My 1954 trip to the Cleveland morgue

What was the most daring thing you did in high school? Back in the '50s there weren’t too many daring things for girls to do at Bay High School. Looking back, we really were puritans. The worst thing I remember is some of the classmates smoked, and look where that got them. 

In 1954, the summer before my senior year at Bay High, Marilyn Sheppard was murdered in the early morning hours of July 4 and Bay Village was never the same again. We headed off to our senior year at Bay High and all we heard was Sheppard, Sheppard, Sheppard. We had a winning football team but the big news was the coroner's inquest at Normandy School. There was news about the coroner and the morgue. People and places we had never thought about before. It perked everyone’s curiosity.

Well, one night at a slumber party a group of us decided to go to the morgue in downtown Cleveland. This was daring for us. It is one of my favorite memories from my Bay High School years.

It was the month of November, I think, in 1954, when a bunch of us high school kids were at a classmate’s house just hanging out. Someone said, “Let’s go to the morgue.” We all agreed. We had never been to the morgue before, so why not. 

A bunch of us jumped into Bob’s car and off we went. It was around 10 p.m. when we started out. I remember that it was Bob who drove; Marilynn and Matt, with me on his lap, were in the front seat. In back were Bill, Gay, Roger, Kathy and Jeannette, I think. This story has grown so over the years that it seems like 20 people were in that car. Kind of like the Mayflower.

Off we went down the Shoreway to Cleveland. Bob knew where he was going so we pulled up behind this dark brick building off an alley and turned into the parking lot. There wasn’t another car or person around and it was dark and spooky. One light bulb hung over a doorway on the back of the building. We got out of the car and wondered what to do next. In a tight group, we walked up to the door and rang the doorbell standing in the light from the one bulb. 

The door opened and a man said, “Yes?” Someone explained we wanted to see the morgue and someone said a dead guy; the man let us in. Can you beat that! Well, inside, he took us to a room where there were gray metal lockers and metal tables set up. The walls were all tiled in white subway tile and it was sort of creepy. I remember it was cold.

He asked if we wanted to see a corpse. Yes, we did. He opened a drawer and pulled out a slab with a dead man on it. Poor guy, the man said he was a homeless man. We were looking at the corpse when out of the blue the telephone started ringing. We all jumped. It reverberated off the tile walls and sounded terrifying.

We decided it was time to go, thanked the man and ran out the door and into the car. Once safe in the car, we all started laughing till our sides hurt. All the way home we talked about the trip, the telephone, and the man. I don’t remember if we stopped for something to eat. Wouldn’t that have been something.

I’ve never forgotten this milestone in my life. I haven't been to the morgue since, but will never forget my one and only trip to the morgue in 1954. I guess I crossed it off my bucket list.

I understand that there were many trips to the morgue after that made by the boys in our class, but this was my only venture.

kay laughlin

I am the Historian for the Bay Village Historical Society, member and Past President, 1976. Lived in the village since 1936.  I was part of a team that developed the Cahoon farmhouse into Rose Hill Museum in 1973.  I participated by inventoring the Cahoon items and serving as the first Accessions Chairman and as a Docent at the museum for 20 years.  I was part of the committee that brought the Osborn house to Cahoon Memorial Park in 1995 and turned it into a learning center.  Along with my sister, Gay Menning, and the society, we wrote the 'Bay Way of Life' history book in 1974.  When Ginny Peterson asked for my help, I offered my historical pictures and wrote the captions for the Arcadia picture book, 'Bay Village,' published in 2007.  

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Volume 9, Issue 12, Posted 9:23 AM, 06.20.2017