Tall Betsy set to appear at Block Party, 7:30 p.m.

Special to the Banner
Posted 10/30/15

Saturday’s downtown Halloween Block Party will include a brief appearance by one of Cleveland’s most historic and spookiest legends.

Starting at 7:30 p.m., Tall Betsy — the famous …

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Tall Betsy set to appear at Block Party, 7:30 p.m.

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Saturday’s downtown Halloween Block Party will include a brief appearance by one of Cleveland’s most historic and spookiest legends.

Starting at 7:30 p.m., Tall Betsy — the famous goblin thought to have been retired forever to a mausoleum at Fort Hill Cemetery — will return for only the third time in 16 years.

The ghoul will entertain the crowd until 8 p.m., sponsored by Check Into Cash.

The Cleveland Daily Banner has confirmed the Tall Betsy at Saturday’s Block Party will be the new version of Tall Betsy that debuted to much fanfare last year.

The new version was designed by professionals in Hollywood with an authentic new face and hands, said Allan Jones, the pioneer of the payday loan industry who founded Check Into Cash. Jones created the modern Tall Betsy character in 1980.

“Tall Betsy has fans worldwide, but Cleveland is where the legend started and we wanted to do something to honor this city and the generations who witnessed the original goblin,” Jones said. “The new Tall Betsy looks and feels like a real person. We took the goblin to the next level of spookiness.”

Jones said the new look for Tall Betsy was created in 2014 by Hollywood Mask Masters in Van Nuys, Calif., using real human hair. The face and hands were intended for a big-budget Hollywood film that never got off the ground.

The 2015 Block Party was the perfect setting for Tall Betsy’s brief reappearance, Jones said, since the annual Halloween event was originally created as a result of Tall Betsy’s popularity that drew thousands of trick-or-treaters to his home at 150 Centenary Ave. N.W.

The goblin appeared in Cleveland from 1980 to 1998.

According to legend, Tall Betsy was an extremely tall woman who walked the streets of Cleveland late at night around 1910 to 1920. She was also known as Black Betsy or The Lady in Black.

Zac Adams, an award-winning filmmaker from Nashville, created a documentary about the goblin in 2012. The documentary aired on PBS and NBC, and won a prestigious Telly Award in 2013.

Adams visited Cleveland in 2011 to interview Jones, Mayor Tom Rowland and others who had first-hand knowledge of Tall Betsy.

Jones’ mother, Gincy, as well as his grandmother, Marie Shultz Slaughter, told him stories of a Tall Betsy goblin during his Cleveland childhood. Jones’ version of the goblin resides in Fort Hill Cemetery and stands more than 7 feet, 6 inches tall.

Tall Betsy began appearing at Jones’ Centenary Avenue home in 1980. Once word of the “gruesome girlie” spread, many of Jones’ neighbors began decorating their homes as a tribute to the ghoul, and a poem was created called “The Legend of Tall Betsy.”

She became so popular that in 1986, Jones organized the Halloween Block Party that included games, costume contests and treats. The event was intended to draw the crowds off of Centenary Avenue after 8 p.m.

The state of Tennessee named Tall Betsy “The Official Halloween Goblin of Bradley County” on May 24, 1989.

Jones said the Tall Betsy legend eventually spread outside of Cleveland and became such an event that in 1993 his family took an official count of how many people came to their Centenary Avenue house.

“From 5 to 8 p.m., we handed out exactly 11,201 pieces of bubblegum,” Jones revealed. “We believe that was a record for a single home on Halloween night.”

Tall Betsy retired in 1998 after drawing a Halloween Block Party crowd of 25,000. A helicopter film crew captured the event and the large crowds on Centenary Avenue.

The Block Party was dedicated in honor of Tall Betsy’s 25th anniversary in 2005.

“Halloween history will be made at the 2015 Block Party,” said Mayor Tom Rowland. “Those lucky enough to see the new Tall Betsy will have memories they can share one day with their children and grandchildren. This is a night Cleveland will remember forever — possibly the spookiest night our city has ever seen.”

A new video of the legendary goblin created by J. Bailey Jones is online at TallBetsy.com and features Gincy Pendergrass, a fourth-grader at E.L. Ross Elementary School.

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