An acclaimed ghost hunter will be coming to Cleveland a week shy of Halloween to investigate a century-long mystery.
On Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m., Miranda Young, a.k.a. Ghost Biker, the founder of Ghost Biker Explorations, will visit the mausoleum at Fort Hill Cemetery.
Her mission? Communicating with the spirit of Flora Shields, whom many suspect to be the basis of Cleveland’s official spook, Tall Betsy.
The brainchild of businessman and Tall Betsy legend creator Allan Jones, the paranormal event will be streamed live on the Ghost Biker Explorations Facebook account.
Young has been investigating the paranormal for nearly a decade and travels around the country on her motorcycle investigating, researching, and telling the history of local legends and lore. She and her co-producer, Josh Neyman of NEYTIME Film & Design, document these investigations and travel on the hit web series, “Ghost Biker Explorations.”
In spite of its unique appeal to the public, event organizers offered this important reminder: This is a live online happening so curiosity seekers are asked to stay away from the mausoleum, as Ghost Biker requires complete silence in order to complete the investigation and hopefully interact with these spirits.
Why is Jones, the king of Halloween, bringing Ghost Biker to town?
“It’s Halloween,” Jones said. “Whether you believe in this kind of thing or not, the Legend of Tall Betsy and this whole paranormal investigation are just for fun.”
According to Jones, the legendary Tall Betsy is a 7-foot 6 1/2-inch goblin known worldwide for her Halloween appearances at 150 Centenary Avenue in Cleveland. However, she hasn’t always been the “official spook of Cleveland.” She was a real person at one time.
Jones believes Shields was an awkwardly tall person who was also socially inept.
“She lived at home with her parents and had no social life,” he said.
Jones added, “Flora Shields could indeed be the real Tall Betsy, and we’ll find out when we ask Flora directly with Ghost Biker live on Oct. 24.”
Living in the early 1900s, Tall Betsy was a very tall lady who walked the Cleveland streets at night. And until now, her true identity has been unknown.
"Could Flora Shields be Tall Betsy?" Jones suggested. "That’s what the paranormal investigation hopes to undercover."
Whatever her true identity, Tall Betsy was the perfect fodder for legend. For decades, Cleveland parents told their children that if they failed to come home before dark, they would likely encounter Tall Betsy, sometimes called Black Betsy or simply The Lady in Black.
Over the years, Jones became enamored with the spine-tingling tale told to him by his grandmother, Marie Schultz Slaughter. Mrs. lived on 8th Street and grew up where Arnold School is located today and lived her life on the corner of 8th and Milne Avenue NW, where many 8th street parents in the early part of the century told stories of Tall Betsy.
Mrs. Slaughter’s father and Jones’ great grandfather, Dr. William Herman Schultz — a physician kin to late Cleveland Mayor Bill Schultz — actually saw Tall Betsy at the corner of 8th and Ocoee near the monument. Jones relished the opportunity to dress up as the legendary lady. He also spent a lot of time wondering about Flora Shields, the lady buried where Tall Betsy lived, according to the legend manufactured by Jones.
Unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Jones hired Michael Slaughter — one of the nation’s most respected genealogical researchers — to uncover who built the mausoleum and when. Jones also tasked Slaughter with finding out who’s interred there, and when and where they lived. He wanted to know who Flora Shields was, and why none of her family members complained that her grave had been transformed into Tall Betsy’s home.
This is what Slaughter uncovered, as explained in the following Q&A. The answers are furnished by Slaughter.
Q: What are the basics of Ms. Shields’ life?
A: Ms. Shields was born in August 1866, and died in 1951. She was essentially an old maid who never married and never worked, living off the family wealth. And though interred here in Cleveland, she spent only a handful of years here (1866-1870), after which her family moved to Oregon and Florida.
Q: Has anyone complained that Ms. Shields is intimately connected to the Tall Betsy legend?
A: Nearly 70 years after her death, Ms. Shields has no surviving family members. So, no one complains about Tall Betsy taking up residence in her tomb.
Q: Who else is in Tall Betsy’s mausoleum?
A: The Shields mausoleum was likely built between 1900 and 1908, with Flora and her parents, John Caswell Shields — who died in Bradley County on Nov. 12, 1908, and Emily Howell, who died in 1924 — its only occupants.
Interestingly, the real-life Tall Betsy appeared on the Cleveland streets the same time the mausoleum was being built. A few years later, she suddenly disappeared. Could it be because Flora Shields was Tall Betsy? And that she disappeared when she moved with her family to Oregon?
In the spirit of Halloween, Jones and event organizers offered this community teaser: Is Flora Shields truly Tall Betsy? Tune in to the Ghost Biker Explorations’ Facebook livestream as Ghost Biker, Miranda Young, attempts to find out on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
To learn more about Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider Explorations, visit GhostBikerExplorations.com and like/subscribe to the Ghost Biker Explorations Facebook and YouTube Channel.
Want more details on Slaughter's original research in its entirety? Go online to see an accompanying story on the Cleveland Daily Banner website.