Levee House Cafe

This is the story of one of Marietta's most brutal murders. It occurred in the 1870s, in Marietta's bustling days as a major port and shipping center. Lots of rough rivermen came through and many of them spent a night at one of a number of local establishments with less-than-pristine reputations. Among these was La Belle Hotel, at 127 Ohio Street. Today they serve coffee there and it's called the Levee House Cafe, but more than a century past the building was known as a low-end saloon and cathouse where you could rent a room upstairs for some no-strings-attached hanky panky. Fucking, you know.

A local man of some social standing known to the working girls as Charlie began to make La Belle Hotel a nightly habit, and he was none too careful about hiding it from his neighbors when he made his regular pilgrimmages down to Ohio Street. The eldest of his many sons became enraged at his father for shaming their family and hurting his mother, and as a result took it upon himself to kill the father. He followed him to La Belle one night with a freshly sharpened axe, waited while his father to select his favorite girl ("Liz"), and then for the lights in the rented room to dim. and made his way up the stairs. When he found two two in bed, he raised the axe and brought it down on Charlie's neck, slicing his head clean off. (They say it rolled off the pillow and thudded to the floorboards.) The girl screamed, and the boy was soon surrounded by witnesses.

The son was tried and--believe it or not--let off! Murder charges were foregone because the jury saw his actions as a "crime of passion," and more than a little justified; "Defense of the family honor." (Try that defense in a modern courtroom and see how far it gets you; actually, do they even allow the accused a defense in modern courtrooms?) At any rate, he walked.

His father seems not to have let a little decapitation keep him from walking as well. Charlie may not yet have departed the building he knew as La Belle Hotel, even 140-plus years later. He is supposed to roam the building, and is especially fond of the dining rooms, both the blue room and the conference room upstairs.

The attached buildings known today as the Levee House Cafe include the saloon (not built until 1911 and used during Prohibition as a manufacturing line for Studebakers); but the original structure is among Ohio's oldest, erected in 1826 as a dry goods store.

Along with dining and conference rooms, Charlie quite naturally seems drawn to the room where he lost his head. It only makes sense, really. Levee House employees tend to be like most Mariettans (Marietta-ites?) in that they are friendly and more than willing to show you around, even if you're just a time-wasting "ghost" fan. They say that Charlie's room contains the original "unseen presence"--a sense that someone is behind you at all times, along with cold drafts where none should occur and, interestingly, a tendency for candles lit in the room to go out without explanation--and to resist all efforts to keep them lit. Maybe it's because Charlie liked to conduct his business in the dark.

Overall, the Levee House is a must on any tour of the remarkably spirit-crowded city of Marietta. If you know anything else about it, or have had an experience of your own there, please do write me an e-mail and tell me about it.



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

Kachuba, John B. Ghosthunting Ohio. Cincinnati: Emmis Books, 2004. pp. 233-238.