Kent residents share their local ghost lore

Nick Baker

Tour guide Richele Charlton tells a spine-tingling story about the Kent Free Library during the Downtown Ghost Walk on Saturday night in Kent. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Kent is a historic city rich in local lore. Some residents have long believed several locations within the city are occupied by spirits of Kent’s past.

People got a chance to learn a little about some of Kent’s resident ghosts this weekend during the second annual Downtown Ghost Walk organized by Main Street Kent and the Kent Historical Society.

Tours were led Friday and Saturday evenings. Along the way, ghost walkers stopped at several historic locations, where storytellers shared tales of Kent hauntings.

Visitors began the tour in the Kent Stage theater. They entered the dark room as a machine hissed from the side of the stage, filling the room with an eerie fog. Richele Charlton, a tour guide, shared the venue’s history.

During her historical recap, she talked about the Kent Stage and several other old buildings in Kent that are connected by a series of underground tunnels, which also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The voice of Kent Stage owner Tom Simpson came over the speakers, resonating through the empty hall. He told the tale of a Kent Stage employee who witnessed a shadowy apparition one early winter morning in 2003 in the cold, dark, and empty theater.

“This is a creepy place when you’re by yourself with all the lights off,” he said. “Even I don’t like to be in here alone at night.”

Walkers exited and met Dan Smith, a former member of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and the second storyteller. Smith shared an account of the ghost who is said to reside in a mansion at 135 N. Depeyster Street.

“Kent is a 200-year-old community,” Smith said. “That’s a lot of years of history. Some people spend their entire lives in Kent, from the time they’re born till the time they die. After they die, sometimes their spirits can’t leave Kent either.”

The walkers continued down Columbus Street and met Steve Michel, manager of the Star of the West Milling Co. He told the story of the “Man in the Mill,” who is blamed for many of the problems that arise with mill machinery.

Walkers continued to the Kent Free Library, where they learned about ghosts that reside in the Carnegie section of the library, which was built in 1903.

The tour turned around after the library and headed to Riveredge Park, where the story of serial killer Ned Kellogg’s victims was told. Kellogg killed two women in the 1940s and left their bodies on the hillside overlooking the river, where a spirit is said to wander.

The tour headed back down Main Street to the bridge entrance to Riveredge Park. As walkers stopped to hear a tale, a train let out a screech and began moving backward as if to complement the ghost stories.

As the noise subsided, Dorothy Peachock, a librarian from the Kent Free Library, began a story about two young boys who drowned in the river in 1924. Decades later, a woman claimed she saw two young boys, but they disappeared when she tried to warn them about the swiftly moving water.

The tour concluded at Pufferbelly Ltd. on Franklin Avenue, where poet and performer Merle Mollenkopf told of a figure who appears in Pufferbelly occasionally dressed as a station master. Mollenkopf shared jokes and performed a Robert Frost poem entitled “Acquainted with the Night.”

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Nick Baker at [email protected].