Category: Hotel Conneaut

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 6, 1940-Present

This will be my final post of 2020 as the busy holiday season is underway and I need to focus on writing my novels, but I have many great stories planned to share in 2021. I was devastated to discover that just days before my intended visit to Hotel Conneaut tomorrow that the travel restrictions have caused my plans to be cancelled. Due to COVID, Ohioans visiting Pennsylvania have to procure a negative test result within 72 hours crossing the border and me and my group simply would not have time to do so prior to the trip. Unfortunately, the ghost hunt will be going on without us both tonight and tomorrow night. I imagine many groups, especially those coming from out of state, had to cancel due to the pandemic.

Postcard of the boardwalk and Hotel Conneaut, 1941

In the sixth installment of my series on Hotel Conneaut, we alas reach the decade where all the parties, all the glamor, all the fun, and the entire experience of vacationing at Conneaut Lake Park came to an abrupt end. September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of WWII and the U.S. joined in 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With war came economic crisis, war rationing, and undying patriotism. All the excess and frills dominating the previous decades were trimmed off and though people still longed for the escapism of an amusement park, it simply was not possible for many families to attend an annual outing at the resort. Then, in 1943, a fire devastated Hotel Conneaut, putting her out of business for the next year, and reshaping her entire future. The war and the poor economy left a sad haze on the entire park and the magic was lost. Though many groups continued to come to the park for their annual meeting or convention, the crowds of yesteryear were long gone. Because the hotel appeared significantly less in the news, I have less material to work with and have combined the decades leading into present day.


The Pittsburgh Press, May 26, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday June 14, Jun 1940, Page 27

For everything you’ve ever wanted in a day or a whole season of rest and relaxation. Fun and play—visit Conneaut Lake Park. It is the ideal fun site for young and old alike. Fully equipped to meet the scattered diversions of everyone, rich in concessions, spiced with variety in the amusement center, packed with facilities for outdoor sports enthusiasts. The high, healthful, elevation and pure sweet air instills new life in your system, makes you feel “tops” again. Come to Conneaut Lake Park now….you’ll be a “Conneaut Lake Park fan” every year if you do.

Hotel Conneaut—Located on the Western Shore of Beautiful Conneaut Lake—has long been famous as a vacation center. More than 300 delightful rooms—Both American and European plans—Excellent cuisine at most reasonable rates—at Hotel Conneaut you have everything, and everything is devoted to making your stay a most enjoyable one. Relax in perfect ease on Lake-view verandas, or obtain new vigor and vitality through stimulating sports—at Hotel Conneaut. Dancing nightly at the smart new Beach Club…music by famous orchestras….there’s something here for every mood…under the sun or under the starts…at Hotel Conneaut. Enjoy Your Playtime Here!”
You Can’t Beat a Bargain Like This! All Expense 7-Day Vacation….$31.55
Just think of it! Seven wonderful days and nights at HOTEL CONNEAUT with round trip transportation, a comfortable, furnished room, three inviting meals daily served in the Main Dining Room. Dancing and Floor Show privileges nightly at smart BEACH CLUB. Also Golf and Fishing Privileges. Many Other Activities, ALL FOR ONE VACATION PRICE. For information write Hotel Conneaut, Conneaut Lake Park, Pa. 

– The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, June 23, 1940
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 23, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, June 28, 1940, Page 24
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, August 25, 1940, Page 44


The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, May 25, 1941, Page 39


Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Sunday, May 24, 1942, Page 32


Hotel Conneaut was prepared for its opening on May 1st, but on April 27th, an electrical fire began in the north wing. The fire department quickly brought it under control and the resulting damage amounted to $5,000. This postponed the hotel’s opening for a week. However, hot coals from the fire reignited another blaze, one that burned silently through the hotel’s interior for five hours before it was noticed at 4 a.m. on April 28th and brought under control by 9:30 a.m. 150 guest rooms on the second and third floors and the main dining room and main lobby on the ground floor were gutted in the blaze. $150,000 of damages were estimated. The park manager, T.C. Foley, announced the hotel would not open as scheduled and could not open for the imminent future. 

On May 11th, lightning struck wires leading into the second story of the park office near Hotel Conneaut and the building caught on fire. Assistant Park Manager William Tarr and his wife lived on the second story but were reportedly absent at the time of the fire. Downstairs in the office, smoke and water ruined the park records and the total damages amounted to $500.

Plans for repairing Hotel Conneaut were underway, but due to war rationing, the lumber could not be acquired and therefore Hotel Conneaut’s fate was at a standstill. Her gaping wounds lay open to the elements and finally in October, Manager Foley decided that the damaged wing would be completely razed. 120 rooms would be left and Foley projected the hotel would be open for the 1944 season.

The park and the lake as a whole continued to operate and welcomed visitors, but not without further tragedy to cap off the season. Grove City teen, Lillian Cokeane drowned after her rowboat capsized just off of Oakland Beach on the shore opposite Hotel Conneaut.


Due to the ongoing war effort and rationing, the hotel was not finished for the 1944 season as originally hoped and the building sat empty.


The resort opened under new ownership as a family-owned park. Hotel Conneaut finally reopened its doors after a heavy cleanup and restoration, forming a new entryway that opened into the original old part of the hotel which housed the stairwell. The new lobby created that year still stands to this day. 


Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Tuesday, May 27, 1947


Conneaut Lake Park added a new ride, the Tilt-A-Whirl, which continues to operate to this day.

The resort hosted a two-day convention for insurance claim adjusters of which 175 people attended. 90 were from Ohio and one man, G. Don Brown, was from Niles.


Actress and singer Doris Day reportedly sang at Dreamland Ballroom with her band when she was just starting out her career sometime in the 50’s.

Postcard of Kiddie Land in the early 1950’s


The Conneautville Courier Thursday, April 16, 1953, Page 7

Hotel Conneaut opened on May 24th under new management. Robert S. Haire came from his post at Norman-Shoreham Hotel in South Beach, Florida to manage the storied hotel on Conneaut Lake. Robert Varner from the Naples Beach Hotel in Naples, Florida, took over as room clerk. Business proved to be very good that year as many conventions and parties were booked and guests scheduled their vacations. The hotel closed for the season on September 14th


The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania), Friday, July 11, 1958, Page 4


Conneaut Lake Park opened for the season in May, down to two hotels from a dozen. Hotels Conneaut and Elmwood remained. Hotel Conneaut received a new private dining room and patio prior to the season opening.

In the park, a new scrambler ride had been installed next to the Dodgem. The Tumblebug ride was remodeled and the Whip moved to a new spot next to the flying scooter.


Postcard of Hotel Conneaut in the 1960’s


Fairyland Forest opened that year as a separate amusement from the main park.

This attraction, just across the road from the park, was one of several storybook-themed parks which sprouted across the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. It was very popular in its early years. There were many large fiberglass and concrete sculptures on the landscape such as a turtle, frog, penguin in the pond and whale, plus scenes from nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty, Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark. There also were live animals to pet and feed, and visitors exited the grounds through a windmill-shaped building that housed a gift shop.

Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014

During the off-season, the animals from the new park feature were kept in cages and cared for by trained keepers.


The resort opened on May 28th that year after an early spring busy with workers remodeling. Hotel Conneaut received new carpeting, furniture, and bathroom fixtures in an effort to keep the old hotel looking up-to-date. 

In the park, a new ride called the Paratrooper was installed to replace an old ride, the Rockets. The Paratrooper featured long arms reaching out from a central mechanism and on the end of each arm was a cage to hold riders. It spun around and after increasing in adequate speed, the cages moved so the riders were parallel to the ground like they were flying.  The Merry-Go-Round, Jungle Cruise, and the Caterpillar rides were all refurbished. The Blue Streak rollercoaster was also repaired.


Prior to the season opening, Hotel Conneaut lost her last standing comrade when Hotel Elmwood was leveled to the ground. Meanwhile, Hotel Conneaut received a facelift with new carpeting and décor.



The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, April 26, 1970, Page 109


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, May 7, 1972, Page 150


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, Aug 5, 1973, Page 38


Postcard of Conneaut Lake in 1974

The park opened for the season on May 24th. Memorial Day weekend brought a huge United States Polka Association convention along with the 3rd annual Polka Festival held in Dreamland Ballroom. Cleveland radio personality Paul Wilcox acted as the master of ceremonies.

Buffet dinners were served every Sunday in the hotel’s dining room. The Log Cabin restaurant had been newly rebuilt within the park and welcomed diners for eat-in or take-out. The lake-front Buffeteria served one-priced dinners to park guests.

At Fairyland Forest, “children can feed a baby llama, talk to their favorite Mother Goose characters, or to Bobby Baxter, the park’s clown-in-residence —while their parents can stroll through the Lollipop Gardens, a majestic maze of floral beauty.” –The Daily Times, May 22, 1974

On July 12th, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a special article on Hotel Conneaut. Editor Mike Kalina said the hotel was “a cross between an antebellum mansion and a nursing home for the affluent in St. Petersburgh, Fla.” He mentioned how the overall charm of the hotel was due to its history and inability to keep up with the times. The hotel had not been regularly updated like it had in its heyday, decades before. Kalina mentioned how such efforts had been attempted, such as the conversion of a reading room to a television room or fish tanks placed in the taproom, albeit holding artificial fish. He brought up how the hotel rooms were almost primitive in nature, with no TV or radio, air conditioning, and the bathrooms absolutely ancient. Sounds carried through the thin walls, even with the transom (the window above each guest room door) closed. In many ways, the hotel still resembles a few of these aspects in 2020, though the rooms are comfortable and quaint with televisions and some rooms with modern showers, though many still have the old clawfoot bathtubs.

Kalina’s article expressed the affordability of staying at the hotel, a night’s stay costing $12.50 a night for a single-bed room and only $80 for a week’s stay. Food was still served in the hotel’s restaurant, though the dining room was significantly smaller than the one lost in the 1943 fire that could hold up to 1,000 people. The menu offered at the hotel featured steak, chicken, and seafood. In the park, people could eat at the Buffeteria or at one of the food stands. Corn dogs, a novelty food item at the time, was the most popular food sold in the park.


Local Sharon Stone won the title of Miss Crawford County and reportedly stayed at the hotel, though I cannot confirm that fact as an absolute truth. Born in Meadville and having graduated from Saegertown High School, it seems very likely the famous actress would have visited the park and the hotel.


At Hotel Conneaut, a family of four could stay for $20 a night or $120 for a week. The rooms still lacked air conditioning and televisions, but most guests came for the atmosphere. The main dining room served entire meals for between $3.95 to $6.95. The hotel also served drinks in the cocktail lounge, which today is known as the Spirit Lounge. Guests could sidle over to the Beach Club in the park if they wanted to spend an evening listening to contemporary music. Cottage rentals costed between $90 to $100 for a week’s stay and even today, vacationers can rent out various cottages around the park and lake.

In the park, a ride pass, or Ride-A-Rama pass, cost $5.25 for the day or $3.50 for just the evening. Among the 39 amusements in the park, there was the Ferris Wheel, the Turtle, the Wild Mouse, the merry-go-round and the famous Blue Streak roller coaster. The park acquired four rides from the closed West View park. Other amusements included the Jungle Cruise—a 20 minute motor-boat ride on a lagoon—pony rides, and miniature golf. Guests could eat at the Log Cabin Snack Shop or Lakeside Cafeteria. 


The park’s resident paddle boat captains.
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 17, 1984


Conneaut Lake Park opened on Friday, May 28th, celebrating its 90th season after major remodeling and additions throughout the prior winter and spring. Charles Flynn, the park’s director of public relations that year, was the grandson of one of the businessmen who bought the park in 1945. He said, “We’re seeking to set ourselves apart from the huge theme parks of steel, concrete, and plastic. We are an old-fashioned, family-style lakeside resort with something for everyone.”

A family-owned and operated park for the last 40 years, the 100-acre facility distinctive for its turn-of-the-century charm, contains a 40-ride amusement park, a grand old resort hotel, two ballrooms, a convention hall with 3500 seat capacity, a children’s storybook land and petting zoo, Fairyland Forest, a sandy well-guarded beach, and several restaurants as well as a night club and lounge.

– Niles Daily Times, Friday, May 28, 1982, Page 1

The two golf-courses were now separate from the park, though the park did have miniature golf.

The famous wooden roller coaster Blue Streak was painted blue over its original tan shade. A new water ride had been installed, called the Rampage, a roller coaster with a 63 ft drop into Conneaut Lake. Also added was an electronic wild west shooting range called “Krazy Kenny’s Saloon” along the midway. 

Kids could enter a miniature version of the park and in Kiddieland, they could ride a small Blue Streak rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. 

Water Slide
The Pittsburgh Press
Sunday, June 17, 1984

Entry into the park was free and visitors could pay for individual rides or purchase a ride pass. The Ride-A-Rama day pass cost $7.25 that year and every Wednesday was bargain day where ride passes cost $5.50 a person. The park was open daily from 1 to 10:00 p.m.

At Hotel Conneaut, a family could purchase a three-night vacation package starting at  $69.95.

For entertainment, the season brought Sammy Bill Orchestra’s “Big Band” in Dreamland Ballroom, dancing, country and western music shows, a 15,000 meter foot race, two antique shows, a water ski show, and fireworks on July 4th and September 5th. Johnny Greco and Art Farrar’s orchestras also performed that year.


The park opened on May 27th and for six months prior, extreme renovations and additions had been made. Two new rides, Battlin’ Bob’s Bumper Boats and Captain Conneaut, a bounce ride, were installed. A turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor, the Gazebo, proved a nostalgic new feature as well. 

A three-year remodeling process began on Hotel Conneaut and by the season’s opening 56 guest rooms had been updated with new paneling, carpets, and fixtures. The remodel was accomplished with a turn-of-the century tastes in mind.

That season, free shows went on every Sunday from July 4th weekend to Labor Day. The Laker 15k race was held on Saturday, June 18th and runners ran the ring around the lake. The 2nd annual Conneaut Lake Jazz Festival was held August 26-28th. Fireworks were set off on July 4th and September 4th. The park closed for the season on September 5th

Ride passes cost $7.25 that year, with the bumper boats and pony rides extra.


Hotel Conneaut received a fresh coat of white paint. A new ride, the Sea Dragon, was installed and along with the 1900’s carousel, 1920’s Tumble Bug, and Blue Streak, gave the resort a turn-of-the-century, nostalgic atmosphere that executive vice president Charles Flynn hoped to create. “We’re trying to make the rides more active and still keep the atmosphere the same as it has been for the past 50 years. It’ll be a neat trick,” he commented for the Pittsburgh Press. 

In regards to the hotel, he said, “I think we are tapping the nostalgia market, especially at the hotel. We’ve probably had a 40 percent increase in occupancy over the past two years. It’s not only grandparents bringing their grandchildren back; we’re also getting couples with young children. I think they don’t like cookie-cutter motel rooms.”

For that reason with keeping with the atmosphere, the guest rooms still had no televisions or air conditioning. The TV room was located off of the lobby. Guest rooms cost between $24 for a single room to $38 for a larger room with a view.

1990’s & 2000’s

I visited Fairyland Forest with my family in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I don’t remember much from our trip, but I have several photos from a couple visits there.

In 1990, Conneaut Lake Park enclosed its perimeters and for the first time charged admission in desperation to remain afloat. That season proved a bust and led to even greater financial ruin. What followed was an effort to find stability by auctioning off several rides and a group of businessmen banded together to save the park. However, in 1995, the park owner’s filed for bankruptcy and did not open that season. After a few transfers of ownerships, the park finally found footing and was able to stay open. This is a brief summarization as the details can be found on Wikipedia, therefore I will not go into them.

In 2008, an arsonist torched the Dreamland Ballroom and the historic dance hall was gone forever. In 2013, the banquet hall and an adjoining bar were lost to fire as well.

The park struggled for many years, but rallied back to delight new generations. I do not feel the need to cover the recent history as it is fairly well known and dozens of articles are available online about history buffs coming together to save the park and the hotel. 

The Ghost Lake 13 Levels of Fear helps keep the park alive during the Halloween Season. Patrons visit several areas of the park, including the hotel, and delight in the abounding scares.

Hotel Conneaut has become a historic landmark and prime destination for ghost hunting. The Spirit Lounge bar alone is a huge draw for locals who crowd inside its walls, the lobby, and the porch. I am devastated that due to COVID, I will not be visiting the beautiful hotel this year. I cannot even begin to describe how much I adore the historic building and I truly hope she is around for many years to come.

2022 UPDATE: In January 2022, the Blue-Streak was lost to fire and people thought that once again the curse of fire had destroyed the beloved coaster. Instead, news reports said that while the park owner conducted a controlled burn of wooden parts of the roller coaster, the machinery performing the demolition malfunctioned and the fire went out of control. The entire roller-coaster, tracks and all, burned to ash. The fire department worked to contain the blaze, concerned that the fire would spread to other areas of the park, including the carousel which was most under threat. History-lovers as well as people that had grown up riding the coaster were outraged at the deliberate razing of the Blue-Streak, which had been around since 1937. To recall fondly its memory, enjoy a video of what it was like for thousands to ride the coaster here.


  • Fire Causes $5,000 loss to Conneaut Hotel: The Morning Call, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • $150,000 Fire Hits Hotel Conneaut: Lancaster New Era, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • Hotel Conneaut Partly Gutted In Blaze Today: The Record-Argus, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Office Suffers Loss in Blaze Today: The News-Herald, 11 May 1943, Tue Page 9 
  • Around the Keystone State: The Morning Call, 24 Aug 1943, Tue Page 5
  • Plans For Rehabilitating Fire-Swept Conneaut Hotel: Warren Times Mirror 6 Oct 1943, Wed Page 3
  • Town Talk: Niles Daily Times, Friday, June 10th, 1949, Pg 1
  • Hotel Conneaut Manager Named: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1953, Wed. Pg 24
  • Manager Named At Hotel Conneaut: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph 22 May 1953, Fri · Page 21
  • Conneaut Reopens: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1959, Wed Page 11
  • Kaleidoscope: Tired old Conneaut Lake Park facing uncertain future; visit was nostalgic: Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014
  • Conneaut Lake Park Stirs In Sleep As Crews Prepare For New Season: The Oil City Derrick,19 Mar 1965, Pg 15 
  • Landmark Razed At Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 28 May 1967, Sun · Page 82
  • Conneaut Lake Park to Open: The Daily Times, May 22, 1974 Page28,
  • At Hotel Conneaut, It’s Yesterday Once More: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Jul 1974, Fri Pg 21 
  • Small-Town Resort Never Seems To Change: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fri, Jun 16, 1978 Page 19
  • Old Fashioned Lakeside Resort Opens: Niles Daily Times, Fri May 28, 1982, Pg 1
  • Big Band Sounds At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times June 16, 1982 Pg 16
  • Hotel Conneaut Fix-Up: The Akron Beacon Journal, 24 Apr 1983, Sun Page 94
  • Conneaut Lake Park To Open For 91st Season on May 27: Niles Daily Times May 19, 1983, Pg 13
  • The Resort Time Almost Forgot: The Pittsburgh Press · Sun, Jun 17, 1984 · Page 112
  • Conneaut Lake Park’s Blue Streak roller coaster is no more, but not due to fire: By Associated Press, Published January 10, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 5, 1930-1939

In my fifth part of the ongoing series on Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park, I explore the decade of the 30’s. The stock market crash of December 1929 pitched the country forward into the Great Depression. Despite the possibility of financial catastrophe, Conneaut Lake Park’s president Henry Holcomb remained optimistic, believing that the resort could stay afloat, and his projection was correct. However, the long management by Holcomb had come to an end due to his ill health and the transfer of ownership of the resort.

