When you think of Cleveland, the word "surreal" might not be the first thing to pop into your mind. It might not even crack the top ten. But lest we forget, the Cleveland Cavaliers once came back from 3 games to 1 and finally won the NBA championship, which remains one of the most surreal events of the 21st century. Are we sure that even happened? On its surface, this may seem like just another big midwestern city with nice, hardworking people. But, dig a little deeper and you will learn that the city and several nearby towns have plenty of secrets, enigmas and oddities. Join us as we flee to the surreal Cleve and beyond.
The Haserot Angel
Many locals believe that this hauntingly beautiful statue in Lakeview Cemetery occasionally weeps black tears. It's hard to dispute when you see it in person, the dark stains run directly from the sad angel's eyes down to her neck and aren't evident elsehwhere on the upper body. The angel, which is kind of badass and is holding an upside down lit torch, was sculpted by Herman Matzen in the 1920s and marks the grave of former Cleveland canning magnate Frances Haserot and his family.There are several theories as to why the angel might be crying. It could be because Haserot died under mysterious circumstances while working in the cutthroat canning business, or maybe it's because the Browns didn't win a game for almost 2 years. Others believe the famous Lake effect is the culprit. There is also a possibility that the fading bronze is the real cause of the tears, but frankly that seems the least plausible, doesn't it?
Calling itself the "premier oddity shop in Northern Ohio," this store in Lakewood has all sorts of weird and wild stuff. Bones, full skeletons, preserved wet specimens (wait, what?), taxidermy and framed entomology are just a few of the items on the menu here. Imagine if Stefon from Saturday Night Live had his own store and you'll come close to getting the vibe of Cleveland Curiousities. Several relatives of mine are definitely getting some framed entomology for Christmas this year, that's for damn sure.
The Secret Tunnels of Cleveland
Like most major cities built during the Industrial Age, Cleveland has a vast network of underground tunnels. Throughout the spring and summer, free tours are offered on Saturdays under the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Public Square. Some brave souls have decided to explore other abandoned laborynth's around the city that have recently been uncovered. But be forewarned, enter at your own risk.
The Frozen West Pierhead Lighthouse
If you ever wondered just how cold a Midwestern winter can get, look no further than this. This unoccupied lighthouse in Cleveland Harbor often freezes over during particularly cold winters as the waves from Lake Erie splash over it and freeze, practically in mid-air. The light still works though, luckily.
The Guardians of the...Traffic?
Anyone driving across the Hope Memorial Bridge near downtown Cleveland has seen these two pairs of iconic statues that stand guard at each end of the Cuyahoga River. They've been dubbed the Guardians of Traffic. Give them a proper salute as you drive by and you may be blessed with open lanes ahead. In their hands they hold different vehicles that represent the history of transportation. They've recently updated one of the statues, and if you look closely, you can see one of the guardians is now texting and riding a Segway. Just kidding!
The Cave House
This archaeological marvel looks like if the Flinstone's house and Luke Skywalker's home on Tatooine had a baby. Located in the town of Painesville, OH, it's about a 20-minute drive from downtown Cleveland and worth the visit. Owner Rick Kristoff is even known to give the occasional passerby a tour of his unique place.
The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
The Toynbee Tiles are similar messages, scrawled on asphalt in different cities across North and South America. From Boston to Buenos Aires, the license-plate sized messages all contain a variation of the phrase "Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter." No one knows exactly who made them, when they were made or why. You can find the Cleveland Toynbee Tile where Prospect Avenue meets 3rd Street near Tower City.
Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast
Have you ever wanted to enjoy a night in a prison cell, but just never been lucky enough to do so? Have we got a place for you. The Old Vermilion Jailhouse Bed & Breakfast offers 5-stars amenities with the authentic touches you'd expect from any 2-star prison. Fear not though, the bathrooms and showers are private and you will be allowed to leave when your stay is over.
