The Knight Shift

If 66-year-old Sir David Bukem and his fellow knights are to be believed, Loveland Castle is, and has been, haunted.

Just about every one of the knights and ladies that are at the castle on a regular basis have had their fair share of personal ghost encounters.

For Bukem, Dean of the castle, the “vibes” happen when no one’s around. And it always happens when he’s alone because according to him, ghosts don’t like people.

“I have felt them,” says Bukem as he leans in, his gray eyes gleaming through his thin-rimmed glasses. “If you get too close to a ghost, you’ll get goosebumps. And if you get real close and walk through a ghost you know what will happen? Whoosh!” He gestures wildly to his head. “Your hair will go up, like static electricity!”

Then there’s Sir Joe Carey, the Keeper of the castle. He says two spirits—or as he prefers to call them, angels—have turned the television up to the highest volume or pounded on the doors while he’s asleep. Usually, he says, when he’s woken up by the ghosts, it’s because they’re alerting him of some drunkard messing around in the gardens.

“I don’t hear too good, so they have to be pretty smart to wake me up,” says Carey, his voice laced with admiration. “They’re the guardians of the castle and they take care of the castle. If there’s something wrong, they let me know.”

Although the spirits put Carey at ease, the “haunted” castle is a bit eerie at night for Bukem—from the unlikely occasion of a bat flying over his head, or feeling like the ghosts of young twin boys that (according to legend) drowned in the nearby river, are watching his every move.

But there’s more to the 19-room Loveland Castle than late-night ghost encounters—the place is a museum. A unique meeting spot for groups. And above all, a monument fraught with history.

Loveland Castle is, in the truest sense of the word, a castle. In the midst of a bulky forest and down a steep, narrow hill, Loveland Castle stands, each gray stone perfectly placed with the pride of its creator. Its medieval-looking balconies and walk-on roof overlook the Little Miami River. Inside, the first-floor walls are lined with faded photographs of former knights, photographic evidence of ghosts and countless portraits of Sir Harry Andrews himself, the sole builder of the castle.

Bukem beams at a black-and-white picture of his late friend Andrews standing in front of his masterpiece in his later days.

After he was discharged from being a military nurse in WWI, and after college and an array of different jobs, Andrews eventually moved to Cincinnati. There, he served as a school teacher, Boy Scout troop helper and Sunday school teacher for a group of about 140 seventh grade boys. It was common for the group to hold campouts and get-togethers along the river, and whenever they were out there, the boys liked to call themselves the “Knights of the Golden Trail.”

It wasn’t long before Andrews decided his knights needed their own castle, and so began his lengthy project in 1929 to build an identical castle to Chauteau Laroche, the castle that he lived in while serving his draft.

For 52 consecutive years, 26 of which he lived in the castle, Andrews built his constantly-expanding building from stones that he pulled out from the river by hand. And after that supply was exhausted, he used cement blocks molded from milk cartons. Andrews didn’t give up his work, despite the fact that that some of his knights aged and passed away.

But in mid April of 1981 when Andrews was 91 years old, he strolled down to his daily routine: burning the trash outside the front door. On this day, however, the fire caught onto the legs of his polyester slacks by accident—within seconds, his legs were burnt. He was rushed to the hospital and told that in order to save his life from the tissue-destroying effects of Gangrene, they would need to be amputated. Not wanting to live as a cripple, Andrews refused toconsent and died 30 days later.

“When he died, it was very—” Buken pauses and shuts his eyes, remembering his old friend. “It wasn’t so much when he died [as it was] when he first got injured. When you see someone suffering, sometimes you think maybe it’s best that they died.”

After his death, ownership of the castle was given to his knights, and these knights were given the power to knight other people who have served apprenticeships working at the castle. Today, 80 knights voluntarily run the castle including Carey, who was not one of Andrews’ original students, but has been friends with Bukem for upwards of 50 years.

“We actually knew each other when Harry was alive, but after he died we were together by necessity because we maintained the castle,” says Bukem. “We have different skills but we compliment each other, me and Joe do.”

While Bukem handles the finances, Carey typically takes care of the building maintenance, which has its surprises, like the time he found a secret bomb shelter after a flash flood knocked its walls in. Located underneath the garden, it was spacious enough to fit 11 people and be filled with enough supplies to survive 90 days in an atomic war.

Today, the castle serves not only as a historic monument, but as a fun getaway for the family. Visitor Bonnie Forbes had always known the castle existed but decided to take her family on a Sunday to visit.

“It’s something very unusual for Cincinnati to see a castle in the middle of the woods,” says Forbes. “And for my kids to see something medieval is cool. It’s interesting, it’s historic, it’s easy to come in and wander around at your own pace.”

Besides the occasional visitors, however, Loveland Castle has served as a meeting place for numerous groups. Last October, a costume-equipped Harry Potter Ensemble with 4,000 people met at the castle for seminars, singing and potion-making.

It’s things like these, as well as the small gift shop and three dollar entrance fee, that keep the non-profit castle in pristine condition for volunteers.

And meanwhile as visitors and knights come and go, Andrews’ portrait hangs in the first floor. Even though the knights say his spirit doesn’t haunt the castle, his spirit lives on through the memories of those who have crossed his path.

“Thousands of people that crossed paths with him come back now to say how good of friends they were,” says Carey. “You could tell he was a Sunday School teacher because he was always so nice to us kids. If you became his friend, he never forgot your name.”