The Lafayette Hotel

The grandest of Marietta's grand riverfront hotels is the Lafayette, a curved brick building adorned with balconies and awnings and landscaped with elaborate courtyards and fountains. It has been the pride of the city since it admitted its first guest on July 1, 1918. It was built atop the site of an even older hotel, the Bellvue, which had lasted only 26 years. Just a few feet away, a plaque near the bank marks the spot where the French hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, landed when he visited the young village in 1825. Today it's open for business and seemingly the very best place to stay in town: 77 Victorian-style rooms filled with antiques and favorable views of the canals and the Ohio River itself that it's hard to imagine growing bored with.

No one did more for the reputation of the Lafayette Hotel than S. Durward Hoag, after whom the third-floor addition is named. (Built atop an old mansion, the Hoag addition reputedly has a "weirder" vibe to it as if the corridors are too narrow, and it inspires nameless dread in many guests.) From 1921, when he and his father purchased it, until 1973, when he retired, he was a vigilant manager who worked tirelessly to improve the hotel (he added the distinctive cocktail lounge, and was responsible for expanding the number of guest rooms to 81). He even lived in the hotel while he managed it.

Hoag died in 1982. It's been said ever since that his ghost roams the halls of the Lafayette--particularly the Hoag Addition on the third floor. He is glimpsed out of the side of room service workers' eyes from time to time, and he has been known to whisper words of advice to hotel accountants who work late nights. He is frequently seen as an intangible wisp of light. Generally he seems to be a benevolent presence, though he does hide things and rearrange papers on occasion, perhaps out of boredom.

And people look for him as well. One mother brings her daughters to the hotel every year and the girls roam the halls calling, "Mr. Hoag? Where are you?"

"The Presence," as the entity which may or may not be the ghost of S. Durward Hoag, is most often encountered in the long hotel hallways at night, after the guests are in bed for the night, when the fog from the Ohio River starts rolling in. At this time, when no one is around to push the buttons, the elevator will start moving. The empty carriage is even known to visit the roof, where a pagoda was constructed for it just in case an extra floor were ever built there.

Today it's the housekeepers--those rare constants in an establishment built around transience--who seem to have the most contact with the ghosts of the Lafayette. One heard the lobby piano being played, accompanied by a woman singing, only to find the cover over the keys undisturbed and no one there at all. (Few things are eerier to imagine than hearing a soloist and piano in a vacant room.)

Another sighting occurred in room 232 (what is it about the second floor? In The Shining it was room 217--237 in the movie), when a housekeeper left her vacuum cleaner standing upright just inside the room while she went into the corridor for supplies from her cart. She happened to glance back--and saw a ghost. It was a woman with her left hand on the sweeper's handle, her right cocked on her hip as if in disapproval. Then she faded away right before the cleaning lady's eyes. She was recognizable as a recently-deceased housekeeping supervisor...perhaps keeping a critical eye on the work being done to keep her hotel in good shape.

Other inexplicable occurrences include a mysterious, disembodied voice repeatedly calling out, "Help me!" but with no one to be found; guests seeing bathroom doors swing open or shut entirely of their own accord; ice-cold drafts in warm, heated rooms; and, most fascinating of all, a couple who stayed in a guest room watched a glowing ball of light form and hover over their bed, slowly resolving itself into the shape of a human head with distinguishable features!

The Gun Room, the hotel's saloon and restaurant, has spooked its employees on more than one occasion. Once again, the culprit seems to be Mr. Hoag. He sat in a booth and smiled at a waitress for quite a while before disappearing into thin air; passed behind one girl as she wiped down the bar and said, "Thank you," though she could see no one there; and appears, crystal-clear, standing just behind the viewer in a large mirror mounted on the corridor wall opposite the entrance to the Gun Room. A serving cart was pushed by an unseen someone far across the dining area while one waitress prepped the room one morning.

In the basement are employee lockers and several smaller banquet facilities. One employee found himself face-to-face with a young man who simply stood and looked at him. When the employee found that the stranger wouldn't answer his questions, he left--only to find the figure following him. When he was nearing the stairs, the worker turned and saw his pursuer stop, wink at him, turn, and step through the wall as if it weren't even there. It turns out that an earlier hotel, the Bellevue, had stood there until it burned in 1915; so the expansions of the Lafayette encompass both the 1835 mansion and the Bellevue Hotel. It seems like a hotel so crowded with history (and ghosts) that discerning whom belongs to which is an impossible task.

One thing is for sure: If you find yourself in Marietta, rent a room at the Lafayette--and ask for the second or third floor if you can, since weird things seem to happen here more than anywhere else. And as always, please do e-mail me if you check out with a scary story to tell.



Cartmell, Connie. Ghosts of Marietta. Marietta: Marty's Print Shop, 1996.

Kachuba, John B. Ghosthunting Ohio. Cincinnati: Emmis Books, 2004. pp. 226-232.