Chasing ghosts in Marietta, Ohio
It neared midnight when I arrived to Marietta, Ohio — still, silent, sleeping.
The only sound, the wheels of my carry-on, rhythmic against the lines of the sidewalk.
Bleary-eyed, I checked into The Lafayette Hotel, a historic riverboat-era hotel built nearly 100 years ago and rode the elevator to the third floor.
Maybe the hallways narrowed and leaned, or maybe 5.5 hours in a car tipped my balance. It was during the walk to my room when that eerie feeling washed over — feeling completely alone, but watched, attempting silence, but every creak echoing down the hall.
Dare I think it? Is The Lafayette Hotel… haunted?
Travel weary, I tried to ignore the antique furniture decorating the room. In a setting of patterned carpet, curtains, and bedspread, I bid my brain to correlate the dated interior furnishings with Victorian charm vs. hauntings of the past.
Probably enchanting during the day, but slightly spooky in the middle of the night.
I turned on the fan of the AC window unit, determined to drown out the creaks of the construction and sighs of the plumbing. These are the sounds of old buildings, not ghosts, I said like a lullaby until my exhaustion won.
When morning came, I woke suddenly. At the foot of my bed, the bathroom door stood WIDE open. The bathroom door, which I swear, I closed the night before. Seeing that open door made me feel like someone sat on the toilet watching me sleep all night. Eek.
Surely that AC fan blew the door open. Surely. That fan was powerful.
I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never had a “ghost encounter” or metaphysical experience. And when things do get a little unnerving, I can always find a logical explanation. Yet there is something about ghost stories and tales of hauntings that capture my imagination and send spooky shivers down my spine. And I kinda like it.
So if you’re someone who enjoys a good haunting, begin your hunt for ghosts in Marietta, Ohio.
How to find ghosts in Marietta, Ohio
Sleep at the Lafayette Hotel.
Unsurprisingly, the next morning I listened to tales of hauntings at The Lafayette Hotel. And how could there not be ghost stories at a century-old hotel? Originally built in 1892 as the Bellvue Hotel, the structure burned down in 1916. Two years later in 1918, it was rebuilt as the Lafayette Hotel, named after Marietta’s first tourist: Marquis de Lafayette. With it’s age and fiery beginnings, it’s no wonder The Lafayette Hotel is known has a hotbed for ghostly energy. There’s a woman who likes to lock people in the basement bathroom. A maid walks around on the third floor. And Mr. Hoag, owner, maintenance man, and prankster at the Lafayette during his life, continues to pull ghostly gags after his death, particularly in the Hoag addition of the building.
Ghost Trek with Hidden Marietta.
To properly launch your hunt for ghosts in Marietta, book a Ghost Trek tour with the experts: the guides at Hidden Marietta Tour Co. They will lead you to Marieta’s most haunted sites, sprinkled with troubling stories from the past. The most chilling – a 14 year old axe murderer who chopped off his father’s head at the Labelle Hotel. He was released under “justifiable honor” since the murder happened whilst his dad was “sneaking away” with a mistress. The residents of this building hear footsteps, despite the carpeted stairs. This is just one of the many stories along the walking tour.
The guides at Hidden Marietta share small-town pride and passion for the past. They lead several tours in addition to the ghost trek.
Kayak to Buckley Island.
Plopped in the middle of the Ohio river between Ohio and West Virginia sits Buckley Island. Originally the setting of a hospital, people who lived in Marietta in the 1800s knew that being sent to the isolated island for quarantine wasn’t a retreat for the sick, but a permanent relocation to prevent illness from spreading. In other words, you go to Buckley Island, you don’t come back. Until, naturally, it was redeveloped as an amusement park – family fun by day, gambling and debauchery by night. This lasted a decade, until the 1907 flood washed away the island’s illness and iniquity. Or so they say. Today, Buckley Island is a wildlife refuge only accessible by boat. Some visitors have reported feelings of sickness and fatigue… clearly the island’s troubled spirits are preying on their immune systems.
PRO TIP: Since Buckley Island is a part of the national wildlife refuge, it is illegal to take anything from the island (not that you’d want to… it’s probably haunted).
Mosey along Tiber Way.
There are two types of ghosts at Tiber Way: the ones that haunt you and the ones faded on the brick. The latter, known as “ghost ads” are the faded advertisements or signs once painted on the the facade of buildings. Today, these shadows of words can be spotted across Marietta. This particular ghost ad says “chronic diseases” and “sanatorium” — which leads to the first type of ghost. This building, which curved adjacent to the railroad tracks, once housed tuberculosis patients. No better cure for a TB patient that train smoke, eh? Converted into apartments, the tenants didn’t occupy for extended leases, often reporting “feelings of great sadness.” Tiber Way is now occupied by local shops and restaurants; patrons and workers have experienced strange sounds, unexplainable occurrences, and even apparitions.
Make friends with the undertaker.
Death comes to life at the Peoples Mortuary Museum in Marietta, a small building dedicated to the evolution of the instruments of mortuary science and the practices of funerals. You’ll walk among old embalming tools, caskets, trinkets of the deceased, and an impressive collection of Packard funeral cars. Here, I learned the macabre etymology of a few common phrases:
- Funeral parlor: before the advent of the funeral home, families would display the bodies of their loved one in the parlor of the home. The word ‘parlor’ stuck, which is why the term ‘funeral parlor’ is still used today.
- Living room: which is why you hear “living room” instead of “parlor” – when parlors were no longer used to display the dead, this room was essentially rebranded to “living room” to shake off the weebie-jeebies.
- Basket case: the next time you want to call your friend a basket case for losing her mind, know that the term originates from a literal basket that would encase a body.
Maybe you won’t find ghosts here, but you’ll leave with with a grim feeling in your gut (and greater appreciation for mortuary science).
To visit, call ahead and schedule an appointment with Mr. Peoples – one cannot simply walk into the Mortuary Museum alone.
Take it to the grave.
Though it’s not considered a haunted place in Marietta, the Mound Cemetery is worth visiting for it’s historical significance (and to find a bit of peace after a day of ghost hunting). It is the resting place of Pioneers, Revolutionary War soldiers, and Civil War heroes. But the focal point of the cemetery is a large, symmetrical mass of earth looking over the graves — a burial mound from Marietta’s indigenous natives, the Hopewell culture. There aren’t many mounds remaining in the U.S., but Marietta has two well-preserved and respected mounds. The existence and preservation of this mound is a true testament to Marietta’s reverence for the past and those who came before.
Which leads me to believe that there must be some sort of powerful spiritual energy focused in Marietta. The natives felt it. The original Marietta settlers felt it. And today, we feel it when visiting these historical sites.
If you really want to spook yourself silly, walk the Harmar Bridge after dark.
Any other haunted places where you can find ghosts in Marietta, Ohio?
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Three cheers to Marietta’s CVB for inviting me to explore their charming city! Even with the spooky tours and potential ghost encounters, all opinions are genuinely and authentically mine. xo.
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