Since 1980, it has not rained in Cleveland on Halloween night, and one All Hallow's Eve enthusiast vows the tradition won't screech to a halt in 2019.
That's because "The City With Spirit” has a spirit that parts the clouds, declared Cleveland businessman Allan Jones, who — this time of year — goes by an unofficial nickname, "Mr. Halloween."
“Since as far back as 1980, it has never rained in Cleveland on Halloween because Tall Betsy has always spooked the clouds just in time,” said Jones, the creator of the modern Tall Betsy legend. “This year will put the goblin’s weather-controlling powers to the test!”
According to official reports from Spook Central — as of late Wednesday afternoon — Tall Betsy will make an appearance at Centenary Avenue at about 6:45 tonight.
Jones made the Tall Betsy character famous starting in 1980 when he began appearing as the 7-foot 6 1/2-inch goblin at his home at 150 Centenary Ave. In 2014, the elder Jones handed over the responsibility for Tall Betsy to his son, Bailey.
In the rare photo that accompanies this story, Bailey Jones is seen in his first appearance as the Lady in Black. The photo also contains another person key to the Tall Betsy story: Mike Callaway. In the photo, Callaway is seen looking at the “next generation’s Tall Betsy” in the reflection of an antique mirror from the 1750s.
The picture was taken at Creekridge, the home of Allan and Janie Jones, and it came during a party held so the members of the Historic Cleveland Neighborhood Association could see the new version of Tall Betsy.
Unlike Allan Jones, who learned of Tall Betsy through his mother, Virginia “Gincy” Slaughter Jones, Callaway actually heard stories about the goblin directly from Jones’ grandmother, Marie Shultz Slaughter.
As a boy, Callaway learned from Slaughter that Tall Betsy was a very tall lady who walked the Cleveland streets at night in the early 1900s.
“For decades, Cleveland parents told their children that if they failed to come home before dark, they would likely encounter Tall Betsy,” said Callaway. “I can still hear her voice today as she told me those spooky stories!”
Callaway and Mrs. Slaughter lived on 8th Street. Mrs. Slaughter lived on 8th Street and grew up where Arnold School is located today.
“She 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,” Jones said.
Another twist to the story is that William Herman Schultz — the father of Marie Schultz Slaughter and Jones’ great grandfather — actually ran into the real Tall Betsy on the corner of 8th and Broad near the monument.
Schultz was a physician and a relative of the late Cleveland Mayor Bill Schultz.
“Dr. Schultz was walking home from his office one night after work and he encountered an incredibly tall woman dressed all in black,” said Jones. “He is the only person to this day that is known to have looked into the eyes of the real Tall Betsy.”
Many years later in the early 1980s, the Callaway family was the first family on Centenary Avenue to join Jones in the festivities that would make Tall Betsy legendary.
“If Mike and his family hadn’t joined in, Tall Betsy would not be as famous as she is today,” Jones explained. “After Mike joined in, one neighbor after another followed and it turned Centenary Avenue into a major Halloween event.”
In 1993, Jones’ Centenary home became the site of a Halloween world record. According to media reports, the Jones family handed out 11,201 pieces of bubblegum from 5 to 8 p.m. The Tennessee State Legislature also passed a resolution proclaiming Tall Betsy as the state’s official goblin.
The Allan Jones version of Tall Betsy last appeared in 1998 after drawing a Halloween crowd of 25,000. When Bailey Jones began reappearing as the goblin in 2014, fans of the Lady in Black celebrated her return.
“We have released this photo to the Banner on Halloween as a tribute to Mike Callaway, who was instrumental in making Cleveland the Halloween capital of the entire world,” said Jones. “We join with Tall Betsy fans everywhere in hoping she will part the clouds for our city one more time!”