.”
She was sent to the Toledo Asylum, but in 1915 transferred to a new institution in Lima where she lived the rest of her life. She passed away in 1935, at the age of 62. No one was left to claim her body, and she was laid to rest in the hospital cemetery.
More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.