Postcard Showing View From Hotel Conneaut, 1935


A fire at an adjacent cottage put Hotel Conneaut in danger on February 18th. Fortunately the blaze was quickly extinguished before the flames could spread to the hotel, though the cottage was a loss.

In April, Hotel Virginia sold for $10,000 in a sheriff’s sale to an anonymous buyer.

Victor Leval

Hotel Conneaut opened for the season on May 15th, newly redecorated and under new management. Victor Leval came from Hotel Winton in Cleveland where he had been catering manager and also managed the Rainbow Room and Tally Ho Room. Having been brought up as the 5th generation of famous Levals in the European hotel business, he showed great promise in ushering a new age for Hotel Conneaut. Leval had begun his apprenticeship at the age of 11 at the Royal Palace Hotel in Switzerland before getting his start at Adlen Hotel in Berlin followed by the Metropole in London. From there, he went to Canada where he worked in service at the hotel and dining room of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He managed the Manitoba Club in Winnipeg before WWI began and he went into military service for the next four years. He began as a sergeant and was eventually promoted to a major. After his discharge, he became vice president of the Overland Hotels Co. and when he lost all his money, he began to work as a cook to feed himself. He was assistant manager at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis and from there, his services were acquired by Hotel Winton in Cleveland. With his experience in the finest cuisine from around the world, he put together a spectacular menu with Hotel Conneaut’s chef. Some of Leval’s first plans for the park were to install a new private bathing beach for hotel guests and build a recreation parlor.

Leval and his wife hosted a dinner dance and housewarming for around 400 guests at the hotel. The guests present were from Cleveland, Erie, Greenville, Meadville, and Sharon, among others. A dancing and entertainment program shown in the dining room revealed one of the finest displays yet to be seen at the hotel. Seven vaudeville artists danced with their hats to the George Williams’ orchestra.

George Williams And His Music Makers were employed for the season to play music in the dance pavilion, newly dubbed Dreamland Ballroom, and in the Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Conneaut.

The park opened on Memorial Day, May 30th with dances held both afternoon and evening at the dance pavilion.

Jeanne Oatman of Massillon had been employed by Mr. Leval to run a print shop in the basement of Hotel Conneaut. Mr. Leval had agreed to board Mrs. Oatman and her children for free as well as pay her wages. Mrs. Oatman was the widow of Lieutenant Harry Oatman and they had married after they met while he was stationed in France. They had three children, Yvonne, Richard, and Jacqueline. The trouble was that Mrs. Oatman had been acquitted two years prior for the stabbing death of her husband at their Cleveland home. The death was deemed accidental as Mrs. Oatman stated her husband was stabbed during a quarrel. The couple had argued while she peeled potatoes with a paring knife that somehow entered his body. He bled to death in a hospital bed. Her mother-in-law, Alice Oatman, failed to believe her innocence and went after Mrs. Oatman with the full force of the law, attempting to foreclose her late son’s house and all the furniture with it. Unfortunately, the printer Mrs. Oatman was taking with her to Hotel Conneaut was included in the suit. Though Mrs. Oatman claimed it belonged to her, her mother-in-law declared vehemently that all the furniture, including the printer, was hers. I could not find a conclusion to this case, but my presumption is that Mrs. Oatman was not able to go to Conneaut Lake that summer due to her legal troubles in Cleveland.

R.J. McDonald, new Managing Director

After Hotel Conneaut closed for the season, Victor Leval left for Chicago where he became catering manager for the Congress Hotel. The grand hotelier spent one and only season at Hotel Conneaut and was replaced by R.J. McDonald. Leval would go on to serve 90,000 meals a month at Camp Canol in 1942 and was mentioned in the book, The Black Soldiers Who Built The Alaskan Highway by John Virtue.


Las Vegas Age, June 13, 1931, Page 3

Max Schmeling, heavy-weight boxing champion, set up his training camp at the resort that summer. Arriving May 20th, he stayed in a cottage with his manager, Joe Jacobs, his trainer, Max Machon, and his private chef, Otto Winemann. Guards patrolled the outside of the cottage to keep eager fans at bay. Schmeling had an outdoor ring where he trained heavily for his big fight against Young Stribling in Cleveland set for July 3rd. On one of Schmeling’s off days, he played two rounds of 18-hole golf. The remainder of his free time was spent playing tennis, fishing, riding a speedboat, bowling, and flying his airplane. On Sunday, June 28th, the park celebrated German Day, and Schmeling was cheered on by 4,317 people who thronged his outdoor boxing ring. 

Evening Star, June 29, 1931, Page C-3

Schmeling won his match against Stribling due to a technical knockout. Twenty years later, Schmeling recalled an amusing story about his exploits while staying at Conneaut Lake Park. He said that he and his friends along with his part-owner/boxing promoter Billy McCarney went into Hotel Conneaut’s basement while the undertaker’s association held their annual convention. They got into the alcohol the hotel was serving to the crowd of funeral directors, despite prohibition, and became quite inebriated. McCarney became far gone and the boys carried him upstairs. They came upon some caskets on display for the convention and laid him inside one. The boys lit the candles around the casket and left one boy to watch over McCarney while Schmeling returned to his cottage. As the story goes, the undertakers came upstairs and perhaps in jest, bowed in solemnity and said a prayer for the dead. McCarney regained consciousness, panicked when he noticed where he was laying and jumped out, running all the way back to Schmeling’s cottage. Schmeling died in 2005 at the age of 99 and was buried in his native country of Germany.

On August 1st, two cottages directly behind Hotel Conneaut burned, threatening both the hotel and the park offices but were extinguished. The loss amounted to $2,500.

Niles Daily Times August 14, 1931, Page 6
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 5, 1931, Page 21


Hotel Conneaut opened informally on May 27th, hosting a banquet for the Wild Life League of Pennsylvania who were in charge of the lake’s fish. Carp were removed from the lake and replaced with game fish, including blue gills, perch, and salmon. 

Niles Daily Times, May 26, 1932 Page 7

On Memorial Day, the park opened with the spectacular fire pageant, “The Spirit of America”. Freddie Carlone’s dance orchestra and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH provided the music.

The Park Theatre opened with “The Lost Daughters”, put on by the Broadway Players.

On Sunday, June 26th, Captain Walter “Chris” Criswell of Meadville jumped 4,000 feet from a plane, deployed his parachute and landed in the water in front of Hotel Conneaut. One of his parachute straps broke during the descent and struck him in his eyes, causing injury. The dare-devil parachute jumper made another two leaps on July 4th

Niles Daily Times, June 28, 1932 Page 5

On Independence Day, two features were made free for visitors, one being a water show of the sinking of the Lusitania on the lake in front of the hotel. The other was a reproduction of a zeppelin attack on the Capitol of Washington. They used life-size airplanes, dirigibles, steamships and U-boats in the reproduction. That day, concerts and parades were given by the Veteran of Foreign Wars Boys band, featuring more than one-hundred instruments. Freddie Carlone’s orchestra played in the newly renovated Dreamland Ballroom and also in the dining room at Hotel Conneaut. The park’s new night club, Radio Villa, was opened to guests. At nightfall, a spectacular fireworks display was shown.

Perry Como
Photo from The Evening Star
September 9 1956, Pg 3

A young Perry Como joined his uncle at his barber shop inside Hotel Conneaut in order to send home money to his family. While in Cleveland, he went to a show at the Silver Slipper Ballroom, watching Freddie Carlone and his famous orchestra who often provided the music at Conneaut Lake Park. Carlone invited anyone with talent to come onstage and sing with his band. Como was terrified, but coaxed by his friends, went up and began to sing to hundreds of spectators. Carlone was so impressed, he offered Como a job with his band. Though the job offered significantly less pay than his haircutting gig at the hotel—$28 a week—Como dubiously accepted the offer and stayed with Carlone’s band for the next three years. Como went on to become very famous, with a long and storied career in the music industry.

One young guest of the park recalled her memories of her interaction with the young singer many years after Como left Conneaut Lake Park to begin his career:

“Back in 1931 [sic] —I was only a small child at the time—my family rented a summer cottage at Conneaut Lake, Pa. We frequently ate at the Conneaut Lake Park Hotel because, according to my parents, the food was excellent, and they enjoyed the dinner-hour dance music of Freddie Carlone’s orchestra.

“One of the band’s chief attractions was a young singer who specialized in “crooning.” Bing Crosby was then the top crooner, and I can still remember many of the lake people listening to the youngster sing (he couldn’t have been more than 18) and commenting, “This fellow will give Bing Crosby a run for his money—if he has the gumption to stick with it.” The reason they might have had doubts was that the boy had a likeable, easygoing poise that made him seem a bit, well, lethargic.

“Often the young man would visit our table and talk with my parents. After dinner, he usually invited me to the edge of the bandstand, where I sat on his ice-cream parlor chair (it was sort of a trademark of his act) while he sang.

“As the summer wore on, I developed a regular “crush” on the young singer. Was I the envy of the sandbox set on those days he’d join us at the beach and romp with me!

“The years passed, and I soon forgot all about that summer at Conneaut Lake. Then, one day in the early 1940’s, I turned our radio up to “teenage” volume to hear a new smash hit called “Prisoner of Love.” It was being sung by a bobby-sox sensation named Perry Como. I had never seen his picture, but just the sound of his voice made me swoon all over.

“My mother came in, turned the loudness down, and said, “Norma, just because he used to be your boyfriend, you needn’t bring down the walls!”

“Boyfriend? Me? Perry Como? And then it all came back. The young-man who sang to me on the ice-cream parlor chair…those days we spent on the beach…that relaxed, boy-next-door manner.

“Although the sand castles we built together quickly dissolved into the lake, and many of the songs have faded, my childhood memories of that likeable young man, who the adults said seemed to lack “gumption,” will remain till the day I die.”

-Mrs. Norma Leary, Jamestown, PA
As told to the Rome News-Tribune, October 29, 1973
(I flagged the year because according to records, Como did not come to Conneaut Lake Park until 1932)

Como died in 2001 and is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Florida.


In May, Katherine Wolff, who had been a housekeeper at Hotel Conneaut for several years, died in Meadville from illness. She was buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Titusville.

Niles Daily Times, May 25, 1933, Page 8

Henry Holcomb lay ill in Cunningham Sanitarium in Cleveland with heart trouble for several months before succumbing on June 7, 1933. He had been ill for some years prior, though had still been involved with some of his hotels before he was admitted into the sanitarium. News of his death reached Conneaut Lake Park by telegram and the incredible loss was felt quite profoundly as the man had spent his life shaping the resort into something truly remarkable. He was 69 years old and had been the park president as well as manager of Hotel Conneaut for thirty years. He left a wife and adopted daughter. His funeral service was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church and he was buried in Erie Cemetery

Actress Fifi D’Orsey visited the resort on June 27th.

Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933, Page 6

The July 4th celebration at the park proved truly ostentatious. Fireworks were set off every hour from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Freddie Carlone’s Orchestra, who had played at President Roosevelt’s inauguration, provided the music, playing in Dreamland Ballroom and Hotel Conneaut’s dining room. Edythe Siegrist and her group of high flying performers from Ringling-Barnum held acts all throughout the day. Parachute jumper Walter Criswell returned to jump from the wing of a seaplane.


Conneaut Lake Park was purchased by the People’s Pittsburgh Trust Co. and operated the park as Hotel Conneaut, Inc. Glenn Klingensmith was made president and R.J. McDonald vice president and general manager of the park.

The railroads discontinued railroad service as running special trains into the park was no longer sustainable due to the ever rising popularity of motor cars. The 85 mile trip from Pittsburgh took less than two hours by car and proved the preferable method to arrive at the park.

On the season’s opening, held on Decoration Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Military Band of Warren provided the music. They had won the National VFW Championship and played at the Word’s Fair. Carleton Coon and the three O’Neill Sisters were the main features at Dreamland Ballroom, playing harmony blues to the masses.

On 4th of July weekend, a young man named Fred Vosens, Jr. noticed a man struggling in the water. The boy jumped in, pulled the man to safety and the man was resuscitated. The man returned home while the boy received many accolades for saving the man from drowning. Fred was aged 15 and was the son of Hotel Conneaut’s senior chef.

Daisy and Violet Hilton

Violet Hilton, a Siamese twin who had been denied a marriage license to her fiancé Maurice Lambert by the New York court, planned to marry at Conneaut Lake. Violet and her twin sister Daisy were born attached at the hip and had become vaudeville stars. While performing in Geneva, OH, Violet told the press the wedding would be the last week of July in Pennsylvania where several justices of the peace had offered to perform the ceremony. They arrived at Conneaut Lake on July 25th but were advised by their attorney to not file for the license in Meadville and the marriage was delayed. Unfortunately, the wedding never happened and with the continuing frustration of the law against the marriage of a conjoined twin, Lambert broke off their engagement.

Niles Daily Times June 29, 1934

On Friday, August 10th through Sunday, August 12th, 2,000 firemen and their families attended the annual firemen’s convention at the park held by the Northwestern Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association. On Friday evening, the women were entertained with a card party and floor show in the Crystal Room. On Saturday, the men were split into teams for a water battle. That evening, a banquet was held at Hotel Conneaut followed by a firemen’s dance in the Crystal Room.

On August 11, a Hotel Conneaut employee, Ray Cobb, was picnicking with friends near the hotel when boiling coffee spilled on his chest and arms. The 20 year old was rushed to Spencer Hospital with severe burns from which he recovered from.


A new manager was appointed to run Hotel Conneaut and proved to be the youngest hotel manager in the state. In January, thirty-one year old Maurice Bigelow of Pittsburgh came to serve as proprietor of Hotel Conneaut, Hotel Virginia, and the Beach Club, having spent six years as the business manager of Hotel Webster in Pittsburgh.

W.E. Baker of Pittsburgh was named park manager by Hotel Conneaut, Inc. In February, plans were made for a substantial remodeling of the entire park with a projected cost of $50,000. 51 workers began to raze the concession stands and five cottages along the midway. A large court and new cottages were constructed in their place to provide an overall appearance of clean lines and genuine attractiveness. The laborers had cut ice on the lake prior to commencing the remodeling project and had went on strike due to wages. Their wages were raised from 20 cents an hour to 40, therefore they gladly went on with the remodeling work. 

Plans for building a bath house on the pier with a completion date prior to opening day were disrupted by an injunction by the Conneaut Lake Navigation Company barring Hotel Conneaut from building. In June, the injunction was dissolved and the construction of a new bathhouse moved forward. The beach ran south of the pier and was completely redone and beautified.

On December 2nd, a cottage inhabited by William Kleeb, caught fire and burned. Fortunately Kleeb had just left the cottage and was not present when the fire tore through the structure. Kleeb was vice president and general manager of the Conneaut Lake Park Company.


On May 1st, two men died in a cottage fire at the resort. The victims were Arthur Bigelow and William Kleeb, the man who had escaped a fiery death just months before. Bigelow was both assistant manager of the park and the father of Hotel Conneaut’s manager Maurice Bigelow. It has been said that their bodies were taken to the Crystal Room of the hotel while waiting to be picked up by the coroner.

Despite the terrible tragedy and loss of his father, Maurice Bigelow pushed forward with park renovation plans. $50,000 was put into making improvements at the park. The hotel’s first floor was redecorated and refurnished and the lobby completely redone. Outside, landscapers added evergreens, shrubs and flowers and the plaza, or common green on the north end of the hotel was beautified. The ground was regraded and sod placed in the areas without sidewalks. The concession stands around the hotel were moved to another area of the park and a cement sidewalk added between the hotel and the Temple of Music.

The midway was once again rebuilt with a fresh design. The Giggle-Giggle and other amusements were torn down. Laborers reinstalled the Old Mill that had been removed the prior year. The new structure sat in its original location at the west end of the dance pavilion. When the Park Hotel burned several years before, it had taken the Dodge ‘Em ride along with it, but the ride was rebuilt that spring, ready in time for the new season. The ride now occupied the space where the Park Hotel once rested.

On the pier, a 600 ft. boardwalk, 20 ft. wide, was rebuilt to extend from Hotel Conneaut to the Beach Club. The promenade on the dancing pavilion was redone with new walkways added. A new bathing beach was provided and the park now allowed guests to swim for free. 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
July 2, 1936, Page 13

On opening day, Memorial Day, the park featured a music concert, a parachute jump, and fireworks. New concessions and amusements were offered as well.

On June 7th, 3000 women from the Order of the Eastern Star came to the park for their annual convention that continued until June 12th. They held their gathering at the Temple of Music, which had been redecorated and repainted.

Hotel Conneaut served three fixed-priced dinners for $1, $1.25, and $1.50. A food critic remarked that he gave the hotel an honorable mention for serving a tomato salad with the tomato skin. 


During the winter, painters repainted the entire interior of the hotel. In April, the crew began painting the exterior of the hotel.

The Steamboat Helena fell on her side during a bout of rough winds after she was torn from her moorings. The Conneaut Lake Navigation Company, owner of the boat, had the hulk saturated with gasoline and set on fire. The steamer had been built in 1903 and retired in 1931. Her sister ship was set on fire later that year, having been retired in 1932. On both occasions, guests of Hotel Conneaut watched the fire on the south side of the lake where the two boats had been moored.


Conneaut Lake Park opened on May 28th, projected to be one of the best seasons the park had ever had. Hotel Conneaut had propelled its amenities and cuisine into top tier status.

In June, Hotel Conneaut hosted 162 Republican women from the Pennsylvania Council of Republican Women. 

The 12th Annual Conneaut Lake Bridge Tournament was held July 13th through 17th and conducted by Dick Needham. 

The last week of July, The Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH camped for one week at the park. They played two concerts on Sunday July 30th. Their director was Donald Hurrlebrink, also director of the local high school band.


