Hotel Conneaut

Ghost N’at paranormal investigator Brett McGinnis sits on the bed in what is said to be Hotel Conneaut’s most haunted room next to Robert Boothe and Boothe’s 12 year-old daughter, Ella, from Fredericktown, during an EVP session with the ghosts in the room during a ghost hunting tour Saturday evening. On the dresser, a flashlight lights up, signifying a response from a ghost as it communicates with the people in the room.

CONNEAUT LAKE — Do spirits really reside within the Hotel Conneaut at Conneaut Lake Park? Janet Kellner thinks so.

“I do, but it’s nothing scary,” Kellner, of Kittanning, said Sunday of her experiences during a Saturday night investigation of paranormal activity at the hotel.

She was one of about 80 guests at the hotel who went on a guided paranormal adventure tour put on by Ghosts N’at, a Pittsburgh-area paranormal investigation team. Guests were divided into five groups of around 15 each and toured five different suspected haunted parts of the hotel between 8 p.m. and midnight with the help of a paranormal investigator.

“We got about 10 to 12 hits of some evidence,” said Brett McGinnis, who operates Ghosts N’at with T.J. Porfeli. Kellner’s reported encounter was the strongest evidence encountered by the participants, McGinnis said.

“It’s going to require further investigation,” he said when asked if the hotel truly is haunted. “This was our first time at the hotel.”

Kellner said she was with a group on the third floor of the hotel — reputed to the building’s most spirit-friendly area — when she went into a dark hallway by herself and sat down. She started to ask questions softly aloud when she got several notes on her Ovilus, an electronic ghost hunting tool that looks a bit like a cellphone.

“He wrote his name ‘Nick’ on the screen,” Kellner said when she began asking quietly if there were any spirits in the area.

The Ovilus purportedly reads changes in environmental readings like electromagnet frequencies and temperature, converting them into a response from a preset database of more 2,000 words, according to the company that makes it. The idea behind it is that an intelligent entity will be able to alter the environment in such a way that forces the Ovilus to “speak” an appropriate response.

A rather startling three-word response appeared on the screen when Kellner asked what Nick missed the most.

“ ‘Hugs,’ ‘eat’ and ‘words,’ it said,” Kellner said. “I don’t know by ‘words’ if he meant speaking or things like books.”

The spirit of “Nick” apparently took a liking to Kellner, following her a bit on the third floor.

Later, when Kellner was with others within Room 323/321 — reportedly the most haunted room of the more-than-100-year-old hotel — there was a sense of a spirit there as well, she said. When it was determined again to be “Nick,” others questioned whether he was an adult and got no response and then asked if he was a little boy, but go no response, Kellner said.

“When I asked if he was a big boy, it was ‘Yes’,” she said.

Kellner had her own ghost hunting tool, but Ghosts N’at had devices for the teams to use to try to measure paranormal activity.

There were items as simple as flashlights to K II meters to measures electromagnetic energy and video and voice recorders used in the hotel’s areas of suspected paranormal activity.

Asking “yes” or “no”-type questions, the hunters and those on the tour asked any spirits to focus their energy on the flashlight and cause it to light if the answer to a question was “yes” while the K II meter would measure possible changes in electromagnetic energy in the area.

“My area — Room 323 — did have some EVP (electronic voice phenomena) activity. There was a wispy ‘I am merry’ response on the EVP recorder after we played it back after asking if it (the spirit) was happy.”

Video and voice recorders were used to record electronic voice phenomena or EVPs with the voice recorder of choice a Panasonic RR-DR60 recorder known for its sensitivity and wide range in the audio spectrum.

“We did have some interesting things happen. We did have some responses on the flashlight and the K II meter was flashing,” Susan Barto, of Kittanning, said Sunday following her overnight ghost-hunting adventure.

A Tribune reporter and photographer were on hand to experience part of tour including the infamous Room 323/321 witnessing some flashlight answers to questions posed to spirits by investigators and those on the tour.

While the flashlight didn’t turn on when asked if a male spirit was present, it did light up when asked if the spirit was female.

The question of “Are you Elizabeth?” asked by McGinnis drew no answer.

Elizabeth is the most famous spirit guest of the hotel. She’s reported to have been a bride who died in a fire at the hotel in the 1940s. She and her husband were staying in Room 323/321 when a lightning strike caused the hotel to catch fire.

Legend has it her husband thought Elizabeth already had escaped so he fled the building to find her, but Elizabeth still was inside the hotel desperately searching for him. She became trapped by the flames and perished.

Robert Boothe and his daughter, Ella, 12, came from the Fredericktown area of Washington County for one simple reason.

“I like scary things,” Ella said before the tour had begun. Asked what she thought after seeing the flashing lights in Room 323/321, “It was spooky!,” she said wide-eyed and grinning.

However, for McGinnis and his fellow investigators there is always more than a fair amount of skepticism with any investigation.

“Not every bump in the night is a ghost,” McGinnis said. “We’re trying to create a full picture of what’s going on at the hotel. It won’t happen from just one night.”

Ghosts N’at is planning additional hunts at the hotel in August and September, McGinnis said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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