WEST LEISPIC — Is it a tattoo parlor? A church? Or something sinister?
Rather, it’s the Drews.
Mycala and Tobe Drew are a unique sight in rural Putnam County. Covered in tattoos and usually wearing at least one shade of black, the Drews took up residence in an old church just a few steps away from town hall in West Leipsic. They have no plans of leaving any time soon.
For them, it’s just a return to their roots.
Tobe Drew, 46, said he’s originally from Continental (his father, Paul Drew, owned the Peg Leg Bar), but he had his sights to come back to rural Putnam County to settle down after 30 years of being a well-regarded professional tattoo artist. Today, he’s on track to opening up a parlor, Handcrafted Body Art, in Defiance.
“I grew up here and I never thought that I would want to come back.” Tobe Drew said. “At 18, you want to be anywhere but Putnam County. And then at 46, I don’t want to be anywhere but Putnam County. Yeah. It’s crazy. I never thought I’d hear myself say that.”
The rumor is that he’s there to convert the former church into a tattoo parlor — he’s had to push away some interested customers knocking on the door — but Tobe Drew said that can’t be further from the truth.
Instead, the church is their personal residence, which he and Mycala Drew have called the Black Cat Manor after their two rescue cats, Jack Skellington and Onyx. The two dark creatures wander about the wide open dimly lit space, and they definitely fit the décor.
Since taking over the property, the Drews are working to flip what was once a church into an ode to the gothic and macabre. Tobe takes pride in the small touches that he and Mycala have slowly been making to the place. On one wall, Edgar Allen Poe stares down into the space. Instead of ceiling fans, bat wings circulate the air. The light fixtures have been aged and replaced with Edison bulbs. Dark art in Tobe’s style hangs on each wall.
In fact, Gothic art and callbacks to mysticism linger everywhere throughout the residence now, and Drew said he expects a major overhaul — including a Victorian style wrought iron fence for the yard — in the next few years.
“You think people are talking now, you wait ‘til next spring. I got plans for this place. Yeah, this will look like a museum. Okay. It will look like a museum,” Tobe said.
“People are not gonna like it,” his to-be wife Mycala chimed in. “But they’re going to have a really hard time not liking it, because it’s going to look so pretty.”
Whatever happens, there’s going to be black involved.
A Black Wedding
Like Tobe, Mycala also likes black. It’ll be the color of her wedding dress, which she plans to wear during her Halloween wedding.
Hundreds are being invited for the shindig, and they expect to double or triple the population of the small town just for that day. The two pulled a permit from the town to close down a street to make it happen.
“She’s got a black dress. She’s coming into her kind of music. We’re having a masquerade afterwards instead of a standard reception. It’s what her dream is,” Tobe Drew said. “Oh, and she’s having a potato bar. Her other dream at her wedding is to have five different kinds of potatoes.”
And all of it is being made for television. On top of flipping the church, the two are now working on creating a reality television docudrama about their masquerade gothic wedding. Called “Bound by Ink,” the feature is expected to hit a number of streaming services in the future.
The thing is, because of Tobe Drew’s tattoo career, he also runs with some famous folks. Due to client confidentiality, he couldn’t drop too many names, but there is a video of him online giving Dustin Diamond, or “Screech” from Saved by the Bell, a spooky pumpkin tattoo. He said he got his start on the celebrity side of things by tattooing Two Live Crew, and people were impressed with his “modern macabre” art style, which features plenty of snakes, spiders, skulls and women.
It’s kind of his thing.
“My religion is art.” Tobe Drew said. “And I see the beauty in everything. I sit down and take pictures of flowers and insects, and I see beauty in everything. I don’t want to say I’m classically trained, but I’m a trained artist that learned how to break things down. Whether it’s scary, whether it’s beautiful, I sit down and I map it, and I find the beauty in it.”
Some in town aren’t elated about the Drews’ plans. A local group of ministers keep track of the church buildings in town, and when the Drews grabbed it, they weren’t exactly expecting the kind of changes the Drews had in mind.
During a recent mass, Father Bill Pifher, of St. Mary Catholic Church, dropped their names into a homily primarily focused on Halloween and Halloween imagery, which some Christians consider to be “spiritually dangerous.”
Pifher said he’s never met the Drews nor has any intention of trying to be unfair toward there lifestyle, but from a religious perspective, he said such imagery that the Drews tend to thrive on can be risky.
“We do consider the occult to be spiritually dangerous and not something we want our kids to be dabbling in, even out of curiosity,” Pifher said.
He said he understands the appeal due to the “edginess” and “rebellion” associated with gothic art, but as he described it, those that dabble in it can open themselves up to being influenced by evil spirits.
“Our free will is very important in terms of what we let into our life. When you engage in something in the occult in whatever way, you are opening yourself freely of your own free will of an engagement with that reality,” Pifher said.
Tobe Drew emphasized repeatedly that he is by no means a satanist, but that sort of occult spirituality and its related imagery does permeate throughout the house. Mycala Drew, especially, has some interest in those areas, and she plans to make a career out of being a paranormal investigator by studying demonology in the same vein as the famous Ed and Lorrain Warren.
She originally was on track to be a vet tech at the University of Findlay.
“I started looking online trying to find courses that would allow me to do something that I actually wanted to do, with my interest in the occult, in with the meta-physiology and my spirituality and everything else that I’m interested in,” she said.
“That is not me,” Tobe chimed in. “I call it her hoobie joobie stuff, and it freaks me out. I’m not a fan. I’ve never been a fan of that. She can. That’s her. I paint pretty pictures and stuff.”