When a young couple moved into an old Victorian
home on West Wood Street a few years ago, they realized pretty
quickly that something was not right about the place. Of course,
this may have been because of the three ghosts who were rumored to
be haunting their new home!
Shortly after moving in, the young woman started to get strange
feelings and sensations in the house. It was as if someone were
watching her and perhaps following her from room to room as she
moved about the place. The house was a large, sprawling old home
from around 1900 and she guessed that it might have a history that
would account for the strange feelings she was having --- and she
couldn't have been more right!
Harrold House as it appears today (left)
(right) It is near this window, in the master bedroom of
the house, where the ghost first appeared.
What she didn't know at the time was that she was
not the first person to experience strange things in the house. The
previous owners had also been aware of the ghosts. However, it was
not until some research was done into the history of the place that
the source of the haunting, and the reason for it, would become
Strange impressions were not the only things the couple experienced
after moving in. The first of the ghosts that they encountered
appeared in the back parlor of the house. The small spirit was that
of a little boy with blond hair, a red vest and blue knickers that
ended at his knee. He appeared in the parlor and giggling, ran
across the room and disappeared into the wall. He returned to the
room on several occasions, sometimes watching them as they in turn
watched him. He was often seen sitting on a couch and then he would
slowly fade away. Who was this small ghost? She wouldn't find the
possible answer to that question until much later.
The young woman never saw the second ghost, but her father, reported
her several times standing on the front porch of the house. He
described her as a woman wearing a long, old-fashioned dress.
The other ghost was much more substantial than the first two, and
left little doubt that he wanted to make his presence known. This
spirit was described as being a middle-aged man who normally would
appear in the master bedroom. When he appeared, he would stand
silently, watching the occupants of the place with eyes that seemed
aware of everything that was going on. This spirit was no mere
imprint of time; he was an intelligent, conscious ghost who was
haunting this house for a reason. Most likely, this particular
phantom will never find rest.
The ghost started to put in an appearance shortly after the family
moved into the house. He was normally seen in the bedroom at night,
standing near a window that looked out over Wood Street. The young
woman recalled the first time she ever saw him. "You could look at
him," she said, "and see that he wasn't, well, human.... or at least
someone who was living."
He began to appear in the room at various times and she was able to
observe him a little more closely before he would disappear each
time. She noted that he was not transparent, but he wasn't quite
solid either. She became intrigued by the spirits in the house,
especially by the man in the bedroom, so she decided to try and
research the history of the place. Eventually, she contacted me
about it and we began to search for information.
One of the first things that was done was a check through the old
city directories, which revealed one name to be connected to the
house for a longer period of time than any others, from 1922 to
1951. After that, it became a matter of checking through other
records, including newspapers, obituaries and eventually even
criminal files. It turned out that the longest running occupant of
the house, a man named Frank Harrold, had been involved in a local
scandal almost 70 years before and it had been featured in the
newspaper over the course of several days.
In 1925, Frank Harrold was an official at the prominent Farmer's
State Bank in Decatur. Prior to that, he had been a Circuit Clerk
for DeWitt County and had been involved in a number of businesses.
Harrold had moved to Decatur in 1922 and had purchased the house on
Wood Street. He also maintained a summer farm near Clinton and lived
fairly extravagantly, even for a man of his visible means. By the
fall of 1925, he began suffering from financial problems and bank
examiners who conducted an audit at his place of work discovered
that over $200,000 in bonds were missing.
Frank Harrold soon began acting very strangely and experienced what
may have been a mild heart attack, probably brought on by acute
anxiety. Two days later, he announced that he was going to the
family farm near Clinton ---- and that was the last time that anyone
ever saw him alive.
The following morning, a worker on his summer farm discovered his
body with a bullet to the head. His death was ruled a suicide by the
coroner, despite the fact that his alleged suicide note was never
found, there were no powder burns on his hands or head and even the
gun that killed him was found in another location than where his
body was discovered.
