Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spooky Stays in Port Clinton...

I was talking with one of Ohio's many ghost hunters earlier this week, and he mentioned to me some paranormal activity he had experienced firsthand near Port Clinton, Ohio. He had been an employee at Sleep Inn & Suites, just off State Road about four miles east of Port Clinton, between 2005 and 2007 where some unusual phenomena was reported: the sound of doors opening and/or closing, strange banging sounds in vacant rooms, footsteps, shadows, the elevator moving on its own accord, and other "phantom sounds." The majority of activity seemed centered around the third floor. It's not an old building (being built in 1999), but age isn't always a factor in allegedly haunted locations.

Because of all the activity and some of his own experiences with it (including hearing a child near the pool), he believed the hotel may have been "built over a cemetary [sic] or some type of weird place because that place is a portal for spirits..." I'm not sure about portals or vortices (not "vortexes") or any of those "gateways to another world" people often insist places with many supposed ghosts must have, but most places—even in the most remote areas—have an interesting story to tell. Sleep Inn is near a freeway and smack dab in the middle of unassuming rural Ohio. At first glace, it would be the last place you might expect to find anything of historical significance. I can safely say it wasn't built on top of a cemetery, but the land has some connection with the earliest days of Cedar Point Amusement Park and the rather sad story of Benjamin Dwelle.

Although the history of Cedar Point (so named for the cedar trees once covering the area) goes back much further, Cedar Point Resort started its first season in 1870. It consisted of a bathhouse, beer garden, and dance platform with a few refreshment stands, seesaws, and swings scattered around for the enjoyment of visitors. It was the handywork of German immigrant Louis Zistel who transported locals to Cedar Point on two boats he has built during the Civil War to transport Confederate prisoners to the prison at nearby Johnson's Island. The property was leased in 1882 to Captain William Shackleford and Benjamin F. Dwelle who added picnic tables, new boat docks, a dance hall, more bathhouses, and wooden boardwalks along the beach. The first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, didn't open until 1892.

Throughout the 1880s, the park continued to expand and improve, making it a popular tourist attraction. The original lease ended in 1887; Shackleford was too sick to keep up with the business, so Dwelle joined forces with the other land owners (Louis Adolph, Adam Stoll, Jacob Kuebeler, and Charles Baetz) on the peninsula to form Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company. In 1897, the park was acquired by the newly-formed Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company of Indiana headed by George Arthur Boeckling who helped turned the park into the successful venture we know today.

You might think this would secure all of these men financially for the rest of their lives, but that wasn't the case. Although Benjamin Dwelle was one of the founders of the resort at Cedar Point, he has largely been forgotten. Perhaps it was his financial trouble which had a hand in that. Part of the reason for the 1897 change of ownership was that Dwelle defaulted on his portion of the loan payment. In May of that year, Dwelle was taken to Erie Circuit Court by several of his creditors. The ruling ruined him; Dwelle lost his land in both Ottawa and Sandusky Counties, much of his personal property, and all financial interest in the company at Cedar Point. He died just a few years later in 1903. His body was laid to rest at the family cemetery on part of the land lost just six years before.

If you look to the southeast across State Road from the windows of the upper floor at Sleep Inn & Suites, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a pond. On its northern shore are the gravestones of Dwelle Cemetery. The farm to the east was once Dwelle's farm; in fact, the land on which the hotel stands (along with the land on the opposite side of SE Catawba Road) was also Dwelle's property until it was taken by the Second National Bank of Sandusky shortly before his death.

If Sleep Inn & Suites is, in fact, haunted by someone from the past, who is responsible? Could it be Benjamin Dwelle and his family reclaiming their lost land? Or perhaps there are other secrets from this part of Ohio still undiscovered? This place isn't far from where the War of 1812 began with the Battle of Lake Erie. Apparently, a construction worker did fall to his death while the hotel was being built, which could account for some of the noises. Be it from the distant history or recent past of the Port Clinton region, we can only hope that someone finds the key to unlocking the strange incidents at this Lake Erie hotel.

1874 Map of Ottawa County (click to enlarge)
(Dwelle's land is in red with the cemetery in blue. The red "X" marks the present site of Sleep Inn & Suites.)

1 comment:

JW said...

Thanks again Ken! :)