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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Get ready for a regional scavenger hunt for the “weird, wonderful, and obscure”

Northern Kentucky author guides readers to local treasures in Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

By Vicki Prichard

If there are secret treasures and places in the region, odds are that author and travel writer Kathy Witt already knows about them. So, it’s no surprise that when the editors at Reedy Press wanted a writer for their “Secret” cities series, they went to Witt and asked her to flesh out the “weird, wonderful, and obscure” in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.
Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, shares a lot of secrets, identifying 89 opportunities to get out and be surprised or reminded about the fascinating things in the region.
Kathy Witt author of Secret Cincinnati headshot
A traveler abroad and in her own backyard
Northern Kentuckians are likely no stranger to Witt, whose byline accompanied many feature stories for The Kentucky Post for many years, giving word to stories about some of the more interesting people, places, and things in the area. Now, in her new book, she’s providing readers with a veritable map to visit some of the more intriguing places in their own backyard.
“I got an email from an acquisitions editor at Reedy Press in spring of 2017, asking me if I'd like to write a book for them,” says Witt. “She sent information to me about several series Reedy publishes, including the "Secret" series. It sounded irresistible and I said yes right away. As a writer, when a book publisher contacts you out of the blue, you don't say no!”
Whittling down the sizeable secrets
Witt, author of several books, including the historical novel, The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait; and Contemporary American Doll Artists and their Dolls, is also a travel and lifestyle writer whose work appears regularly in Kentucky Living, Tribune News Service, and Travel Goods Showcase. She’s the recipient of numerous writing awards, including multiple Mark Twain Travel Writing Awards. Choosing the 89 secrets highlighted in the Secret Cincinnati was a balancing act for her.
Witt began with a list of more than 130 secrets and had to whittle it down to 89, with an eye toward covering numerous categories – outdoors, quirky, historic, free – that span communities throughout the region, from Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum in Hamilton to Big Bone State Historic Park in Union.
Let your scavenger hunt for the fascinating begin
Secret Cincinnati is designed like a scavenger hunt for all ages, and of the more than 50 locales in the book, which include museums, monuments, gardens, galleries, trails, tours, parks, most are free-admission and no cost attractions.
As Witt began her research, she discovered some interesting surprises along the way. Learning about the occult connection at Baker Hunt Arts & Cultural Center was among them, with its connections to Harry Houdini, Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a famous Cincinnati medium.
Margaretta Baker Hunt, the woman who gifted the home that is now a hub for learning, art, and cultural enrichment, established the Baker Hunt Foundation in 1922, its mission to promote the education, art, science, psychic research, and religion in the vicinity of Covington. At the time, Cincinnati medium Laura C. Cooper Pruden conducted séances and slate-writing in Margaretta’s deceased daughter’s bedroom. Pruden, widely known in the spiritualism communities of the 1920s and 1930s, was once called out by escape artist Harry Houdini, who had no patience for what he considered charlatans, and maintained that his magic was founded on skill and strength. Pruden’s son, Albert Carter, it turns out, filed the patent for the soothsayer ball, Syco-Seer, or, what has long been called the Magic 8-Ball.
Make it a day (trip, that is)
Witt offers up a couple of suggested daytrips, both ending up back in Fort Mitchell. The first trip begins in Burlington.
“Start at Dinsmore Homestead in Burlington, then take the Anderson Ferry over the Ohio and up the hill to check out the meditation maze at the Motherhouse Grounds of the Sisters of Charity (Mt. St. Joseph),” says Witt. “Then, head to the American Sign Museum, followed by lunch at Arnold’s and finish with a tour at Vent Haven. It’s a circle around the city and each stop is in the book.”
Another option sets the Taft Museum of Art as the first stop, to check out the masterpieces in its permanent collection.  
“Then head to Bellevue and see these masterpieces integrated into the “Garden Party at the Taft” mural on a building on Fairfield Avenue,” says Witt.
Next, she suggests a stop at Le Sorelle Boutique and then a bite afterward at Avenue Brew, also on Fairfield Avenue.
Time permitting, Witt suggests stopping in to see the Henry Farny Park in West Covington, which ties back to the Taft as the original is located there. On the way back home to Fort Mitchell, she has the Vent Haven as the last stop of this daytrip too.

Witt lives in Boone County with her husband John, whose photography is featured in Secret Cincinnati. Her website,, features her work. She has created a Facebook page for Secret Cincinnati to follow events and news about the book and the places it covers.

Make Ft. Mitchell's Vent Haven Museum part of your Secret Cincinnati day trip

A beautiful starting point for a spring Secret Cincinnati adventure can begin at the Taft Museum of Art to check out the masterpieces in its permanent collection.

Check out the Motherhouse Grounds of the Sisters of Charity (Mt. St. Joseph)
Check out the meditation maze at the Motherhouse Grounds of the Sisters of Charity (Mount St. Joseph). 

Witt suggests visitors take the Anderson Ferry over the Ohio as they set out to explore some of Secret Cincinnati's treasures.

Once you leave the Taft Museum of Art, Witt suggests heading to Bellevue next to see these masterpieces integrated into the “Garden Party at the Taft” mural on a building on Fairfield Avenue.
Stop into Arnold's for lunch before finishing your Secret Cincinnati tour back in Ft. Mitchell at Vent haven Museum.

While in Bellevue, stop at Le Sorelle Boutique to see what treasures owner by Deb Pittman is carrying.

After a quiet stop at the mediation maze at Sisters of Charity, light up the afternoon with a visit to the American Sign Museum.

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