A Haunting in Ohio: The “Haunted” Hotels of the Buckeye State

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, 1878. Via the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory.
The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, via the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory.
The Golden Lamb, built in 1815 in Lebanon, Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.
The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, via Ohio Memory.

In 1803, Jonas Seaman opened the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio. The Golden Lamb has a rich history that includes hosting ten U.S. presidents, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Henry Clay, Horace Mann, and many other notable people. Besides being famous for its impressive guests, the Golden Lamb is also known for the spirits that allegedly reside there.

Clement L. Vallandigham was a U.S. congressman from Ohio during the Civil War. Vallandigham was a leader of the Copperheads, or Peace Democrats, which was a group that opposed the war, and thought the war against the South was unconstitutional, and should not be sustained. These groups were seen as obstacles to the war effort, and it was declared by General Ambrose Burnside that any person committing “expressed or implied” treason would be subject to a military court and could be punished by banishment or even death.

Vallandigham was arrested and found guilty of having expressed sympathy for the enemy. Abraham Lincoln decided banishment was a more fitting punishment than imprisonment or death, and so Vallandigham went into exile in Canada. He eventually returned to Ohio in 1864, and began practicing law.

Engraved portrait of Clement Laird Vallandigham, ca. 1860. Via Ohio Memory.
Engraved portrait of Clement Laird Vallandigham, ca. 1860. Via Ohio Memory.

In 1871, Vallandigham was in Lebanon representing a man who was accused of shooting another man to death–his argument was that the dead man had shot himself unintentionally. While discussing the case with an associate at the Golden Lamb, Vallandigham attempted to demonstrate to his colleague how the man could have killed himself. Vallandigham had two guns sitting on a table, one loaded, one unloaded. He mistakenly picked up the loaded gun and accidentally shot himself in the gut; he died the next morning at the Golden Lamb. Employees of the inn claim to see the ghost of Vallandigham from time to time peering out of the inn windows.

There have been other reported ghost sightings at the Golden Lamb as well. Some believe the ghost of a little girl named Eliza haunts the inn. Eliza was the daughter of Secretary of State Henry Clay who, while staying at the Golden Lamb with her family, became ill. The doctors thought Eliza would make a full recovery, and Clay felt he could leave Eliza and her mother at the inn while he traveled to Washington to tend to obligations he had there. While Clay was away, Eliza died at the inn. It is thought she still plays in the hallways.

The Golden Lamb is not the only allegedly haunted hotel in Ohio. In Waterville, Ohio, the Columbian House was built in 1828 as a small trading post with a tavern and overnight hostel. Over the years the building switched hands many times and has been converted into a variety of spaces. Reports of various degrees of paranormal activity have surrounded the house. In the early 1900s residents wanted the building destroyed because of alleged evil that was thought to lurk within. The Columbian House still stands today, along with the spooky stories of the spirits who reside inside.

The Columbian House in Waterville, via Ohio Memory.
The Columbian House in Waterville, via Ohio Memory.

If your tastes run more toward haunted hotels of the literary kind, you may enjoy reading The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins.  First published in 1879, it is not only a ghost story but also a murder mystery, complete with missing persons and severed heads.  It’s gruesome, and just right for Halloween reading!  Our edition of this novella is the first one published in the United States, making it an exciting piece to share.  The print, however, is very small and difficult to read online.  For that reason, we hope that after viewing The Haunted Hotel in Ohio Memory, you’ll visit Project Gutenberg, where you can read the story in a variety of formats and entirely free of charge.

We hope you have a hauntingly good time exploring the sights, sounds and stories offered by Ohio Memory!


Thank you to Alexa Elgabri for this week’s post! Alexa is a graduate student in the Kent State School of Library and Information Science who is completing her practicum with the State Library of Ohio.

Leave a Reply