By daylight, the stately, brick mansion at Shady Bend appears perfectly calm and serene. Many flowers of various colors and rare plants flourish on the grounds surrounding the mansion. The scene appears as a picture from another time and a place where all your cares just seem to dissipate.
The mansion, currently owned and maintained by Charles and Linda Downer, was built by John Hardy in 1874. The Downers have owned the mansion since 1968. They have meticulously restored the manor to its grandeur over the past 30 years and have resided in the structure since 1989. Throughout the mansion's 136-year history, it has been a residence to several families as well as housed several businesses. The structure suffered through a devastating fire in 1971 thus requiring the Downers to extensively restore the mansion. Some of the indoor trim and woodwork has been replaced with woodwork and trim from other local historic structures. Some of the trim was taken from the former Miskimen house in Newcomerstown that many locals remember as the school annex which was located behind the middle school for many years.
Following the deaths of John and Emily Hardy, a Lovelace family purchased the residence and resided there until the early 1900s. The mansion later housed a children's receiving home in the late 1920s to the early 1930s, then later housed the Pine Manor Inn from 1938-1942. The mansion also housed what was known as a "ratskeller" (a downstairs tavern) which was complete with illegal slot machines. In the mid 1950s, Thelma Harding used the mansion as an antique shop for several years.
According to Charles Downer, the mansion takes on a different aura when evening settles. Over the years, Downer said there have been more than one account of unexplained occurrences. Downer said noises are heard such as footsteps, doors shutting or opening, or various visitors stating that they have felt some sense of a presence.
During a New Year's Eve gathering, several visitors were sitting with Downer in the parlor when one person (who was unaware of any of the "ghost" history) announced to Downer that he thought Downer had an unannounced visitor that just entered the residence. Downer said he went to the adjacent dining room, not expecting any other visitors that evening, then proceeded to check the other rooms but no other persons were ever found. The visitor said he clearly noticed a brief reflection in the dining room mirror of a figure wearing a black coat walking past the mirror. He was unable to give detailed description but Downer believes the figure may have possibly been the ghost of John Hardy. Both John and Emily Hardy, as well as several members of the Lovelace family died in the mansion (all from natural causes). The Hardys were notably proud of their mansion and its magnificent grounds, and it has been said that the Hardy's may still be watching over the mansion.
According to local folk-lore, John Hardy once refused a vagrant shelter on a bitter cold night in the 1880s. The vagrant was later found frozen to death in Hardy's barn across the road. Hardy recalled that the vagrant swore a curse on Hardy for his lack of hospitality. The vagrant's ghost has been said to visit the mansion from time to time.
Sometime in the 1930s, a man was shot to death in the third story tower room following a poker game dispute. The blood stains are still visible on the wood floor in the room. It is speculated that he, too, may be one of the ghosts that seem to inhabit the mansion.
During the late 1930s through early 1940s, a family named Osmus owned the mansion and operated the Pine Manor Inn. It was later reported that the Osmus daughters were bothered by some unknown presence that seemed to inhabit the attic where they would hang laundry to dry during the winter months. Downer said when his own twin sons, Adam and Mark Downer, were two years old, they would scream, cry for no apparent reason when the Downers would go to the house to work on restoration projects in the evenings. He said they would finally have to take the boys outdoors or completely away from the house before they would finally calm down. He said this behavior occurred for several years, then seemed to disappear as they grew older. Years later, the boys seemed to have no exact recollection of why they ever felt fearful, but they do recall being afraid of something in the mansion.
Downer said one evening just recently, he was in a downstairs room reading and suddenly heard distinct footsteps in the room above on the second floor. Thinking maybe one of his son's friends had entered the house looking for his son, he went upstairs. He said he found no other persons in the house and the only door they could have entered was later discovered to have been locked.
Currently, the mansion is undergoing some exterior restoration. Downer is hopeful of completing further restoration as he announced plans to possibly sell the mansion in the near future.