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Published: 12/30/2005

Offbeat in Northwest Ohio

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Some people are convinced that the eyes of a cow in Horace Guenther s Cows in Pasture follow them as they pass through the hall in Navarre School. Some people are convinced that the eyes of a cow in Horace Guenther s Cows in Pasture follow them as they pass through the hall in Navarre School.
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Ohio is, arguably, a weird state.

Not only does it have a state rock song ("Hang on Sloopy") but the resolution making it so includes the following clause - seriously:

Whereas, Sloopy, I don't care what your daddy do, 'cause you know, Sloopy girl, I'm in love with you; therefore be it resolved ...

In fact, Ohio is so weird that this little tidbit didn't even make it into the new book, Weird Ohio (Sterling Publishing, Co., $19.95).

It's the latest travel guide to local legends and area oddities from the guys who gave the world Weird U.S., covering such features as ghost stories, strange statues, and roadside distractions.

There's a little bit of Toledo inside, though co-author James Willis, of Columbus, said urban centers tend not to be hotbeds of oddities.

"Toledo itself just has a few things of weirdness," he said. "If you start to stretch out to the neighboring area, like Bowling Green, there's a lot of weirdness out there."

Now a bit of an expert on all things odd, Mr. Willis said weirdness tends to be more obvious - though unnoticed to the outside world - in smaller towns, which often embrace them and the attention they bring.

"It's very hard for something weird to kind of go unnoticed in a big city," he said.

Say, for example, a jar of "pickled fingers" - one of Mr. Willis's favorites.

The three fingers he's referring to are tucked away in the Wood County Historical Museum in Bowling Green. They once belonged to Mary Bach, who was murdered by her husband in 1883, and were taken as evidence by the sheriff at the time and put in a glass of formaldehyde.

They made the book. So did the old Camper Elementary School in Genoa, where there's a brick outhouse that's on the National Register of Historic Places. (The 12-seat outhouse now is owned by the village and is used for storage.)

All told, there are more than a dozen different examples of weirdness from northwest Ohio in the book. Those include the famous celebrity-signed hot dog buns of Tony Packo's Cafe in East Toledo and the old Walker Funeral Home, formerly located on Monroe Street, which allegedly was haunted.

But come on, we all know there could be more.

Toledo knows weird.

Carolyn Schermbeck and her colleagues at the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau quickly thought up numerous items that could be used for a tour of Weird Toledo.

A couple of them involved reported hauntings, like the Oliver House and the Collingwood Arts Center, but there's also the white arrow on the roof of the old Hillcrest Hotel near downtown. It was painted by Amelia Earhart in 1933 to point the way to Toledo's airport, now Metcalf Field, as part of a push by the Exchange Club to help aviators find the nearest landing fields. (The arrow was covered with rocks more recently during a roof remodeling, but it's still there.)

"All this stuff is wonderfully weird to us," Ms. Schermbeck said.

What else could we include?

Maybe the little igloo-shaped ice cream stand at Douglas Road and Monroe Street? Nah, not weird enough.

But the Ottawa Hills mansion on Ridgewood Road that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were rumored to be interested in - that will do nicely. After months of rampant speculation by locals and reports in publications like the National Enquirer, the home was sold to Joanne and Howard Schmidt in October, but that hasn't stopped some TomKat whispers.

In East Toledo's Navarre School, there's a big painting of cows that's pretty weird. And not just because it's a big painting of cows. Some people are convinced that the eyes of one cow follow them as they pass through the hall.

Even the Toledo Area Metroparks could get in on the action. At various metroparks, one can sometimes see turkey vultures, which have the unique ability to projectile vomit up to 30 feet as a defense mechanism. It's not unique to the Toledo area, but pretty weird, huh?

For those Toledoans who think that their fair city should have been better represented in Weird Ohio, there's still hope.

"There is talk already of a Weirder Ohio," Mr. Willis said.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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