The History of Cleveland’s Grays Armory and Its Ghostly Inhabitants

Ralph DiMatteo History

Cleveland Grays Armory Exterior

Having staged a few sponsored events at this jewel of Cleveland history, Grays Armory, located at 1234 Bolivar Rd downtown, I was very anxious to delve further into its rumored haunted history beyond what I can personally share within this post.

One of my responsibilities at the first beer distributorship I worked for years ago was to set up and execute brand-sponsored events, and two of those events, Business After Hours, were held at Grays Armory.

But before we get into my personal recollections and other sightings, sounds, and tales this venerable old building has to tell, first: a bit of history about the building itself.

The History of Cleveland's Grays Armory

Grays Armory was built in 1893 for the Cleveland Grays, a volunteer military organization. The group existed long before their building was completed, having seen action in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars as well as supporting local police efforts for security when called upon (such as the time president-elect Abraham Lincoln visited Cleveland).

World War I was the last time the group was able to enlist and serve together as early in the 1900s, private military organizations were no longer legally able to participate in armed conflicts.

Today, the group remains in existence and its main goal is to preserve the armory and other Cleveland military history for the public.

But we did promise a bit about the building's supposed haunted history as well, so let's take a look at that, shall we?

Cleveland Grays Armory Museum

There are of course the usual reports of strange sounds, drafty corridors, and the opening and closing of doors seemingly on their own, but there are also some very specific occurrences that are recalled in remarkably similar ways when people are interviewed about what and who they may have seen.

One such instance is the “Woman in White,” who seems to be permanently attached to the armory’s piano even when it is moved to other locations within the building.

Another inhabitant would be the building’s caretaker, Lou, who died of a heart attack while on the job and delights in walking behind visitors, who have also reported smelling the aroma of his cherry vanilla pipe smoke. This story I can personally corroborate, as I do clearly recall the faint smell of the flavored smoke while setting up for an event. When I mentioned it to the museum’s director at the time, she cheerfully told me about Lou and how he still seems to take his job seriously, watching to make things are done just right.

There was another time when my partner, while setting up for an event, came around the corner and asked me who I was talking to, when I was in the room by myself. He was surprised to see me in the room by myself as he said he quite clearly heard a discussion going on. 

There are two largely held theories about the ghostly inhabitants of Grays. One is that the spirit or spirits of those who served the organization over the years are ever-ready to do their duty, as the organization's motto “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready) suggests. The other theory is that since there have been so many memorable, spectacular, and impressive events held at the armory over the years, the “guests” simply do want to leave.

Public tours are available the first Wednesday of each month, but also keep an eye out for the special events held at the building. These ticketed events are often fundraisers for various charitable endeavors and are a wonderful way to experience the grand old building in an especially unique setting.

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