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Return Ward: His Evil Lives On

Ohio’s most chilling ghost story, a tale of murder and supernatural unrest, unexpectedly unfolded in the suburban heart of Sylvania’s downtown district. Five distinct locations in this serene setting claim connections to haunting phenomena, attributed to the spirits of a murdered wife and her assailant. The eerie narrative dates back to 1857, when Return Ward, an oddly named man, lived with his wife, Olive, in a modest Main Street house.

In a fit of rage, Ward took Olive’s life with a single blow from a smoothing iron, then went to gruesome lengths to conceal his crime. He dismembered and cremated her body in their woodburning stove, scattering ashes and bone fragments up and down Main Street, and even casting some into nearby Ten-Mile Creek. Locals firmly believe this macabre act has left an indelible mark on downtown Sylvania, giving rise to haunting phenomena that persist to this day.

The haunting first came to public attention at the former Jenna’s Mediterranean restaurant in 2007. The owner, encountering inexplicable events, like haunting piano music and shattering glass, unraveled the unsettling history of Olive’s murder through conversations with nearby business owners and customers. The eerie experiences extended to the staff, including flickering lights, loud banging noises, sounds of giggling children, and the ghostly apparition of a woman. Paranormal investigators allegedly gathered proof, but poltergeist-like activity during one investigation prompted the owner to cease further inquiries, fearing they might disturb the spirits further.

After Jenna’s Mediterranean, Executive on the Main assumed its place, and it didn’t take long for them to encounter similar eerie phenomena. Initially, there was a prevailing belief that Ward’s house and the grisly murder occurred right where the restaurant now stood. However, upon closer investigation, it was revealed that the actual location was a few doors down, at ACE Hardware. The staff at ACE Hardware had their own set of experiences to share. Although no one explicitly admitted to witnessing the haunting apparition of a woman, peculiar incidents were commonplace, particularly after hours when the store was closed. Numerous staff members, including management, reported hearing strange noises, shuffling footsteps, and an overwhelming sense of unease in the precise area where Ward’s house once sat. Some even claimed to discover items mysteriously removed from shelves and neatly arranged down the middle of the aisles when they arrived to start their business day.

While the prevailing belief is that Ward’s house occupied solely the northeast corner of the ACE Hardware property, my interpretation suggests it likely straddled the property line. Examining old maps and illustrations depicting the area’s historical layout, I am inclined to believe that Ward’s house extended across both the ACE Hardware property and the adjacent storefront.

Haunted Toledo seized the chance to investigate the empty storefront adjacent to ACE Hardware before Wildwood Anglers took occupancy. Previous businesses in this location reluctantly confessed to occasional eerie feelings, sensations of not being alone, and fleeting shadows, although they didn’t dwell on these occurrences at the time. Our investigation of this storefront yielded compelling evidence, including EVPs that I am confident capture direct communications with none other than Return Ward himself. Astonishingly, we captured his voice during our investigation!

Another locale seemingly ensnared by the haunting phenomena is Reve Salon and Spa. Having resided in a third-floor apartment of this building before Reve acquired it, I have my own experiences to share. However, I’ll save these tales for another occasion.

The staff at Reve had extraordinary encounters of their own to tell, including the eerie sounds of phantom voices – both of a man and a woman – resonating through various parts of the building. They experienced the inexplicable sensation of phantom footsteps and reported instances of being touched by unseen hands, as well as having their clothing tugged. Lights were known to turn on by themselves, a phenomenon I personally witnessed during Haunted Toledo’s investigation of the premises. Mysterious sounds of children playing echoed within the building’s elevator and basement, despite no actual children being present. Additionally, an unsettling presence was occasionally felt in the first-floor spa, accompanied by the disconcerting sounds of a man engaged in argument. In different sections of the building, sightings of the phantom of a woman were sporadically reported.

The Wingate Hotel, situated along the banks of Ten-Mile Creek, documented peculiar occurrences throughout the building, with a notable concentration on the fourth floor. Staff reported feeling an eerie sensation of being watched and followed, along with witnessing mysterious movements. Additionally, encounters with the apparition of a woman were documented. The belief that Olive’s spirit frequents this location stems from the notion that some of her remains were deposited in the nearby creek.

Yet, the question lingers: why would the spirits of Olive and her murderous husband, Return, cast their haunting presence across so many diverse locations? The answer, as hinted by the EVPs gathered at Wildwood Anglers, proposes a relentless pursuit by Ward in the afterlife, a refusal to let Olive find peace even in death. These haunting experiences, dispersed throughout downtown Sylvania, weave a haunting tapestry of a ghostly couple forever tethered by a tragic history. The chilling possibility remains that numerous other businesses might be undergoing similar phenomena, yet their accounts are yet to come to light.

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