Tall Betsy expected to make an appearance

By BRIAN GRAVES Staff Writer
Posted 10/31/17

There are signs all around that Tall Betsy will make an appearance during tonight’s Halloween Block Party.

In fact, her appearance is all but confirmed.

“There are cracks in the …

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Tall Betsy expected to make an appearance

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There are signs all around that Tall Betsy will make an appearance during tonight’s Halloween Block Party.

In fact, her appearance is all but confirmed.

“There are cracks in the vault,” said Bailey Jones, who oversees Tall Betsy’s final resting place. “That is a sure sign she’s coming.”

Jones said the 7-foot-7 official ghoul of Cleveland is sure to make an appearance at 150 Centenary Ave. at 7 p.m. tonight.

Tall Betsy resides in Fort Hill Cemetery and only comes out on Halloween to scare the city’s residents.

Her history dates back nearly 40 years when local businessman Allan Jones recalled hearing his mother tell stories based on what great-grandfather Dr. William Herman Schultz had passed down about a very tall woman who traveled the streets of Cleveland in the early 1920s.

She always wore black and was referred to by everyone as Tall Betsy, Black Betsy and the Lady in Black.

Tall Betsy made her first appearance outside of the tomb in 1980, and spent 18 years appearing at the Centenary Avenue address as Jones and his family passed out thousands of pieces of bubble gum to the curious kids who came by for a chance to see the legendary hauntress.

She even has her own website — tallbetsy.com — where every year, helped by friends at Check Into Cash, pictures and videos of Halloween fun are posted.

Allan Jones told the Banner just how “Tall Betsy” came to be, but not wanting to take the fun out of the legend.

“A friend recently asked me what was Tall Betsy’s last name.  The answer is no one knows.  The legend was made up by me impromptu in 1982 to the Cleveland Daily Banner, who sent a reporter to interview me,” Jones said.

“I had recently planted some sugar maple trees down the Arnold School sidewalk and discovered my great great grandfather’s old well. My great-great grandfather was Joseph R. Taylor who was a fairly wealthy builder who owns the property where Arnold School is today and his estate included the entire block,” he said.  “J.R.,, as he was called, died in 1909 and his daughter, Annie Taylor Schultz and husband Dr. William Herman Schultz moved in.  Their daughter was Marie, who married J. D. Slaughter.  Marie and J.D. lived in a house at 463 8th St. NW which was at the corner of Milne Ave and 8th St., just across the street from Arnold.  In 1924, Dr. Schultz and Annie sold the majority of the estate to the school board.”

Jones said Marie’s father, Dr. Schultz, actually came face to face with the real “Tall Betsy” one night was he was walking home from his office at the corner of 8th and Broad.

“Dr. Schultz was a tall man about 6’5”,” Jones said. “‘Tall Betsy’ stepped off the curb onto the street to let him pass.  Dr. Schultz told my grandmother ‘Tall Betsy’ still ‘towered’  over him.  So that’s why I put the old well in the legend.”

Jones said another part of the story came in 1970 when some friends and he learned that a mausoleum at the highest point of Fort Hill Cemetery had been vandalized and persons could look in and see an exposed casket.

“We were 16 years old and most interested in trying to seeing the casket,” Jones said. “We found the mausoleum and found the back window bars had been removed and the inside had been vandalized.  About 30 percent of the marble was laying in the floor allowing us to look in at an old casket on the shelf.  There was nearly 18 inches between the side and the casket and a friend dared me to crawl in and lay next the the casket.  Then he double-dog dared me.  So I crawled in, very, very, very briefly.  We all ran back to the car, but my bravery became legendary.”

Jones said he glanced back and saw it was the tomb of Flora Shields “and that name became etched in my mind to this day.”  

“After the legend grew and grew I started trying to figure out who Flora Shields was and why no one new any history,” Jones said.

“When a friend asked the question about the mystery, I did decide to solve the Flora Shields mystery,” he said. “It turns out Flora Shields was an old maid,  never worked nor married.  She died age 85 in 1951. It appears her source of income was from her wealthy grandfather, William, who had reported a net worth of $20,000 in 1860. She lived in Cleveland only briefly between 1866 and 1870, moved to Texas and other places while living with her parents until they both died and lived most her life in Miami.   Both her mother and father are buried there.”

It may not be Flora Shields who roams the streets of Cleveland on Halloween, but she sure is the origin of a tradition based in fun.

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