Discover Rider’s Inn – A Haunted Hotel in Ohio with Over 200 Years of History
April 5, 2022
When I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Cleveland, I immediately started looking for things to do. The first thing on my list? Find a haunted hotel in Ohio where I could spend the night. Surprisingly, there were several to choose from. But the one that struck a chord with me was Rider’s Inn in Painesville. Not only did it have lots of ghost stories coloring its history, it was also a stop on the Underground Railroad and home to a speakeasy during the Prohibition. So many of my favorite topics rolled into one location.
The History of Rider’s Inn
Right as the War of 1812 was starting, Rider’s Inn was opened in Painesville, Ohio on June 16th. See, Joseph Rider wanted to have a place for the soldiers to drink, but his wife was growing tired of constantly having overnight guests. His solution? Build an inn; a place for the soldiers to eat, drink, and rest.
Rider’s Inn During the Civil War
Of course, after the war, the inn remained operable, serving travelers on their way throughout the midwest. But later in the 19th century it served a greater purpose – as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The freedom seekers would come to the dry well located behind the inn. There, they would find a ladder leading down to a door to the inn’s basement. Fugitive slaves were able to rest and recharge before making their way across Lake Erie into Canada.
Over the years, historians estimate that 3,000 former slaves came through Rider’s Inn. My favorite part? The story of Mr. Johnson. He came through Painesville on his way to Canada. But once he got his Canadian citizenship, he came back to town and became Painesville’s first black firefighter.
The inn served as a meeting spot for the anti-slavery committee in town, and documents have been found detailing their abolitionist movement. A copy of an anti-slavery bugle along with photographs from the time are now on display in the main lobby.
Rider’s Inn During the Prohibition
As an establishment that was created to provide drinks to soldiers, it should come as no surprise that Rider’s Inn also contained a speakeasy during the Prohibition. A room that is located next to the current dining room was once a secret bar.
Unfortunately, the evidence of the bar is no longer visible to guests, as the space is being used by a religious group in the community who lost their church. Still, the history is pretty neat.
The Ghosts of Rider’s Inn
The most famous ghost at the inn is none other that Suzanne Rider, wife of Joseph. Mrs. Rider was the one who had the money in their marriage, but it was her husband who used it to create the inn. Rumors say that people called Suzanne the ugliest woman in town. Perhaps that is why she haunts the place? No matter the reason, Suzanne supposedly “fell” down the stairs, but some think she may have been pushed. Now, she is said to be seen in various places throughout the inn, looking over her former home.
There have also been reports of children seen and heard throughout the inn. And with such a rich involvement in the Underground Railroad, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the runaway slaves stuck around.
Rider’s Inn Today – It’s more than a haunted hotel
Judge Elaine Krane purchased Rider’s Inn during the mid-1980s. As one of the most cultured, intelligent, and respected people in town, she was determined to honor the history of the inn. Nearly forty years later, she is still proud to share stories of its history and the treasures she has discovered there.
As you’d expect, the building has acquired heaps of artifacts and various objects over two centuries. But there is one set of objects that leads to the inn’s biggest mystery. Did Abraham Lincoln stay at Rider’s Inn? While we will never know for sure, historians do know that President Lincoln traveled through Painesville. And in the attic of the inn, people found an extra-long 7-foot mattress, presidential materials, and a top hat. Sounds a little too coincidental to me…
One of the things that I found most fascinating about Elaine and the history of the hotel is that she hosts historic dinners for schoolchildren. The kids are invited to come and listen to Elaine share stories about the hotel’s history. Then they enjoy a traditional meal that would have been served at the inn when it first opened in the 1800s. The meal includes bear stew, applesauce, Johnnycakes, and a dessert called Apples Joseph. The recipes for each of the dishes are in fact the original ones. They were found in an old recipe box in the attic, and the kitchen staff worked diligently to replicate them to the best of their abilities. I highly recommend ordering the potato leek soup and prime rib.
Investigating a Haunted Hotel in Ohio
On the night of our visit, we were lucky enough to sit in on a paranormal investigation of Rider’s Inn. Led by three members of Crue of Darkness, a group of women who travel the northeast and investigate haunted locations, the group totaled around a dozen people. Most of the investigators had visited the inn before and were very familiar with Elaine and the history. Each person or group brought along their own equipment, including dowsing rods, EVP recorders, video cameras, and more. One of the women was also a self-proclaimed medium.
Throughout the night we sat together, sharing stories about the inn, and observing all of the equipment. There were moments where we heard strange words on the radio scanner, and had unexplained changes in temperature. The medium announced that there was at least one child in the dining room with us, and a music box started playing on its own.
Curious to check out the ghosts for yourself? Book a night in Room 11, Suzanne’s Room. It is considered to be the most haunted spot in the inn.