Cleveland, Ohio
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Basic Information

Cleveland is a major city in Ohio.

Unformatted Information - please clean up!

One thing that may not have come through in your geography sources is the East Side/West Side split. The Cuyahoga (that's ky-ah-HOE-gah) River runs through the heart of the town, crossed by several bridges (themselves landmarks). People are usually very much identified by which "side" they're on.

East Side has some of the crumbling post-rust-belt problems, and some dodgy inner-city bits, but also has Downtown, University Circle (one of the biggest concentrations of educational, cultural, and religious institutions in the country), Coventry (a wonderful funky bohemian neighborhood), and lots more. East Side suburbs range from East Cleveland (as somebody said, not the best of places these days) to Shaker Heights, which is very ritzy.

The West Side is a bit harder to characterize, for me. It's more defined by neighborhoods, particularly blue-collar ethnic communities. Some of them are mostly composed of recent immigrants; others have been established for generations. These represent every ethnic group you can think of, from Irish to Lithuanian to Cambodian and beyond.

People tend to stick to their "side." Some East Siders think less of driving to Canada (around the east end of Lake Erie) for their favorite pizza than of crossing the river for anything. (I exaggerate, but not by much!)

The lake dominates a lot of thinking. Geographically, "lake" = "north". There aren't really beaches around the city itself, but a bit farther out there are. They're coarse sand, sometimes pebbly. The water is usually quite cold. It's not nearly as filthy as it once was. A lot of people go boating and/or fishing. They have to keep an eye on the weather, though - Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, which means that storm winds can kick up frightful waves out of nowhere, often arriving before the storm itself. (Lost a high school classmate to the lake, so I'm touchy.)//

The weather is very volatile. Summers can be meltingly hot, though lake breezes help. In winter, though, two phrases can strike fear, or at least exasperation, into the hearts of Clevelanders: "lake effect" and "Alberta clipper." The former refers to a snowfall pattern caused by the lake. Winds crossing the lake pick up a lot of moisture, then dump it when they hit land. The pattern is odd. When Hopkins Airport gets a couple of inches, Lake County may get 10-12", and Geauga County 18"-24". Road crews are generally pretty efficient, and people are used to snow, so it takes a serious blizzard to make people do more than grumble. The Alberta clipper is when the jetstream bends in such a way as to bring icy wind howling out of northwestern Canada. That's cold.

As for further mundane-ish stuff, I recommend Les Roberts' "Milan Jacovich" mysteries. The series, which starts with "Full Cleveland," gives the feel of the place well.

Someone else mentioned Lakeside Cemetary. It is beautiful, set on a series of hillsides overlooking the lake. There are tons of flowering trees and bulbs in the spring, and a Tiffany-designed chapel.

The salt mines (Morton is one of the big ones) do have a lot of promise. The world's first gasmask was demonstrated during a disaster in one of them. The area is not entirely tectonicly stable, which does make the mines worrisome. (There was a 4.something quake in the mid-80's, which publicized the existence of a branch of the New Madrid fault system.)

The Cleveland Torso Murders have potential. I'm sure I could think up lots of other things; I'll post more tomorrow if I do. Oh, if you're interested, I can give you a bit of material on my hometown, including the mysterious origin of its name, and the "anatomy riots" that closed down our medical school in the 19th century.//

took hostages at a building of Case Western Reserve University and led police on a chase all around the place. Most of the articles about it are no longer on line; the only info I found was in this CNN transcript. The building, by Frank Gehry, is very strange.

The Cleveland Pages, the site of a friend of mine, may be interesting. Not updated for a long time, but very very Cleveland.

These cult killings out in my home county may be of interest.

The Free Times may be more useful than the Plain Dealer for flavor and attitude, but both could be handy.

