Spirits linger in stately hotel
In the late 1800s, money from the natural gas and oil industries flooded into Parkersburg and the town quickly became a spirited and growing city.
The town was the western terminus of both the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike and the Northwestern Turnpike. In 1857 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built a branch line south to the town from Wheeling.
Parkersburg, as a river city and a border town to Ohio, served as a transportation and medical center for Union forces during the Civil War. It developed further as a transportation hub in the gas and oil boom following that war.
The growing Ohio River area welcomed businessmen and visitors from all over the country. A city of this stature and wealth needed a hotel that would draw the finest visitors from all over.
William Chancellor, a prominent Parkersburg businessman, designed and built a masterpiece of a building named the Blennerhassett Hotel. At that time, Chancellor was mayor of Parkersburg and was said to have built the hotel for the millionaires of the day. Its much-anticipated opening occurred in 1889 and it quickly became a grand showplace for what would later be known as the Gaslight Era. The hotel was stately, majestic and comfortable with modern amenities befitting the era.
The hotel is named after some of the area’s most famous residents, Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, who settled on a nearby island in the Ohio River in 1798 and built a mansion on their European-style estate.
Their property (and wealth) was the envy of all locals, but they didn’t rise to national fame until they allowed former Vice President Aaron Burr to use the island as the base of operations for his controversial military exhibition.
Labeled as a conspiracy by some, the Blennerhassetts fled down the Ohio River to escape when militia invaded the island and left their beautiful mansion and property.
The hotel opened in 1889 with 40 beautifully-decorated rooms built around a central staircase. The rich and famous stayed here often until the economy of Parkersburg began to spiral downwards after the boom years. The hotel was eventually restored and renovated nearly 100 years later with more rooms and was recognized as a registered historic landmark in Wood County.
Whispers of paranormal activity have been heard for many decades. Guests have reported run-ins with ghostly children playing tag in the hallways of the second floor and a man in a tuxedo who appears in the hotel’s mirrors. Mysterious noises have been reported as well, including knocking on doors and music coming from the empty ballroom late at night. Apparently, a maid in the afterlife has decided that the floor still needs mopping as she has been “seen” by visitors still wearing her period work uniform and mopping the main lobby area. She vanishes before their very eyes.
Guests and staff have reported seeing a smoke circle coming from the portrait of Mr. Chancellor that hangs by the lobby. Others have also reported smelling cigar smoke from the portrait itself. Mr. Chancellor was well known as an avid cigar smoker, and always had one in his hand whenever in public.
Why do ghosts and spirits linger? Why would these entities wander the halls and visit the rooms in this grand hotel? Opinions vary and many psychics and sensitives can speculate on various reasons why souls do not move on. Unfinished business, fear of the afterlife and being tied emotionally to a property all rank as possible reasons spirits linger on in this dimension.
Personally, I can’t think of a grander building to haunt!
Sherri Brake is a paranormal researcher, author and Haunted Heartland Tour owner. You may email her at SherriBrake@gmail.com or visit her website at www.HauntedHistory.net