Some guests don’t know when to leave, even when they’re dead.
Perhaps their earthly accommodations are preferable to the misty expanse of the hereafter. Or perhaps they are spoiled by room service. (Those mints on the pillow are tempting.)
Or maybe they just like the company of the living, and show their affection by hugging unsuspecting housekeepers or snuggling with pretty, unaccompanied females.
Throughout America, historic hotels and inns have come forward with anecdotal evidence and hearsay of hauntings and mysterious happenings linked to local legends — murders, suicides, those who perished from fires, romantics bemoaning a lost love. And far be it from hotel managers to refrain from renting a room, even if it is already occupied by a less-tangible guest.
In fact, many hotels proudly extoll their permanent residents in their marketing, by booking “ghost tours” and reserving “haunted” rooms for the daring tourist. If sharing your slumber with a spectral bedmate sounds inviting, there are many eager inns that will reserve for you a place to sleep — or perhaps to lie awake in dread.
Dr. Karen Silva, a professor of hotel management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., says she’s not surprised many hotels use uncanny or romantic tales of hauntings when marketing themselves.
“People are fascinated by anything that’s unusual, macabre or mysterious — especially when they’re traveling or visiting a new place,” Silva says. “The idea of staying in a haunted hotel is intriguing — it adds adventure to your trip. But it’s also temporary — you can check out of the hotel if you decide that the idea of meeting a ghost is just too spooky for you.”
Not Your Standard Amenity
Every year, the National Trust Historic Hotels of America (part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation) publishes a list of spectral sightings from its member hotels. This year’s list (and past editions) can be found on their Internet site (http://historichotels.nationaltrust.org). There are also published guides to inns with that “extra-special amenity,” such as Robin Mead’s Haunted Hotels (Rutledge Hill Press), and Southern Fried Spirits by Robert and Anne Wlodarski (Republic of Texas Press).
For those seeking a little supernatural frisson to their vacation stays, here are some of the more intriguing hotel tales:
Aspen, Colo.: A woman recently reported seeing a lost, shivering and soaking-wet boy in Room 310 of the Hotel Jerome. When a staff member arrived to help, the boy had vanished, leaving only wet footprints. At the time, no children were registered in the hotel. According to legend, a child had drowned in the hotel’s original swimming pool, which had been built over by an addition — a wing that includes Room 310. Contact: (970) 920-1000 or http://www.hoteljerome.com.
Denver, Colo.: A historian giving a tour of The Brown Palace Hotel regaled visitors with the story of one of the hotel’s former residents, a scion of Denver society during the 1940s named Louise Crawford Hill. She had suffered heartbreak over a lost love during her residence in Room 904. Shortly after the tour, the switchboard began receiving calls from Room 904, even though the room was being renovated and was stripped of furniture, carpeting, wallpaper, lights — and telephones! When the Hill saga was dropped from subsequent tours, the calls ceased. Contact: (970) 321-2599 or http://www.brownpalace.com/.
Coronado, Calif.: The Hotel del Coronado, located just outside San Diego, has a ghostly tale of unrequited love. In 1892, Kate Morgan checked into room 3502 to meet her estranged husband for the Thanksgiving holidays, but he never showed. Several days later, Kate’s body was found on the hotel steps leading to the ocean. Ever since, workers and guests have experienced odd noises, indoor breezes, and the apparition of a young lady clad in a black lace dress. Contact: The Hotel del Coronado, (619) 435-6611, http://www.hoteldel.com/.
Mendocino, Calif.: In a lively logging town filled with saloons and pool halls, visitors could be forgiven for thinking the Temperance House as stuffy by comparison when it opened in 1878. But the hotel didn’t always sport the primness its name suggested, serving for several years as a bordello. Today, the re-named Mendocino Hotel & Garden Suites reports that a Victorian woman haunts tables 6 and 8 in the restaurant, appearing in the mirror. She has also been seen in guestrooms, and is said to be playful with the housekeepers. Contact: (707) 937-0511 or http://www.mendocinohotel.com.
Santa Monica, Calif.: Opened in 1933, The Georgian Hotel was a place where patrons could enjoy illicit alcoholic spirits. Prohibition may be a thing of the past, but illicit spirits still abound. The hotel’s Speakeasy restaurant is allegedly haunted by invisible but rather noisy ghosts. In an otherwise empty room, for example, employees have heard loud sighs, disembodied voices calling “Good Morning,” and the sound of running footsteps — perhaps a ghostly raid by supernatural T-men? Shudder! Contact: (310) 395-9945 or http://www.georgianhotel.com.
Eureka Springs, Ark.: A Victorian Era resort hotel, The Crescent Hotel and Spa has a rich legacy of paranormal activity. “Michael,” said to be the spirit of a stone mason who died during construction in the 1880s, allegedly occupies room 218. Witnesses say they have seen hands coming out of the bathroom mirror, heard the cries of a falling man coming from the ceiling, and observed the door opening and slamming shut, unable to be opened again.
From 1937 to 1939, the same hotel served as an experimental cancer hospital. The apparition of a nurse pushing a gurney has been reported in the area that had been the morgue. And in Room 419, housekeepers have reported meeting “Theodora,” a spirit who introduces herself as a cancer patient.