I can't believe I forgot to mention the big event shortly after this past Christmas. A magnesium recycling plant caught fire. It was like the mother of all fireworks - brilliant white light, explosions audible for miles… And, of course, since magnesium reacts with water the firefighters were limited to trying to contain the blaze. This screams game potential to me, somehow. Here are some links:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4

Cleveland has lots of professional sports teams. I won't go into confusing detail, except to say that the Browns (football) and the Indians (baseball) share a legacy of great seasons followed by post-season heartbreak. Not every year, but often enough that Clevelanders are resigned to it. We also have

Cavaliers basketball
Fusion women's football
Rockers women's basketball
Force indoor soccer
Barons hockey (American Hockey League, smaller and less-well-known than the National Hockey League)

Of those, only the Cavs are an everyday topic of conversation among people who aren't completely sports-mad.

The Browns' (colors - brown and orange) big rivals are the Pittsburgh Steelers. During autumn, there are entire neighborhoods of Cleveland one should not enter wearing Steelers colors (black and yellow.) The Browns were stolen away from us by their owner several years ago, who moved the team to Baltimore and redubbed it the Ravens. Clevelanders were outraged, as were Pittsburghers (upset by the breaking of the rivalry) and some folks in Baltimore (since they lost their old team, the Colts, much the same way). Football officials allowed the creation of a new expansion team using the old name, uniforms, etc. Comeback has been a long road.

Ohio Exploration Society

This may be the best photo page I've found yet.
Here is another. This site has entire history books in electronic form, as well as photos. And there are some good essays here . If you are looking for more information, and have the patience to dig, ths may be helpful.

There's a rather nice summary of the "feel" of Ohio here . This is good too, but bear in mind that none of the comments about accents apply to Cleveland. The local accent is close to American Broadcast Standard, though some people have a more harsh/nasal rapid-fire delivery.

WCPN is Cleveland's public radio station. You might find it interesting to listen to some of the local programs to hear accents and the like. WCLV is our commercial classical music station. It also has some audio files that may be of interest.

This is a roundup of the top news stories of last year, beginning of course with the massive blackout last summer that was eventually traced to the Ohio portion of the grid. The blackout has a lot of game potential - was somebody generating or using a major charge? Was it the side effect of magical combat?

The late '60s and early '70s were rough on Cleveland. The city's problems, compounded by the racial tension that erupted in the Hough Riots of 1966 and the Glenville Riots of 1968 (both named for the neighborhoods involved) and financial trouble, were well known. The Cuyahoga River had caught fire a number of times before this period. (The earliest citation I've found was for 1936!) But the fire everyone remembers was June 22, 1969. There's a brief article and some photos here .

It drew national attention to how polluted the Cuyahoga was, and led to a lot of new federal legislation about water quality and pollution standards. Cleveland became a national laughingstock, the punchline for every topical comedian. In 1972, Mayor Ralph J. Perk was handed an oxyacetylene torch to cut a steel ribbon at the opening ceremony of a new industrial complex, and managed to set his hair on fire. As you can imagine, this only reinforced the image of Cleveland as "the Mistake on the Lake." To this day, even though the city has stabilized financial, improved physically, and put a great deal of work into its infrastructure and cultural institutions, that impression still remains in many minds. A lot of Clevelanders have a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, practically daring other people to make the jokes now. (Gee, do you think I've got a bit of that defensiveness myself?)

This has lots of images and information on the most prominent buildings of downtown Cleveland. There are few buildings that really count as "skyscrapers" compared to many American cities of similar size. Much of Dowtown is still composed of older (late 19th to early 20th century) buildings with ornate facades and interesting architectural details. There are some modern "glass boxes" as well. Note the steel pyramid on top of the Key Building - at night it is illuminated by slightly greenish floodlights. The antenna on top has a red light (to warn aircraft, I presume). The overall effect is startlingly similar to the classic Masonic "eye in the pyramid" design.

The Metroparks System administers all of the public green spaces in and around the city. Cleveland has an extraordinary number of parks, from tiny to enormous. The zoo is part of the system, and is great. Can't think of any hooks specific to it, except that IIRC the entire reptile collection was destroyed by a flood in 1959. There was no permanent replacement for it until 1992, when the Rainforest Exhibit opened. (It's extremely cool! It holds one of two leafcutter ant colonies on exhibit in the city; the other is at the Botanical Gardens. Make of that what you will.)

