When most people seek out overnight accommodations, they usually aren’t influenced by films liked “1408” and Ti West’s overlooked “The Innkeepers.” After all, most sensible travelers don’t want to be bothered by phantom footsteps, levitating table lamps and poltergeists pulling double-duty as chambermaids. Free WiFi and a decent continental breakfast usually dominate in the desired amenities department.
That being said, some travelers do go out of their way to find properties with a history of paranormal activity. (Personally, we’d probably skip over a place if it had a haunted morgue in the basement — no matter how good the Yelp reviews.) And lucky for these ghost-hunting lodgers who come brandishing AAA cards and thermal-imaging cameras, there are more than enough haunted hotels to consider.
America’s stock of supernaturally active hotels is dominated by historic properties that have hosted a whole lot of dearly departed guests who clearly never got the memo about the 11 a.m. checkout time. These are places with a sense of history, and often that history is tragic and troubling.
Below, we’ve rounded up six haunted historic hotels of note. All but one aren’t so keen to have “haunted” linked to their reputations, but they all turned something potentially damaging — restless spirits that are intent on staying — into a key marketing tool. All generally refer to their resident ghosts as being “playful” or “harmless,” which makes good sense given that “vicious, malevolent specters” doesn’t sound quite as inviting. Following our top picks, we’ve compiled several more purportedly haunted historic hotels for your “must avoid” or “gotta check out” reference.
Have you ever experienced unexplained phenomena while staying in an older hotel? Did you see apparitions in the bathroom mirror? Floating hairdryers? An unknown entity charging pay-per-view to your room? Tell us where it went down in the comments section.
Photo: Nomadic Lass/Flickr
Estes Park, Colo.
The undisputed grand dame of haunted lodgings, this rambling neo-Georgian property perched high in the Colorado Rockies is that hotel where a certain young horror novelist from Maine, staying in room 217, was inspired to write a terrifying tale of what happens when telepathy, alcohol-fueled cabin fever and murderous topiary animals collide at an isolated hotel in the Colorado Rockies. (Exterior shots of the fictional Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of “The Shining” were filmed at the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Ore., while the Stanley stood in for the cursed Overlook in the 1997 TV miniseries).
And the Stanley Hotel, opened to guests in 1909 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, milks those “Shining” associations for all they’re worth. For starters, the hotel plays Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” on a continuous loop on channel 42 on guest room televisions and hosts a “Shining”-themed masquerade ball each Halloween. For adventurous lodgers, the hotel offers a Ghost Adventure Package that includes a guaranteed room on the extra-eerie fourth floor, use of a specter-detecting EMF (electromagnetic field) meter and a “REDRUM” mug. (Hey, you have to market yourself somehow, right?)
That being said, while you won’t come in contact with the restless spirits of heavy-handed barkeeps or identical twins roaming the hallways of the 140-room Stanley, you may encounter the ghost of a former chief housekeeper, who’s in the habit of unpacking suitcases belonging to the living. Flora Stanley, the long-dead wife of the hotel’s founder, has also been known to tickle the ivories at the lobby piano. The hotel website warns that guests staying in all the rooms have reported “out of the ordinary experiences” and when booking a room, you should expect something “extra.” We suppose it’s a good thing then that the Stanley employs a resident clairvoyant to talk down hysterical guests who have been tucked in for the night by a spectral au pair.
Ahh, the Del. A National Historic Landmark currently celebrating its 125th year in operation, the grandeur and glamour associated with this sprawling wooden palace by the sea is as legendary as some of its past guests: L. Frank Baum. Charlie Chaplin. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bette Davis. John F. Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe. Thomas Edison. Kate Morgan.
Wait. Back up … Kate who? While the Hotel Del Coronado is famous for hosting a veritable laundry list of celebrities, dignitaries and pretty much every president since Benjamin Harrison, perhaps its most famous guest is one to have never officially checked out: Kate Morgan (née Farmer). A guest of the San Diego-area resort during its early years, Morgan, a beautiful yet troubled-looking woman in her mid-20s, checked into room 304 (now 3327) alone and under an assumed name on Thanksgiving in 1892. Three days later, she was found expired on the steps leading to the beach, the victim of self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head (foul play was also speculated but dismissed). Morgan was pregnant at the time and is believed to have checked in to the hotel with plans to rendezvous with her lover who, of course, was a big no show.
Although the reported paranormal activity associated with this tragic character is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff (flickering lights, levitating objects, cold spots, an actual apparition here and there), the legend of Kate Morgan has captivated – and unnerved – guests throughout the decades and inspired multiple works of nonfiction, including 2002’s “Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel Del Coronado,” which was written by the hotel’s staff historian, Christine Donovan, and published by the Hotel Del Coronado Heritage Department.
While Donovan notes that most Kate Morgan-related ghostly goings-on have been “harmless” and confined to her former guestroom – “She generally limits her activity to fleeting appearances and inexplicable antics. Guests in Kate’s room report everything from breezes that come from nowhere to having to deal with a television set that turns on and off by itself” – she has been seen wandering hallways, through the gardens and along the beach. However, it’s unclear if Morgan is the one knocking all the Marilyn Monroe-related merchandise off the shelves in the hotel’s lobby-level gift shop.
Eureka Springs, Ark.
