The legend of 101 East Main Street
Haunting does not deter new business…
Rachel Giesel | Staff Writer
The building of 101 East Main Street, currently inhabited by eight-week old Thai restaurant Banana Leaf, has been surrounded by the haunting of a murdered woman’s ghost and the Underground Railroad. The building has expelled multiple businesses, but current owner of Banana Leaf, Dana Tongdangjoue, said her restaurant has been triumphant so far, and she feels it will stay successful. She said she hasn’t had any experiences with the alleged haunting, but thinks the ghost could be possible.
“Customers have come in [and] they’ve mentioned [the building being haunted], but we haven’t experienced anything,” Tongdangjoue said. “I wouldn’t know [if the building is haunted, but] I would never say that it isn’t.”
Erin Winters, a longtime Mason resident who once lived at 101 East Main Street, said her encounters living in the building prove the stories to be true.
“There are several reasons why [I believe in the haunting],” Winters said. “When I was about 12 years old, my family moved in. We lived there for 18 months and it was probably one of my most incredible, exciting, emotional, fearful years. It is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Senior Chelsea Shepherd, a lifelong Mason resident, said she hasn’t had any direct experiences with the haunting, but still believes in the ghost stories that suggest it.
“I like to think that it’s haunted just because of all the stories,” Shepherd said. “I don’t know if [there is] someone there, actually, but I like to think that it’s haunted. [However,] I’ve never seen the ghost.”
The myth varies from person to person, but there are a few common characteristics, according to most versions of the legend. The most familiar telling is that a woman living in the building was brutally murdered by her husband, and her spirit still occupies the residence today, Winters said.
“John murdered Rebecca,” Winters said. “He took a log from the fireplace and he beat her with [it]. He murdered her and he was acquitted, so that’s why we think she’s not gone.”
Junior Chloe Brown, a resident who lives near the building, and walks past it to school every morning, said she thinks it’s haunted as well.
“[I walk to school by it] every morning,” Brown said. “Just from the stories I’ve heard, [I think it’s haunted.] I think that she went out and did something that her husband didn’t like. Back then, the husbands were in control and the wives had no say. I think he suspected of her of something and got mad and killed her.”
Shepherd said she knows many stories that follow this same pattern.
“We heard [that] the lady [who] lived there was murdered in her sleep because of her husband,” Shepherd said. “They were in an argument. The murder room is the bedroom and there was supposedly blood everywhere.”
Rose Marie Springman wrote in her book Around Mason, Ohio: a Story, the first murder of Mason occurred in this building. Rebecca McClung was found murdered in her bedroom on April 12, 1901. Springman wrote of “marks — cuts and bruises on [Rebecca’s] head, [her] face badly smashed [and] nearly all the face bones broken,” and the “cause of death…was murder.”
The murderer was never found or convicted, according to the book. However, the only evidence discovered pointed to Rebecca’s husband, John McClung, because “McClung’s coat, trousers and vest were covered with bloodstains, [and] bloody footsteps were found all around the house,” according to the book describing the thoughts of a local policeman, Bert Reed.
The book said John was arrested, bailed out, and pleaded not guilty in trial. Winters said John’s innocence was predicted because of the time period and his reputation.
“The first murder of Mason happened in [the building],” Winters said. “John had status in Mason. 200 years ago, a woman’s place was behind her man — [to be] submissive, passive. For him to be acquitted was probably a given thing.”
Rumors of a tunnel in the building circulate through Mason as well, according to Shepherd. Winters said she can validate the mythic tunnel as a part of the Underground Railroad, even though it’s sealed off now.
“It was part of the Underground Railroad,” Winters said. “There’s a specific place where the slaves would go through to the building on the left. They had a way to get through to each other. There used to be hieroglyphics where you could see stick people walking, and it was their language to tell the slaves where to go. [Even though the hole is all cemented up,] you can tell [it’s there.]”
Winters said the most “traumatizing” thing was a recurring appearance, that only she could see, of an African-American male near her bedroom window, at night, when she was alone.
“The first encounter that I had with any haunting was the very first day I was left alone in that room by myself,” Winters said. “I [saw] a vision of a black man in the far corner of the room [by] the window. The first time I saw it, I was absolutely petrified. Of course my mom and dad didn’t believe me; any time anybody came into the room, the vision was gone.”
This freaky vision left her terrified and doubted by many people for years, Winters said. But this vision was actually confirmed by a psychic brought in by the owners of The Chocolate Morel, according to Winters.
“Years after I had told that story, when The Chocolate Morel people came in, I told them all my stories,” Winters said. “They hired a séance person and validated that vision as a slave that had been there years ago.”
Brown said some of the stories she has heard attribute the success or failures to whatever Rebecca’s pleasures were. Her ghost will decide whether to permit or banish a production, Brown’s version of the legend said.
“I’ve heard that [Rebecca didn’t] like what the place [was],” Brown said. “I think Tea Roses survived there for a while because she liked tea. [But] Chocolate Morel [didn’t succeed] because she didn’t like chocolate. People said they had dishes thrown at them and other stuff like that.”
Will the business survive?
According to Winters, Rebecca can either help or hurt people and businesses, depending on her interests.
“Every person that’s been there [has] had different encounters,” Winters said. “Rebecca was fine to us. She didn’t hurt us in any way; she wasn’t aggressive. We never had any issues where we felt like we were in danger.”
Only time will tell Rebecca’s feelings of Thai food, but Tongdangjoue said she thinks her business will be successful. She said the traffic has been steady, the production has run as planned, and the customers are commenting nicely.
“I know that we will survive,” Tongdangjoue said. “I think it really has to do with the business model and how well the business is run. To run a successful business, certain key elements have to be in place, [such as] right location, community needs, [and consistency]. We meet all those criteria so I don’t know why it wouldn’t succeed, based on [those].”