Last fall — just before Halloween — I wrote a column about a mysterious ghost who allegedly invaded the Wooster home of the David Hoffman family 150 years ago. The information, sent to me by Wooster historian Harry McClarran, had appeared in a book of newspaper articles from the 1870s.

Back then, the Wooster poltergeist received wide-spread press coverage ... all the way to the East Coast where an article appeared in the May 24, 1871, edition of The New York Times.

Not long after last year’s Daily Record column ran, author Chris Woodyard of Dayton wrote to say she had more Hoffman ghost information. She wrote about the poltergeist in her book "The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales" under a chapter titled "A Family Bewitched: The Hoffman Poltergeist of Wooster."

"The ghost," explained the author, "had been labeled ‘IT’ by those it tormented. The mysterious pranks that afflicted the Hoffman family were begun in June 1869, while the family lived in Millersburg."

At first, Mr. Hoffman noticed his money was disappearing. Then food items and articles of clothing began to disappear. It was reported that crockery fell without the aid of human hands, and stones, eggs and other small objects were tossed wildly through the house.

Having tried unsuccessfully to rid the home of its malignant spirit, Mr. Hoffman decided to move his wife and three children from Millersburg to Wooster — hoping to escape the mischievous "IT." At the same time, Mr. Hoffman decided to move into his own temporary quarters at the mill where he was employed and where, it turned out, he escaped further ghostly pranks.

But, the ghostly spirit followed his wife and three children to their new address at 504 W. Liberty St. The clothes of the mother and eldest daughter were slashed and the family linens were found stuffed into the mouth of the cellar drain. Poundings were heard on the walls at night, dishes rattled and stones were thrown through doors and windows.

The Wooster Republican reported on May 25, 1871, "clairvoyant and medium Madame Thompson of Cleveland" had come to Wooster attempting to communicate with the spirit.

Woodyard explained the local press declared "a most helpful watch had been kept" and hundreds of men and women had visited and inspected the premises without finding any clue to solving the mystery.

Eventually the Hoffman family moved to Akron. Although husband and wife never divorced, they never lived together again.

Today the existence of the Hoffman ghost remains a mystery.


Countless nationally known entertainers have performed on the College of Wooster campus. Among them were actors Raymond Massey, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, Ernest Borgnine, musicians Doc Severinson, the Beach Boys, Chicago, Sly and the Family Stone, Charlie Daniels, Ravi Shankar and basketball whiz kids the Harlem Globe Trotters. Recently musician Pharrell Williams spoke on campus.

Thought you should know.

Columnist Ann Gasbarre can be reached at or 330-345-6419.