Rocky’s Cyclery and…Ghosts?

Rocky’s Cyclery and Fitness, located at 239 East Church Street, is a Marion institution. Like the Jer-zee or the OK Café or the Palace Theatre, it’s one of those places that seems like it’s always been there, and it would be hard imagining Marion without it. The building, however, has been home to a few different businesses over the years, one of which might be an explanation of sorts for the stories I recently heard while interviewing a few of the bike mechanics who work up there. But more on that in a minute…

rockys bicycles
Rocky’s Cyclery and Fitness has been at this location for nearly forty years.

Viewed from the side, one is struck by how big and rambling Rocky’s actually is. Just off of the sales area in the front of the building is owner Carol Poston’s office and a well-equipped workshop, both of which most regular customers have wandered into at one time or another. There’s also an apartment on the second floor. Anyone venturing a bit deeper into the building to, say, the dimly-lit rooms in the basement or the squeaky-floored rooms behind the workshop will most certainly find a great number of bikes as well as the parts needed to service them.  And just maybe, one might also come across a ghost or two.

The tire room where, according to bike mechanic Jessie Greene, the tires have a habit of moving by themselves.

Jessie Green, a Tri-Rivers student who’s been working at the shop since the beginning of the year, has a tire problem – specifically, they don’t want to stay put. On the day I was at Rocky’s, he took me down into the basement where the tire room is located. Jessie said that often and without explanation the tires move. “I’ll leave the tire room with everything where it should be and when I go down there again, the tires will be scattered or in piles. I’ll come back upstairs and be like, ‘Who moved the tires?’ And nobody’s been down there.” Another mechanic, Thaddeus Smith, says the door leading to the rooms behind the workshop routinely opens and closes by itself, though whether it’s just a draft or something more ethereal is something he wouldn’t speculate on. Annette Stark, a former tenant in the apartment over the store, says that while she was living there she and her daughters always felt as if someone were watching them in the hallway leading to the apartment. “I would [also] hear what sounded like footsteps coming from the attic.”

Rocky Rhoades, the shop’s namesake, opened his first bike shop in 1972 in downtown Marion before moving to the current building in 1974. In 2003, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Rocky sold the business to Glen Poston, himself a passionate and devoted bike rider, and Glen’s wife, Carol.

Rocky’s was once home to a funeral home, as evidenced by this 1929 Marion phone book listing and advertisement.

Before Rocky bought the building, the property had been, according to Stuart Koblentz, the private residence of a family named Miller and, according to Carrie Hutchman, Indoe’s, which was a store offering “heating, appliances and televisions.” More interestingly, according to Hutchman, “Between 1929 and 1931 it was the Hess, Markert & Axe Funeral Home. From 1934-1938 it was known as the Axe Funeral Home, L.A. Axe, director.”*

Naturally, it would be convenient to argue that it was during the building’s years as a funeral home that a few restless spirits settled there. For her part, Carol remains skeptical. However, she says that, “if there are a few ghosts, I like to think they’re friendly ones.” Or maybe just mischievous ones who delight in unnerving bike mechanics by hiding their tires or shutting doors on them.

*For those readers who are members of Facebook and are interested in Marion’s history, I recommend becoming a member of the “Growing up in Marion, Ohio” Facebook group. The nearly 3,000 members have a wealth of information about our hometown as well as a willingness to share it. They were certainly helpful in the development of this story.

(More) Odds and Ends

While digging through old newspapers looking for material for this site, I occasionally happen across an article that isn’t substantial enough to warrant its own separate entry here. I call these articles my “odd and ends,” and I even included a chapter with that title in Haunted Marion, Ohio. What follows are a couple of odds and ends that I’ve collected since the publication of the book.

On March 9th, 1869, the following appeared in The Cairo Evening Bulletin in Cairo, Illinois:

I actually tried to find out if there was a trial involving a man named Brown and the murder of an editor from Dayton before 1869 but was unsuccessful. Could this be a very old example of an urban legend?

An even stranger article appeared in The Arizona Republican on October 23rd, 1902:

An apparition of the devil is reported from Mt. Olivet Church, Marion, Ohio. The visitant, when seen, is always at a window looking out. Color in the daytime: a sickly green. Color at night: a lurid red.

One would think that a story like this would’ve gotten some press in Marion. However, neither of Marion’s two newspapers, The Marion Daily Mirror or The Marion Daily Star, mentioned the devil or, for that matter, even a Mt. Olivet Church in 1902. How the editors of the Republican ended up with the story is a mystery.

A far more plausible story ran in The Marion Star on July 30th, 1937, detailing the “antics” of the Marion courthouse clock.

Recent antics of the ancient courthouse clock are becoming a serious mystery to Sherman Dixon, for the last 36 years one of the building custodians and probably the oldest county employee in point of service. The massive timepiece, by far the largest in the city, several times this year has stopped during the night and then started up again – which simply isn’t possible for it to do all by itself, Mt. Dixon says.

To anyone who isn’t a bird, the clock is virtually inaccessible and there are only three sets of keys to the door which leads into the attic. All are held by the janitors and other county officials who are not suspected of complicity in the mischief. John Haines, Stationary engineer, is similarly puzzled.

This postcard, courtesy of Marion resident Mike Crane, shows the Marion Courthouse (and its misbehaving clock), circa 1920. Anyone interested in looking at Mike’s nice collection of old photos, postcards and other assorted Marion miscellanea should check out his website.

The article doesn’t imply that the clock’s behavior was the work of supernatural forces. On the contrary, Mr. Dixon suspected “miscreants” of messing with the clock, though he wasn’t able to adequately explain how they could’ve carried out such mischief. Anyone interested in seeing the original article can download the PDF file here.

On November 2nd, 1904, this article concerning Marion County appeared in The Hartford Herald, a newspaper serving the tiny town of Hartford, Kentucky.

Haunted through life by the terrible impressions made upon him at the hour of his birth, George Yeager of Richmond [sic] Township, has been driven insane and was to-day sent to the State Hospital.

On the day he was born a terrible thunderstorm was raging, and about the hour he was born a bolt of lighting struck near the home of his parents, frightening his mother almost to the point of unconsciousness. Then, too, while Life was bringing him into the world, Death had laid claim to his father This, added to the other harrowing experiences, so unnerved the mother that she has never been well mentally as she was before.

That these vivid impressions upon Mrs. Yeager communicated themselves to the sub consciousness of her child, are evidenced by the fact that he has…had an unnatural fear of thunderstorms and death in any form.

The finale of this strange life tragedy came to-day with the commitment of the man to the asylum.

Despite mistakenly referring to Richland Township as Richmond Township, the basic story seems at least plausible. And of course, Mautz-Yeager Road, which is presumably named after the Yeager family, runs through Richland Township, and this detail lends the article a certain amount of credibility.

Lastly, the following short article turned up in a book published in 1997 called A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities:

In another bizarre report, Dr. T.B. Fisher of Marion, Ohio, described the case of a lady who had felt something moving in her stomach for four months. She was ridiculed by her friends as a hysteric, but she silenced them by vomiting a nearly fully grown mouse, which Dr. Fisher kept in a glass jar in his office as a pet.

There’s no question that Dr. Fisher was indeed a member of the Marion community. According to the 1907 History of Marion County, Dr. Fisher opened his practice in 1835 and faithfully served the people of Marion until he retired in 1882. He also served two terms as Marion’s mayor. Why such a well-regarded figure would tell such an outlandish story is uncertain.