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James Thurber House –
Place — James Thurber House
James Thurber House
77 Jefferson Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43215
James Thurber House web site
The Thurber House can be found on Jefferson
Avenue, just east of East Broad Street, in a nice little section of
Columbus. Neighbors across the street are various social
organizations, and The Thurber House has private owners as
neighbors, in the houses on either side of it.
It is described as a 1875 brick, charming
Victorian, built for a 1910, middle class family, but whose curb
appeal and charming interior made it a very popular rental,
attracting many good tenants. It has the customary two floors, with
the attic turned into a small apartment for resident writers, not
open to the public. Though on a smaller scale, compared to the
robber baron Victorian homes, it is decored with simpler, yet
beautiful Victorian era touches; including lots of wood, some
beveled glass, and lovely ceramic fireplaces. Well-known, honored
cartoonist and witty short story author James Thurber, lived with
his parents and was the middle son of three Thurber boys; William,
the eldest and Robert the youngest. The three of them must have
been a handful. James lost his sight in one eye while playing
William Tell with his brothers. He went totally blind later
The home's furnishings reflect the popular
mission oak style decor, found in Sears Catalog, around 1913. In
1983, the outside of the home was restored, following an old
photograph and the remaining physical evidence of what was
originally there. The front porch, and the stairs leading up to the
home's second floor were entirely rebuilt by a local master
craftsmen. The condition of the home must have been really in need
With the help of Robert Thurber, James'
younger brother, the restoration of the interior began in March of
1984. Robert was an important source of information, to be sure it
was done authentically. He remembered a lot of the details, from
decor to habits of the Thurber Family.
They only lived here for a time in this
home; one of the three houses the Thurber family lived in Columbus,
during the time that James Thurber was attending Ohio State
University. This home was 45 minute streetcar ride away. Because he
couldn't complete the required ROTC course at Ohio State, he wasn't
able to graduate from college, but was given a posthumous degree,
after a life-time of literary contributions and cartoon fun! His
natural talent and gifts opened doors of opportunity for him, even
without a college degree. "Although best known for his funny
cartoons and witty short stories, James wrote 32 books, collections
of essays and modern commentaries, fables and children's
It is because of James' contributions to
the literary field, that saved the home from a date with the
wrecking ball; some of the homes across the street were torn down
to make room for modern, brick homes and structures.
Thurber House, now owned by the Jefferson
Center for Learning and the Arts, is a literary center, offering
year round programming for adults and children. Some of the
family's personal items have been donated to this house museum of
sorts. On display, are, Robert's sports memorabilia collection,
Some of William's Western and American Indian paintings, and a
selection of James' manuscripts, cartoons, letters, first edition
of his books, and some of his honors, awards, and original
drawings. Some of his books and memorabilia, are on sale in the
Thurber Country Bookstore, located in the dining room.
Along the walls of the second floor between
the bedrooms, pictures of the Thurber Family and important family
documents are hung. Also a photograph of a see-through apparition
that was taken on one of the staircases is hung on the wall on the
second floor landing. Down the back staircase, that leads to the
dining room, one can see the "Wall of Fame; pictures of all the
authors who visited Thurber House and/or participated in the
Thurber House's literary programs.
In 1868, after The Central Ohio Lunatic
Asylum burned down, the large parcel of land that this institution
sat on was divided into three residential sections. Each section
had an oblong/oval shaped park in the middle of their section,
making a very fashionable neighborhood. A family must have lived
here until the turn-of-the-century, when this home was turned into
a well-liked and appreciated rental property, from 1900 - 1973.
Many people enjoyed this home, including the Thurbers.
After the Thurbers moved on to another home
in Columbus, the home temporarily stopped being a rental, in the
early 1920s and became The Wallace Collegiate School and
Conservatory of Music. It once again became a rental in 1946, in
the form of a boarding house. Uh oh! Boarding house status has led
to many of home into disrepair and instability. In the 1970s, a lot
of older homes were torn down, but Thurber House was donated
instead to The Jefferson Center for Learning and the Arts, do to
someone's considerable efforts to preserve history.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
Paranormal activity was first reported in
writing, by James Thurber, in one of his early, humorous stories,
entitled, "The Night the Ghost Got In," describing the paranormal
incident with one of the spirits that James, his brother William
and their mother experienced.
This same occurrence happened to other
renters of the house over the years before and after the Thurbers
lived there, sometimes causing people to find other housing.
According to Thurber's research; (done
shortly after his encounter with the footstep spirit), that it was
during the 1880s, that a man who lived in this house with his wife
was informed by an anonymous note that if he came home early from
work, he would find his wife in bed with her lover. So, he left
work early, and heard them making love up in one of the second
floor bedrooms. He walked around the dining room table, ran up the
back stairs to another bedroom, and shot himself.
People who commit suicide, often over
unfaithfulness of a loved one or some other deep emotional upset,
find out that being dead doesn't bring peace and escape from their
torment and grief.
House * Baker Hotel * Hassayampa Inn * Hotel Adolphus * Vendome Hotel )
Coincidentally, the original Thurber
encounter with the unseen presence and his scary footsteps happened
on November 17, 1915, exactly 47 years after seven people died in
the fire that burned down The Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum, which is
considered the other source of the hauntings in Thurber House.
Mental and physical ailment Hospitals tend
to wind up with a few of their departed former residents.
( Waverly Hills Sanitarium * Maysville Hospital * Kalamazoo Sanitorium )
Spirits that are attached to the land, will
move into the new building that is constructed on their old
Records Building * Willard
Library * National
Aviary * Rivoli
Theatre * Kolb
Ridge Court )
Victims of disasters such as fire, flood,
or other forms of mayhem, such as war can't find rest because they
can't let go of their traumatic death.
( Pittsburgh Playhouse * Hannah
House * Fort
Laramie Prison * Little
Bighorn Battlefield )
Several spirits are thought to inhabit this
The Male Entity of a reported suicide
Has been described by one of the in-house
writers, who stayed one summer in the attic apartment: Described as
a large, overweight "somewhat stooped, black torso shadow", that
was seen passing by a second story window, blocking out the Hallway
Another in-house writer and Toby, the dog
came down to the first floor at night, when things were quiet.
While in the parlor, Toby began growling and starring at an unseen
presence, sitting on the velvet couch, just underneath the leaded
The Paranormal activity that was first
reported by James Thurber, still is experienced by the guest
writers who spend the summer in the house. All three of the
Thurbers, William, James and their mom, were awakened by footsteps
walking around the dining room table, and running up the back
staircase, two at a time, making quite a racket. This was just one
incident of the paranormal activity reported by Thurber, and still
One guest writer used to use sound from air
conditioner, etc to try to block out the sound of the foot steps
heard on the floors below.
James Thurber also personally witnessed
books being quickly moved across the room.
James Thurber also saw shadow people walk
in front of windows.
While no official paranormal investigation
group have been allowed in The Thurber House, many people before
and after James Thurber's first experience have had personal
experiences, that are all similar reports to what has happened in
A still photo of one of their ghosts was
taken and hung on the wall at the top of the stairs. It looks like
a translucent apparition wearing pants.
Probably so. The picture is pretty
convincing. While the staff have said that they haven't experienced
anything, several guest writers, staying in the attic apartment
have convincingly told of their experiences they had during the
evening hours, when the street is still, and it is dark.
The Ghost Hunter's Field Guide
by Rich Newman
"Welcome to Thurber House": informational hand-out for
The Thurber House page on Forgotten Ohio.com
Rubio, Josie – "Ghost Stories"
Smith, Robin – "Columbus Ghosts"