Haunted Ohio Road Trips
From chilling tales to ghostly fun, these eight destinations across the state promise to put a welcome chill in your fall travel plans.
The Golden Lamb, Lebanon
Opened in 1803, the Golden Lamb is the oldest continuously operating business in Ohio. It was a popular stop along the stagecoach line from Cincinnati, and the property has hosted many famous guests over the years, including 12 U.S. presidents, and authors Charles Dickens and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
A girl named Sarah Stubbs is one of the resident spirits here. She lived at the Golden Lamb in the late 1800s, while her uncle ran the inn. Although she lived to an old age, her ghost appears as a 5-year-old child. Golden Lamb historian John Zimkus says some people believe that a traumatic event can lead spirits return to Earth at an earlier age.
“In her case, when she’s five, her dad dies and she loses her home,” he says. “So, under that theory, even though she was 79 when she died, she could be a 5-year-old girl walking through the halls.” 27 S. Broadway St., Lebanon, 45036, 513/932-5065, goldenlamb.com
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Historic Buxton Inn, Granville
Built in 1812, the Historic Buxton Inn has welcomed famous guests ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Ford. Inn manager Jennifer Valenzuela likes to call the place “spiritually active” rather than haunted, which she says is a more accurate description of how the resident ghosts behave.
“A lot of people throughout the course of the inn’s history put their life into working [here],” she says. “They cared so deeply … so it makes sense, to me at least, that they would, even in their death, come back and check on it.”
One of the inn’s former owners, Ethel “Bonnie” Houston, became known as The Lady in Blue after her apparition was spotted in a light blue dress a few times. Major Buxton, the previous owner for which the inn is named, has been spotted accompanied by the smell of cigar smoke. 313 E. Broadway, Granville 43023, 740/587-0001, buxtoninn.com
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Sandusky County Historic Jail & Dungeon, Fremont
Sandusky County built a dungeon in the early 1840s, after a number of prisoners escaped from the existing above-ground jail. One of them was George Thompson, who became the dungeon’s first resident after repeatedly making a break for it. Today, the Sandusky County Courthouse sits atop part of the subterranean space, and guided tours of it have been offered since 2013.
“When you open that door, and you go into the dungeon area, it literally feels like you stepped back into the 1840s,” says David Thornbury, marketing specialist at the Sandusky County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which oversees the tours.
He adds that the courthouse security system has captured evidence of seemingly supernatural activity, too, ranging from tripped motion sensors to mysterious sounds.
“At 2 or 3 in the morning, there will be a motion alarm that triggers,” Thornbury says, “and it starts right outside the dungeon door in the hallway.” 622 Croghan St., Fremont 43420, 1-800-255-8070, sanduskycounty.org
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Willoughby Ghost Walk, Willoughby
Cathi Weber created a ghost-walk tour in her hometown after going on others during her vacations out of state.
“After we went to Savannah or Charleston and had a really nice tour I said, ‘We should do this for Willoughby’ because I love the history,” she says.
Weber’s guided walk shares stories from the city’s past and present. Stops include a library, bank, school and Willoughby Coal & Supply. There’s also a visit to a local cemetery for one of Weber’s favorite tales. In 1933, a girl dressed in all blue came to town, but left on Christmas Eve, saying she was going to church and then the bus station. Instead, she waited by the train tracks, where she was killed by a moving train. Unidentified for decades, her headstone was marked simply “The Girl in Blue.”
“It is one of my favorite stories,” Weber says, “because we’re never going to know exactly why she stopped in Willoughby and why she was killed by that train.” 3872 Erie St., Willoughby 44094, 440/710-4140, willoughbyghostwalk.com
Music Hall, Cincinnati
The construction of Cincinnati’s Music Hall in 1877 began with the discovery of human remains in unmarked graves. Because the music venue was built atop a potter’s field — a place where the poor and unidentified were buried during earlier times — many believe the building to be haunted.
Music Hall is home to the city’s symphony orchestras, opera, ballet and May Festival, and many performances and employees who have passed through the venue have reported experiencing paranormal activity firsthand.
“Some of our guests and performers have reported phantom singing,” says Music Hall executive director Mindy Rosen. “Then [there’s] music just heard in different parts of the building that were empty, the freight elevator moving without being called and [period-attired] figures in the auditorium seats.”
Much of the activity is reported in the basement, which can only be visited by the public during ghost tours, which are offered a few times a year. 1241 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/744-3294, friendsofmusichall.org
The Lafayette Hotel, Marietta
After a fire destroyed the city of Marietta’s Bellevue Hotel in 1916, it was rebuilt within two years. The new structure was renamed The Lafayette Hotel in honor of France’s Marquis de Lafayette, who visited Marietta in 1825 during his tour of the United States.
The hotel’s third floor is said to be the most haunted and many guests have recounted paranormal experiences to general manager Sheila Rhodes. Don’t be scared though, Rhodes says most supernatural reports are innocent or funny. Those interested in experiencing the hotel for themselves can either book a room or visit with Hidden Marietta, which offers public and private tours throughout the historic town.
“If someone says that they’ve experienced something, it’s always on the third floor — 99 percent of the time,” Rhodes says. “A lot of people think that it’s Mr. Hoag still kind of watching over his hotel.” 101 Front St., Marietta 45750, 740/373-5522, lafayettehotel.com
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The Bellaire House Afterlife Research Center, Bellaire
Built on land where the French and Indian War was once fought and on top of a coal mine that burned, the Bellaire House is wrapped in history. The home’s owner, Kristin Lee, says the property also sits on a ley line — a hot spot for supernatural activity.
Lee, who is also a medium, says the Bellaire House is home to many spirits, with some making more frequent appearances than others. Edwin Heatherington, brother of former homeowner Lyde Heatherington, often comes around. Although the team at the Bellaire House does its best to control the energy here, not every experience is a positive one.
“There’s also a very negative entity that we feel is inhuman, and we feel that it stays in the attic or the back bedroom,” says Lee says, adding it has been also been detected in the basement and first-floor hallway.
Want to see for yourself? Investigators and the curious alike can rent the entire house for as long as they’d like. Five days is the longest anyone has stayed. 1699 Belmont St., Bellaire 43906, 740/579-1841, bellairehousetours.com
Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield
The Ohio State Reformatory opened in 1896, initially housing first-time offenders. But by the 1970s, the prison had become a maximum-security facility, with those held here spending most of their days in cells as small as 8-by-5 feet. Inmates ultimately sued and won. By Dec. 31, 1990, the last prisoners were transferred and the reformatory closed.
Several years later, the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society purchased the property for a single dollar. The organization began restoring the prison and opened it to the public for tours and paranormal investigations.
“It seems that certain buildings are always haunted: prisons, hospitals, schools and theaters,” says Greg Feketik, lead paranormal investigator at the Ohio State Reformatory.
Shadowy figures have been seen roaming the building and peeking out of cells. The sound of chains dropping to the floor, growling, footsteps and church bells have all been heard in areas of the prison, while other reports detail phantom smells, disembodied voices and balls of light. 100 Reformatory Rd., Mansfield 44905, 419/522-2644, mrps.org
Read more about the Ohio State Reformatory