Niles Daily Times, July 1, 1939 Page 4
Niles Daily Times, July 3, 1939 Page 4


  • Hotel Conneaut Menaced As Flames Sweep Small Cottage: The Kane Republican 18 Feb 1930, Tue Pg 8
  • Hotel Conneaut to Open May 15 With New Manager: Niles Daily Times April 29, 1930 Pg 9
  • Hotel Virginia Sold to Unknown Persons: The Record-Argus, 7 Apr 1930, Mon  Pg 10
  • Dancing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 10 May 1930, Sat. Pg 5
  • Hotel Conneaut Opens Auspiciously For Summer, with Fine Banquet: The Record-Argus, 26 May 1930, Mon Pg 5
  • More Trouble For Widow of Massillon Man: The Evening Independent, 25 Jun 1930, Wed  Pg 1
  • War Bride Gets Bond In Husband’s Death: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 21st, 1928, Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Park Hotel to Open Saturday: Warren Times Mirror 22 May 1930, Thu Pg 3
  • Fire At Conneaut: Warren Times Mirror 3 Aug 1931, Mon Pg 10
  • Schmeling to Have Three Days Grind As Last Hard Training : Evening Star, June 26, 1931, Page C-2
  • Win, Lose, or Draw: Evening Star, June 4, 1954 Page C
  • Fireworks At Conneaut On Decoration Day: Niles Daily Times May 26, 1932 Pg 5
  • Meadville Parachute Jumper At Lake: The Conneautville Courier, 29 Jun 1932, Wed · Pg 1
  • New Features Booked For Conneaut July 4: The News-Herald 28 Jun 1932, Tue Pg 7
  • Perry Como: Fishman, Charles (January 24, 1993). “A Few Moments With Perry Como”. Orlando Sentinel.
  • Katharine Wolff Death: The Conneautville Courier 31 May 1933, Wed Pg 8
  • Henry Holcomb Dies, Spent Life Helping Boost Conneaut Lake: The News-Herald 7 Jun 1933, Wed Pg 2
  • Plan For 4th At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933 Pg 4
  • Conneaut Lake Planning Finest Season: Niles Daily Times May 17, 1934 Pg 5
  • Life Saved By Young Swimmer: The Conneautville Courier, 4 Jul 1934, Wed Pg 1
  • Firemen’s Convention Planned: The Conneautville Courier 18 Jul 1934, Wed. Pg. 1 
  • Siamese Twin To Wed In Pennsylvania Soon: Evening Star, July 23, 1934, Page A-16
  • Twin Delayed Wedding: Evening Star, July 26, 1934, Page B-18
  • Conneaut Lake Boy Burned: The Conneautville Courier 15 Aug 1934, Wed Pg 4
  • Plans to Remodel Conneaut Lake Park: The Conneautville Courier 27 Feb 1935, Wed Pg 1
  • Injunction Dissolved: The Conneautville Courier, 12 Jun 1935, Wed. Pg 8 
  • Youngest Manager: Times Herald, 8 Jan 1936, Wed Pg 5 
  • Two Men Die In Fire At Summer Resort: Pottsville Republican 1 May 1936, Fri  Pg 1
  • Park Plans To Make Changes: The Record-Argus 18 Apr 1936, Sat Pg 1 & 6
  • Park Adds New Features: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1936, Fri Pg 10
  • Conneaut Lake Park Opens Memorial Day: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 28 May 1936, Thu Pg 13
  • A New Peel: The Record-Argus 14 Jul 1936, Tue Pg 2
  • Season Is Opened At Conneaut Lake: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11 Jun 1936, Thu Pg 15
  • Hotel Repainted: The Conneautville Courier 21 Apr 1937, Wed. Pg 1
  • Steamer Burned At Conneaut Lake: The Conneautville Courier 7 Jul 1937, Wed Pg 8
  • Conneaut Lake Park Expects Biggest Season: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1938, Sun Pg 32
  • Republican Women Plan For Campaign: The Conneautville Courier, 22 Jun 1938, Wed. Pg 1
  • Ridge Boys Go To Camp of VFW Boys Band At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 30th, 1938 Pg 3 
  • Trains Took Vacationers to Conneaut’s Many Hotels: The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday June 17, 1984
  • ‘Whitewash’ Won’t Aid Earle Opponent Says: Evening Star July 24, 1938, Page A-7

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 4, 1920-1929

1920 Postcard featuring the sunken gardens of Conneaut Lake Park

In Part Four of my ongoing series of Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park (the former Exposition Park), I dive into the decade of the roaring 20’s. The 20’s brought not only the Charleston, but an enormous surge of people purchasing private family automobiles. Due to assembly lines and mass production, the average family could afford to purchase a vehicle and people began to practically live in their cars. As an unsavory result, all summer resorts began to suffer as the amount of guests diminished enormously. People no longer wished to stay in one place, spending a week or two at Conneaut Lake Park. Now, they were eager to drive from state to state or across the country and see all the sites. It truly was the end of an era, but the glitz and glamor of Hotel Conneaut had yet to wear out and plenty of visitors continued to book their annual stays and company dinners at the hotel. 

1920’s Postcard


The Falcon Steel Company from Niles, OH held an annual outing at the park, motoring over for a day of swimming, dancing, and amusements. They supped at Hotel Conneaut before driving home in the evening.

After season’s close, Hotel Conneaut opened briefly to hold a game dinner for the park residents on Armistice Day. Only the lobby and dining room had been heated while snow flew outside. Hunters had collected game throughout the week prior and forty rabbits, pheasants, wild duck, and two racoons were served. Chef Holmes busily cooked in the hotel’s kitchen for the 112 people in the dining room. They completed their evening with dancing and games of cards.

Henry Holcomb spent nearly his entire winter at the park as he had done for many years. He kept himself very busy with repairs that every year averaged a cost of $30,000, proving that the maintenance of the park was no small task or fit for a small pocketbook.


The Niles Uniform Rank of K and P came to Conneaut Lake Park, expecting to make their annual encampment as planned. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, their 150 tents were not available to them and the group had to return home to Niles, OH. They quickly made new plans for a week of camping at Brady Lake.

1921 Postcard of the Boat Landing


In January, the sad news came to the park of the death of Frank Lockwood, Hotel Conneaut’s former proprietor of eight years. He died in Titusville, the town of his residence and was eighty-five years old.

Many improvements were made to the park prior to the season opening. Some of the new installations were sewage disposal plant, a large deck in front of the bathhouse, a diving platform with a height of 30 ft. above the water’s surface, additional boat docks, and several cottages.

In August, a series of large hail storms north of the lake brought chilly weather to the park. Nonetheless, scheduled events moved forward as planned.

On August 26th and 27th, a grand boat race was held with some of the fastest boats in the U.S. The race was held over a 30 mile course on Lake Conneaut.

The board of directors of the Conneaut Fair and Racing Association held a meeting at Hotel Conneaut to finalize arrangements for the fair to be held August 28-September 2. 250 of the best horses around were slated to race that season.


Hotel Conneaut opened on Saturday, May 6th, after a round of redecoration. The Keystone Serenaders were employed to play the music at the dance pavilion and daily concerts at Hotel Conneaut. Substantial rain had raised the level of the lake so high that the docks were nearly beneath water.

The 4th of July celebration brought an obscene amount of visitors to the park, the trains alone shuttling in a wide estimate of 25,000-40,000 people. Even more people arrived in their newly acquired automobiles, causing significant congestion. Because parking spots were limited, drivers parked their vehicles along the highway for up to three miles away. 

Because of automobiles, fewer guests made reservations at Hotel Conneaut in advance and came to the lobby expecting to take their chances on whether they could acquire a room or not. Usually by 11p.m., the clerk had to turn people away, but it was no matter, as they simply drove on to the next town to find lodging. Also, guests did not spend a week or entire summer residing at the hotel, instead staying for only a night or weekend. Times had certainly changed and very fast at that.

The other great change was the lack of drunkards in the park, as alcohol had been outlawed. Prohibition had brought a temporary peace and the teetotaler guests found a renewed calm to the resort.


That spring, renovations to Hotel Conneaut were rapidly underway with the construction of a large south wing. 180 new guest rooms were built, each with their own bathroom, and outfitted with electric and plumbing. The guest rooms also included private apartments with a living room and two bed rooms. Most spectacular was the new auditorium, named the Crystal Room, on the southeast corner with a wide porch encircling the addition on the front, north, and part of the south ends. The purpose of the new auditorium was to serve as a place for conventions, dances, and other festivities. The auditorium is today known as Elizabeth’s Ballroom and the new south wing has survived to present day when the older north end of the hotel burned to ash twenty years later. Also included in the addition was a sun parlor and oriental tea garden with a red rubber floor. A fresh coat of paint was put on the entire exterior.

Postcard of the Crystal Room

A band stand was also constructed where the old dock used to be in front of Hotel Conneaut. A children’s playground was installed on the upper side of the boat landing. Ground for two new golf courses was cleared, one a nine-hole and the other an eighteen-hole. A firehouse was also built and men’s clubrooms built into the upper story. 

The hotel’s new south wing was not ready for the season’s opening on Memorial Day, though the Crystal Room was open for events. Opening day proved a huge success as thousands from Pennsylvania and Ohio crowded into the resort.

The Conneaut Lake Press Outing Association held their sixth annual outing at the park. Over one hundred from the association enjoyed a lovely banquet on June 7th in Hotel Conneaut’s dining room before moving into the Crystal Room for an interlude of entertainment. Afterward, they walked over to the dance pavilion for an evening of dancing and at 11 p.m. finished their night off with a lovely steamer ride across the lake.

In early June, Hotel Conneaut hosted the annual convention of Western Pennsylvania Funeral Directors. The undertakers, nearly one-hundred of them, were also guests of the hotel and used Hotel Conneaut for their annual meeting for several years.

The stockholders of the Conneaut Lake Fair Association held their annual meeting at Hotel Conneaut and made preparations for the large fair coming up in August.

The Pittsburgh Builder’s Exchange held a four-day outing in mid-June and was one of the largest conventions at the hotel and resort as a whole that season. 

The Bessemer & Lake Erie Veteran’s Association held their annual outing at Hotel Conneaut on June 21st and 22nd, proving to be their largest one yet.

In early October, several thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on Hotel Conneaut, which they considered their national headquarters. Dr. Hiram W. Evans of Atlanta, the national head of the clan, spoke on radicalism during their event. The group were entertained by singers, band concerts, airplane stunt flying, and fireworks. The Yellow Dogs, the fun-making sect of the Klan’s Realm of Pennsylvania, initiated hundreds of new members into their order. One of these new members was Dewey Allen, a bellboy at Hotel Conneaut, who became the first known black member to be initiated. 

The Buffalo Times Sun Jul 6 1924


On September 1st, Conneaut Lake Park held an enormous dance contest, seeking to find the person that demonstrated the Charleston in the absolute best manner.

Eighteen-year old Peggy Bosza of Pittsburgh won a beauty contest held at the park from a selection of 1,200 other girls and was thus dubbed Peggy of The Press after the competition’s name. The preliminary contest first pitted the redheads, blondes and brunettes against one another and for the main tournament, the three winners from each went forward to compete. Peggy’s mother had died five years prior and Peggy was left with a father and two brothers and two sisters, all younger. She badly wanted to cut her hair into a bob as that was the style of the day. Her father adamantly refused and she won out from the brunettes and then the entire contest with her long jet-black hair, named Queen of The Press. Virginia Lee Bateman, age five and half, won the junior division. As part of Peggy’s prize, she became a special guest of Henry Holcomb at Hotel Conneaut and stayed in the large suite with windows looking out over the lake. She enjoyed the best treatment possible, even receiving her first manicure in the hotel’s manicure parlor. A dance was held in her honor and many young men scrambled for her attentions, one being Tom Holleran, a football star who had become a coach for Thiel College.

1920’s Postcard of steamer on Conneaut Lake


In the spring, new improvements were underway including the installation of a water system at the cost of $40,000. The dance pavilion was remodeled and the pier in front of Hotel Conneaut received a new stage intended for band concerts and vaudeville acts.

Henry Holcomb had presided over the park for twenty-seven years and was a truly hardworking, dedicated man. His position had truly been a labor of love in every sense and that year was relieved of much of the burden of his many duties. A reorganization plan was put into effect and his responsibilities were delegated to others. He told Jim Borland of the News Herald, “You can say that I am still the largest stockholder of the Conneaut Lake Company and president of it. With Lowerey Humes as president of the Board of Directors, of which I am a member, and John Greer, of Sharon, as park superintendent, I have simply been relieved of many of the details. That’s all there is to it.”

Unfortunately, the park was not welcoming the massive crowds seen in the prior decade as people were taking family vacations in their automobiles. 

At the end of August, workers completed the conversion of the 9-hole golf course to a full 18-hole course. Work was begun on a new road that would connect the two roads on either side of the lake with a projected completion date for the following spring.


The first weekend in June, Henry Holcomb hosted the employees and 250 family members of 100 newspapers from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Included in the group at Hotel Conneaut were newspapermen from Niles, Youngstown, Hubbard, Girard, Struthers, McDonald, and Lowellville. They enjoyed all the amusements and shows the park had to offer. Billy Erhardt of Youngstown’s Erhardt’s School of Dance did several performances at the dance pavilion. At Hotel Conneaut, the Red Arrow Quartet of the Pennsy Railroad, the Newspapermen’s Mandolin Club of Butler, PA, and the Royal Welsh Ladies Chorus all performed for the special guests. 

By July, the park reached its season’s peak of excitement and frenzy. Guests amused themselves not only with the rides and games of the park, but also golfed, played tennis, boated, swam, rode horses, and danced. 

Guests shown swimming, or “bathing” in 1920’s postcard

Prohibition did not deter the employees of Hotel Conneaut from serving alcohol to their guests, in fact it was expected to serve up large casks during conventions and parties. On July 12th, dry officers raided a sheriff’s convention going on in Parlor B of the hotel. In the end, the officers took away the alcohol and arrested a bellboy.

August 26th through 30th, the Elks committee celebrated a large annual meeting at the resort, hosting a “Miss Elk” bathing beauty competition on August 29th. They also enjoyed a huge display of fireworks, a parade, an auto presentation contest, water regatta, golf tournament, and a flying circus with a 2000 foot parachute drop into Lake Conneaut.

Towards the end of the season, a deluxe duck dinner was served to guests at Hotel Conneaut. Gertrude Gruman and the Royal Welsh ladies’ choir entertained in both the dining room and Oriental Tea Room. In the Crystal Room, the Mountain Quartette sang.

In the fall, hunters came to the lake to shoot grouse and woodcock as Conneaut Lake had become an extremely popular destination for the sport.


On Saturday, May 25th, the Newspaper Outing Association held their 18th annual convention at the park. After a reception at Hotel Conneaut, the association enjoyed an evening of dancing at Hotel Virginia. On Sunday, they golfed, boated, and swam before returning to their respective homes. Jim Borland, who regularly wrote articles in the Franklin Times about Conneaut Lake Park, was re-elected president of the association, having served that position for seventeen years. 

Niles Daily Times, Aug 29 1929, Page 8


  • At Conneaut: The Niles Daily News, Saturday, July 17th, 1920
  • Seeing Winter Come: The News-Herald, 19 Nov 1920, Fri. Pg 4
  • Unintentional Misunderstanding: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, August 2, 1921 Pg 2
    Conneaut Lake Will Shine Like A New Dollar This Summer: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Saturday, May 27th, 1922, Pg 4
  • Frank Lockwood Death: The Conneautville Courier, 11 Jan 1922, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park Has Many Events on the List: The Pittsburgh Press, 13 Aug 1922, Sun. Pg 47
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The News-Herald, 22 May 1923, Tue. Pg 11
  • Autos, Prohibition, and Time Change: The News-Herald, 7 Jul 1923, Sat. Pg 4
  • Large Addition to Hotel Conneaut: The Conneautville Courier, 14 May 1924, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Jun 1924, Sun. Pg. 74
  • Klan may Guard Invaded Church In M’Kees Rocks: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 7 Oct 1924, Tue · Page 15
  • Charleston Contest to be Held At Lake: The News-Herald, 21 Aug 1926, Sat. Pg 7
  • Red-Headed Lad First to Take “Peggy of the Press” For Boat Ride on Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Sep 1926, Wed. Pg 1-2
    Improvements: The Conneautville Courier, 11 May 1927, Wed. Pg. 6
    August Days at the Lake and the Pines: The News-Herald,13 Aug 1927, Sat. Pg 4
    100 Newspapers In Outing At Conneaut Park: Niles Daily Times, Monday, June 4th, 1928, pg 5
  • High Point of Season Reached at Conneaut Lake Park: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, July 19th, 1928, Pg 7
  • Elks Convention At Conneaut Lake To Be Record Breaker: Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, July 24, 1928 Pg 5
  • Borland Elected Association President: Niles Daily Times, Monday, May 27th, 1929, Pg 3

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 3, 1910-1919

In the third part of my ongoing series of Hotel Conneaut and the resort it was and still is part of, I will explore the decade of the 1910’s. Despite the advent of WWI, the park’s success proved only greater as thousands of visitors came to the park to lose themselves in the bounty of amusements and amenities the park had to offer.


James M. Hultz of Niles, Ohio spent the summer as superintendent of the electrical power plant for Exposition Park. He received great praise from park president Holcomb for his mechanical abilities. 

Conneaut Lake Park installed a Mullerton-Harton carousel which continues to operate at the park to this day.

The boat landing, 1910 postcard

The Pennsylvania Lines offered one day excursions to the park, leaving Niles, Ohio at 6 a.m. and returning at 7 p.m. Excursionists could pay $1 to ride the train both ways and spend the day at the park.

The summer season proved the most successful of every year prior, thus maintaining the trend of constant upward movement. The park owners were on a tireless mission to bring only the best to the resort and constantly improve and expand. 

The midway at Exposition Park, dance pavilion at right, 1910 postcard


The park opened on Memorial Day, May 30th and nearly 10,000 souls from within a hundred mile distance came through the gates. Once again the Nirella Orchestra was employed for the season and played from May 27th to September 15th. Hotel Conneaut opened May 27th after being newly redecorated and refurnished. More than fifty new cottages were built and opened by June 15th. Despite a cool season start, by mid-June the cottages and hotel rooms were nearly full. 

1911 postcard of the lake

The park had three new attractions that season. The first was a ride called the Virginia Reel, built at a cost of $10,000 and requiring a hundred thousand feet of lumber in its construction. It was 50 ft. wide by 175 ft. long. It had round cars that ran on an 800 ft. long track, swooping over hills and diving through tunnels. The second attraction was the Shoot the Chutes, a ride 600 ft. long with a 75 ft. drop into the lake. Riders were loaded into the car on a section of the lake with a new cement bottom, the car reversed up the hill and then dropped down into the lake, without any water splashing onto the riders. The third latest attraction was called the Double Balloon, a ride that took guests one thousand feet up into the air by a balloon attached to a rope and dropped them back down.

In early August, the resort hosted nearly 5,000 guests, not including the thousands that visited the park just for the day. Pittsburghers, Shenango Valley folks, and Mahoning Valley residents were among the excursionists. The younger guests enjoyed hay rides, corn roasts, watermelon parties, and moonlit walks along the beach. 

Guests going out on the lake would return carrying dozens of the beautiful white water lilies in their rowboats. The lilies decorated the tables in the hotels and cottages for most of the season as they bloomed from spring to September. 

Docks and navigation steamers, 1910 postcard

Ropes were fitted to each end of every canoe due to the problem of the boats capsizing, causing one drowning death.

