Small business spotlight: Ghost stories with the Worthington Inn

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Every business has a unique selling point that sets it apart from competitors. Learn how the Worthington Inn in Ohio turned its haunted past into a modern-day selling point.
A white ghost stands in front of a black background.

The Worthington Inn, a 19th-century Victorian mansion in Worthington, Ohio, today operates as a top-notch restaurant and banquet facility. But with its history and dramatic interior, it's no surprise the inn attracts more than just hungry guests. Some locals say the building's former owners still haunt the place.

We talked to AnnaBell Kinsel, the event sales coordinator at the Worthington Inn, to see if the rumors are true and to learn how the inn incorporates its haunted past into its modern marketing. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us a little about the Worthington Inn. It has a pretty rich history, right?

James Kilbourne, the founder of Worthington, built the Worthington Inn in 1831 for his daughter. The building became an inn around the 1860s. People would stop at the inn to rest on their way to Columbus, which was another two-hour ride before there were automobiles and freeways.

A fire destroyed the second floor of the building in the late 1880s and the owners used this opportunity to rebuild the second floor and to add a third-floor ballroom. They decorated the room in the opulent Victorian fashion of the time, complete with a 500-pound crystal chandelier.

The inn has records of many “tally-ho” parties at the turn of the century where guests traveled from all over Ohio to stay at the inn and attend these all-night galas. The Worthington Inn changed hands and names numerous times throughout its history. The current owners purchased the inn in the 1980s and restored it to its Victorian grandeur. The inn remained a functioning hotel until 2006, when its rooms were converted into condominiums.

What is the inn like today? How does it preserve that history in its modern form?

The building, of course, has to be functional for the 21st century while still preserving its past. The dining rooms of the Worthington Inn, which were once bedrooms and parlors, all retain hints of their original purpose, complete with wooden beams, old doors, and working fireplaces.

Given its history, it's little wonder that the Worthington Inn has a reputation for being haunted. What ghosts are rumored to wander the inn? Are they friendly spirits?

Many speculate that an old owner would be the mostly likely culprit of any haunting. The Worthington Inn holds a special place and memories in so many people’s lives, it’s no wonder someone may want to linger much longer after they already paid their dinner bill!

What is the spookiest ghost story you've heard about the inn?

I’ve heard employees talk about seeing shadows or hearing whispers and laughs in their ear when they’re alone in the building. One server was cleaning up the ballroom and claims to have heard the piano playing.

Everyone has a story or experience they like to tell customers, but as some storytelling goes, I believe quite a few of the stories have been embellished over time.

What do you think makes a place feel haunted? And in your personal opinion, is the inn haunted, or do you remain skeptical?

I think a lot of it has to do with the age of the building. We know thousands of people have passed through this building throughout its 185-year existence and people lived, and possibly died, in the home. You can feel the energy of the building.

Additionally, the building is old and it's not without its creaks and groans. A door that swings open by itself or a glass that falls off a shelf may be the work of a ghost – or just an old, uneven foundation.

I, personally, am unsure if the building is haunted. While I do occasionally feel uneasy when I’m alone in the building, I can’t tell if it's actually something supernatural or my mind is playing tricks on itself because I’m closing up an old building at midnight.

Has the Worthington Inn's haunted history been a boon to business? How so?

The ghost stories add to the charm and unique character of the business. Once we tell guests the history of the building, inevitably, someone always asks if it's haunted. Every Halloween season, we get calls and inquiries about whether we have ghosts. Recently, we’ve capitalized on people’s enthusiasm for the spooky holiday by hosting Halloween dinners in collaboration with the Worthington Historical Society.

Any exciting Halloween events coming up for the Worthington Inn?

We’ll host our fourth annual Candle-Lit Halloween Nights on October 25, 26, and 27, where guests can dine by candlelight and listen to spooky stories and legends about the Worthington Inn and old Worthington. It’s a phantasmical evening that gets you in the mood for all things Halloween.

Any advice for small business owners on how to appease ghosts that share their space?

If we are indeed a haunted business, we have very respectful ghosts because we’ve never had an issue. I feel that as long as we continue to maintain the integrity of their beloved Worthington Inn, we’ll all get along just fine!

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