As I mentioned in another post, University Circle is the neighborhood where a lot of the cultural institutions of Cleveland are located, including the following museums.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is nice, though I'd have to say not in the top rank of such institutions. It has improved a lot in the last decade or so, as they've renovated some exhibits that sorely needed it. The museum used to house the remains of "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis); a cast is still on display but the actual bones have been returned to Ethiopia. My favorite exhibit there is "Happy," the only haplocanthosaurus specimen intact enough for display. He's 14' high and 70' long. My favorite mystery is why the baseball held by the sample "modern human" skeleton (in a display comparing us to modern apes) was not replaced for so many decades that it became quite cracked and ugly. (Come to think of it, that baseball may still be part of the display. I haven't been there for a while…)

The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the finest in the world. The website gives you an idea of the scope of the holdings. The Asian collection, several areas of sculpture and painting, and the Medieval & Armor Court are especially noteworthy. The building itself is a hodgepodge. The oldest part is white marble, with a neoclassical facade overlooking a park and the University Circle Lagoon. (Lovely, but the lagoon apparently must be dragged several times a year for the bodies of murder victims. University Circle itself is a nice neighborhood, but not everything nearby is.) The first addition to the museum is an ugly modern structure of grey-and-black horizontal stripes. More recent additions have been a little more subdued, but more similar to the new than the old.

The Dittrick Medical History Center ought to have good gaming potential, though I don't quite know what. The exhibits are entertaining, anyhow.

You mentioned the holdings of the Cleveland Public Library . Their web page has a virtual tour of the Main Branch - the building is both historic and beautiful. (Note: it's downtown, not in University Circle. I just slipped onto this page thematically.)

Here's a bit of the history of my home town - Willoughby . What it totally fails to mention is that a) Dr. Willoughby never set foot in the town. b) The reason the Medical College moved downstate was the 1843 scandal that resulted from the discovery that at least one cadaver used at the college had been acquired by graverobbing. The victim was an out-of-towner who died and was buried before any family had been located. When they found out what had happened, the man's relatives tried to have him disinterred and brought to a cemetery closer to home, only to find the grave empty. A bit more sleuthing, and the college was implicated. The so-called "Anatomy Riots" forced the college out.

Euclid Beach amusement park, which closed September 28, 1969, is still remembered very fondly. There are nostalgia clubs who collect postcards, sell "Euclid Beach popcorn balls," and collectively purchase and refurbish the old rides. The park itself sat empty for years, sagging in disrepair. (Hm, shades of old Scooby-Doo episodes there!) The most enduring image of the park is Laughing Sal, a mechanical dummy that rocked with loud, recorded laughter. She was rescued from the ruins, and now belongs to a park buff who brings her to local parades and the like. (Frankly, she's
extremely creepy !)

According to some, there have been reports of a Nessie-like monster in Lake Erie for many years. This is the first I've heard of it, but there could be gameable potential there. (Especially if you think along the lines of "who is covering up what with these stories?")

Another poster mentioned Franklin Castle. Here are some links for it. 1 2 3 4 5

The Cleveland Metropark District is indeed referred to as the "Emerald Necklace." Here's a map .

Cleveland Heights (a suburb of Cleveland) is the current home of the SubGenius Foundation, the moneymaking branch of the Church of the SubGenius (a cynical and satirical religion combining aspects of Discordianism and the Cthulhu Mythos)


RPGNet forum thread on Cleveland. Posts by coeli were copied with permission. Please filter the thread for other useful information!
Wikipedia Entry

Game and Story Use

  • In some of the more lighthearted role-playing games (such as Toon by SJ Games), SubGenius Foundation could make a good ally or antagonist for an adventure that spoofs the Cthulhu Mythos
  • In the Buffyverse, there was a second tier hellmouth somewhere under Cleveland.
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