I love stories about ghost cats, and even keep a running list of places where you can find them in the U.S.. While going down various strange rabbit holes a few months ago I stumbled across the historic Buxton Inn, located in the quaint village of Granville, Ohio. The Buxton Inn is a very old (built in 1812) inn that has a documented history of being haunted at least back to the 1930s. Not only is the inn haunted by at least three human spirits, it is also home to a ghost cat; in fact, the cat is such an integral part of the hotel’s history that he’s been featured on their sign since at least the 1970s.
Built as a stagecoach tavern in 1812, this 210-year-old building has been serving food and giving guests a place to stay for its entire history. The original builder, Orrin Granger is said to be one of the ghosts present. However, it seems as if his ghost isn’t spotted as frequently as some of the others. One of the earliest public mentions of a ghost at the inn came from a man named Fred Sweet. Fred’s mother managed the inn through the late 1920s and possibly the early 1930s while Fred was attending college at nearby Denison University. Fred wrote for the college paper and in the May 10th, 1932 edition of the college paper he writes an ad for the Inn about encountering their ghost. While the ad was a funny joke it is interesting that his mother, Mary Stevens Sweet was known to have told friends and family that shortly after they took over managing the tavern “there became known a Presence.” It was also said that Fred actually did encounter the ghost of Orrin Granger in his knee britches.
In the 1970s when the Inn was purchased by Audrey and Orville Orr, Mrs. Orr would have a couple of encounters with the spirit of who she believes was Orrin Granger. While painting the inside of a pantry one afternoon, Audrey saw what appeared to be a man watching her out of the corner of her eye. As soon as she looked up, the man had vanished.
The inn had many owners throughout its history but the name that stuck the longest is from a man who purchased the inn in October 1865, named Major Horton Buxton. Major Buxton ran the inn until his death on June 15th, 1902.
Major Buxton’s ghost has been both seen and “smelled” throughout the Inn. Major was a fan of cigars and the scent of cigar smoke has been smelled at various points throughout the inn. His apparition is seen most frequently in the kitchen and main dining room. He is said to be an older man (he was 80 when he died) wearing an old fashioned dark suit.
One morning as the staff were preparing the dining room for a business one of the waitresses was setting up tables and folding napkins. She looked up to see a man in a dark suit sitting by the fireplace. Caught off guard she hurried into the kitchen to ask another waitress if she should serve the man even though technically they weren’t open yet. Her coworker was puzzled and went with the waitress to the dining room to see what she was talking about only to find the room was completely empty.
Ethel “Bonnie” Houston Bounell
From the research I’ve done it seems that the “main” ghost at the Inn is one of its former owners, Ethel “Bonnie” Bounell. She purchased the Inn following her husband’s death in January, 1933. In April 1934, Ethel bought the Inn where she would live and manage the property until her death on May 4th, 1960. Ethel brought her friend Nell Schoeller with her and Ethel ran the business of the Inn while Nell appears to have been in charge of the kitchen.
From everything available it’s very clear that Ethel absolutely loved the Inn. In a January 1946 article in the Columbus Dispatch it was said that she “has brought this place back to its pristine glory.” Ethel’s living quarters were comprised of what is now rooms 9 and 10.
Following Ethel’s death, Nell Schoeller inherited the inn and continued to run it until she could no longer manage the property. She sold the inn to the Orr’s in 1972 because she agreed with their plans of renovating the inn while keeping all the historical charm. It seems that it was during the renovations from 1972-1974 that the notion of The Lady In Blue became overly apparent.
At one point during the renovation process workmen refused to work in the building after dark. One worker later told a reporter:
“Funny things were going on. We saw a lady in blue walk across the balcony and disappear down the inside back stairs. We were scared; that’s why we didn’t work in the evenings anymore.”
It’s interesting that one of the most often reported occurrence is the sound of footsteps going up and down the inside back stairs all throughout the night.
Not only is Ethel’s ghost typically seen in a light blue dress, staff believe her spirit is often smelled with the scent of old-fashioned gardenia perfume. This scent happens more often than her spirit is seen, including during the winter months.
There have been at least two very interesting experiences attributed to Ethel in rooms 7 and 9.
In the mid-1980s a nurse manager was staying in Room 7 during a work retreat. A few of her colleagues were also staying at the inn. After returning to her room for the evening she set some of her things on an antique desk in the room, including her day planner. She climbed into bed and could not fall asleep, she tossed and turned for at least an hour. Finally, she fell asleep and was woken by the sound of someone flipping through the pages of her planner.
She thought she was dreaming when she saw the door open and a lady walk in. When she realized she wasn’t dreaming she thought it must be one of her coworkers in a white uniform, but quickly realized it was the middle of the night and her coworkers wouldn’t be wearing their work uniform during a work retreat.
The woman sat on the chair near her bed, looked at her, and said: “You can’t sleep, can you?” The nurse said “No, I can’t.” The next thing she knew it was morning. After she got ready and went downstairs she told her coworkers and the lady at the front desk what had happened. She thought it was just a really crazy dream. She told them that the lady who she spoke with had a round face, dark curly hair, and was wearing an old fashioned dress with puff sleeves. The staff member showed her a picture of Bonnie from an old newspaper clipping and the nurse screamed. That was the woman who had visited her in the middle of the night.