Could Frank Harrold have been murdered to keep quiet the whereabouts
of the missing bank bonds; bonds that have never been found, even to
The Farmer's State Bank was never able to recover from the loss of
the funds, or from the scandal, and the establishment closed down a
short time later. Whispers began to circulate around town about the
missing money. Some claimed that Harrold had been tied to organized
crime somehow. Perhaps they had backed an investment for him and he
never paid up, so he stole the bonds to repay the loan. It was
theorized that when the bank learned of the missing funds, Harrold
got nervous and threatened to make a deal with investigators. It was
thought that maybe Harrold went to his farm to meet with the
gangsters and that perhaps they had killed him before he could talk
to authorities. But we will never really know for sure. After all of
these years, the case remains open and unsolved.
Despite the missing money, the public notoriety and the fact that
Harrold's insurance policy did not pay on claims of suicide, his
wife continued to live comfortably in the Wood Street home until her
death in 1951. As far as anyone could tell, she had no visible means
After tracking down the information about the house's most infamous
resident, I printed out copies of the man's photograph from the old
newspaper files. Curious to investigate the case further, I also
printed out five other photos of men who were about the same age and
whose photos also appeared during the same time period in the
newspaper. All of these photos were then pasted onto a single sheet,
in no particular order.
I took the photo array to the owner of the house and asked if any of
the men looked familiar to her. She immediately pointed to the
photograph of Frank Harrold that had been pasted there. This was the
ghost that was appearing in her house! "There is no question in my
mind that the ghost is my bedroom is Frank Harrold," she said. "When
I saw his picture, I just knew that he was the ghost."
Then, using the information that I discovered while searching for
past occupants of the house, I started contacting those who had
lived in the house and had moved out in recent years. I had heard
rumors that some of the previous residents were also aware of the
ghost, but I wanted to hear this directly from them. The reader can
only imagine the strange telephone calls that I was forced to make
in order to get in touch with folks and to determine if they
believed their former house had been haunted!
However, after assuring them that I was not crazy, I was able to
learn that in four instances out of five, each of the families who
had lived in the house prior to the current occupants had believed
the house to be haunted. In all of these instances, the witnesses
that I spoke with described the ghost of a middle-aged man who often
lurked in the master bedroom! Intrigued and excited, I made
arrangements to meet with the families and when I did, I offered
them the sheet of photographs that I had put together and asked them
to pick out the person who looked most familiar.
They pointed out the photograph of Frank Harrold every time!
In my opinion, this experiment proved (at least historically) that
the house was haunted. There was no other way that all of these
independent witnesses, each of whom did not know one another and who
also lived in the house during completely different time periods,
could have identified the original occupant of the place by sheer
luck. Every one of these people identified a man they believed to be
a ghost, never having any idea who this man was or that anyone else
had identified him in the same manner. Could this have been simply a
coincidence? That would be very unlikely and I think we can rest
assured that all of the witnesses were not drunk, confused or crazy
---- as skeptics would have you believe.
I simply don't have another explanation for how each of these people
could have each identified the same man as a ghost who haunted their
house other than that they were telling the truth. Ghosts do exist
and I believe this case proves it!
Sadly though, knowing he is there does not help Frank Harrold to
rest in peace.
His ghost continued to be sighted two or three times each month,
standing and staring from his place near the window. He seemed to
serve as a silent reminder that his death left many unanswered
questions behind. Did he really commit suicide? His ghost may be
appearing to convince the occupants of the house that he did not.
And what about the ghost in the back parlor? "One day I was home and
the house was quiet," the young woman who owned the house told me.
"The windows were all closed, so I know the sound wasn't coming from
outside. I was upstairs when I heard the voice of a little boy call
for his Aunt Frances.”
Strangely, one of Frank Harrold's daughters had been named Frances
and her sister once had a young son who lived for a short time with
her in the house. Could he still be here, searching for his family
after all of these years?
back to Haunted Decatur!
Copyright 2006 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.