James A. Willis

James A. Willis

LOUDONVILLE -- The Cleo Redd Fisher Museum's upcoming Speaker Series is expected to begin with a bang, when it welcomes noted ghost hunter and author James A. Willis to Loudonville.

This event will be held at historic Ohio Theatre, at 156 N. Water St. in Loudonville, on Monday, Oct. 21. The program is free and open to the public, and will begin at 7 pm and last approximately one and a half hours. No tickets or reservations are needed. 

Willis is one of the leading authors and researchers on paranormal Ohio, with his works including Weird Ohio, Central Ohio Legends and Lore, The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories, and Ohio’s Historic Haunts. The author will delve into the fascinating history of Ohio’s haunted past, discussing “Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Researching the Origins of Ohio’s Ghost Stories and Legends.”

Many locations in Ohio, including some that are historically significant, have developed a reputation for being haunted or had a strange legend associated with it. While it might be almost impossible to prove the validity of the paranormal tales that surround them, one thing is clear: these stories help to keep history alive.

But the questions remain: How did these stories get started? More important, are any of them tied directly to actual historic events? And do any facts support the strange and ghostly lore?

Rather than rely on second- and third-person accounts, author and paranormal researcher James A. Willis has spent the better part of two decades sitting down with owners, employees, and patrons of Ohio locations that are said to have strange and spooky tales attached to them.

By compiling literally hundreds of hours’ worth of one-on-one interviews, along with thousands of pages of historical research, Willis was able to piece together unique histories for each location, including eyewitness accounts from people who believed they experienced paranormal activity. But Willis is never content to stop with first-person accounts or even historical research.

He also visits each and every location he’s researching, often with high-tech “ghost-hunting” equipment, and spends hours at each location, attempting to collect empirical data to see if he could experience a paranormal encounter himself.

While most of the Speaker Series is scheduled to be held at the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, Willis is expected to draw a much larger crowd so the decision was made to hold the program at the theatre.

“Each year our Speaker Series attracts more and more interest, last year we averaged around 200 people in attendance for each event—with multiple events attracting over 400,” explained Kenny Libben, curator of the museum. “Nearly every program ended up being standing room only, and we truly appreciate the amazing turnout we’ve been getting.

"With the lineup we have for this year we expect just as large of crowds as before, and being able to bring in James Willis right before Halloween is definitely one of the highlights.”

Libben thanked Landoll’s Mohican Castle, also of Loudonville, for sponsoring the event and helping make it possible for the museum to arrange for Willis to speak.

Following the event, Willis will be available for questions as well as have his books available for purchase — cash and credit card are both accepted.

The next program, on Monday Nov. 18, is titled “Black Men in Blue: The Civil War, Ohioans, and the United States Colored Troops,” and is scheduled to be held at the museum. For more information on Ohio’s Historic Haunts, Black Men in Blue, or other upcoming events visit www.crfmuseum.com or call the museum at 419 994-4050.

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