On Sunday evening of August 6, the Apollo Club of Pittsburgh played a prank on Thomas Kirk, Sr. when they met him at the train with the club’s band. They put him on a cart with a young woman who was a complete stranger to him, took them to Hotel Conneaut, and there announced them as bride and groom.

The following evening, the Apollo Club held a reception and dance at the pavilion.

“Four hundred couples of the best dressed and finest looking bunch of young people ever seen in the big dance pavilion had the time of their lives. A breeze came up [from] the lake all evening, making it just cool enough for dancing, adding very materially to the enjoyment of the occasion. This club never does anything by halves and everybody is loud in their praise as entertainers.”

The News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania), Saturday August 12, 1911, Page 1

On August 9, a crowd of 3,000 attended the Painesville Merchant’s outing held at the park. 

On August 10, the park celebrated United Presbyterian Day, and required twenty-three special trains to bring in the amount of guests who came to the event.

A guest of Hotel Conneaut, Judge W.E. Porter of New Castle, spent so much of his vacation in the water that he returned home quite red with sunburn. Ed Boyle, Beaver County Clerk of Courts, was also a guest of the hotel.

The Voegtley Cadets of Pittsburgh arrived on August 19 and put up their tents near the lake where they camped for two weeks.

The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 25 Jun 1911, Sun · Page 34

The first woman to swim twice across the width of Conneaut Lake was Cleo Heisel of Pittsburgh. She had been spending a vacation at the resort with her mother and made quite an impression on onlookers who watched her swimming and diving skills during her stay. She made the swim across and back again on August 12th but her fame was short-lived. Another young lady, Yetta Cable of Rochester, became the first to swim the entire length of the lake, a distance of three miles. On Thursday, August 24, the nineteen-year-old accomplished the great feat in two hours and fifty-five minutes, despite heavy winds.

At the end of August, the lovely goldenrod burst into bloom and hundreds of acres at the head of the lake were covered with yellow. Guests took their rowboats out on the waters and returned with large bouquets for their hotel rooms. Vases full of goldenrod ornamented tables all about the resort and decorated Hotel Conneaut’s dining room.

The Conneaut Lake Fair was held at the end of August into early September with the largest crowd yet seen of almost 35,000 souls. The showcase of livestock proved most impressive and one farm from Youngstown had 800 fowls under their tent. Most alluring was the model dairy exhibit showing the entire dairy operation, including the milking of cows, completely by electricity. The races were a huge draw as usual, with Miss Trace of Franklin, PA the big winner. 

Postcard of the race track

The Pennsylvania Fish Commission showed a selection of fish from the lake from the fish hatchery. This hatchery was located at the foot of Lake Conneaut and was the best in the state.

Washington D.C. aviator Paul Beck displayed his Rex Smith biplane and attempted a demonstration of flying it for four days in a row, only managing one actual flight due to the wind. The aircraft weighed nearly 1,200 lbs., measured forty feet in length, and had an engine of eighty horse-power. On Thursday with no crowds to watch, he was able to rise to 1,000 feet and circled the park, landing with ease. On Friday, he attempted rising again but the cross-currents hindered his flight and he tried to land. He was whipped abruptly to the ground and crashed into a buggy, causing $500 worth of damage to his machine.

On Friday evening of September 1, the Agricultural Association put on their annual banquet, held in a corner of the dance pavilion’s lower story. The hall was decorated festively with a beautiful harvest theme: cornstalks on the pillars and colorful vegetables piled on the table. Boiled chicken and lobster were served for supper. Association President Henry Holcomb served as toastmaster and issued speeches from members of the association.

With farming the topic of conversation, the association praised the efforts of Henry Holcomb who proved quite a busy man. Besides being president of the association and the park as well as proprietor of hotels Conneaut and Virginia, he owned a seventy-five acre farm nearby. Not only did his farm supply all the produce, eggs, milk, and butter served in hotel Conneaut’s dining room, but it boasted 170 pigs, a length of chicken coops, and incubator house. He had many gardeners employed to maintain the gardens and they lived in cottages on the farm.

The following week, the Pennsylvania Electrical Association held a substantial convention at the resort. They put on a large electric display which drew spectators to the park and proved one of the greatest sights yet to be seen in the state of Pennsylvania. With record-breaking attendance so late into the year, Hotel Conneaut and Hotel Virginia kept their doors open later into the season than usual. The resort had a history of closing on Labor Day, but this year closed on September 11.

The Labor Day Celebration on September 4th proved to be one of the greatest and largest revelries held at Conneaut Lake.


In May, light renovations were underway on Hotel Conneaut. The hotel was redecorated inside and out. On the outside, landscapers planted thousands of new shrubs and flowers, many that had been grown on the Holcomb Farm, one mile west of Conneaut Lake, which also provided much of the produce for the kitchen. In the dining room, workers installed artificial grapevines with electric lights. They hung beautifully from an arbor where guests entered the dining room and appeared quite realistic. The vines also wound around the columns and the ceiling, their soft light illuminating the room quite spectacularly and to the delight of all who entered. Mrs. Catherine Wolff was manager of the dining room that year, having proved her skills the summer prior.

1912 postcard of Hotel Conneaut

The campgrounds opened a month earlier that year in early June and despite the cool weather, many eager outdoor enthusiasts put up tents and began their vacation.

Father John Butler of Conneautville held mass in the new auditorium every Sunday during the season at 11 a.m.

The Evening Republican (Meadville, Pennsylvania) · 25 Jun 1912, Tue · Page 5

On July 13th and 14th, resort guests watched as American Aviator, Lewis Earle Sandt, made successful flights through the park. On Monday, he began his third flight at 5:30 p.m., watched by a record-breaking crowd as he took off from the fair grounds and rose above the trees. He made it a not quite a half mile when his engine began to choke and sputter and Sandt realized he was in trouble. While drifting over an oat field on the Lynce farm, the engine ceased to function altogether. The plane veered nose down into the ground, turning over, and Sandt jumped clear, landing three feet away from the engine which would surely have crushed him.

The crowd screamed in fright, believing Sandt to be killed. Someone on the ground pulled an unconscious Sandt into an automobile and rushed him to Hotel Conneaut where he was attended by a doctor. Sandt suffered a concussion, two broken ribs, various cuts and bruises, and was in shock. He awoke within a half hour. A year later, Sandt was flying for crowds in Grove City, PA, when he crashed and sustained injuries that led to a tetanus infection. He died on June 22, 1913 and was buried in Brookville Cemetery within the town he was born.  He was only twenty-five years old.

Pittsburgh Daily Post Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 26 Jun 1913, Thu • Page 4

On Friday, July 26, tragedy struck when the lake claimed three souls by drowning. William King of Wilmerding, PA had left his wife and child at home to come to Exposition Park and camp with his society, the Knights of Pythias. He and another of his order, McKinley Offutt, took two young ladies who were employees of Hotel Virginia out for a midnight rowboat ride. The young women were Alta Robinson of Pittsburgh and Lillian Gustafson of Spring Creek. They were having a pleasant time on the lake when a sudden wind whipped up and the water became rough. As the boat began to fill with water, they jumped in fright, causing the boat to capsize. Offutt was the only one in the group who could swim and quickly made his way to shore. The two young ladies were pulled beneath the waves by the weight of their skirts while King clung to the capsized boat. A fisherman, Max Keck, had heard the cries for help and made his way to where the boat had overturned, but before he arrived, King lost all strength. He loosened his grip on the boat and sunk to the bottom. The bodies were not located until daylight, the drownings having occurred at 1 a.m. 

Hotel Conneaut, 1913 postcard


In April, Charles Mullet of Niles, Trumbull Co., Ohio became the chief engineer of the resort’s electrical department, proving to be another Niles native capable of handling the resort’s electrical demands.

Hotel Conneaut, 1914 postcard

As soon as the season closed, construction workers began making new improvements to Hotel Conneaut. Proprietor Holcomb had been adamant that a dining room double the size of the existing one was required to fit the amount of guests that wished to dine there each summer. The dining room was situated at the north end of the hotel and workers expanded the room outward, making the finished size 60 feet wide by 100 feet long. They rebuilt the esplanade used for the musicians that was originally situated on the northwest side of the building. On the second and third floors above this addition, laborers added twenty guest rooms, each with its own private bathroom. Along with theses substantial renovations, the carpenters repaired and refinished the hotel’s furniture.

1914 Postcard showing gardens leading to Hotel Conneaut in back left and Hotel Virginia in back right

New cottages sprang up all around the resort as the need to supply extra accommodations proved great.

James Reany, owner of the Lakeside Inn (formerly hotel Mantor), ushered in the modern age by razing the old building to make way for a new, 60 room hotel.


1915 advertisement

When the renovations of Hotel Conneaut were completed, the hostelry now had fifty bathrooms and a dining room large enough to seat 400 people. This dining room was shared by guests of Hotel Virginia and was beautifully decorated in white and gold as the Nirella Orchestra played music every evening. The hotel opened two weeks before the resort, admitting guests who wished to get an early start on their vacation.

The Nirella Orchestra of Pittsburgh was also employed to play the music for the dance hall that season and had played in many prior seasons. The season’s first concert was held at Hotel Conneaut on Sunday, May 30th

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 Aug 1915, Sun · Page 39

Prior to the season opening, a young man walking by Hotel Conneaut heard the familiar snapping a popping sound known only to him as fire. He immediately sounded the alarm and the fire department rushed to the hotel within minutes, hoses at the ready. When no smoke or fire was to be found, a quick investigation found the sound to be swallows who had nested in the hotel chimney.

The resort received a large hydroplane to take guests for trips over the lake. It was also employed for longer trips to Lake Erie.

Pittsburgh Daily Post Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 29 Jun 1915, Tue • Page 10

Construction was completed on the brand new Hotel Reany, built on the site of the Lakeside Inn, which opened June 6th. Its dining room nearly filled the entire first floor, with seating capacity for 160 guests. The hotel and parlors were situated at the front of the first floor. The guest rooms were fitted with the most modern conveniences, with hot and cold running water. The separate bathrooms were equipped with showers and bathtubs. The porch was constructed to be deep and 140 feet long, extending along both sides of the building, as well as the front that butted up to the lakeshore. With guests wishing to stay later in the fall every year, Mr. Reany planned for the hotel to be used especially during the late autumn season. 

Postcard showing the new Hotel Reany

Henry Holcomb, park president and head of the Wild Life League, had twenty-five thousand salmon dumped into the lake in preparation for the busy fishing season.

Conneaut Lake Park opened on May 30th, Memorial Day weekend to the largest crowds the resort had ever seen. Pittsburghers drove their fancy automobiles into the resort in hoards. The Good Roads movement had cleared stones from the road between Conneaut and Pittsburgh, making for a smooth drive. Special trains ran from up to one hundred miles around just for the occasion. Trains from Pittsburgh bursting with excursionists rolled into the station on the Bessemer and B & O Railroads. These trains also worked all season bringing in weekenders. A businessman could work all week, hop on the train in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon and be at the resort in time to eat dinner with his family. He would then depart for home on the Sunday evening train while his wife and children resumed their vacation at the resort.

In June, the State Industrial Board ordered Hotel Conneaut along with other businesses to modify their care of female employees. The order included better division of time of work and time of rest so that chambermaids, kitchen aids, waitresses, etc. would not be on their feet without a break for long hours and also provide time for the workers to use the telephone. The order was temporarily put in place until September 30th, season’s end, to protect the female workers until a permanent ruling could be made. This proved a breakthrough in rights for female workers.

Every Sunday morning, Fred Butler of Conneautville led mass in the auditorium.

Many churches, groups and societies held their annual outing at the park. In mid-June, 2,000 delegates from the Grand Lodge of the Eastern Star of Pennsylvania spent the week at the resort. They used Hotel Conneaut for their festivities and booked every room in the hotel.

Albert Hilgendorf drowned in Conneaut Lake on Sunday evening of July 4th and his body was recovered later that month. The Evening Republican reported that in a drowning incident of a man named Steele some years prior, his body was pulled out a week later with grappling hooks. The water had been so cold that the body was perfectly preserved.  


Hotel Conneaut received a new coat of paint inside and out in preparation for the upcoming season. A water heater was installed to provide the guest rooms with both hot and cold water. Proprietor Holcomb remained steadfast in his desire for the hotel and resort as a whole to showcase the height of modernity and luxury. Guests of the hotel were served mineral water in a setting of the most up to date furniture and décor. The lobby, spacious hallways, and large verandas proved to stage the very best of high class living.

Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 2 Jul 1918, Tue · Page 8

Once again the Nirella Orchestra was employed at the Dance Pavilion and in the dining room at Hotel Conneaut for the season. A.A. Lutz, a Pittsburgh dance instructor, led the dancing.

Despite the ongoing war, business continued to boom for the resort, though men no longer came in on the train for a day’s excursion, being occupied in service. Most families chose to forget their usual cross country or out of country vacations because of the war and instead traveled to the comfort and extravagance of Exposition Park.

The commander of the Swift Boys Brigade, Major McCombs, was a guest of Hotel Conneaut in late June. A large part of the usual attendance of boys of the last twenty years was much diminished by the fact that the boys were off to war. 

On June 28, the Exposition Park Board held their annual banquet in the dining room of Hotel Conneaut. Some of the board members provided speeches and the Nirella Orchestra performed while the board members and their families dined and socialized.

Hotel Reany opened on July 1st, but as it was under new management, the named was changed to Hotel Elmwood.

More honeymooners spent their newly wedded bliss at Hotel Conneaut that year due to the fact that more young men married by reason of the war and the wage increase for those in service.


As with every season before it, 1919 broke the attendance records and a spectacular year was had. At the season’s end, all of the hotels and cottages were filled to capacity, something that had never happened in the history of the resort. The hotels Conneaut, Virginia, and Elmwood remained open until the middle of September.


  • Will Return to Florida: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Wednesday, October 5th, 1910, Pg 1
  • At the Lake: The Record-Argus,18 May 1911, Thu. Pg 3
  • Conneaut Lake Has Busy Week: The News-Herald,12 Aug 1911, Sat. Pg 1
  • Girl From Pittsburgh Swims Conneaut Lake: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Saturday, August 12th, 1911, Pg 4
  • What’s Doing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 26 Aug 1911, Sat. Pg 1
  • What Time Has Wrought on Conneaut Lake, Where the Credit Belongs: The News-Herald, 6 Sep 1911, Wed. Pg 1 & 6
  • Hotel Conneaut Renovated: The Evening Republican, 27 May 1912, Mon. Pg 4
  • Aviation Meet at Exposition Park: The Record-Argus,10 Jun 1912, Mon. Pg 1
  • Aviator Sandt Falls: The Conneautville Courier, 17 Jul 1912, Wed. Pg 1
  • Death concludes exciting life of aviator E. Sandt: Erie Dispatch. June 23, 1913
  • 50 years ago: Page 2 of The Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, April 21st, 1964
  • Conneaut Lake Drowns 3: McKean County Miner, 1 Aug 1912, Thu. Pg 1
  • New Hotels For Exposition Park: The Evening Republican, 17 Oct 1914, Sat. Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 9 May 1915, Sun. Pg 54
  • Official Opening at Exposition Park: The Evening Republican, 29 May 1915, Sat. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 6 Jun 1915, Sun. Pg 41
  • Industrial Board Makes Exceptions: Harrisburg Telegraph, June 24, 1915, Page 9
  • Many Visitors Are At Conneaut Lake: The Evening Republican, Jul 1915, Sat. Pg 6
  • Demand For Housing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 29 Jun 1918, Sat. Pg 3
  • Summer Resorts, Exposition Park: Pittsburgh Daily Post, Tue. Jul 2, 1918 
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 24 Aug 1919, Sun. Pg 34

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 2, 1900-1909

In my ongoing series of anecdotes from Hotel Conneaut and Exposition Park, I found the first decade of the 20th century to be one of triumph and also devastation for the resort as a whole. The park had yet to become a prime destination for vacation goers and far off from being known as the largest resort in Pennsylvania, but was well on its way to success. As an interesting aside, Clark Gable, who was born in Ohio in 1901, lived on a farm along Conneaut Lake from the ages of seven months to five years. Republican candidate for the 1936 presidential election, Alfred Mossman Landon, also spent his childhood summers at Conneaut Lake during that same decade and accomplished a two-mile swim across the lake..

1909 Postcard showing Conneaut Lake


Mr. O. E. Gleason, owner of the Mansion House in Titusville and partner to Frank Lockwood, leased the Exposition Hotel to E.D. Comstock for the season. Fred G. Pardee of Titusville operated the hotel through the year of 1900 before departing to lease a hotel in Watertown, N.Y.

The park installed a huge, 60 foot diameter merry-go-round at the tune of $7,500, a price tag that would read about $232,000 in today’s dollars.


View from Hotel Conneaut Veranda, early 1900s

Henry O. Holcomb took over management of the hotel Conneaut.

Advertisement from 1902


On March 10, a crew of forty men commenced building the new Hotel Conneaut on the site of Exposition Hotel. The plan for the building sized it at 160 by 130 feet with a projected cost of $25,000. Whether newspaper error or a project going extremely overbudget, the hotel construction actually cost $35,000, or about one million in today’s value. 

Workers labored rapidly, their work made faster because they used a portion of the old Exposition Hotel in the construction of the new building. They used the three story section of the original structure, having moved the one story north wing near the auditorium to be used for another building, and built the new hotel in its place. By April, they set about wiring the hotel for electric lights.

Meadville house furnisher John J. Shryock provided all the new carpets and bedding for the new building. He won the contract in a bidding war against companies from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Erie, and New York.

Also under construction was the largest gravity railroad on that side of the country.


Image from The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) Monday, June 15 1903, Page 1

When construction workers continued working on the new Conneaut hotel, tragedy struck. On February 9th, one of the laborers, Harry Hogan, fell and hit his head, but returned to work the following day. By evening, he felt poorly and returned to his parents’ home in Erie where he fell into a delirium and eventually died.

In mid-April, a group of carpenters employed by Constable Brothers, the company contracted for the hotel’s construction, quit the job and returned to Meadville, tools in hand. Because they had refused to name their union, they had been placed on the unfair list of the Erie Carpenter’s Union, thus causing the strike. Non-union laborers took over the work on the hotel while the matter was resolved.

Park guests would be arriving in a new terminal, as a new station was constructed farther south than the original. It could not be completed in time for season opening due to difficulties in finding material, but was still used and required every guest to pass through gates before boarding a train.

A new train, the Conneaut Lake Limited, was up and running and featured a day coach, chair car, and a private car. Along the lake, new, larger docks were built by the steamer company.

Circa 1910 Postcard showing the new docks

With the new hotel alas complete and improvements made all around the park, the new owners could label the grounds as a first class resort. Hotel Conneaut boasted a Spanish style entrance, built of stucco and large porches that wrapped around both sides of the hotel. Guests could walk up to the roof garden for a peaceful rest and view of the grounds. In the north wall of the large lobby was a fireplace and on the west side, a staircase leading to the upstairs guest rooms. Off of the lobby were separate writing rooms for men and women. Also on the ground floor was a barber shop, buffet, telephone booth, toilets, billiard room, ladies parlor and several guest rooms.

