Cleveland, Ohio, is home to an ornate gothic castle with detailed stained-glass windows, gargoyles, terra cotta reliefs … and a couple of dead bodies. Yet, few people outside the area know about it.
That’s because it is located in a cemetery.
Cleveland’s beautiful Lake View Cemetery, filled with gorgeous funerary art and graves of famous people, is home to Garfield Castle, which is actually a mausoleum that houses the bodies of President James Garfield and his wife, as well as the ashes of his daughter and son-in-law.
It has two claims-to-fame: It is the largest and most elaborate memorial to a U.S. president – yes, more so than Lincoln’s or Washington’s – and, according to local lore, it is haunted. It may also be the only full-sized castle built in a cemetery.
Sweetums and I went to see the castle while he was on a business trip. It is 180 feet tall and made of Ohio sandstone. According to an article by Susan Glaser on Cleveland.com, “Terra cotta panels on the exterior walls depict the many stages of Garfield’s life – teacher, general, orator, president. Inside, rich mosaics line the dome and 16 stained-glass windows circle the tower, one for each of the 13 original colonies, plus War, Peace and Ohio.”
Two twisting staircases take visitors up 64 steps to a wide balcony that overlooks Cleveland and Lake Erie. The view was spectacular. Really, you’ll just need to scroll through our photos to believe its scope but, first, here’s a little history on James A. Garfield (1831-1881):
- He was the 20th president and served just 200 days;
- He died two months after he was shot by an assassin but the bullet wound would not have killed him had it not been for doctors poking around in his wound (read more about that here).
- The only president who served a shorter time was William Henry Harrison, who got sick speaking outdoors in the cold at his inauguration and died 30 days later.
- Garfield was reportedly fascinated with the supernatural. Cleveland.com says: “Garfield, who would partake in seances to communicate with his dead father while in office, was said to have predicted his own death. Shot by an insane man in July 1881, only four months after having been sworn in, Garfield was even reported to have identified the killer and the method of murder beforehand.”
- His spirit allegedly haunts the castle. One fun tale claims that, after dark, his ghost plays a game of chess with John Rockefeller, who is buried nearby. The two reportedly move tombstones like pieces on a chess board.
Although we did not see any ghosts on the gorgeous spring day we visited, we did tour the castle. Check out these photos.