Jim Moyer admits he has never personally encountered an entity during his three years as the hotel’s general manager, but insists reports of the sightings have come from very reliable sources.
“I’ve had longtime employees who are skeptical about the spirits come to me and say that they saw the ‘Victorian Gentleman’ in the lobby, or encountered ‘Theodora,’” he says. “More than one guest staying in that room has reported that he or she returned to find clothes strewn everywhere — even though no one had been in the room.”
The hotel conducts ghost tours daily. Contact: (800) 342-9766 or http://www.crescent-hotel.com.
New Orleans, La.: Le Pavillon, a New Orleans landmark hotel dating to 1907, invited a paranormal research team to study its alledged hauntings. They identified four ghosts residing there, including a frightened and confused teenage girl named Eva, Ava or Ada, who is believed to have lived during the 1840s. She was preparing to embark on a ship when she was struck and killed by a carriage. The team also reported the spirits of a young aristocratic couple from the 1920s, and a dark-suited man from the same era who plays pranks on the hotel staff. Contact: (504) 581-3111 or http://www.lepavillon.com.
Elsewhere in the Big Easy: The spirit of a soldier with a preference for loud country music is said to reside at the Hotel Maison de Ville and the Audubon Cottages. A 23-year employee of the hotel first encountered the ghost two decades ago, while she was letting a guest into Cottage No. 4. She and the guest walked into the room and saw a man dressed in a military uniform. She felt a chill, shook a bit and then the apparition disappeared. The employee also reports that every time she changes the cottage’s radio to a classical music station, the ghost changes it back to a country music station as soon as she leaves. Contact: (504) 561-5858 or http://www.maisondeville.com.
The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., a cruise operator based in New Orleans, was co-founded by a noted lady pilot and temperance supporter, Mary B. Greene. The sale of liquor was forbidden on her family’s ships, but after her death a bar was erected on board the Delta Queen. According to a river legend, the moment the first drink was sold, the Delta Queen was rammed by a barge which shattered the bar. The barge’s name? The Captain Mary B., named after the liquor hater. Contact: (800) 215-0805 or http://www.deltaqueen.com/.
Charleston, S.C.: Not for the squeamish or prudish, The Battery Carriage House Inn bed and breakfast features two unique apparitions. In Room 8, a figure dressed in a Confederate battle uniform is said to float through the air and march beside the bed. You might hear an ominous moan, which is surprising because he doesn’t have a head. It is said to be the ghost of a man who died in a munitions explosion.
If you are a young, attractive female, you might garner the attention of the Gentleman Ghost in Room 10, who not-so-gentlemanly slips into your bed. But a scream will send the short, balding ghost back into the ether. Contact: (800) 775-5575 or http://www.charleston-inns.com/.
Asheville, N.C.: Around 1920, a young woman dressed in pink fell to her death at the Palm Court Atrium of The Grove Park Inn Resort. Little more is known of the mysterious Pink Lady, but she has been seen and felt by employees and guests ever since. There have been reports of unexplained severe cold chills in Room 545, and an apparition seen in a dense pink smoke. Contact: (828) 252-2711 or http://www.groveparkinn.com.
Northern Exposures … of Goose Flesh
Wilmington, Vt.: The spirit of Clara Brown is said to haunt the historic White House Inn. One guest reported being visited by an elderly lady in the middle of the night, who sat in a chair by the bed and exclaimed, “You know, my dear, I really don’t mind you being here, but I do think that one Mrs. Brown in this house is quite enough.” The guest’s name happened to be … Mrs. Brown!
Both staff and guests have reported apparitions, unexplainable cold spots, and doors that open by themselves. The hotel will stage a Haunted Halloween Hunt Ghost, which includes “dowsing” for Mrs. Brown, a tour of the secret staircase, and a seance in the parlor. Contact: (800) 541-2135, or http://www.whitehouseinn.com.
Washington, D.C.: The Hay-Adams Hotel is allegedly haunted by the spirit of Clover Adams, the wife of the original owner. She committed suicide in 1885, and is said to inhabit the fourth floor of the hotel.
Staff have experienced the mysterious opening and closing of locked doors, clock radios turning on and off by themselves, the sounds of a crying woman in a room or stairwell, and a voice asking a housekeeper, “What do you want?” heard in an empty room. Some housekeepers say they have been called by name or received a hug while cleaning rooms.
These incidents happen most frequently during the first two weeks of December, around the anniversary of her death. Contact: (202) 638-6600 or http://www.hayadams.com.
Also in Washington: President Calvin Coolidge was renowned for his taciturn nature, but death hasn’t added to his reserve. Strange occurrences have been reported at The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel where President Coolidge’s inaugural ball was held in 1925. Coolidge himself did not attend because he was mourning the death of his 16-year-old son.
But every year since 1937, on January 20 (Inauguration Day), the lights in the Grand Ballroom dim and flicker at approximately 10 p.m., and one elevator refuses to move from the 8th floor to the lobby level until 10:15 p.m. — the approximate time Coolidge would have arrived at the party. Better late than never. Contact: (202) 347-3000 or http:// www.renaissancehotels.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.