A similar experience happened in Room 9 to a couple who were relocating to the area and were staying at the inn for a week. One morning midway through their stay the woman came downstairs and asked the lady at the front desk if they had mistakenly given their key to someone last night. The lady said no, while they do have a master key it is only used for emergencies. The guest went on to explain: “In the middle of the night a woman came into our room, looked at us, turned around and walked out. When she left we tried the door, but it was still locked.” When the employee asked her to describe the woman she saw, she described what she looked like and added that she was wearing an old fashioned blue dress.
Who was Bonnie?
Ethel Dorothy Houston was born in Newark, Ohio on February 1st, 1888. In her youth she was an opera singer with the Manhattan Light Opera Company and traveled all over performing. She would later marry prominent attorney Carl M. Bounell.
On May 3rd, 1960 Ethel was returning to Granville from Columbus when she began to complain of feeling ill. She was admitted to Newark Hospital at 7:55 am on May 4th, and died later that evening at 8:20 pm. The cause of death was acute meningitis caused by a severe brain abscess in her left frontal lobe.
Ethel was buried next to her husband at Maple Grove Cemetery, just down the street from her beloved inn. When Nell Schoeller died in April, 1976 she was buried next to Ethel.
Major Buxton the Cat
And now we get to my favorite ghost at the inn. At some point Ethel became the owner of a cat she named Major Buxton. Major Buxton wasn’t just any old cat, he was a cat known throughout Granville and surrounding cities as an article was written about him in the Columbus Dispatch on January 10th, 1946.
The reporter described him as a “Great big fellow by the name of Major Buxton.” It was said that you could usually find Major Buxton in his favorite spot in the inn; on top of a pillow on an antique chair just inside the front door. Major Buxton the cat weighed 15lbs and was said to have had a personality that could win you over even if you weren’t a fan of cats. Apparently, he liked to nibble on people’s ears and was so popular that guests would often request that he join their table for dinner.
While it’s unknown when Major Buxton died, like Ethel, he’s never really left the Inn. His ghost has been seen numerous times throughout the Inn by guests and staff alike.
The ghostly cat is typically felt in Room 9. In 1989, two older ladies who had stayed in Room 9 asked the manager the following morning if he was aware that they have a ghost cat at the inn. She said she was lying in bed and something jumped up on the bed beside her. The manager thought maybe it was their gray cat who lived at the hotel but the women both said they searched the rooms and no cat was found.
The cat’s ghost is also frequently seen in on the first floor of the inn by staff. They said that they’ll often see the shape of a cat run by out of the corner of their eye, or they’ll feel what they describe as a feather duster brushing past their legs. There is currently no living cats staying at the inn.
They do however, have a cat sculpture at the bottom of the front stairs that startled Matt quite a bit when we stayed there because he wasn’t expecting it.
Matt and I stayed in Room 9 recently which is made up of two connected rooms and a bathroom. We debated on which room to actually sleep in, and decided to go with the room that faces the front of the building as that is where Nell Schoeller’s mother, Elizabeth Schoeller died on February 3rd, 1965. It’s also the room where the employee who checked us in said the ghost cat is most frequently seen and felt, as well as a man that has been reported sitting / standing in the corner of the room. They believe that man to be Major Buxton, but she told me they’re not sure as he is usually only seen in and around the dining room. When we checked out the following morning the lady at the front desk shared experiences she has had while working at the inn. She said on her first night working at the inn, the owner called her and let her know the lights in Room 9 were on. She knew that they had not been on earlier and she went up to turn them off. She said after turning off the lights she just had a feeling that she was not alone and could not get out of there quick enough.
Before our visit to the hotel I asked the manager, Jennifer Valenzuela, if the ghosts were still fairly active. She said that during the Covid shutdown while the inn and tavern were closed, the staff said the activity seemed to be more pronounced than usual. Maybe it was because there were no guests inside and the building was a lot quieter and emptier than normal. According to the manager, she would often hear the sounds of clanking mugs and chairs being slid across the floor coming from the tavern.
She told me that the tavern is one of the paranormal “hot spots” at the inn. And, it appears it has been that way for quite some time. After the Inn was renovated in the 1970s, a 6’5” bartender was working in the wine cellar putting wine away. He was described as a “bit of a clown and a complete skeptic.” He came running up the stairs and said that someone had clutched him from behind and knocked the wind out of him.
It is also common for staff to hear disembodied footsteps coming up and down the stairs, as well as having doors open and close right before their eyes. Unfortunately, Matt and I didn’t experience anything spooky, although I had a heck of a time falling asleep. I was sleeping closest to the door and kept thinking that someone was going to walk through it at any minute.
The Buxton Inn is definitely worth a visit, not just for the ghosts but for the cute village, great food, and the history within. If only walls could talk, in this case it seems they sometimes do.
- The Denisonian – 10 May 1932, Pg. 3
- Columbus Dispatch – 10 Jan 1946, Pg. 17
- Newark Advocate – 2 Mar 1965
- Newark Advocate – 13 July 1972