On Decoration Day, 700 diners filled the new dining room in Hotel Conneaut’s north wing. 

During the remainder of July, thousands visited the park on a daily basis, many coming during the day to picnic and enjoy a leisurely stay at the lake. The hotels ran at full capacity and were forced to turn many travelers away, some taking the train to Meadville where they found accommodations and returned on the morning route.


In April, the Conneaut Lake Company purchased the resort from the Conneaut Lake Exposition Company. The new officers were President Henry O. Holcomb of Erie who was the current proprietor of Hotel Conneaut, Secretary and Manager C. P. Kepler of Pittsburgh, and Treasurer F.W. Henninger of Pittsburgh.

1905 Postcard

They immediately set about making improvements to the resort, including building a new, modern bathhouse.

The park opened for the season on May 30, Decoration Day, with the year’s schedule already quite jampacked with reunions and picnics. The hotel rooms and cottages were booked well in advance by eager excursionists. Park Manager Kepler, the former Traveling Auditor of the Bessemer Road, was in charge of the bookings.

The Circle Swing, a new attraction installed, featuring a dazzling spectacle of light, made possible by doubling the capacity of the electric light plant.

Postcard showing the park’s large Circle Swing at left

On August 29-September 1st, the Conneaut Lake Agricultural Association hosted a fair and race meet on the new fair grounds adjacent to the resort.


On December 4, a large fire tore through three of the largest hotels in Conneaut Lake Park as well as the surrounding frame buildings. Hotels Arlington, Brunswick, and Thatcher were lost, amounting to about $30,000 in damages.

On April 2, another fire began in the basement of the Taylor Hotel inside Conneaut Lake Park and men from numerous surrounding towns rushed in to fight the blaze. The Taylor burned to the ground followed by the Chilcott Hotel and several barns before it was extinguished. The damage amounted to around $35,000.

On Friday, June 29th, Mrs. Holcomb, wife of Manager Holcomb served as hostess for one hundred women from Conneaut, Erie, Girard and other localities. With her incredible grace and class, she welcomed the women into Hotel Conneaut and spent the day giving them a grand tour of the resort.

The July 4th holiday week proved to be the busiest the resort had seen as 25,000 people visited the lake. 6,000 paid entry to see the horse races, the best ever seen in western Pennsylvania. Hotel Conneaut’s management handled the crowds with unwavering professionalism. Next door, Hotel Mantor burst at the seams as harried park employees ran about, tending to the many needs of excursionists. On the 4th, guests waited an hour to find a place within the bathhouse, which showed considerable traffic that week.

In November, laborers began constructing a substantial addition to Hotel Conneaut. It measured 30 by 100 feet with a wing of 30 by 60 feet. It stood four stories high.


Postcard featuring Hotel Virginia

Hotel Conneaut received a sister hotel upon the completion of Hotel Virginia, built to accommodate the overflow of guests. Hotel Mantor had a new third story with added guest rooms and its name was changed to the Lakeside Inn, which without argument, boasted the best view of the lake.

Postcard of Hotel Mantor after the name change to Lakeside Inn

Upon a cold and rainy season opening, visitors could not be discouraged by the poor weather and poured into the park, eager to see all the new improvements and amenities.

On the morning of Sunday, June 2, Hotel Conneaut guest Edward Hammond was taking a stroll along the hotel’s lawn when he came across the rain-soaked body of Dr. Cornelius Van Horne. A coroner’s jury theorized that Van Horne had fallen from his guest room’s balcony during the night, walked several feet, collapsed from a head injury and died from exposure.


Postcard showing guests on the porch of Hotel Conneaut, about 1908

Prior to the season opening, $50,000 (nearly one and a half million in today’s value) was spent in new attractions, including the scenic railway, managed by Piper & Skeen, a penny arcade, managed by Fred J. Spillman of Niles, OH, The Castle of Fun led by Meadville’s C.H. Clark, The Old MillThe Mystic CycloneThe Circle Swing managed by Scott Murphy, the Ocean Waveoperated by M.D. Fox, the Ferris Wheel conducted by Larry Palmer, and the Avenue Theatorium—Conneaut’s first movie theater, and especially for the children, Erhart’s merry-go-round and the pony track with saddle and carriage horses. 

The park buildings and pavilions received a fresh coat of paint, and all the benches painted vermilion red. A new half-mile-long racetrack, the Conneaut Lake Oval, was constructed and spectators soon claimed it was the fastest half-mile track in Pennsylvania. Its grandstand could hold 5,000 people.

1908 Postcard Showing the Boat Landing

Seven steamboats owned by the Conneaut Lake Navigation Company were repaired and improved in preparation for summer passengers.

Early 1900’s Postcard showing steamboats

The partial list of 1908 park employees is as follows: 

  • Park Manager: Mr. Kepler
  • Park Superintendent/Hotels Conneaut and Virginia Manager: Henry Holcomb
  • Hotel Conneaut Chief Clerk: Frank Garber, Greenville PA
  • Hotel Conneaut Assistant Clerk: Joe Longmore, Pittsburgh PA
  • Park Office Manager: Mrs. J.O. Jones, Greenville PA
  • Post Office Manager: Mary Moulthrop 
  • Bessemer Station Agent: F.H. Wheeler, Mercer PA
  • Bessemer Superintendent of Motive Power: E.B. Gilbert, Greenville PA
  • Baggage Handler: C.W. Cubbison
  • Yard Master: C.M. Kamerer, Butler, PA
  • Bathing Pavilion Manager: A.W. Robertson
  • Rowboat Manager: Mark Lynce
  • A.K. Tower Operator: C.A. Rood 
  • Bowling Alley Manager: C.W. McCullough
  • Park Contractor: Mr. Piper of Moundsville, WV with crew of forty men
  • Cottage Contractor: Martin Dennis
  • Park Photographer: W.W. Wilt
  • Lakeside Inn (former Mantor House) Proprietor: James Reany
  • Hotel Bismark Manager: Julius Fuhrman
  • Check Stand Attendants: Phoebe Irons, Linesville PA and Mildred Powers, Grand Rapids MI
  • Cashiers: Flora Moulthrop and Lillian Schaaf

Friday, May 29th, the day before opening day, a storm blew through, toppling thirty trees, removing the roofs of two cottages, damaging the bathhouse roof, and sinking all the rowboats. Undeterred, thousands entered the park on Saturday May 30th, Decoration Day, welcomed by the boisterous music of the Greenville based Boyd’s Band. 900 people arrived on two trains from Pittsburgh alone. Park superintendent Henry Holcomb welcomed guests into Hotel Conneaut, entertaining 400 from Pittsburgh and countless others from other districts. In the dining room, Henry Wiesbauer’s orchestra delighted diners with a musical program. They also played in the dancing pavilion for the entire season.

A College Field Day was put on the Saturday after Memorial Day with many sports and activities for athletes from all around.

On June 12-13th, the park hosted an Italian festival, featuring food, games, music, excursion trains, and fireworks put on by P. Rozzi.

In July, Imogene DeTier opened a manicuring parlor in Hotel Conneaut.

In the early morning hours of December 2,  a fire of unknown origin began in the Bismark Hotel. The fire rapidly spread with devastating results to more than half the park. A detailed account by the Crawford County Historical Society can be read here.  An investigation into the fire was made but with no natural explanation found, the people of Conneaut assumed an arsonist set fire to the Bismark Hotel. The National Board of Fire Underwriters offered a $500 reward for anyone who had information leading to an arrest. Fingers pointed to the hotel’s owner for beginning the fire for insurance purposes, but with no evidence, no one was ever brought to justice.


Park management set about making many improvements during the quick rebuild prior to the upcoming summer season. A large, fireproof cement midway was constructed with entirely new buildings.

They purchased one-hundred new rowboats to replace the ones that had been in storage inside the dance pavilion when it burned to the ground. 

1909 postcard showing docks in front of the new boat pavilion

At the end of May, the finishing touches were put on the brand new cement and steel dance pavilion. The impressive structure that would eventually be called Dreamland Ballroom featured a beautifully laid maple floor and 17,000 square feet of floor space. Its outdoor promenade boasted a 14 foot width by 412 feet length. The first floor was used for picnics when the weather proved too inclement for an outdoor affair. In its first summer, dances were held every night but Sundays, led by a twelve-piece orchestra.

Postcard featuring the dance pavilion

The park’s grand opening was held on Decoration Day, May 30th.

On July 8th, Exposition Park hosted the seventeenth annual picnic of the Merchant’s Association of Niles (from Trumbull County, OH), the largest ever held. 

During the hot summer days, swimmers enjoyed the bathing pavilion with 150 dressing rooms. It had a large collection of brand new, modern swimsuits for men, women, and children. Along the lake, visitors sped down the toboggan slide, and jumped from springboards and diving platforms.

Within the Arcade, guests bowled in the eight lane bowling alley or played pool or billiards. Those up for more vigorous sports could play a game of ball on the regulation baseball diamond or on the tennis courts just south of Hotel Conneaut.

By this time, the Conneaut Lake Fair, held on August 30-September 3 that season, proved to be the most popular fair in the state.

1909 Postcard featuring the post office

On Friday, October 15, around 11 a.m., a fire of unknown origin broke out at the resort, starting in Phelp’s grocery across from the trolley station. The frame structure quickly went up in flames and spread to the adjoining frame buildings, though was stopped from spreading further by the new fireproof cement structures on the Midway. Park employees battled the blaze to no avail and the Meadville fire department arrived with a steam fire engine and hoses. The men of Conneaut Lake came over by steamboat to assist and by the time all help arrived, the fire had consumed the grocery, the back of the Old Mill, Penny Arcade, Bonheyo Bakery, and the park lock-up. The men put out the fire as it reached the Log Cabin Restaurant, Miller souvenir store, and Jackson’s restaurant, all of which received mild damage. The front section of the Old Mill was spared. The initial rumor was that the hotel’s Conneaut and Virginia were both up in flames, but in truth they were nowhere in danger and it’s interesting to note how word of mouth can quickly twist information. The buildings destroyed were not owned by the park and the losses for the self-employed businessmen who owned them were great.


  • Mr. Comstock: The Conneautville Courier,1 Mar 1900, Thu. Pg 1
  • Fred Pardee: The Conneautville Courier,10 Jan 1901, Thu. Pg 1
  • New Owner: The Record-Argus, 31 May 1901, Fri. Pg 3
  • New Hotel: The Conneautville Courier, 13 Mar 1902, Thu. Pg 1
  • New Hotel Work: The Conneautville Courier, 3 Apr 1902, Thu. Pg 1
  • Hotel Progress: The News-Herald, 24 Apr 1902, Thu. Pg 8
  • Furnishing Contract: The Conneautville Courier, 29 May 1902, Thu. Pg 5
  • Harry Hogan Death: The Conneautville Courier,18 Feb 1903, Wed. Pg 1
  • Carpenter Strike: The Evening Republican, 16 Apr 1903, Thu. Pg 4
  • Conneaut Lake’s Prospects Bright: The Record-Argus,15 Jun 1903, Mon. Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Pleasure Resort Changes Hands: Butler Citizen, April 13, 1905, Pg 3
  • Two Hotels Destroyed At Conneaut Lake PA: The Evening World, December 5, 1906, Evening Edition, Final Results Edition, Pg 13
  • July 4th at Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Jul 1906, Sun. Pg 33
  • Plan for Addition: The Conneautville Courier, 19 Sep 1906, Wed. Pg 5
  • Annex: The Conneautville Courier, 7 Nov 1906, Wed. Pg 1
  • Three Hotels Destroyed: The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, December 5, 1906
  • Cold Weather Doesn’t Interfere With Arrival of Guests: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,16 Jun 1907, Sun. Pg 14
  • Sudden Death At Expo: The Record-Argus, 3 Jun 1907, Mon. Pg 2
  • Exposition Park Season Opened: The Evening Republican, 1 Jun 1908, Mon. Pg 1
  • Summer Season At Exposition Park: The Evening Republican, 23 Mar 1908, Mon. Pg 1
  • Manicuring Parlor: The Conneautville Courier, 8 Jul 1908, Wed. Pg 1
  • Reward for Arsonist: The Forest Republican, March 17, 1909
  • Beautiful Conneaut: Page  1 of The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Wednesday, July 7th, 1909
  • Merchants to Picnic Here: Page 3 of The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Thursday, May 27th, 1909
  • Fire at Exposition Park: The Conneautville Courier, 20 Oct 1909, Wed. Pg 1

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 1, 1892-1899

On November 21st, for my third year in a row, I will once again be visiting Hotel Conneaut for a ghost hunt put on by Ghosts n’at Paranormal Research Team. In preparation for this annual ghost hunt, I want to explore Hotel Conneaut even further by digging into its history through the decades. I already wrote about the deaths and other strange occurrences that have been recorded to have happened there, so today I wish to make a study of the changes that were made to the hotel and surrounding grounds in the last century. Along the way, I wish to add certain accounts of the workers and guests, some humorous and some sad. This will be an ongoing study, leading up to next month’s ghost hunt.

Exposition Hotel, Crawford County Historical Society


Conneaut is a Native American word that means “plenty of fish” and indeed Conneaut Lake had a bounty of fish which drew in sportsmen from all around. An interesting fact about Lake Conneaut is that conditions allow the tuberin water lily, an extremely rare flower, to grow on its surface. Nowhere else in the country does this type of lily grow so large or pure white than on the lake. They grow five to eight inches in diameter and prove a spectacular sight for anyone coming to roam among Conneaut’s shores. The lake proved to be a large draw for boating, fishing, and picnicking throughout its history and towards the end of the 1800’s, a businessman wished to capitalize on its popularity.

“Conneaut Lake, the largest and most picturesque inland body of water in Pennsylvania, rests on the apex of what is known as the “Divide,” whence the waters flow northward to Lake Erie, and southward to the Ohio and Gulf of Mexico. Conneaut is 400 feet above Lake Erie and 700 feet higher than Pittsburgh, assuring the pure, balmy air and delightful climate so necessary to health and perfect enjoyment. The wooded shores surrounding the six square miles of water conceal from the unobservant the many delightful walks and drives; the twelve mile drive around the lake being especially charming.”

Beautiful Conneaut: Page  1 of The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Wednesday, July 7th, 1909

The idea struck Col. Frank Mantor, owner of the Conneaut Lake Exposition Company to establish a high-class resort, luring the wealthy to Conneaut Lake with open pocketbooks. In 1892, Mantor’s company and a number of investors purchased seven acres of land from Aaron Lynce who had used the parcel for a boat landing, known as Lynce’s Landing, since 1877.  They also purchased one hundred more acres to be used with the initial seven as a fairground and exposition for livestock and machinery. Thus, Mantor founded Exposition Park, the original name of Conneaut Lake Park.

The summer, locals witnessed a lavish resort form rapidly along the lake. Wide roads and several large buildings were immediately constructed within the first few months. Exposition Hotel promptly sprouted up as the resort’s projected opening for August 15th loomed. By July, the auditorium was framed, the office building nearly complete, and the hotel right on schedule. Lack of correct timbers delayed the building of the pavilion upon the wharf, but the issue was soon amended. Management proceeded in sending out many invitations to prominent speakers for opening day as well as ordering hundreds of tents for visitors who wished to spend the night. 

At the close of the season, The Select Knights’ Band escorted resort goers on the train from Allegheny to Exposition park, playing music during the ride. Upon the 11:30 a.m. arrival at the Exposition Hotel, the band played a concert. The train departed at 6 p.m. and the round trip cost each guest $1.50. 

In the first years, Mantor’s company continuously added and improved, even building a telegraph office to allow rapid communication to the outside world. A two story dance pavilion with open sides was built just north of the office, set to be the social center of the entire park. North of the dance hall was a long, two-story building with glass sides named Floral Hall. It was filled with floral exhibits during Exposition week and held other functions during the remainder of the season. North of Floral Hall was the auditorium, an enormous domed structure that could accommodate hundreds of people and boasted a stairway to the top where a spectacular view of the entire park could be seen. The result of these improvements was a high class destination which drew the rich and prominent from all over, particularly Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Meadville, Erie, Beaver Falls, Greenville, Youngstown, and Cleveland.


Exposition Hotel in 1893, Crawford County Historical Society

Frank M. Lockwood of Titusville took over as proprietor of the hotel, leasing it from Mrs. Hill. Lockwood was born on Oct. 5, 1836 in Penn Yan, Yates Co., NY, the son of Bradford Lockwood and Sophia Cole and was a veteran of the Civil War. He had married and divorced Emma Heath, after having a son, Frank. For many years Lockwood ran the Mansion House in Titusville, his hometown, and operated a hotel in Virginia during the winters when Exposition Park was closed. He was a charming figure who carried himself with great dignity and class. 

When young, Lockwood’s family had moved to Michigan and he trained as a barber at the age of twelve, went into the hotel profession at age thirteen with his father, and at fourteen was handed the business from his father.  During the nationwide financial hardship of 1850, Lockwood returned to New York and learned the telegraph trade, but went into the bakery business. While serving in the war, General Wadsworth put Lockwood in charge of baking bread not only for the troops, but for President Lincoln himself. He operated the very first field ovens. At the end of the war, Lockwood went to Corry, PA where he became police chief and ever the man of many trades, worked in grocery, baking, and confectionery. Following this time he became steward of the New Kent House in Lakewood and learned how to run a first class hotel. He went on to run a few other hotels before investing in the Mansion House in Titusville with O. Gleason in 1891. His experience in the hotel business landed him the management of Exposition Hotel and under his guidance, the investors of the resort hoped it would elevate in popularity and status. 

A post office was established at the resort named “Exposition” and mail brought in by steamer from the Conneaut post office. Soon, the resort functioned like a town and under competent leadership, ran like a well-oiled machine. 

The season brought hordes of visitors to the park, so much that the railroad struggled to accommodate them. More and more tents sprang up on the grounds with camping visitors. State Insurance Commissioner, George B. Luper of Harrisburg, spent his summer at Exposition Hotel with his wife, daughter Blanche, and son, Daniel Bert. He consumed the bulk of his stay fishing, having grown up in nearby Harmonsburg, and caught the most fish of anyone else in the sport. 

A Pittsburgh gentleman who was staying at the hotel took his lady for an evening boat ride and it was quite dark when he helped her into the boat. He pumped the oars for some time but did not seem to be getting anywhere. With great amusement, they discovered the boat still roped to the dock.

As the summer season came to a close, many guests from Pittsburgh and Allegheny stayed on to experience hunting season and some of the hotels stayed open until late fall. The Evening Republican reported that Exposition Hotel closed for the season on September 3rd, but the Pittsburgh Press mentioned the hotel keeping guests until later in the month, so perhaps though the hotel closed to the public, they remained open for select guests. September was the best for fishing and guests spent their days lingering in and about the waters, catching pike and bass. T.P. Garber of Greenville caught a 14 lb. pike, much to the delight of all who witnessed it. Squirrel shooting commenced in the beginning of the month and ducks felled later on. Brilliant goldenrod burst colorful about the grounds and park employees set about creating bouquets to adorn the tables in the hotel and cottages. Many guests enjoyed the ten mile drive around the lake, admiring the breathtaking sights of nature. 

