Madison Seminary

Madison Seminary may look empty, but it’s said to be teeming with the spirits of its past

Madison Seminary’s
Ghostly Legends

  • The spirit of a young girl can reportedly be heard in a particular room
  • A woman’s apparition has been seen and spoken to in Wittenmyer Cottage
  • The figure of a young boy has been seen wandering the seminary
  • Disembodied voices are commonly heard, sometimes whole conversations
  • Odd and unexplainable feelings have been claimed by visitors and former employees
  • Moving shadows and figures are regularly reported throughout the building
  • Sounds of doors slamming and rattling chains have been reported

Madison Seminary’s Haunting History

Tour the rural state highways outside of Madison, Ohio, and you’ll see a bright red sign beckoning you towards a curious sight: Madison Seminary.

Madison Seminary's Ohio Cottage, a haven for the infirm of its day

Madison Seminary, a collection of old brick buildings now connected to each other, has long been an imposing presence in the rural region. Time has only made the complex more intimidating as masonry cracks and fades, and windows remain darkened by abandonment. Reportedly one of the most haunted places in Ohio, Madison Seminary is now far from abandoned, as it frequently greets paranormal investigators and tourists hoping for something spooky. But just what is the story behind Madison Seminary and its legion of paranormal legends?

Timeline of Madison Seminary's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Madison Seminary through the years


First built as a simple wooden frame building outside Madison, Ohio, in 1847, Madison Seminary’s original purpose was education. High school and college students both could come to Madison Seminary to further their studies. Eventually, the seminary needed expanding, and a new brick building was built and adjoined to the old wooden structure and took over most educational functions. The original building went on to serve as boarding for Madison Seminary’s 150 students at the time.


Madison Seminary continued to function as a secondary and higher education institution until 1891, when it was purchased by the Ohio Women’s Relief Corps. The group changed the name to the Madison Home and converted the complex into a relief and charity care home. Supporting former Civil War nurses as well as the widows and children of former soldiers, the Madison Home quickly filled up with families in need of support.


During the ownership of the Ohio Women’s Relief Corps, the facility was again expanded. The wood section was replaced with a large, two-wing brick building still seen today. The new building was named the Ohio Cottage, and the old brick Seminary building was named the Wittenmyer Cottage. Soon, the home became too much for the Women’s Relief Corps to maintain, and they donated it to the state in 1904. Then, it took on the official name of, ‘Home of the Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Their Wives, Mothers, Widows and Army Nurses.’


Madison Seminary continued to function as a relief home well into the 20th century, even as social security and veterans care benefits were established. In 1962, the relief home was finally closed and the residents were transferred either back to their families or to more modern facilities. After that, ownership transferred to the Department of Corrections. The department renamed the building to Opportunity Village and used it to house low-risk inmates from Ohio Women’s Reformatory and offer them work maintaining the buildings.


Over the following decades, the old complex served a variety of functions ranging from an extension of Cleveland State Hospital to county government offices. By the late 1980s, local officials considered demolishing the complex. But, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so it sat in limbo rather than be torn down. A 1993 rental advertisement for the facility stated: ‘For rent, Historic building on Middle Ridge Road. Can be leased cheap, caution — building may be haunted.’


By 1998, the building had found a buyer, and Madison Seminary was saved from the local government’s wrecking ball. A few years after going into private ownership, the building’s local paranormal reputation instigated the first tours of Madison Seminary offered to the public. Nighttime tours and investigations soon followed, helping to grow the old complex’s popularity with paranormal enthusiasts. But just what spirits go bump in the night at Madison Seminary?

Spirit of Sarah at Madison Seminary

One of the most commonly encountered spirits is affectionately referred to as ‘Sarah,’ the spirit of a young former resident of the building, though some have hypothesized she may have been an elderly woman with dementia.

Visitors to her room often report hearing a child-like voice around the room, and otherwise sensing a youthful presence in the room. This is said to be especially true when visitors leave gifts and toys for Sarah, so much so that her room is stuffed with dolls and other supposed trigger objects.

Madison Seminary’s Phantom Spies

Another ghost who roams the halls of Madison Seminary is Elizabeth Stiles, a former spy during the Civil War. Said to haunt the Wittenmyer Cottage section of the complex, Elizabeth is often seen as a smokey white apparition in a long, 1800s-era dress.

Some visiting paranormal investigators and purported mediums have also reportedly conversed with Elizabeth’s spirit while investigating in the Wittenmyer Cottage.

Madison Seminary’s Many Apparitions

Investigators have also reported sightings of a ghostly young boy in the Wittenmyer Cottage. Referred to as ‘Steven,’ the little boy’s origin and true identity remains unknown. But he, like Elizabeth, is often seen as a shadowy apparition lingering through Wittenmyer.

But, Steven and Elizabeth are just two of many reported shadow figures and apparitions around Madison Seminary. Encounters with dark figures are common throughout the seminary complex. Some investigators even claim to see shadowy apparitions peeking out of doorways on the third floor. Others still have reported figures drifting listlessly around hallway corners.

Madison Seminary’s Ghostly Whispers

Audible disembodied voices are some of the most long-standing claims around Madison Seminary. Even back in its functional days, employees and nightshift guards reported hearing voices at strange times when they were all alone.

Others even claimed to hear whole conversations amongst invisible entities in the old office spaces. For many years, people have also claimed to feel a ‘pressure’ or a strange sense of dread in the building.

Echoing Specters of Madison Seminary

Voices are still regularly encountered at the seminary today, accompanied by other reported auditory phenomena. Investigators have claimed to hear the sounds of doors slamming, and other unexplained bangs, while others have also said to hear the sounds of rattling chains in the building.

Over the years, paranormal investigators have reportedly collected countless EVP recordings of these voices after investigating the building.

Madison Seminary Today

In recent years, Madison Seminary has become one of the most popular paranormal locations in the Midwestern U.S. Powered by a steady stream of tourists and ghost hunters, as well as features on paranormal TV shows like A&E’s My Ghost Story and Travel Chanel’s Destination Fear, Madison Seminary greets more and more visitors every year.

Through that popularity, many claims of paranormal evidence from visitors have driven intrigue around the building even further. So, if you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself amongst the ghosts and ghost hunters of Madison Seminary, we hope you bring a gift for Sarah, and maybe one for Steven too.