The history of The Buxton Inn: Is it really haunted?

The Buxton Inn: Main House (2019). Photo courtesy of buxtoninn.com

Want to see Alli Pinta’s experience? Watch this vlog of her staying in room 9.

ALLI PINTA, Special to The Denisonian – “There are several places in Granville that have stories,” and The Buxton Inn is one of them, according to many that have stayed there, including John Englehardt. Englehardt, 58, is a native of Granville, Ohio and former employee of the supposedly haunted Buxton Inn. He says he fully believes that there are ghosts that roam the halls of the 207-year-old hotel. It was 1978 when he first started work at the inn as a junior in high school, and in just a few years, he said that he and many of his coworkers had multiple encounters with the ghosts that reside there. While none of the encounters seemed malicious, each story ties into the other, giving The Buxton Inn an overall eerie feeling and unique charm. In order to understand the types of entities that supposedly still reside there and the occurrences that Englehardt and many other people have reported, we must take a brief look at the history behind this historic landmark.

A Historical Landmark

According to The Buxton Inn’s website, in early November of 1805, families migrating from Granville, Massachusetts and Granby, Connecticut, surveyed a site in Ohio and decided to settle there. They named the town after one of the group’s former settlements: Granville. Granville’s beginnings included log cabins for housing and a few businesses, and was finally declared a village in 1832, just one year after the founding of Denison University, a college located near the Granville settlement. In 1812, a pioneer named Orrin Granger built “The Tavern,” which had a ballroom, a dining room, and a stagecoach court, and also operated as Granville’s first post-office and a stagecoach stop between Newark, Ohio, and Columbus, Ohio. Stagecoach drivers would stop to cook meals and sleep on beds of straw in the basement of the tavern, turning it into a hotel of sorts. Granger, also friend of U.S. President William Henry Harrison, did not care for the space for long, as he died at the early age of 32 in 1821. The inn was passed from owner to owner while the space expanded, and eventually Major Horton Buxton acquired the former tavern in 1865, renaming it “The Buxton Inn” (buxtoninn.com).

Years later, after Major Buxton and his wife had passed away, The Buxton Inn was acquired by Ethel “Bonnie” Bounell in 1934. Bonnie Bounell had been a retired opera singer when she took ownership, and decided to reside in one of the rooms in the inn. She was reported to wear a lot of the color blue, and had a beloved cat, whom she named Major Buxton after the previous owner. In 1960, she died of natural causes in room 9 of the inn, and the space was given to Nell Schoeller, who helped Bounell run the inn previously. However, the inn became disheveled, and rumors of its excavation circulated.

From right: Buxton’s son, grandson, and Major Horton Buxton (late 1800s). Photo courtesy of findagrave.com

In 1972, Orville and Audrey Orr purchased The Buxton Inn from Schoeller and restored it, as well as added the houses that were adjacent to it. The Orrs owned the property for 42 years and decided to sell to a partnership group owned by preservationist Robert Schilling. The group has had ownership of The Buxton Inn ever since (History Goes Bump in the Night Podcast, Episode 54).

To this day, the inn is filled with secret doors and staircases that hid runaway slaves during the era of the Underground Railroad and served illegal drinks to consumers during Prohibition. Each room is unique and charming, and many celebrities have graced the halls of The Buxton Inn, including President Abraham Lincoln, Uncle Tom’s Cabin author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and actress Jennifer Garner. It has become an emblem of the Village of Granville, and has stood proudly in the same location since its founding. The Buxton Inn is a depiction of Granville’s past, and builds upon a sense of community and rich history (buxtoninn.com).

So, is it haunted?

Bounell and Major Buxton the cat. About 1940. Photo courtesy of findagrave.com

Numerous reports of the spirits that circulate the halls and rooms of The Buxton Inn have been voiced by both staff members and guests. Stephanie Peters, 45, of Pataskala, OH, is no stranger to the eeriness of the hotel, and she started working at the inn just six months ago. She says, “As soon as I started here, I always felt like someone was watching me: through the window [by the check-in desk], from the blue room, the 1812 lounge… so always that uneasy feeling like someone is staring at me.” Although most do not have an encounter with the ghosts during their visits, guests frequently report getting eerie feelings while staying at the inn. Allyson Rohrer, 20, of Cuyahoga Falls and 3rd year Human Resources and Spanish Linguistics student at The Ohio State University, also got an eerie feeling when she stayed at the inn in 2017. “I almost felt like we were in an episode of Ghost Hunters; you would hear the occasional sounds at night or light footsteps outside your room,” she says. Her experience was small in comparison to some of the other guests, as she stayed in one of the adjacent houses acquired by the inn when the Orrs owned it. Englehardt notes that when working the closing shift one night in 1978, after he had locked up the inn alone, he could hear footsteps above him when he mopped the basement floor during closing. He says that he checked the locks immediately after he heard the noise, sure that someone had come in, but they were still locked. The next day, when asking Mr. Orr, the owner at the time, if he had returned when he was alone. Mr. Orr replied that he had not returned, leading Englehardt to believe that it was a spirit that had produced the sound. That wasn’t the only odd experience that happened that year. He remembers one story very vividly, when the head chef at the time approached him in a panic following their afternoon break on a particularly snowy day. The head chef had been permitted to sleep in the vacant Room 9 in between his morning and evening shifts. “I saw her, laddie!” he told Englehardt, saying that The Lady in Blue had pushed him out of the bed and onto the floor during his nap.