Two sisters who were spending their fall at an old farmhouse met up with gentlemen friends who were guests of the hotel. The men took the ladies for a boat ride in the evening and docked within a half mile’s distance of the farmhouse. It was about ten o’clock at night and quite dark, so it did not take long before the group became hopelessly lost in the swamplands. Their skirts and trousers became quite soaked through as they slogged through the swamp and found themselves inhibited by high fences. Several hours later, the men at last delivered the ladies to the farmhouse, found their way back to the boat and by the time they reached the hotel, dawn was breaking on the water.


Frank Lockwood became postmaster of Exposition Park and the park office moved to the hotel. 

The Elks Investment company planned to build a grand first class resort hotel on the lake called the Elks Hotel on the site of the Cornell House. The new hotel would feature a casino, amusement hall, a steamboat launch, and its own fleet of boats for guests to roam Conneaut Lake. The company and park as a whole hoped the new hotel would draw even more people to the grounds to seek their summer amusements. 

Visitors to Exposition Park often arrived by train, the great machine haven taken them through woods and fields before riding along the edge of the lake, greeted by the rippling water. The train pulled into the park and the passengers disembarked, walking along the main thoroughfare between confection booths, newsstands, and various buildings. Near the office, stood a sea shell store and the large Miller Bros. shop selling fruit and sweets, the most popular place to seek refreshments on a hot summer day. Next-door was a graphophone parlor followed by George P. Ryan’s Rocky Mountain museum, featuring the treasures obtained through his travels through the Rockies. Continuing northward, stood the Echo Hotel near the beach and bath houses, a large draw being the toboggan slide.

Across the railroad was the “upper park” where guests picnicked and played ball. Also there was the merry-go-round, booths selling sweets and refreshments, and photograph cars, among other entertainments. At the west side of the park were the stables where hands cared for countless horses during the day.

At Exposition Hotel, guests could sit in the dining room and eat a large, delicious dinner. The hotel featured the park office, parlor, wash room, and barber shop and sixty rooms to accommodate staying guests. The ever-busy Frank Lockwood readily greeted visitors, welcoming them warmly.

Exposition hotel closed for the season on September 15, after a successful year under the management of Lockwood and courtesy of the hotel’s landlady, Mrs. Hill. 


The 1896 season employed Professor H.L. Braun’s orchestra. The Pittsburgh Post called vacationers to come enjoy the amusements, which included dancing, tennis, swimming, and fishing. The Exposition and Mantor hotels could accommodate 250 guests between them, but due to the popularity, the resort burst at the seams with visitors and the resort called for constant expansion.


In preparation for the 1897 season, extensive improvements were made to the park that included the installation of an electric light plant at the end of the railroad track. Hundreds of incandescent lamps were placed around the grounds and buildings and three rental cottages were built south of the hotel. 

On June 1, Frank Lockwood, proprietor of Exposition Hotel, married Mary Conroy of Jamestown, NY, at the Commercial Hotel in Meadville, PA.


Visitors poured into Exposition Park, some to enjoy a day-long picnic while others stayed several weeks or more at one of the hotels or cottages. The late train from Meadville began to run three nights a week in July, coming back after the weekly dance at the resort. 

Butler Citizen, June 23, 1898

Fishing parties covered Lake Conneaut, some staying out on the water the entire day. Guests fishing from the docks were able to catch a number of sunfish with a cut pole, string, and bent pin. Guests also kept the steamboats in constant employ, the most popular being the Iroquois, controlled by Captain Quigley.

A group of eighty boys from the Swift Mission Brigade camped on the grounds below the hotel. The other guests watched in awe at 5:30 every evening when the boys performed their dress parade in front of the hotel. They sported white duck pants with patent leather boots, similar to the uniform of the national guard and each carried a sword.


Tuesday, July 4th,1899 drew the largest crowds the park had ever seen with numbers between 6-10,000 people. Huge throngs of people gathered at every attraction around the lake. The steamships regularly departed and arrived at the pier, taking people to and from Oakland Beach and the fine hotels along the eastern shore. Meadville’s famous Northwestern band arrived on the early train, playing to fellow passengers, a large body of around 1,000 people. W.H. Whiteside of Youngstown won the bicycle race and George Long of Pittsburgh won the swimming competition.

Despite it being such a successful holiday, the fog of tragedy laid over Lockwood’s triumph when on July 3, he lost his infant son to cholera. I wonder if Lockwood remained at his post tending to guests while his wife mourned back in their home of Titusville. The little body was buried in Jamestown, NY, his mother’s birthplace. I do not see how the park could have replaced Lockwood in the event he left to bury his son, but perhaps the employees stepped up and were successfully able to carry out the large celebration without their manager. Perhaps, somewhere, it has been recorded, but it is more likely these details have been lost to time.

The season closed as the most successful in the resort’s short history. Park manager E.D. Comstock sought to renew the lease for the next twenty years with many plans for improvements drawn up. They wished to double the size of the dance hall as well as construct a bandstand, fountain, and fifteen cottages upon the green around the hotel. The most exciting news was the plan to build a new hotel on the site of Exposition Hotel, the building that would become Hotel Conneaut as we know it. 


  • Founding of Exposition Park: Futrell, Jim (2002). Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. pp. 79–92. ISBN 0-8117-2671-1.
  • The Conneautville Courier, 14 Jul 1892, Thu. Pg 5
  • New Owner: The Conneautville Courier, 4 May 1893, Thu. Pg 1
  • The Lilies of Conneaut: The Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jul 1893, Sun. Pg 16
  • Lost in the Swamp: The Pittsburgh Press, 26 Aug 1893, Sat. Pg 4
  • Lockwood Appointed Postmaster: The Conneautville Courier, 7 Jun 1894, Thu. Pg 5
    Romantic Conneaut: The Evening Republican, 2 Jul 1894, Mon. Pg 3
  • Exposition Hotel Closed for Season: The Evening Republican, 15 Sep 1894, Sat. Pg 4
  • Spend Your Vacation at Conneaut Lake: Pittsburgh Daily Post, 5 Jul 1896, Sun. Pg 5
  • Resort Improvements: The Conneautville Courier, 22 Apr 1897, Thu. Pg 1
  • F.M. Lockwood Marriage: The Conneautville Courier,10 Jun 1897, Thu. Pg 1
  • July 4th At Conneaut Lake: The Evening Republican, 5 Jul 1899, Wed. Pg 3
  • Most Successful Season: The Conneautville Courier, 31 Aug 1899, Thu. Pg 1

Ghost Hunt at Hotel Conneaut with Ghosts n’at Paranormal Adventures Team

Hotel Conneaut
Conneaut Lake, Crawford County, Pennsylvania
Saturday, October 18, 2019

During the Halloween season while Conneaut Lake Park hosted its Ghost Lake 13 Levels of Fear, Hotel Conneaut hosted a real haunted tour of its own. For the second time, I returned to Hotel Conneaut for a ghost hunt with Ghosts n’at Paranormal Adventures. 

The lobby
The stairwell with vintage park photos on the walls
Gauger family photo album

My husband Mark came with me, despite being one of the biggest skeptics and ridiculer of all things paranormal, but I was grateful for his company. We checked into the lobby around 5:30 p.m. where professional ghost hunter Patty assigned us to our room. After walking up two floors to the third level, we found our room along the same horizontal hallway as I stayed before. This time, the room was on the opposite side of the hall than last year and on the same wing and side as the most haunted room: suite 321-323. Our room was #305 and had been adopted by the Gauger family who took great care in remodeling it with a fresh coat of paint, new furniture, and all the knick-knacks to pull off a golf theme. A photo album on the dresser showed the progress of the remodel and noted the great memories this family has had at Hotel Conneaut. 

The view from our room

The doors to the ballroom opened at 6:30 for the dinner buffet and everything was set up quite differently than last year. Last year the ballroom had rows of chairs set up in the style of a wedding ceremony and this year the room read more like a wedding reception. Round tables draped with white tablecloths and surrounded by chairs filled the room. A buffet was set up along the wall right of the entrance past the Ghosts n’at booth and equipment at the head of the room. Last year the buffet had been in the basement, or the ballroom’s lower level. 

At 7:30, the event began after all the amateur ghost hunters filled the chairs and focused on the front of the room where Ghosts n’at began their presentation. Owner Brett McGinnis talked a bit about their group and how they started out by going to people’s homes to investigate. When they saw a desire for regular people to be able to investigate real haunted locations, they started Ghosts n’at Paranormal Adventures to make that idea possible. Over the past few years, they have hosted ghost hunting events at several haunted locations around Pennsylvania and New York such as Castle Blood, Hull Family Home and Farmstead, Hill View Manor, and Nemocolin Castle. Brett stated that Hotel Conneaut is by far their favorite location to investigate and they always find great evidence, though most of it is subtle. He did talk about the various ghosts and the legends behind them, stating that nothing to explain these ghosts has been recorded. Though these events cannot be substantiated, he said that did not mean they never happened. He introduced the team which was much the same as last year and included Tim, Patty, and Joshua. The older Tim that headed up the investigation in the basement last year had retired and now the other Tim’s son Ricky took his place. They divided us into groups and our group was sent off with Joshua for our first location.

Location #1 – Ballroom Lower Level

The stairs leading down to the ballroom’s lower level (doors at the left) and to the rear parking lot outside

Joshua led us out of the ballroom to the left and down the staircase leading to the lower level. The lower level ballroom was actually the dining room that I had described in the last ghost hunt. The windowed walls at the far end of the room looked out into the garden and beyond that, Lake Conneaut. Double swinging doors at the left of the entrance led to the kitchen and the room had a bar with a large screen television behind it. No doubt this location bore witness to countless weddings. 

Lower ballroom

I was disappointed with how the lower ballroom hunt went this year. Last year was very interactive and we had the chance to walk around and take photos, even explore the kitchen. This time, workers were going in and out of the kitchen and the screams from the Ghost Lake haunted amusement could regularly be heard from outside, so all of this was very disruptive.

I think we had a fairly bashful group, for though Josh encouraged us to ask questions to the Spirit Box, even providing us with a pile of folded papers containing pre-written questions, no one really spoke up. No one besides a fellow ghost hunter, Brent, who proved to be quite a distraction the entire night. It was initially Brent’s girlfriend who piped up, saying that she could feel someone stroking her hair. I inwardly rolled my eyes because I immediately took note that she was sitting directly under an air vent, something everyone else either failed to notice or did not mention. I did not speak up and break the bad news because I did not want to be subjected to nasty glares. Brent then decided that the spirits liked his girlfriend and were continuously flirting with her, thus setting the theme for the entire ghost hunt. At every single location he never failed to ask if the spirit liked his girlfriend or something of that nature. 

Location #2 – Ballroom Upper Level

Next, we returned to the Crystal Ballroom, or Elizabeth’s Ballroom where we sat facing the front of the room where Tim’s son Ricky led the second session. 

Ricky had the PhasmaBox app running on the computer. He also had a prop dog on the floor, a Vortex Trigger Basset Hound to be exact, of which when touched by a spirit, is supposed to trigger lights on its collar. Ricky said that this light had gone off during the last session. However, we sat there in awkwardness as nothing happened with the dog or the PhasmaBox. The only interesting tidbit about this session occurred when Ricky mentioned that the bodies of two men killed in a nearby fire were brought into the ballroom before they were picked up by the authorities or funeral home. They are said to haunt the ballroom. This is the first time I had ever heard of this. My mind immediately went to Arthur Bigelow and William Kleeb, the park employees killed in the 1936 cottage fire, and so badly I wanted to shout their names out, but I was far too shy to do so. I was feeling especially self conscious because I was there with my husband and I think if my friend Robin had been there instead, I would have piped up. Ricky invited us to ask questions for the spirits and I longed to ask Arthur and William by name if they were present. However, I did not want my husband to scoff at me and so I remained silent. Of this I regret and hope to gain some bravery before the next ghost hunt.

Location #3 – 2nd Floor Hallway and Room 182

We met Tim in the second floor hallway where he led an EVP session attempting to contact the little boy Nick who fell down the stairs on his tricycle. A toy tricycle was placed in the stairwell just outside the second floor hallway to see if it would move, but it never did. We each had the opportunity to ask a question. My husband Mark asked Nick if he missed his parents. I asked my tried and true, “Are you happy?” On playback, I did receive a couple syllable response, but it was unfortunately too garbled to make anything of it. Last year, I received a very clear “Of course!” in reply.

We had a boy in our group named Derek, about pre-teen age, who had come with his parents and they lived in our neighboring town of Warren. Derek asked Nick if he wanted to play with him and a voice on the recorder responded with a definitive, “Yes!”

We then filed into room 182 where we sat on the two beds. A grumpy old man ghost is said to haunt the room. Tim led another EVP session and we each had a turn of asking a question to the voice recorder. I asked, “Do you like it here?”. Brent asked, “Do you want to touch my girlfriend?” to which we all laughed uneasily. Mark asked “Were you married?” and on playback, the voice recorder had picked up a very slow, sardonic laugh that did not come from anyone in the room. We all thought that was amazing evidence and translated the laugh as being from someone who either had been unhappily married or never married because he thought of marriage as pointless. Someone asked where the spirit was in the room and an EVP was caught. I heard it as “By the window” but Tim was adamant that it said “In the bathroom right now.” With that information, Tim brought out the spirit box and asked the ghost if he was still in the bathroom which it replied, “Yes”. Tim asked jokingly, “Are you going #1 or #2?” The spirit box replied very distinctly, “Number one.” We considered this location to be quite the success despite it being one of the more lackluster spots on last year’s hunt.

Location #4 – Room 321-323

Our group headed to the third floor and into the most haunted room: suite 321-323. We spread out in the room, sitting on two beds and some chairs. Mark and I sat on the bed farthest from everyone else by ourselves. Brett McGinnis led the session and he talked a bit about the activity in the room. He said that on many occasions, people sleeping on the other bed across the room from where I was sitting had been touched in their sleep. One girl had woken up to her leg being tugged and the feeling that someone was attempting to pull her out of the bed. As Brett talked, his K2 meter and a ghost prop ball sitting on the dresser lit up at the same time. He laughed at that and said it was strange because the vibrations of him pacing in the floor would not be enough to set those off and something would have had to touch them. He went on to say that during a session in the February ghost hunt, a couple had been present where the girlfriend had dragged her boyfriend there despite him being a skeptic and he had come simply to appease her. The boyfriend had been standing against the partition separating the two doors that led out of the room. During that session, a white filmy humanoid creature rushed out from under the bed Mark and I were presently sitting on and shot out across the floor, disappearing through the door leading to the hallway. The boyfriend was so terrified that he spent the remainder of the session pressed against the door. I wish I had been there for that because our session turned out to be fairly stagnate and though Brett caught some EVPs, they were not anything noteworthy.  

Location #5 – 3rd Floor Employee Hallway

For our final location, we were directed around the corner and down the hall past the stairway to my favorite location from last year: the employee hallway. As Patty met us and invited us to walk down the long, dark hall, I realized how different it appeared from last time. A little nook had been opened up off of the left hand side that contained a seating area. We passed a glass door that revealed a large stairwell leading down to the bar that was for employees only. After that, to the left was a room we went into that had a couch at the opposite end. Patty had her laptop with the PhasmaBox app running within the small room that we all squeezed into. Patty said we were welcome to go in and explore any of the open rooms in the employee hall except for the ones that were locked and occupied by employees. However, no one accepted her invitation to do so and I felt trapped in the room and unable to explore. Instead, we chatted with the PhasmaBox but the voices coming through were very difficult to understand and when they could be understood, were speaking nonsense. Brent had reached the apex of his shenanigans and was continuously taunting the PhasmaBox. Derek and I held the two K2 meters while Derek and Brent sat on the couch where Derek’s K2 meter continuously lit all the way up. Whenever his meter lit all the way up, mine would light up partially and only once lit fully up. Brent decided that the spirit did not like him sitting on the couch because the spirit liked Derek and was trying to sit next to the boy. I could not decide if he really believed this or was just making a joke of it at this point. His girlfriend seemed quite embarrassed and disconnected at this point. This combined with the screams clearly heard directly below us from the Ghost Lake haunted tour that erupted every few minutes was extremely distracting and made for a very unproductive ghost hunt. I could not figure out where exactly in the hotel the Ghost Lake was set up, but I will never again pay all that money to do a ghost hunt in October while Ghost Lake is running. 

After Hours

After the session ended, we regrouped in the ballroom for closing remarks. The winner for the raffle was announced and the lucky person received a key to stay in the most haunted room in the hotel. It was 11 o’clock and time for the mingle in the Spirit Lounge but the Ghosts n’at crew separated off and there was no mingling at that point. The lounge and lobby were filled with locals and the atmosphere did not seem as welcoming as it had earlier. Tim and Patty came down the stairs with a large and gorgeous dog, no doubt leading it out the front doors for a bathroom break and exercise. They told us it was a Chow-Chow when Mark asked what kind of dog they had. Tim had told us earlier that Patty has to travel with her pets and they even had a rabbit in their room. I admired them all the more. We did not hang out for very long and did not ghost hunt on our own. I would have liked to but Mark was not interested and we needed to get some sleep in order to pick up our two young children from my parents’ house in the morning.

I was fairly disappointed with the entire experience, though Ghosts n’at did a wonderful job as they always do. In the future, I will avoid going to a ghost hunt at the hotel around Halloween because the Ghost Lake feature was so disruptive. However, seeing the hotel again and having an opportunity to explore its historical halls made me so happy. In the morning, as we headed down to the lower ballroom/dining room for breakfast, the sun could be seen shining through thick fog rolling off of Lake Conneaut. The image was simply breathtaking and I wish I could wake up every morning with such a view. I picture summer visitors of yesterday enjoying a hot beverage on the porch while watching nature’s spectacular morning show. 

After breakfast, Mark and I walked along the boardwalk on that chilly morning and soaked in our beautiful surroundings. As the fog dissipated the lake took shape and the gentle waters lolled in the breeze. Several boats in the harbor bobbed upon the meager waves and the atmosphere felt calm and embracing. I was greatly reluctant to leave my favorite hotel but I am so grateful for each opportunity to visit. Hopefully next time I will have my partner in crime, Robin, with me and our experience will be more eventful than this one!

Bench in memory of Courtney Shook, Hotel Conneaut’s bar manager who died tragically earlier this year.

Mishap at Hotel Conneaut: Deaths, Accidents and Incidents Through the Decades

The front entrance of Hotel Conneaut in 1911.
Postcard from my personal collection.

Hotel Conneaut in Conneaut Lake Park was once the premier destination for the wealthy of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to visit during the summer months. 

