Nestled in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio once explored by George Washington and a stones throw from Wheeling West Virginia, the empty shells of a booming city erased by a depressed economy and decades of poor decisions by politicians has left Bellaire Ohio a shell of the thriving city it once was. The four lane highway rips through a village lined with decaying early 20th century homes damaged by vandals or flooding. On the opposite side are the remains of coal, glass, and enamel businesses long gone from the area. After nearly one hundred years of economic decline it’s people are forced onto government assistance or to flee the area to provide for their families. Some who remain keep the history of this village alive. They love the story of Bellaire Ohio and they tell their version of it with a passion that history buffs will certainly enjoy.
Like so many other places along the Ohio River, Bellaire, took advantage of the natural resources and people that had flocked there after the Revolutionary War to build a village. Due to the skilled labor force, transportation, and energy source available in the area, Bellaire eventually earned the title of “Glass City”. Imperial Glass Company, probably the most well known American mass produced glass company, made a home of Bellaire in 1901 and began production in 1904.
1699 Belmont Street can be seen from the four lane highway that was built on land where civil war era homes once had been. Along Belmont Street are buildings that have fallen victim to natural disasters and the century of economic decline that have ravaged the area. The house and much of the village sits on hillsides cut out during the end of the Ice Age when the river became blocked by ice that had dammed it. For those who enjoy early 20th century architecture, you will certainly like this home. Beautiful arched entries, fireplaces, and woodwork adorn the entire home. From the outside the house has the look and feel of Hollywood’s favorite haunted homes. Inside, the home is beginning to once again show signs of life.
Property owner Kristen Lee tells of the events that happened to her while she lived in the home in her book “1699 Belmont Street; A Portal to Hell”. She fled the home due to the paranormal activity and foreclosure. She explains that after the foreclosure neither the bank nor county wanted the property and she retained ownership. She has a business partner that helps with the huge costs of restoration of the home and is currently offering public tours and private investigations to offset some of those costs. She has also moved her Crab Apple Moon business to the house.
I was invited by Columbus Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters Ohio State Team (G.H.O.S.T.) to tag along on their investigation while preparing this article. Co-Founder of G.H.O.S.T. Jason Beilchick and Co-Founders of Columbus Ghost Hunters Mike Redding and Robert Cornell were kind enough to allow me to follow their teams around as they investigated the property. Lorraine Stephens, Bobbie Edie, Ken Redding, and Allen “Pacman” Barnhill team members and newbies to paranormal investigation joined the two teams. Mike Redding from Columbus Ghost Hunters in an interview outside the house said, “I spend more time with the dead then the living and I love helping family’s that are having troubles in there life as well as kids that are being scared by ghosts.” he then looked back over his shoulder at the house that was fading away into the twilight of night and issued it a challenge. “Columbus Ghost Hunters are coming, I hope you’re ready.” he said it with a tone the fearless have when they are young and invincible. From all the stories I had been told about the house, this old man wasn’t so sure.
Many attempts to collect evidence unfortunately fell short including a 30 minute EVP session I did alone in the attic. The noise from the highway through the open or closed windows drowns out any hope of capturing faint voices from beyond. Although there did seem to be a voice responding to questions being asked by Robert and Allen, the highway prevented me from pulling it out. It will be very difficult for teams to extract EVP evidence from the house. The traffic noise also made it hard to hear any noises that might have been happening within the house causing the investigators to ask many times “did you hear something?” and “was that the traffic?”.
I’m an investigator, but I tried to switch hats for this article. The longer the night went on the more difficult that became. The team members were becoming noticeably aware of the lack of activity. Knowing that they couldn’t expect “performances” from the other side they kept attempting to collect evidence in small groups. At about 2am the teams had all but given up hope of collecting evidence. Whispers of ending the investigation had already begun among them. Three team members did pack up their equipment and leave shortly after the discussions while others remained to sleep off the drive and investigation. I started my 3 1/2 hour trek back to Cincinnati just before 8am and after a 3 hour nap.
Kristen and her LLC partner intend to turn 1699 Belmont Street into an attraction for paranormal investigators. No doubt the attraction will boost her book sales and likewise the book will draw interest to the house. Kristen herself seemed to be all business during my time with her. This struck me a little odd considering she lived in the home at one point in her life. When I asked her about her time in the house she referenced her book, where all the stories are told, then proceeded to tell me of her first experience with “The Grey Man”. A grey figure that she experienced in the home on several occasions. A plumbing problem curtailed our conversation as she went to the basement to check on the problem.As of Monday when I started this article no one had offered any evidence collected from the house or they didn’t have any to offer. People working at the home have suggested there were at least 10 spirits dwelling in the home. No evidence was collected to indicate that the home was even haunted by one spirit. One personal experience was being reported to me of a foot being pulled while they slept. Nothing was collected that could corroborate the claim.
I have to be fair in my assessment of 1699 Belmont Street to both Kristen and the paranormal community. From my discussions with Kristen and the work being done inside, there is little doubt that the property is being groomed for business. Since I don’t EVER pay to investigate any location I wouldn’t pay to investigate this one either. With the noise level and lack of other personal experiences during the investigation one has to wonder if the property isn’t currently being marketed as haunted. I wont go as far as to say 1699 Belmont Street isn’t haunted. One investigation doesn’t prove anything. I will say that any team there on a paid private investigation will find that collecting and reviewing evidence will be a chore at best and nearly impossible at worst. As for the billing of “A Portal to Hell” I will reserve my opinion until I have had an opportunity to investigate there again. One thing is certain 1699 Belmont Street is on the highway from hell.