Month: July 2019

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!