The Cleveland Grays are now silent, long gone after years of servitude to the city of Cleveland and the nation. Their former home, The Cleveland Grays Armory Museum, holds onto the first cannon captured by the Union during the Civil War. Much like this canon, which used to fire in the Cleveland Public Square after every Union victory, the Grays still sound off inside the historic building.
Their role as Cleveland’s first volunteer militia is behind them, but their duty keeps them ever present. They appear as apparitions and unexplained phenomena, shocking those who see them and making The Cleveland Grays Armory one of the most haunted places in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Grays, Cleveland’s oldest volunteer militia, was a group of countrymen that came together on August 28, 1837, to defend the nation against a possible encroaching threat from the north. Yes, that’s right, Canada, the Great White North, was stirring up emotions in the newly minted city of Cleveland.
America’s wounds from the War of 1812 were still fresh, and tensions were high with the British-controlled territory across Lake Erie. The Cleveland City Guards came together to fend off any possible invasions, proudly adopting the motto “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready).
With their sporty new Gray uniforms and a new name in tow, the militia patiently bided their time, becoming Cleveland celebrities. They ran training exercises in front of their first headquarters, a structure called The Mechanics Block.
Their gold-lined uniforms and bearskin hats were domineering but all for show until the outbreak of the Civil War. Always ready, The Cleveland Grays were the first company to leave Cleveland in 1861.
This righteous group of men aged 18-65 would see action during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, The Mexican Punitive Expedition, and World War 1.
The Western Front, specifically the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918, would be the last time the Grays saw active service. The society, now solely focused on preserving military history and service, had found a new home, however.
The Grays quickly outgrew their home at the Mechanics Block and moved in 1870. A second move in 1880 ended in tragedy when a fire destroyed their new headquarters. But, in 1893, the organization and the city came together to build the Grays a new home.
The four-story Romanesque building we see today, the treasured armory, now operates as a museum. The Grays are still active, their membership reaching into the upper two hundred, living members, that is.
Various members of the Cleveland Grays haunt the historic museum, along with a few other surprising spirits. Apparitions are seen by visiting guests and museum staff alike. Their distinct Gray uniforms are a dead giveaway to shocked witnesses that they are not from our time.
During a tour of the armory, one woman grew terribly weak from seeing so many spectral militiamen and had to evacuate immediately.
When no one is around, doors lock on their own, and the sounds of footsteps careen through the empty stairwells. The Grays remain “Always Ready,” defending their beloved headquarters from beyond.
There are other spirits haunting the expansive museum. One has been lovingly named Patrick, an ode to the Irish workers who helped build the place. It is believed he died while working on the building. When renovations are done, he makes his presence and opinion on the construction well known by throwing paint around in an awful mess.
Then, there is the spirit of an old caretaker, Lou, a beleaguered man. Lou died of a heart attack and continues his work for the militiamen to this day. You know he is near when you smell the phantom odor of his cherry vanilla pipe.
Visit Cleveland Grays Armory Museum to see the Civil War-era cannon that used to fire off in the public square. But just know that you are not alone in the well-kept Victorian-era building, even if you think you are.
This feeling, the uneasiness of the unknown, is like a fog rolling off Lake Erie’s shores. It will hover, then dissipate, then return, with the fullest intention to confuse you. Cleveland’s most haunted places are waiting, just like that fog, ready to become a part of you.
The Cleveland Grays Armory Museum is only the beginning, so take a ghost tour of Cleveland with US Ghost Adventures!
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