Built on the site and using remnants of Exposition Hotel that first opened in 1893, it eventually boasted 300 rooms to accommodate the large crowds that flocked to the shores of Conneaut Lake. But even then the hotel quickly sold out rooms and as demand for lodgings increased, several hotels sprouted up in the park. Hotel Virginia was built adjacent to Hotel Conneaut to accommodate the overflow, joined by a dining room between the twin structures. North of Hotel Conneaut was the beautiful structure of Dreamland Ballroom which burned to the ground in the horrific fire of 1908 that devastated the park. Fires proved to be a constant threat to the park and the resort suffered many losses as a result, even as recent as 2013. 

Deaths and accidents were par for the course with the huge throng of visitors that came and went through the decades. Legends surround the hotel that attempt to explain the ghosts haunting the hotel to this day, but instead of finding the origin behind these legends, my research unearthed several different accounts. Bride Elizabeth never perished in the 1943 fire, a chef never murdered a butcher, and the small child never fell down a flight of stairs on a tricycle to their death; at least there are no record of such incidents. It’s possible that there were accidents and deaths that the owners covered up, paying off the local papers so they would not report such incidents and thus soil the hotel’s reputation as a premier summer resort. This is just a theory with no foundation to stand on, an idea taken from the fictional account of the Stanley Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining where the wealthy owner paid off reporters to keep quiet concerning the brutalities committed there. 

While on the subject, I do wonder if the legend of the ghost child riding through the halls of Hotel Conneaut upon a tricycle began after the release of the 1980 movie The Shining. Though in the film little Danny spends his endless winter hours pedaling his tricycle through the maze of hallways of Stanley Hotel, this tidbit was never in the book. In the Conneaut legend, it is a child—some accounts say a little boy named Michael while others say a little girl named Angeline—who rode too close to the stairs, toppling downward and now haunts the halls by colliding into guests. 

Hotel Conneaut did have its fair share of stories that were reported which are listed below. It is my hope that these may help explain some of the paranormal activity at the hotel. I have included stories that took place around the hotel as well as within because I believe them to be of historical significance and are part of the hotel’s story too. The many losses that were suffered in view of the hotel while the hotel remains standing—though only partially—nearly 130 years later are a testament to the hotel’s survivor status. The hotel may seem like an inanimate object to some, but to many others like myself, it is a living, breathing structure, full of the energy of all the people living and dead who have walked her halls, rich with history, and loved and adored by so many who call it home away from home.

Death of Owner’s Infant Son
July 3, 1899

Frank M. Lockwood, aged sixty-two, was the owner of Exposition Hotel when his nine-month old son, Earl Vincent, died of cholera. The summer season was in full swing at Exposition Park at the time with festivities planned for the 4th of July holiday. It is unknown if the child died in Conneaut or in Titusville, where Lockwood lived, but it appears Lockwood and his wife Mary were living at the hotel during the time. What a devastating loss for the owners to endure, especially while running one of the most prominent resorts in the Midwest. The 1899 season was the most successful since the grand opening of the hotel. The baby was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Jamestown, NY.

Fire At Exposition Hotel
Winter 1900

In January of 1901, repairs were completed from a fire that had damaged the hotel. I could unearth no other details, including the cause of the fire and extent of the damage.

The Falling Death of a Hotel Laborer
February 14, 1903

In the winter of 1903, construction workers were hard at work building the new Hotel Conneaut, made from remnants of the original Exposition Hotel. The new hotel was built on the north end of the old structure. The three story portion of Exposition Hotel was used to form part of the new Hotel Conneaut. On Monday, February 9, a young laborer named Harry Hogan, 22, fell and struck his head. He returned to work Tuesday, but by nightfall was feeling very poor from the injuries he had suffered the day prior. He took leave from work and went home to recover in Erie where he lived with his parents. Unfortunately, by the next day he was confused and delirious. He remained in this condition until he passed away on Saturday, February 14. Harry Lester Hogan was buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Erie, PA.

Elizabeth: A Heartbroken Bride
July 27, 1904

Though this story did not happen at Hotel Conneaut, it does relate to the park, and remains the only account I could uncover about a bride named Elizabeth. Elizabeth “Bessie” Rainey, 26, lived with her mother, Elizabeth Frame Rainey, at Hotel Mantor during the summer of 1904 while her father, Jesse, remained in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, no doubt to work. Hotel Mantor was a lakeside hotel within view of Hotel Conneaut. Bessie soon found herself wooed and won by Dr. Arthur Henry, 38, and they were married in Youngstown on July 27. The following day, Arthur was arrested in Warren after another woman went to the authorities claiming Dr. Henry had taken money from her. It was revealed that the woman was none other than Dr. Henry’s other wife, Nellie Butler. They had married the previous year and she had given him all her savings when he tearfully told her he was in trouble for passing a forged check and would be arrested if he did not pay the fine.  This proved to be a falsehood, and as soon as he obtained her savings and her stock shares he abandoned her, leaving her destitute. Nellie was not the only one; Dr. Henry had four wives before her who were all living. It was also revealed that Dr. Henry was no doctor at all and had never passed the required examinations, operating as an unlicensed physician. 

After hearing the terrible truth about her new husband, Bessie fled home to her mother at Exposition Park, no doubt inconsolable and ashamed. She waited until April 15 of the following year before seeking an annulment in Youngstown. Her husband had been sent to the Columbus Penitentiary on charges of bigamy. Theirs had been his sixth marriage and his inflated ego made him unremorseful and full of self-aggrandizement and pity. I do not know what became of Bessie after her separation from Dr. Henry, but I hope she was able to move on. Even if she did or did not move on, perhaps the incredible anguish she suffered imprinted her essence upon Conneaut Lake Park and the ghostly bride wanders the grounds, hopeless and heartbroken.

Fire Destroys Three Nearby Hotels
December 4, 1906

A large fire tore through three of the largest hotels in Conneaut Lake Park as well as the surrounding frame buildings. Hotels Arlington, Brunswick, and Thatcher were lost, amounting to about $30,000 in damages.

Large Fire Devastates Half of Park 
December 2, 1908

Around one o’clock in the morning, guests sleeping in Hotel Bismark were awoken when they were alerted that the hotel was on fire. A heavy winter wind blew the fire towards the lake, destroying restaurants, places of business, and amusements, including the bowling alley, the Beach House, and the dance pavilion. Hotel Conneaut and Hotel Virginia became under extreme threat as the fire ripped through the park and burned within a street’s distance from them. However, with the exertions of firemen from Greenville and Meadville, the hotels were spared and though half of the park was destroyed, no one perished. For a beautifully written detailed account of this historical fire, please visit:

The dance pavilion that was destroyed in the 1908 fire

The Falling Death of Dr. Cornelius Van Horne
June 2, 1907

Dr. Cornelius Edward Van Horne, 39, one of the most prominent physicians on the east side of Pittsburgh, stayed at Hotel Conneaut in the summer of 1907 and was noticed retiring to his room on June 1. On Sunday, June 2, at about 9:20 in the morning an Edward Hammond discovered the doctor’s rain-soaked body laying on the ground south of the hotel near cottage #3. Dr. Van Horne was wrapped in his robe but was otherwise naked. A postmortem found ruptured blood vessels in his head, most likely from a fall. It was presumed he fell over the low railing of his suite’s balcony—a 12-foot drop—and wandered a hundred feet in his dazed condition, ultimately dropping to die of exposure where he was found. Another theory that did not hold up so well due to lack of evidence was that Dr. Van Horne had been attacked. He was known to suffer from heart issues, so it is possible his early death was sped along by that factor. Dr. Van Horne was buried in Denny Cemetery in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.

Prohibition Raid
July 12, 1928

A group of sheriffs were having their annual convention in Parlour B of the hotel when their festivities were raided by dry officers. They had significant amounts of ale and most of the men were staggering about drunk. A skirmish broke out among both parties; the District Attorney pushed two sheriffs over a table and the inebriated sheriffs punched at anything and everything, including the chandelier. In the end, only the bellboy was arrested for violation of prohibition law which left onlookers shaking their heads. The dry officers’ reasoning was that they could not arrest everyone in that room, so the poor bellboy remained the lone whipping boy for an entire group’s offense. The raid was conducted by District Attorney Stuart Culbertson and Detective John Laley who were lambasted for their “rude” intrusion of the peace officers’ gaieties. The general attitude was that the raid had a purely political agenda and incensed the community. Prohibition would not end for another five years. 

The Fiery Death of Two Park Employees
May 1, 1936

Each winter, while the hotel was closed for the season, a few employees and caretakers remained in Conneaut and usually stayed in the bungalows that were rented out to the public during the summer months. These summer cottages surrounded the hotel and provided more private and roomier accommodations for wealthy park guests. On February 18, 1930 a small cottage adjoining the hotel went up in flames but no injuries were reported. Nearby farmers and park residents worked together to squelch the conflagration before the fire department arrived, saving the hotel from harm. Over a year later on August 1, 1931, two cottages burned and resulted in $2500 worth of damage. On December 2, 1935, a cottage caught fire from an oil stove, causing $500 worth of damage. The cottage had been occupied by William Kleeb, vice president and general manager of the Conneaut Lake Company. Fortunately, William had left the cottage prior to the discovery of the fire and was unharmed.

Shortly before the opening of the park on May 1, Maurice Bigelow, Manager of Hotel Conneaut, awoke to see the cottage adjoining his engulfed in flames. His father, Arthur Bigelow, 62, park manager, William Kleeb, 52, who had avoided the fire from the year previous, and Donald Macdonald, 30, park auditor, were sleeping inside the burning 9-room cottage. The men had been staying there from the beginning of the year in order to do repairs around the park and make the necessary preparations for the season’s opening. Fearing for the lives of his father and the other men inside, Maurice approached the burning bungalow and broke through a door but the flames were too high. He then attempted to enter the cottage by breaking a window, but again the heat was far too unbearable to cross. Donald Macdonald awoke as smoke filled his room on the second floor of the cottage. Shouting frantically for the other two men, he first ran towards Arthur Bigelow’s room but was held back by flames, so dashed downstairs, falling most of the way, to find the downstairs nearly obliterated by fire. He was unsuccessful in entering William Kleeb’s room due to the immense heat. He was able to escape the cottage by jumping through a wall of flames but was terribly burned in the process. He assisted Maurice Bigelow in the attempt to gain access to the cottage in order to save the other men, but they finally sought help from the fire department. 

The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 1

Maurice Bigelow held out hope that his father had been able to escape before fire entirely consumed the structure, but after a search of the surrounding property, the dreadful truth became clear. Once the fire department had snuffed out the blaze an hour later, the bodies of the two men were discovered. The newspapers reported that William Kleeb was found on the floor of his downstairs bedroom and Arthur Bigelow’s body was seen slumped against a second-floor window that he had tried to escape from. However, from Maurice Bigelow’s own testimony, he found his father and William Kleeb dead in their beds, apparently never waking to notice the horror around them. Their burns were minor, leading the declaration that the cause of death was asphyxiation. Maurice Bigelow surmised the cause of the fire was an overheated water heater that had been burning in the kitchen before the men retired at 11:30 p.m. The loss of the cottage, one of the oldest on the grounds, was estimated at $5,000.

Arthur Bigelow was buried in Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA and William Kleeb was buried in Allegheny County Memorial Park in Allison Park, PA.

Robbery of the Hotel Safe
July 13, 1936

The hotel safe was robbed of $4500 during the hours of 1 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Monday morning. The thief failed to notice another $1,000 in bills that was tucked in a corner of the safe and did not take valuable silver. When staff entered the room Monday morning, the safe was locked as usual and the combination used to open it. The thief must have been someone with access to the combination and there is no record they were ever caught. It proved to be an enormous loss, as the value of the $4500 at that time was worth over $69,000 when compared with the inflation rate of present day. 

Sudden Death of a Guest
Sept 7, 1936

It was written that a guest of the resort, Zedoc Gray, an 80-yr-old farmer from Richmond, suddenly dropped dead within the hotel. No details or cause of death were provided in the article reporting his demise, though one could assume a heart attack was the likely culprit. Zedoc Gray was buried in North Richmond Cemetery in Crawford County, PA.

Fire of 1943 Devastates Hotel Conneaut
April 28, 1943

In April of 1943, workmen began preparing the hotel for the season opening set for May 1. On April 27, a fire resulted from crossed wires and though quickly extinguished, the damage from smoke and water in the lobby and a few rooms amounted to $3,000 worth of damages. It was presumed the season opening would have to be delayed a week to clean up the water, fallen plaster, and other debris. Unfortunately, after firemen departed the scene, the fire rekindled itself and burned unnoticed for hours before being rediscovered at 4 a.m. on April 28 by a police chief making his rounds.  The embers had reignited and flames built up within, disguised between the partitions of the walls and tore through the hotel in such a clandestine manner. Firefighters from five communities rushed to the scene and set fourteen hoses upon the inferno, drawing water from hydrants and the lake. 

By the time the blaze was extinguished at 9:30 a.m., flames had destroyed 150 of the 300 rooms and the dining hall, amounting to $150,000 worth of damage which today would be worth about two and a quarter million dollars. Initially, hopes of saving the hotel were dismal and beautiful Hotel Conneaut was thought to be a total loss. However, the new south wing was spared. The second and third floors of the hotel’s original portion were ruined and the first floor suffered major water damage. Many rooms had been completely gutted and were a total loss. Half of the roof was compromised and because of war rationing, no lumber could be purchased to mend it, so she sat for years with her gaping wounds open for all to see. The exposure of these rooms over time caused irreversible weather damage and the original section of the hotel was eventually razed. A war was going on, so repairing the hotel could simply not take priority.

The new south wing of Hotel Conneaut in 1920 that survived the fire of 1943. The original north section at far right of photo was destroyed.
Postcard from my personal collection.

Ever since that dark day, the hotel has maintained the number of 150 rooms, never replacing the 150 that were lost and never having the need for them as a steady decline of business marked the beginning of the end. No doubt the rumors of ghosts have kept many away while drawing others in. Because the hotel was still closed for the season at the time of the fire, no one perished in the catastrophe. One news article in the Record-Argus did state that a lone laborer had been asleep in the hotel as fire traveled through the rooms, but was able to escape when the police chief sounded the alarm. Though evidence makes the truth clear, the legend of bride Elizabeth dying in that fire subsists, despite the efforts of historians like myself to squelch it. In any case, though the glory days of Hotel Conneaut are in the past, she bears her scars beautifully, standing solid and regal like an old grand dame cloaked in the furs and jewels of her youth.


Baby Lockwood Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 6 Jul 1899, Thu · Page 1

New Hotel at Exposition Park – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Apr 1902, Thu · Page 1

Henry [sic] Hogan Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 18 Feb 1903, Wed · Page 1

A.W. Henry and Bessie Raney Marriage Certificate – “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2014), Mahoning > Marriage records 1904 vol 18 > image 143 of 300; county courthouses, Ohio.

An Interrupted Bridal Tour – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Aug 1904, Wed · Page 1

Dr. Henry Arrest – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 10 Aug 1904, Wed · Page 1

10 Annul Marriage – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 15 Apr 1905, Sat · Page 4

Debate Rises Over Rundown McClure House – The Meadville Tribune Dec 5, 2005

Three Hotels Burned – The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, 5 Dec 1906

Sudden Death At Expo – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Jun 1907, Mon · Page 2

Dr. Van Horn Obituary – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 3 Jun 1907, Mon · Page 4

Death From A Fall  –  The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 5 Jun 1907, Wed · Page 1

Exposition Park Fire Swept – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 2 Dec 1908, Wed · Page 1

Saw Tub of Ale at Sheriff’s Jamboree – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 12 Jul 1928, Thu · Page 1

Two Burned To Death In Resort Lake Fire – The Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, West Virginia) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 55

Pittsburghers Die in Flames At Lake Park – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 1

Two Men Die In Fire Destroying Cottage – The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 3

Two Men Die As Fire Sweeps Home –  The Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania) · 2 May 1936, Sat · Page 1

Conneaut Lake Hotel Looted of $4,000 – The News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania) · 15 Jul 1936, Wed · Page 2

Zedoc Grey Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 12 Sep 1936, Thu · Page 6.jpg

Hotel Conneaut Partly Gutted By Blaze Today – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 28 Apr 1943, Wed · Page 1

Conneaut Lake Hotel Damage $150,000 – The Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania) · 29 Apr 1943, Thu · Page 25

Ghost Hunt at Hotel Conneaut in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The first time I visited Hotel Conneaut was in a dream, but I did not know it until months later. My good friend Robin and I have shared an interest in the paranormal since we were in elementary school when I eagerly listened to the stories of her haunted house. One day in September of 2018, she had an encounter with a psychic who read her palm and told her things about herself and her children that were quite accurate. 

That night, I dreamt that my husband took me to a psychic fair inside a large, open room with many windows. Though it was nighttime outside, I could see a long porch running around the perimeter of the outside of this room. Countless booths were set up inside this room and I chose a booth where a male psychic read my palm.  As he examined my open hand, he told me that I had a bad spirit attached to me that I had to get rid of or I would never be happy. I remember feeling cheated in the dream as if I had not got my money’s worth. Not only had he not offered any other insights about my life, but he gave me no advice on how to rid myself of this “bad spirit”. When I awoke from the dream, I felt perplexed and intrigued. I immediately contacted Robin and described the palm reader to her. She replied that I had described her palm-reader exactly and said, “he works the psychic fairs at Hotel Conneaut!” I could hardly believe it and pressed for more details, telling her I believed he was somewhere in his middle age. She said that was correct and showed me a photo of him. I nearly fell off my chair. “That’s the psychic from my dream!” I said excitedly. 

As an aside, the real palm-reader is much more thorough and less vague in his palm readings, providing specific details he picks up about one’s life. It’s just so interesting that I dreamed about someone I had not only never met, but had only heard about in passing and received no description of his appearance.

But the story of the dream doesn’t end there. That same month, with the hotel on my mind, I discovered an upcoming event at Hotel Conneaut led by the Pittsburgh based ghost hunting group Ghosts n’at Paranormal Adventures; a ghost hunt led by this team of professional ghost hunters using an array of the best equipment. I excitedly showed the event to Robin and she agreed to go with me. 

The rear of the hotel with the entrance to the Spirit Lounge.

The Hauntings in Brief

Because I knew next to nothing about the hotel other than it was haunted, I immediately began researching the ghosts of Hotel Conneaut. First and foremost is the bride Elizabeth who supposedly died in a fire on her wedding night. She can be seen in the Crystal Ballroom and other areas of the hotel leaving the scent of her perfume and fresh flowers. In the kitchen, there is said to be the ghost of a chef who murdered a butcher. A child named Angelina apparently roams the halls and the front porch riding the tricycle she perished on when she fell down the stairs. These are the most prominent spirits in the ghost lore of the hotel, and several other low key spirits have been spotted through the years including a long departed employee named John and a soldier. As I researched these stories, I came to understand that absolutely none of these legends could be verified as factual. The story of Elizabeth was false because the 1943 fire that she purportedly died in—that also destroyed half of the hotel—occurred during off season when no one was in the building. The only death I could find was from a commentator on a blog who stated that their mother had been a maid at the hotel when she died from a heart attack in the 80’s while cleaning a room. I immediately wondered if I had wasted my money, questioning if the place was haunted at all and if the hauntings had been overhyped simply because the hotel was so old.

