Something wicked this way comes

Something wicked this way comes
October 20, 2010
By Steph Greegor
The Other Paper

The Syfy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” promo for last night’s premier of “The Chopping Block” was simple: “Something is terrorizing the workers,” at the Bissman Building in Mansfield, Ohio.

Viewers of the popular ghost-hunting spooktacular watched Wednesday night as the show’s paranormal-detecting team got pushed, pulled and poked by the many different haunts of the 50,000-square-foot warehouse.

“They’re the doctors of that crap,” said the building’s owner, Ben Bissman, the great-great-grandson of Peter Bissman, who built the warehouse in 1886. “We told them, ‘Something’s happening here,’ and they came to tell us what.”

We won’t spoil the fun for you if you haven’t yet seen the show—you can still watch the full episode on or on the Syfy channel when it re-airs Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. to find out what the ghost hunters discovered in Mansfield. Or, you can go experience it for yourself by calling ahead for a tour of the Bissman Building or, better yet, taking part in a six-hour lock-in, offered throughout the Halloween weekend Oct. 29-31.

“I was pretty skeptical in the beginning,” said Bissman of various ghost hunters’ interest in investigating the warehouse. “But then there was a lady who did a tour and I was up there with her and a group on the third floor. She was talking to my grandfather. And I’m like feeling hokey-pokey doing this crap. And a little embarrassed.”

He said it was more than 100 degrees in the upstairs attic as the woman was apparently communicating with his grandfather’s spirit, asking it to give the group a sign that he was there when all of a sudden…

“We heard a lug nut roll across the floor above us,” he said, explaining that he knew for a fact no one was on the floor above them. “About two minutes later, I got hit in the side of my neck by a softball-sized burst of cold air that rolled off my shoulder and then hit my wife. We both looked at each other and I thought, ‘Holy shit.’ It was really weird. I was signed, sealed, delivered. I appreciated the evidence.”

The stories of ghosts and paranormal activity from those who say they’ve experienced it at the Bissman are legendary, from reports of the murdered girl to the lady in the white dress, workers in the haunted warehouse swear they get terrorized regularly.

“One guy is scared shitless, he’s seen so many things that freaked him out,” said Bissman, explaining that the warehouse currently is home to Bissman Properties, a real estate development corporation, as well as to Pirate screen printing, a wholesale custom screen printer; and a 25-piece classic car collection that includes some Mustangs, Model-Ts and VW buses. “He saw a whole stack of sweatshirts go right off the table. Just slide off and hit the ground. He’s like 6-2, 280 pounds and he’s scared to go in the basement or upstairs by himself.”

Bissman said the warehouse, which has been in his family for six generations now, has always been the stuff of ghost-story legend since he was a child helping his grandpa pack groceries.

“He used to tell me, ‘Stay away from that elevator or you’ll end up like ‘Old Man Simon.’ I was always worried about this ‘Old Man Simon,’” laughed Bissman. “I was half scared to death.”

Legend has it that “Old Man Simon” was a worker at the building who, on his last day of work, was riding down the freight elevator, missed a switch, and lost his head on the 3rd floor—literally. Whether or not his death was accidental is debatable, said ghost hunter and former pro soccer player Ellis Byrd who now runs the ghost tours for Bissman at the warehouse.

“He either missed the stop button or he may have been pushed,” said Byrd, who co-founded his ghost-hunting avocation, Gussethunters Paranormal, with Nicole Wallace a few years ago.

Byrd, based on accounts of psychics who claim to have spoken to ghosts in the building, believes that “Old Man Simon” may have murdered 8-year-old Ruthie Bissman in the basement, left her body there, and was later discovered, fired and then killed by other workers upon leaving the building.

“The ghosts here may be angry or negative, but there’s nothing demonic here,” said Byrd, who said he experienced a violent interaction with one of the specters two years ago when he started investigating the warehouse.

“It was the second time we went into the building. I started to provoke this thing. I was yelling at it. ‘If you’re this tough you come and get me.’ And it did,” said Byrd. “It pushed in on my right side. It felt like it went inside of me. It choked off my wind pipe—I couldn’t breathe and I passed out for about two seconds.”

Needless to say, said Byrd, “We don’t provoke anymore.”

Byrd said he believes the ghosts aren’t annoying the Bissman Building workers just for funsies—he thinks the apparitions are trying to tell the living stories that only the dead know.

“Ruthie’s remains may still be buried in the building because she’s not in the Bissman graveyard or family plot,” said Byrd, who, incidentally, said he’s terrified of horror movies and has never watched one in his life. “Maybe that has something to do with some of the activities” he and others have experienced.

In particular is the calm and random appearances of the woman in the white Victorian dress, believed to be named “Anabella.”

“Maybe she’s trying to draw attention to certain things,” he said.

Whatever the purpose, Bissman said, folks have been saying the phantoms there have been interacting with humans for as long as he can remember.

“As kids, we used to build these forts out of bags of sugar in the basement,” he said. “We’d be playing and I’d say, ‘What did you say?’ But no one had said anything. It always felt like someone was playing right along with us.”


Six-hour lock-ins at the Haunted Bissman Building will be given Oct. 29-31, beginning at 9 p.m. and that must be reserved ahead of time by calling Ellis Byrd at 740-972-5400. The haunted building, located at 193 N. Main St. in Mansfield, is also available for paranormal investigations throughout the year by calling Byrd. For more information, visit
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