History of Haunted Schoolhouse & Laboratory

The Ghosthunter

Dr. Wilhelm Fritz Von Groddeck (1898 – 19??) was an early twentieth century parapsychologist, although later in life, he preferred to be known as a “forensic parapathologist”; a term he defined as “one who investigates paranormal manifestations and phenomena associated with the remnants or vestiges of beings no longer living.”  In other words, a Ghosthunter.

Dr. Von Groddeck might have passed through the annals of history unnoticed, except for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance from Akron, Ohio in 1968.  Before his disappearance however, Dr. Von Groddeck was best known for his sporadic publication of dense manuscripts most notably De Occultus Influxu (1939) and Methods and Principles of Phantasmia (1942).

The Beginnings of a Hunter

He was born in Bergen-Bergen, Germany, the only son of a wealthy physician and heir to the family fortune.  During his lifetime Von Groddeck would squander much of his wealth on his deep fascination with all things paranormal; including the purchase of a fantastic device known as a “Dynamistograph,” which is supposedly allowed the user to communicate with the dead.

Von Groddeck’s growing obsession with the paranormal eventually led him to leave his staff psychiatrist position at the Bergen-Bergen Sanitarium in 1932 and travel to the United States to study the already dwindling Spiritualism movement.  After WWII broke out in 1939, Von Groddeck applied for citizenship.  For the next thirty years he sought  out haunted houses and other locations with purported supernatural manifestations.


It was Von Groddeck’s preoccupation as a Ghosthunter that may have led to his disappearance.  In 1964, he traveled to Cleveland to study the reported haunting of legendary “Tiedemann Castle” on Millionaire’s Row (then owned by the German Socialist Party), and stayed in Ohio to document other famous hauntings in the region.  In 1968 at the ripe old age of 70, he went to Akron, intrigued by rumors about the now defunct Guggenheim Airship Institute Building.

While in Ohio, Von Groddeck had rented a set of rooms at Mrs. Pembrose’s Boarding House in Cleveland.  On October 23, 1964 Von Groddeck told Mrs. Pembrose that he would be gone for a week on a trip to Akron.  She never saw him again.  After a month with no word from Von Groddeck, Mrs. Pembrose sold all of is personal effects in order to pay Groddeck’s outstanding bill.

In late November, Mrs. Pembrose received a telephone call from Von Groddeck’s lawyer, Saul Bernstein,  Having had no contact from his client in over month, Bernstein was concerned.  When Mrs. Pembrose described Von Groddeck’s abrupt disappearance, Bernstein asked her to call the police.

Eventually, both the Cleveland and Akron police were contacted.  Because Mrs. Pembrose had sold Von Groddeck’s possessions, they had very little evidence to go on.  The Akron police discovered that Von Groddeck had stayed for a week at a local bed and breakfast called the Sweetbriar Inn.  He had paid for the week in full, then checked out at the end of his stay.  That was the last time anyone had seen him.

Having reached a dead end, the police concluded their investigation and simply listed Von Groddeck as another missing person.

The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory

In 1974, Don and Cindy Williams bought the Guggenheim Airship Institute Building, along with an old schoolhouse on an adjacent property.  Renamed the The Akron Haunted Schoolhouse and Laboratory, the buildings were converted into a “Haunted House” – a haunted attraction with elaborate sets and costumed actors that attracts thousands of enthusiasms every fall.

The very buildings that Von Groddeck had traveled to Akron to visit in 1968 in search of paranormal and supernatural phenomenon, now had become a venue dedicated to frightening its visitors every Halloween.

A New Clue

In 2001, the disappearance of Dr. Wilhelm Von Groddeck was almost forgotten.  Then a new clue was found in the old Guggenheim building, now known as the Laboratory.

In the Laboratory the sets are decorated with numerous props, some handcrafted by the AHSH&L staff, some purchased from flea-markets and garage sales, others donated by friends of the proprietors.  Among the props was a large steamer trunk with the initials “W.F.G.” on the lid.

In August 2001, an employee of the AHSH&L was planning to use the trunk in a new set he was building.  He started to cut a hole in the trunk, and discovered it had a false bottom.  Peeling back the lining, the employee discovered a packet of papers, letters, faded photographs and a leather-bound journal.  The items were very old and deteriorating, and the journal had a number of pages missing.  The employee took the items to his employers.

The journal and the rest of the items found in the trunk had belonged to Dr. Von Groddeck.  The fragmentary journal entries, although written in a confusing smattering of German and English, outlined Von Groddeck’s activities in the days leading up to his disappearance.

The Trunk

After the “Von Groddeck Papers” were discovered, the question of hose the AHSH&L had acquired the steamer trunk arose.  After the proprietors questioned the employees and themselves, it was realized that no one knew where the trunk had come from.  No one could remember purchasing the trunk, or whether it had been donated by a former employee.

Since then, the trunk has developed a mystique of its own. Employees have come to work only to find that the trunk has moved from its location sometime in the night.  Sometimes the trunk will be locked, although the keys have been missing as long as anyone could remember.  A couple of times, the trunk has been left in the Schoolhouse overnight, only to be found in the Laboratory the next morning.  The trunk has even disappeared for days at a time only to reappear in one of the rooms in the Laboratory.  Whether this is an elaborate hoax by an employee, or a supernatural phenomenon has yet to be discovered.

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