Old photograph of Hotel Conneaut hanging on the hallway wall of the hotel

Paranormal State’s Visit to Hotel Conneaut

In my ponderings, I vaguely remembered watching the Paranormal State episode “Dead Legends” years back where Ryan Buell and his team investigated the hotel. I rewatched the episode and became thoroughly disappointed. Paranormal State could also find no evidence that anyone had ever died in the hotel and believed that the hauntings had been conjured by the public to such an extent that the energy of the living manifested as actual spirits. I was fairly upset at this point and mentioned my disappointment to Robin. Not long after, she told me that she had spoken to the palm-reader and he was adamant we would find activity there. He had become aware of many spirits living there during his time working at the psychic fairs held within the hotel. With my doubts assuaged, I again became excited about the upcoming ghost hunt.

Enlarged postcard image of Hotel Conneaut hanging on the hallway wall of the hotel

Day of the Ghost Hunt

On November 10, 2018, I picked up Robin and drove the 45-minute drive to Conneaut. The Pennsylvania border was only five minutes from our hometown and the instant we crossed the state line, the mostly flat farmland transformed into rolling hills and valleys. We enjoyed the curving route through the countryside, stopping once to obtain caffeine for a long night of ghost hunting. No Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts could be found in that area of Pennsylvania, so we settled for gas station coffee which did the job well enough. As it turned out, I would not need help staying awake.

Google Maps aerial view of the hotel

When we arrived in Conneaut, we entered through the amusement park and back through the empty paved lots where we finally saw the lake to our left and the hotel to our right. As we approached by way of the curving drive at the hotel’s entrance, we were stunned by the sight of the modestly large and friendly-looking white building before us. The storied hostel appeared well-maintained and so charming with its picturesque front porch that wrapped around to the left side of the building. I felt an immediate connection to the place like I could stay there forever; it could be described as the happiness one feels when arriving home. For so many living people through the decades, this hotel served as a home of sorts through the summer season; a welcome reprieve from the drudgery and monotony of day to day life. Is it any wonder that their spirits would wish to stay on long after their earthly bodies had checked out? 

With the parking lot full despite our early arrival, I parked on the street and we carried our bags inside, all the while trembling with anticipation. The lobby was quite full of living bodies, so it was difficult to take in the vestibule when we first pushed through the door. Ghosts n’at’s booth was set up in the entryway and we checked in with the energetic and beautiful ghost hunter Patty. She gave us our room key and we walked towards the stairwell at the right rear of the lobby and climbed up all the way to the third floor. We took in the pine green carpet and ivory walls and stumbled on the slanting, sloping floors which made the entire experience disorienting. The hotel is shaped almost like a horizontal H, so after reaching the top floor, we walked a long vertical hallway that met a horizontal hallway.  Our room was at the end of the right hallway. 

Our small bedroom on the third floor. The third floor bedrooms had not been renovated as much as the lower floors. Not all the rooms look like this either as some are quite larger with other furnishings.

I was surprised at the sight of our tiny room because it had a cheap motel room vibe from the 80’s while the bathroom appeared ancient. Two twin beds took up most of the room as a stand alone sink and leaky claw foot bathtub resided in the bathroom. We had an analog TV, a small dresser, and a chair in the room. The entire dwelling, especially the bathroom, looked in need of remodeling but I wouldn’t dare change its unique appearance. These rooms had a personality all their own. 

The bathroom with the clawfoot tub that leaked constantly and loudly.

We made our way down to the lowest level of the hotel by returning to the lobby and veering right down a long corridor. To the left was a lounging room with a fireplace and after that was the entrance to the Crystal Ballroom. To the right were two original phone booths set into the wall, followed by the restrooms, and another long hallway with guest rooms. Before us loomed a wide and steep set of stairs that led to the lower level. I could imagine people falling down those stairs to their death or serious injury, especially in the day women wore long, flowing dresses easy to trip over. Those stairs added to my unease. 

Lounge area at the left of the back hallway before the Crystal Ballroom
Me in the phone booth that I have no idea how to use
The dining room in the lowest level looking out toward the lake. Its entrance is at the right of the photo.

At the bottom of the stairs were doors that led outside, facing the parking lot behind the hotel. To the left to the doorway was the entrance to the dining room, an open modern-looking room with ivory walls and windows at the far side. It was full of round tables and white tablecloths and had an open area for dancing. No doubt, numerous weddings took place here over the years. It was here that some of the amateur ghost hunters enjoyed a buffet supper.

Entrance of the dining room

At 7 p.m. the doors to the Crystal Ballroom finally opened and the large assembly of amateur ghost hunters sat down on rows of white chairs. The room was very large with a high ceiling and almost completely surrounded by large windows that looked out onto the wrap around porch. Robin told me that this room was where the psychic fairs were held and that’s when it all clicked. This was the room I had dreamed about!

Robin and me before the event began

Ghosts n’at’s tables took up the front of the ballroom where they sold their merchandise and soon the founder Brett McGinnis introduced himself and the rest of the team. They had been holding ghost hunts at the hotel since 2016 and Brett gave us some information on the legends and hauntings of the hotel. I had been so worried that the team would perpetuate the myths, but Brett immediately stated that the story behind bride Elizabeth was completely made up as well as the story of the dismembered butcher. Brett did say that Elizabeth has been spotted in the ballroom as well as elsewhere in the hotel and the ghost of a little boy named Michael has also been seen. He said that one day a maid was cleaning the floor in the ballroom and as she focused her gaze downward, her eyes came upon a pair of child’s shoes. She followed the shoes upward to see a little boy standing there as clear as if it had been a human child, but he quickly disappeared. Brett also told us about room 321-323 which is reported to be the most haunted room in the hotel and is the residence of an angry old man ghost. He said during an EVP session in the room that the spirit must have took a liking to a woman in the room because Brett caught an EVP that clearly said, “I like her.”

Session 1: Employee Hall

With the introduction over, the team divided us into groups of 15 and sent me and Robin’s group with Patty. At first I thought we would be following her through the hotel the entire night but seeing as I had never been on a professional ghost hunt before and only had television to reference, my expectations weren’t accurate. Instead, we would relocate throughout the night to different haunted spots around the hotel and each time would have a different ghost hunter in charge. Each session lasted 45 minutes long and we would be investigating five locations. Patty took us all the way up the lobby staircase to the third floor where we turned left towards the front of the hotel and left again through a doorway into a dark and narrow long hall.

Patty explained that this corridor was the original employee hallway where the workers lodged during the busy open season (which was usually Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, sometimes staying open until October in the more successful years). Rows of closed doors dotted the hall and Patty explained that we could not go into the rooms and they were in the process of being renovated. Upon a small table in the middle of the corridor perched an open laptop and she explained that she had a ghost app running called Phasma Box. The app creates enough white noise that spirits are said to be able to form words. Our group lined up against each side of the hall with our back to the wall as Patty asked questions and waited for answers from the app. She said that on the ghost hunt from the previous night, she had been called many names from the app including the “B” word. 

Me sitting at the end of the employee hall. This hallway sits above the Spirit Lounge.

As we commenced our ghost hunt in the third floor employee hallway, activity began immediately. Not only was the Phasma Box outputting a stream of varied voices, most saying nonsensical words, but hunters that had been leaning against the wall on the far ends could hear knocks, grunts, and noises coming from the inside of the rooms farthest from the central point of our group. When Patty attempted to ask specific questions to the Phasma Box, voices distinctively and forcefully replied “Working!”as if they were too busy to be bothered.

Robin whispered to me that she felt uneasy near a door toward the end of the hall and when I stood in front of it, I was shocked by a burst of cold in the warm hallway. At the very end of the hall sat a wicker chair which was said to be one of the most haunted areas in the hotel and whoever sat in the chair would feel extreme unease. Patty directed us to take turns sitting in the chair and to take photos of the area. Robin and I each sat in the chair but neither of us felt anything odd and I thought that area of the hall felt more friendly and calm than anywhere else.

Session 2: Basement

The dining room in the basement.

Our second location had us go from the third floor all the way down to the lowest level to the banquet hall and kitchen. We met Tim, a tall and thin bearded ghost hunter, who would be leading the session in this basement area. He said that he had motion detectors setup all through the dining room and with the previous group, they had continuously gone off and several shadow people could be seen as well. He mentioned a prominent ghost in this area was a little boy named Michael and he gave us all an opportunity to ask questions to the child ghost. Tim brought forth an Ovilus and we stood around him in a half circle as he went up to each one of us.

Robin went first and asked, “Michael, how old are you?”

From the Ovilus in a child’s voice came the clear response, “Five!” Everyone gasped in shock.

I went next and asked, “Michael, are you happy?” 

In the same child’s voice erupted a quick answer. “Of course!” My hand flew to my chest and I had to take a step back, I was so stunned.

Tim was impressed. “Wow, you girls asked good questions. He must like you,” he said.

As he continued down the line, everyone else asked Michael questions like “How did you die?”, “Are there others here with you?”, “Why do you stay here?” Unfortunately, the Ovilus spewed out garbled nonsense that sounded like radio static or nothing at all.

The dining room during our ghost hunt. That’s Mike on the left. He had instructed us to start taking pictures because the motion detectors were going off and we may capture photos of shadow people.

The motion detectors were set up in the rear where the windows looked out onto the garden. As we moved away from that area, the alarms began to go off at different intervals. If we drew closer to them, they ceased to alarm, so it was an unnerving feeling as if a child was playing games with us. 

The windows looking out into the garden. The motion detectors were set up around the support poles.
Dance floor of the dining room. The yellow balloon was there for Michael to play with. An earlier group had witnessed it moving.

Tim led us into the kitchen where a ghostly chef has been seen. He laid several pieces of ghost hunting equipment down on the counter ranging from an EMF reader to a digital voice recorder to a thermal device. We watched the equipment begin to pick up “ghostly” signals and light up, but that was the extent of my experience in the kitchen. As we walked through the kitchen area which was composed of a few large rooms for food prep and a laundry area, Robin was certain she saw something peek out from behind a row of stacked chairs. Taking photos of this area produced nothing visible.

Laundry room off of the kitchen. Just a glimpse of all the hard work it takes to keep a hotel running smoothly!

Session 3: The Crystal Ballroom

Crystal Ballroom in the daytime

When the 45 minutes were up, we were directed up the tall flight of stairs and back into the Crystal Ballroom where we met our next pair of paranormal professionals, Josh and his mother. They also had a laptop setup on the table at the front of the room with the PhasmaBox app running. Josh’s mom explained that with the previous groups as well as the hunt from the night prior, that the spirits had seemed angry and were calling Josh and his mom all kinds of nasty words. This time, as our group sat in the rows of chairs we had sat in at the earlier assembly, the app remained in relative silence. If it said anything at all, it was senseless. We sat there the entire 45 minutes mostly disappointed because though we were in the domain of bride Elizabeth, she made no appearance. Some of the people in our group thought they could see shadow people moving along the back wall, far away from where we sat, but I had no experiences whatsoever. 

Session 4: Second Floor Hall

For our second to last session, we met with Patty’s husband who was also named Tim and were led up the stairwell in the back of the ballroom. This stairwell was for employees only, so had a simple, industrial feel. Years ago, a man had captured footage of a ghost child as he filmed himself going up this stairwell. This is said to be the stairwell where a young child fell when riding their tricycle. Some stories say that it was a little girl named Angelina and other stories say it was a little boy named Michael or Nick. In this instance, Tim stuck to the story that it was a little boy named Nick and we were in the stairwell only briefly before huddling in the second-floor hallway near the door to the stairs. He attempted an EVP session by asking the child a series of questions but playback of his recorder revealed only silence. 

He then directed us into Room 182 where a maid had been scratched and an angry spirit was said to haunt. We sat on the two beds while Tim sat in a chair near the dresser where he had a laptop setup with a ghost app running. He had a flashlight sitting on the dresser, the kind with a button on the tip on the handle for turning it on and off. The ghost app threw words at us every so often that were supposedly from spirits but it did not give us anything significant. Tim also attempted an EVP session and had each of us ask a question meant for the ghost. Upon playback, once again there was no response to our questions. 

As we sat there awkwardly, one of the girls from our group said, “The flashlight keeps turning on.”

Sure enough, the flashlight had turned on and Tim barely glanced at it, unimpressed.

“That happens,” he said.

He must have seen it all to shrug off a flashlight turning on on its own. Tim: the ghoul-hardened ghost hunter.

Session 5: Room 321-323

At last, we were led to our final location: the most haunted room in the hotel. A double room with two doors having placards of “321” and “323” is on the third floor was said to be occupied by a curmudgeonly old man ghost who liked the ladies. Other ghost hunters have given him the name Clint and said him to be a very aggressive spirit. Brett was our ghost hunter for that session and he sat on the floor while he explained the unusual activity in that room. Besides the EVP caught in the room which distinctly said, “I like her”, car keys had gone missing to be discovered in the bathroom sink. Also, one night when Tim and Patty stayed in that room, Tim had been drinking quite a bit and had to continuously get up to use the bathroom throughout the night. Every time he plodded to the bathroom, he felt and heard footsteps directly behind him as if someone was following his every movement.

Brett attempted an EVP session and allowed others to ask questions if they wanted to. Playback was mostly silence, but there were a few surprising responses on the recorder. The responses were either hard to decipher or seemed to repeat back the questions as if the ghost was mocking us. This concluded the ghost hunt and Robin and I decided that the first two spots were the only interesting locations and the last three had been disappointing.

After Hours

The professional ghost hunters joined the amateur ghost hunters in the Spirit Lounge for an after hunt mingle, however we were not alone as the bar was filled with dozens of locals. At that hour past 11:00, it was impossible to walk through the lounge or hear anything above the loud blend of boisterous voices. Robin and I stayed in the lobby for a spell and overheard a local woman telling one of the ghost hunters about her nearby historical home.

“My house used to be a brothel,” said the tall blonde. “We can hear footsteps walking up and down our stairs and smell perfume.”

We did not stick around very long and were eager to commence a ghost hunt of our own. For the next few hours, we wandered the halls, stairwells, and exterior of the hotel with cameras in hand. We were allowed free reign of all the public areas of the hotel, but much to our disappointment, the ballroom and the employee hallway had been closed off. We spent a considerable amount of time in the basement area, trying to speak to Michael but nothing developed from our efforts.

3rd Floor facing towards the front of the hotel
3rd Floor facing towards the front of the hotel

One of our more exciting experiences was a confrontation with the tall blonde who had become quite intoxicated by the early morning hours and had lost her phone. She was belligerent as she wandered into the dining room where we were exploring and we quickly made our escape. Soon her husband arrived to take her home, though in her drunken stupor she was fairly unwilling.  

The garden
3rd floor lounge area

After awhile, most of the locals dwindled away and the other ghost hunters retired. By 2 a.m. Robin and I wandered the halls alone, spending time sitting in the lounge areas at each end of the hallways. By 2:30 a.m., Robin was getting very tired and was ready to go to sleep. We were sitting in the 2ndfloor lounge area just outside the suites in the front of the hotel. Earlier in the night, we had noticed that the residents of room 132 had left their key in the door but it didn’t appear that anyone was in the room. The key had been hanging from the door all evening as we remarked on its presence every time we passed the area. 

Our view from the lounge area. The door with the key in the latch is behind the white hutch at the left.

As we sat chatting, we began hearing a light tapping noise that stopped and started a few times and sounded like it was picking up speed. At first, we thought nothing of it, but because it grew so loud and persistent, we finally got up to investigate. We immediately discovered that the tapping was coming from the other side of the door to suite 132 and the tag on the key was shaking.

We watched the door for about ten minutes until two very drunk women came up the nearby stairwell and saw us staring at the door to the room. They looked at us in offense and I asked if that was their room. When they affirmed that it was, I told them about the tapping noise. They confirmed that no one was in the room. One of the ladies was too drunk to care and pushed open the door without retrieving the key before disappearing inside the dark suite. The other lady stayed to talk to us. She explained that it was her third stay at the hotel and that she’s stayed in the same suite each time. She asked me if I had a chance to meet the owner and thinking she was talking about the current owner, I said I had not. 

She went on to say that every night she has stayed in that suite, around 3 a.m. she has been visited by the owner. 

“And the owner’s son. He always shows up expecting to get something,” she said, laughing maniacally. 

That’s when I realized she wasn’t talking about living people, but dead ones. She asked what floor our room was on and we told her the 3rd floor. 

She said, “That’s the most haunted floor of the hotel!” 

She bid goodnight and as she went to retire was so drunk she walked into her doorframe. She did remember to take the key at least. Robin and I were both amused and creeped out at the same time. 

Robin was more than ready to retire herself, but I was fully wired, however not brave enough to wander the halls alone. I decided I had better try to rest because I had to return to my two young children in the morning. We went to our room and sunk into our separate beds which were so pleasant and comfortable. However, sleep eluded me as I could not get that tap-tap-tapping sound out of my head and though the room was warm and the heat was running, I continuously felt bursts of cold air pass over my face. I remained awake till dawn.

In the morning, we had breakfast in the dining room and on our way back to the room, we saw the Ghosts n’at team in the lobby. Patty’s husband Tim that had led our 4thsession asked us how our night went and when I told him we had ghost hunted until 3 a.m., he was impressed with our endurance. I told him about the tapping on the door and it did seem to interest him, though mildly. It would take more than that to wow Tim, that much I could gage from the night before. 

We checked out and roamed along the beach near the hotel, nostalgia enveloping us as we imagined all those vacationers over the century relaxing and swimming. I could almost see the wealthy on holiday from their home in Pittsburgh promenading along the boardwalk and dressed in their absolute best as they made their way to Dreamland Ballroom. The ballroom was gone, having burned down in the great fire from 1909, but the energy from those magical days remained and we could feel it in our bones. I was sorrowful to leave Hotel Conneaut, having become so attached in less than a day and I knew I had to return whenever I could.

The west side of the hotel
Robin had a creepy vibe from this tree the night previous
A beautiful view from the promenade deck of Hotel Conneaut

On our drive home, we stopped at Gustavus Cemetery and paid our respects to the murdered young girl Maria Buell, who had been slain by her stepfather, Ira West Gardner. Stay tuned for a future post on the tragic account.

Robin and I did not get the opportunity to return to the hotel in April of 2019 for the psychic fair because it was the same weekend as Robin’s wedding, but I will be returning to the hotel on October 18 for another ghost hunt with Ghosts n’at. Please watch for a new post about the ghost hunt after that date.

This is the first of many posts to come about Hotel Conneaut. I have much to say about this hotel and I’m eager to share all the research I have uncovered, including documented deaths in and around the hostelry. Please subscribe to be notified whenever I post a new article!