Herald Staff Writer
If you’ve ever driven by the Wolf Creek Tavern, or even if you’ve ventured inside for a glass of wine or some bangers and mash, chances are the history of the place has escaped you.
“There are locals who are familiar with the history of the building, and they’re very interested,” say Shane and Amy Moore, the tavern’s owners. “But the average customer would not know the history.”
On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I stepped inside the tavern and asked the Moores to take me on a tour—through both the building and its fascinating past.
“There’s a lot of history here,” Shane begins. “This building was originally opened as a cabinet-maker’s shop 180 years ago. And over the years it has been many, many things—least of all a restaurant and a tavern. At one point it was a children’s infirmary and a women’s hospital. It was a blacksmith’s shop at one point.”
The tavern was also a very active underground railroad during the Civil War.
“It’s a very small passageway about two feet by two feet, built out of sandstone, and a dirt tunnel that’s now collapsed since the intersection was built in the road,” Shane says.
“For a small location like this in Norton, Ohio, it has an amazing history. Cabinet-maker’s store to hotel to children’s infirmary to an active underground railroad and then a very unique and original speakeasy—which is, to me, the crème de la crème of what this building is all about,” Shane says, referring to the site’s history during the years 1920-1933, the Prohibition Era. “The speakeasy is probably the coolest historical part of the building.”
On Friday and Saturday nights for much of the year, customers can go downstairs—and seemingly back in time.
“We’ve actually brought our speakeasy back to life for the first time since 1933,” the Moores say. “We actually recreate the Prohibition-era cocktails from the 1920s and ‘30s, and that’s very unique to the area. There is nothing like it in Northeast Ohio, period, with an original authentic intact speakeasy, and the original bar, which is a chestnut tree split in half, dating back to 1865.
“It’s very important to us that we maintain the historic integrity of the building, from the wormy chestnut interior to the speakeasy to the paranormal side of things.”
“We definitely have at least six or seven identified spirits in the building,” the Moores say. “Not too long ago we were in the Top Ten Most Haunted Places in Northeast Ohio.”
It was the site’s reputation for ghostly activity that first drew me here. The storied history of the building, already mesmerizing, has suddenly become almost unbearably so.
Spellbound by the mystery of the supernatural from an early age, I have to know more. The Moores are happy to oblige.
“In 1886, this was the Loyal Oak House hotel. And there was a bartender here at the time by the name of Ray Wilhelm,” Shane, a pretty masterful storyteller, begins. “Ray Wilhelm was an active bartender in the place. Unfortunately for Ray, he had his heart broken. And Ray decided to end his life from the hotel chandelier that was here at the time. And so Ray is a very active individual who still resides here within the Wolf Creek Tavern.”
It is also said that Adam Pinter, the owner of what was Adam’s Place in the ‘30s and ‘40s, still makes his presence known. A team of paranormal investigators called Team Spectre has visited the tavern multiple times, the Moores say, and they’ve identified three children that also call the place home.
And then there’s The Madam.
“During Prohibition, it was a real boys’ club down in the speakeasy,” Shane continues. “And only the men were allowed down there, with the exception of the ladies that the men rented by the hour. And there was a madam who oversaw the team of ladies, and that madam resides within the building to this day.”
Always wearing dark blue or black clothing, The Madam is said by eyewitnesses to stand in the back corners of the tavern, looming over people with her arms folded.
“She’s been seen on multiple occasions,” the Moores say. “Friends of ours have seen her. One of our neighbors saw her in the mirror upstairs.”
Shane and Amy bought the building in December 2013. I ask what their personal thoughts are after about eighteen months in the place.
“I’ve always been a very big skeptic,” Shane says. “Amy was a lot more open to all of this. But when you see things and hear things, it catches your attention. A container flying across the room when no one’s around catches your attention. Banging on the walls upstairs late at night when nobody’s in the building catches your attention.”
“I personally haven’t seen anything,” Amy says. “But our son has, around the steps. There’s always a lot of activity around the steps.”
And though she has yet to see any apparitions in the tavern, Amy says she always avoids the large mirror in the main dining room. “I’m not scared of the one upstairs, but I try not to look into the large one downstairs,” she says.
“We had an employee, a waitress, who heard a child’s voice down in the speakeasy, saying, ‘Please help me.’ And it freaked her out and she ran up the stairs. But she calmed down and she’s been here ever since,” says Shane. He goes on to stress that the spirit activity at Wolf Creek is not in any way sinister.
“That’s the one key thing—we don’t want people thinking that whatever activity takes place in Wolf Creek Tavern is of an evil nature because that could not be further from the truth. It’s just spirits that want to be acknowledged or are still trying to communicate, and in a lot of cases don’t realize that they’ve passed on.
“A lot of people have a lot of fun here, and they get a unique historic flavor, and for those that are interested in the paranormal, that’s an option as well.”
Then Amy and Shane ask if I’d like to go down into the basement speakeasy to see if any spirits are present today.
In the basement
Amy takes over at this point.
She sits at the bar and kindly shows me how to use dowsing rods for communication with spirits. She’s careful to point out that the rods she’s using are placed in small cylinders that she holds lightly in her fingers, which prevent the longer, heavier arms of the L-shaped rods from being manipulated in any way.
In a friendly, easy voice, she asks, “Are you down here right now, Ray?”
Within a second or two, the rods cross—the signal Amy has designated as meaning “Yes.”
Several more yes or no questions follow. The answers are perfectly consistent.
When Amy asks if The Madam is currently in the room, the rods cross immediately. My throat makes the same loud gulping sound you’ve heard from Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. I hope Shane and Amy don’t notice.
When asked, Ray then proceeds, through the rods, to point directly to where Shane is standing. Then it’s my turn.
“Ray, can you show us where Ryan is standing?” The rods turn confidently around until they’re pointing at me.
Then Amy asks Ray to show us where he’s standing, and the rods land at a point near the far end of the bar.
“That’s where he always stands, right under the glasses,” Shane says with a knowing smile.
Then we turn down the lights in an attempt to catch glowing orbs on video, as has happened in this room in the past. But my camera has suddenly stopped working.
The Wolf Creek Tavern is located at 3044 Wadsworth Road, Norton. For information and hours visit www.wolfcreektavern.com or call 234-571-4531.