Shoe String Jack and the Old City Hall

This photo, courtesy of Randy and Sandy Winland, shows the original Marion city hall, jail and fire station shortly before it was razed in 1920. It was situated on the northeast corner of Church Street and Prospect Street. This photo was taken from the west side of Prospect Street.

Constructed in 1857, the old city hall was never one of Marion’s more distinguished-looking buildings. According to the book History of Marion County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens, “[T]he lower story [was] used as the Central Station of the Fire Department and as the city prison. The upper part [was] used for the mayor’s office, municipal court, police headquarters and sleeping quarters for the firemen.” It wasn’t a particularly beloved building, either. History of Marion County, Ohio goes on to say that “[t]he building will next year be half a century old and is a standing disgrace and eyesore to a city which in all other respects outclasses her sister cities.”

In any case, in 1909 articles began appearing in the Marion Daily Star detailing some of the strange events that were happening there. There were rumors of the ghosts of men who had killed themselves in the jail cells there and reports of and “black snaky objects” hovering over the beds of sleeping firemen.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of Haunted Marion, Ohio!

The Nelson Street Haunting

The Nelson Street house in April of 2010.
The Nelson Street house in April of 2010.

Please note: A significantly expanded version of this story appears in our book Haunted Marion, Ohio.

Lisa (not her real name) says she grew up in a house haunted by the spirit of a man who died there. Of course, a lot of people are skeptical when they hear a claim like this. However, what makes Lisa’s story interesting – whether one believes it or not – is the fact that house, located on 770 Nelson Street , does have a history, and it’s not a pleasant one.

He Treated Them Like Dogs

The story really begins on Easter Sunday of 1960. Two girls, 18-year-old Virginia Napper and her younger sister, 15-year-old Edna Mae, creep up the stairs. Edna Mae has removed her shoes so as to make as little noise as possible. Their mother is cooking Easter dinner, and their father is sleeping in the upstairs bedroom. Ostensibly, the girls have gone upstairs to wake their father. Instead, Virginia loads a .22 caliber rifle, slips into her father’s bedroom and, with Edna Mae watching, points the muzzle at her father’s head. And then Virginia pulls the trigger.

At first, police were puzzled by the girls’ actions. They both freely admitted to taking part in the killing, but their motive for wanting him dead wasn’t clear – at least initially. Marion City Police Chief Justin Cornely, in a statement to the Marion Star, said only that the girls’ father had “picked on them.” However, it soon became clear that Mr. Napper had done more than merely “pick on” his daughters.

According to Mrs. Napper, the family, which also included two grade-school age boys, was terrified of Mr. Napper. In the words of Mrs. Napper’s brother, “[H]e treated my sister and her whole family like dogs.” However, it was his two daughters that he brutalized the most. In an interview with the Star, Mrs. Napper said that her husband had been molesting Virginia for years and shortly before his death, he had begun molesting Edna Mae as well. Despite the fact that Mr. Napper had threatened to kill the girls if they ever told anyone abut the abuse, the girls had eventually confided to their mother what their father was doing to them. It wasn’t long thereafter that the girls decided to kill him — a decision their mother understood. In her interview with the Star, Mrs. Napper, sobbing with guilt and anger, declared, “I should have killed him myself – then my girls wouldn’t be in this trouble.”

That Guy in the Stairway

For her part, Lisa, who lived in the house until her family moved out in the mid 80s, says that the family was initially unaware of what had taken place there. It was only after other people told her parents about the Napper shooting that the family learned about the house’s history.

Although Lisa and other family members slept in the bedroom where the shooting had taken place, the ghost seemed to prefer the hallways and stairs since that’s where most of the family members had paranormal experiences. Lisa writes, “When my sister was younger she would sit and talk to ‘that guy in the stairway.’ My aunt was scared to death to go anywhere near the upstairs, and she actually wigged out one night and said that there was someone behind her, even though she was the only one upstairs. She ended up breaking her fingernails off in – yes, in – the drywall trying to turn the lights on. My mom saw him in the stairway. She said that it was like he was just staring at her.” Lisa herself never saw any ghostly activity directly. However, she did say that, “You always felt like someone was watching or following you.”

The Fate of the Napper Sisters

As for the Napper girls, their fates were decided during the summer of 1960. On June 30th of that year, a jury deliberated just over three hours before finding Virginia not guilty by reason of insanity. This meant the teenager would have to enter the Lima state hospital for the criminally insane, though prosecutor Robert Stout suggested that a writ of habeas corpus could result in her complete freedom. Mr. Stout dropped the charges against Edna Mae altogether shortly after Virginia’s verdict was announced.