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  • August 23, 2007

    Dinner With A Ghost

    Ten years ago, when Hilary Osborne of Blanchester, Ohio, first came to work at Snow Hill Country Club near Wilmington, Ohio, she never intended to become a believer in ghosts or ghost stories.

    "Within six months, I started to notice strange things," says Osborne, Banquet Manager for Snow Hill's weddings and social events. "Then one night, two other employees and I saw a floating light that royally scared us. We couldn't explain it, and since then I've accepted that ghosts live at Snow Hill."

    Thousands of visitors echo her sentiments about the 1820 country hotel. But the proof's in the pudding as some wag once said. (Actually, Cervantes quoted it in Don Quixote, 1615 - a couple of hundred years before Snow Hill was built.)

    Nowadays, each weekend through the fall, Snow Hill offers dinner tours of the original homestead, a white-washed Federal brick home with elegant bedrooms, parlors and historic fireplaces. Room by room, guests learn about the simpler life of the 1800's.

    And then they hear the actual voices of the dead.

    Really. Maybe. Electronic voice phenomena (EVP's) were recorded during independent investigations by long-time ghost hunters Shelly Suitor and Kathy Powell from Dayton. Their astonishing and unexplainable results are played during the tours.

    "The EVP's are just one exciting aspect of the tour," explains Suitor. "Many times, guests arrive skeptical. They think we're going to make stuff up, but they hear the tapes and their hearts start racing. Suddenly, they're more open to the phenomena we see at Snow Hill."

    They also show video from their investigations, but, says Suitor, many times it's the guests who capture the most amazing shots since they often bring cameras, video recorders or audio recorders on the tours or during a stay in one of the hotel's six guest bedrooms.

    There are ghosts aplenty to see and hear at Ohio's Snow Hill, built in 1820.

    Snow Hill's long history as the center of social life for Ohio's Clinton, Fayette and Highland counties offers plenty of research opportunities for Club Historian Kathleen Madison of Wilmington. "The Snow Hill tour is a great place to gain perspective on Ohio history," she says. "A family named Harris built Snow Hill and it stayed in the family for nearly 150 years." Long enough to build quite a reputation once they put in a golf course. "We were quite the talk of the golfing world in the 1920's," Madison admits.

    The pre-tour buffet dinner features a seasonal menu, usually featuring Head Chef Andrew Fensler's secret recipe for stewed tomatoes. Only the ghosts and Fensler know what's in it and how it's prepared - the ghosts won't tell you and neither will he.

    The dinner ghost tour takes about two hours, but a late-night "extra" (as in extra-sensory?) tour takes guests into the basement and locker rooms for a true ghost hunt. Huddled in the dark, guests can ask questions of either the guides…or the dead. The hour or so hunt gives seekers a chance to collect their own evidence in a quieter, albeit spookier, environment.

    Then it's off to bed - if you can sleep.

    Made-to-order breakfasts (Snow Hill's a bed-and-breakfast style hotel) and even a round of golf await guests the next day. Along with, hopefully, new stories about their ghost encounters overnight.

    Reservations are required for "Dinner and A Ghost: A Spirited Occasion" dinner tours. Minimum age for kids is 10; for the potentially scarier add-on tour in the basement, the minimum age is 18. Tours begin October 5 and run through November 3. (

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