Englehardt also recalls Audrey Orr telling him of another sighting of The Lady in Blue. In the early 1990s, a few women stayed at The Buxton Inn the night before a nursing conference nearby. The next morning, the nurse staying in Room 9 reported that a woman wearing a blue gown came into her room in the middle of the night. She says she had a long conversation with the mysterious woman in blue, who eventually left. The nurse was previously unaware of the inn’s history of ghost sightings, and once she was made aware that no one else was given a key to the room, was completely spooked. 

More recently, Englehardt, who now resides in Wisconsin, visited The Buxton Inn with his family a couple of years ago. He requested to see Room 9, as it had been years since he had been employed there. Once in the room, Englehardt took a few pictures of the room on his phone, including one in the oval mirror. He says, “Before I left the room, I looked to make sure the picture was there. It looked like there was a flash on the mirror… I really didn’t think too much about it, but I know the picture was there.” He says that he and his family then left and went back to his mother’s house. Englehardt was shocked by what happened next. “I pulled out the phone and everything, and there wasn’t a single picture on there.”

In addition to strange occurrences like the ones that Englehardt mentions and sightings of The Lady in Blue, the ghosts of Major Horton Buxton, Major Buxton the cat, and Orrin Granger have also been spotted at the inn. Although frightening to some, the spirits are said to be harmless and benign. In addition, guests and employees have also reported doors opening and closing on their own, guests hearing their names called out in empty hallways, and orbs showing up in photos taken at the inn (History Goes Bump in the Night Podcast, Episode 54).

My Night at The Buxton Inn

The Buxton Inn, Room 9, Bedroom 1. Photo courtesy of Alli Pinta

I was still unconvinced, however, that there was any real presence that haunted The Buxton Inn. I had never had an experience with a spirit and my knowledge of unseen entities was limited to the occasional episode of Ghost Hunters with my parents when I was 12 and a few bad horror films that my friends had dragged me to see in the theater. To say that I was a skeptic would be an understatement. So, I decided to experience The Buxton Inn for myself. I booked myself a stay in Room 9, supposedly the most haunted room at the inn and the very room in which Bonnie Bounell had died. Little information was given on her passing, and while doing research, I couldn’t find a single source that explained her cause of death. I only stumbled upon a single article that mentioned “natural causes” as her means of departure from the world of the living in the wine cellar. Pretty spooky, but I can’t say it phased me enough to not want to book the room.

The staff at The Buxton Inn was friendly and welcoming to me, even when I told them I wanted to do some investigating of my own on the spirits that resided there. They allowed me to stay in the portion of the main house that closes at 11 p.m. to look around and take videos and pictures. After settling in, I quickly phoned John Englehardt to get a real sense of the things that he and others claimed they had seen, felt, and heard while staying there. I made my way down to the tavern, where I listened to the stories of strange occurrences. Although I was sitting in the windowless basement alone, I felt calm… with the exception of the boar and deer heads on the wall (those were pretty creepy). While there was an eerie feeling lingered in the air, nothing out of the ordinary happened. 

Following my conversation with John, I retreated back to my bedroom (Room 9), or as I should say, The Lady in Blue’s bedroom. The room contained two parts: the first was a bedroom with vintage wallpaper with a door connecting it to the second bedroom, which had plain walls. The second bedroom is the one I chose to stay in myself, as it was supposedly the exact spot in which Bonnie Bounell had died. As a skeptic, I did not expect to feel anything. I had gone “ghost hunting” before at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, but I didn’t see, feel, or hear anything, so I remained a skeptic. However, something strange did happen. Before my friend and college roommate, Catherine Kosior, 21, of Sandusky, Ohio, arrived, I stood in the second bedroom alone. After about two minutes, the light from above began to flicker. I assumed the flicker was due to a broken bulb, but after a second time, I realized that both rooms had the mysterious flickering. Neither chandelier seemed to have a broken bulb, and the flickering was simultaneous. I also felt the occasional chill down my spine, quite unlike anything I had experienced before. I brushed off the spooky experience, thinking I had only imagined it. 

Later that night, at around 10 p.m., Catherine joined me in Room 9. She was completely freaked out. She refused to sleep in the first bedroom by herself, and insisted that we sleep in the second bedroom together. “There is no way I’m sleeping in there by myself. If I can’t sleep in here with you, I’m leaving. I’m not kidding,” Catherine announced when I told her that I’d be taking the second bedroom for myself. The rest of the night was filled with paper writing and a late night run to Taco Bell. We didn’t fall asleep until roughly 2 a.m. and nothing strange had occurred since Catherine had joined me. 

We were not awakened by strange noises, nor were we visited by the spirit of The Lady in Blue. However, when Catherine and I woke up, we both recalled having very strange dreams about dying that night. Neither of us had talked about anything of that nature, yet both of us had dreams about ourselves dying in The Buxton Inn. Maybe it was a thought that we were subconsciously thinking before falling asleep, but I, along with Catherine very rarely dream at all, so the fact that we both had dreams about the same thing was, to put in plainly, weird. Although I didn’t have the paranormal experience that I hoped I would have, I definitely felt the presence of something in the inn that I had never felt before. The chills down my spine, the flickering of the lights and the unexplainable dreams all lead me to one conclusion: The Buxton Inn has a few guests that have never left. 

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