A Christmas Story House & Museum
It's a rare experience to be able to step right into a movie set from 1983, but it's possible with a visit to the actual house from the classic movie just about everyone now knows by heart (thanks to TBS showing it for 24 hours straight every year). Located at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland, the house is open to tours and even overnight stays, plus there is a museum across the streat. The props are all here, from the sexy lamp to Ralphie's BB gun. Don't shoot your eye out!
Historic Zoar Village
Visiting the historic village of Zoar is like stepping back in time. Little has changed here since the the town was formed in 1817 by German separatists that were fleeing religous persecution. Many of the original buildings still stand, and descendants of the original settlers still live here.
Old Woman Creek Nature Preserve
Like a shimmering oasis, Old Woman Creek Nature Preserve in Huron is one of Ohio's last natural estuaries. The park and creek received its odd name thanks to an old Native American tale--two young lovers, a Frenchman and the daughter of an Indian chief were shot through the heart with one arrow. The girl's mother was so grief stricken that she jumped into the river and drowned, hence the name. At 572 acres, it's a great place for scenic hikes and bird-watching. Archery is not offered.
Cleveland Museum of Art
Always on the cutting edge, the Cleveland Museum of Art continues to showcase dynamic exhibits that will blow your mind. Coming in November 2018 is "Who RU2 Today: Mass Media and the Fine Art of Print" which explores works by artists who "exploit printed and photographic media in ways that intentionally reveal the confusing line between art and information, fact and fiction." Yes, that sounds very timely.
Eerie Lake Erie
Lake Erie has long been the source of myths and legends. From ghost ships to the Lake Erie Monster it's a treasure trove of surreal sights. But one of the strangest incidents occurred just last May when bright blue orbs appeared in the night sky over the lake. And, not for the first time. Was it a genuine UFO sighting? As they say, the truth is out there.
An Unexpected Rainforest
Strolling through the 2-acre rainforest habitat at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is like wandering through the Amazon, but with way less mosquitos. More than 600 animals and 10,000 forms of plant life call this rainforest home. Orangutans, 2-toed sloths, anteaters, crocodiles, 15 varieties of bird species and more can all be found here.
Imagine a time when alcohol was prohibited. It's chilling to the bone isn't it? The Speakeasy, located below the Bier Markt on W. 25th Street captures this era splendidly, and you can drink your cocktail without fear of arrest. We recommend trying the Painkiller, which is much better than any bathtub gin.
Abandoned Amusement Park, Chippewa Lake
Few things are more stark and stunning than an old, abandoned amusement park. Chippewa Lake Park was opened from 1878-1978 when it closed due to low attendance and financial troubles. Some of the rides have since been removed, but the ferris wheel and several other rides remain. There is a strange sound that you hear as the wind whistles through the old rides like the Little Dipper and Flying Cages, which have become covered with foliage...it almost sounds like children's laughter.
The sandstone rock carvings at Worden's Ledges are a sight to behold. To find them, follow the trail from the Hinkley Reservation at 859 Ledge Road. Like a mini-Easter Island, the nine carvings are imposing, and incongrous with their surroundings. How did they get here and why? They were actually created by folk artist Noble Stuart in the 1940s, who apparently had quite a bit of free time on his hands. You may recognize the carvings of George Washington, Marquise de Lafayette and baseball legend Ty Cobb.
The Hillandale Bridge to Nowhere
This bridge to nowhere in Hillandale Park in Euclid raises some questions. For example, where is the road it was supposed to connect to? Further, it's not over a body of water, so why was a bridge even needed? And finally, what's up with the scary clown graffiti? The bridge was built in the 1920s and was supposed to be part of a housing development that was never finished when the Great Depression hit. The clown we assume was added later. If you take this hike, which is certainly worth it, you might feel a bit like Dorothy in Oz. A faded brick road leads right up to the bridge, but sadly, it's not yellow.
Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magic
A must-see for any fan of witches, good and bad. Located in the historic Tremont neighborhood, this wacky little museum also features cool outsider art and pagan artifacts. Be sure to try to the stew!
Get Nose to Nose With Sharks
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium allows you to get up close and personal with the most feared fish in the sea with its Shark Sea Tube. The 175-foot tube provides incredible viewing access to great whites, sting rays, moray eels and more.