The Crescent, a stately Victorian structure perched above the Ozarkian spa town of Eureka Springs, has lived many lives over the past 127 years. Initially built as a fashionable retreat for the upper crust, the hotel later became a college before reverting back to a hotel. In 1937, the building was transformed into a notorious “cancer hospital” operated by professional quack and conman Norman Baker who marketed the building his “the Castle in the Air.” In 1946, after several years of sitting vacant, the “Grand Ol’ Lady of the Ozarks” was once again reborn as a hotel.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places (actually, all of Eureka Springs is), the Crescent has been operated by the same preservation-minded owner since 1997, and after decades of turnover and abandonment and periods of disrepair, boasts quite the impressive roster of former guests who refuse to check out. And, thanks to Baker, there’s a morgue in the basement. The management of the Crescent doesn’t try to hide this fact but instead revels in it, referring to the property as the “Most Haunted Hotel in America” and holding nightly ghost tours that include a visit to the morgue.
So who is still stickin’ around? The lengthy list of Crescent ghosts include Michael, a stonemason who fell to his death while building the hotel; a dapper gentleman clad in coattails and a top hat believed to be Dr. John Freemont Ellis; a former patient of Norman Baker’s named Theodora; a nurse; a former college student; a gal in old-timey underpants; and a cat named Morris. And then there’s the morgue, where a rare full-bodied apparition – the “holy grail of ghost-hunting” – was captured via thermal imaging camera on an episode of “Ghost Hunters.” The Crescent’s director of marketing and communications, Bill Ott, describes the morgue as being “one of those historic infamies that made us famous in the world of the paranormal and those interested in that world.”
Top-notch spa. Check. Sunday champagne brunch. Check. Outdoor pool with swim-up cocktail bar. Check. EV and hybrid charging stations. Check. A fifth floor guestroom actively haunted by a tragic suicide victim known as the “Lovelorn Lady.” Check.
The grand old Hotel Galvez, referred to as the “Playground of the Southwest” and considered Texas’ only remaining historic beachfront hotel, was built in 1911, nearly a decade after a catastrophic hurricane flattened the Gulf Coast city of Galveston and killed thousands of its residents. That being said, the scenic island city is positively lousy with restless spirits and is widely considered to be one of the most haunted cities in America. Naturally, a good amount of these ghosts have taken up residence in the 226-room hotel that’s currently operated by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
The aforementioned “Lovelorn Lady” who hung herself in one of the hotel’s turrets after being erroneously told that her fiancé sunk on a ship at sea is by far the most famous of the Hotel Galvez ghosts, although the ladies room in the lobby is known to be “active” as well (mysteriously flushing toilets, sinks turn on and off by themselves, voices, shaking stalls, etc.) But, really, we can’t imagine a more upsetting place to encounter paranormal activity than the ladies room. And don’t even get us started on the door-slamming nuns that roam the fifth floor.
While many guests at the Hotel Galvez are fully aware of the lore surrounding the property, just as many aren’t and are none too pleased to discover this first-hand. One incensed TripAdvisor reviewer who gave the hotel a two-star review seemed to enjoy her stay — aside from the fact that “they didn’t tell us it was haunted.” Another TripAdvisor gave the hotel a glowing full five-star rating, even though his wife started screaming in the middle of the night after seeing “an old lady long hair, skeleton face starting at her holding on to the drapes.”
Photo: Sean Davis/Flickr
New Orleans, La.
You can’t swing a plastic beaded necklace in New Orleans without hitting a historic hotel that boasts a history of paranormal activity. The family-owned Hotel Monteleone, a longtime fixture in the heart of the French Quarter famed for its rotating piano bar and rich literary history, prides itself on being one of the more supernaturally active ones. In fact, hotel management refers to the Monteleone as being one of the “premier haunted hotels in North America.”
For guests who want to come in contact with the other side, the Monteleone recommends booking a room on the particularly “active” fourteenth floor (actually the thirteenth floor, go figure). During a 2003 investigation conducted by the International Society of Paranormal Research contact was made with “more than a dozen earthbound entities” on the fourteenth floor and elsewhere including a duo of dutiful doorman from beyond, a former maid nicknamed “Ms. Clean” and a middle-aged gentleman named “Red.”
Writes Phyllis Paulson, a financial planner and frequent fourteenth floor guest from California who just happens to have a knack at seeing dead people: “I was just relaxing in my bed one morning when I looked up to see a young boy about three years old walk by the foot of my bed. Since he had come from the sitting room, I immediately got up to see if the door was open and to check if a parent had followed him into the room.”
Long story short, the “friendly little fellow wearing a striped shirt” that wandered by the foot of Paulson’s bed was none other than Maurice Begere, a young boy whose parents were tragically killed, leaving Maurice orphaned. And as any ghostly orphan would do, Maurice Begere continues to roam the halls of the 14th floor in search of his parents. Perhaps management should kindly clue him into the fact that his parents checked out of the Monteleone in the late 19th century.
Photo: Linda Orlomoski/Flickr
Although the Big Easy has been getting all the black magic-centric attention as of late thanks to the latest season of the Jessica Lange scenery-chewing exercise otherwise known as “American Horror Story,” the historic seaport city of Salem, Mass., will forever hold top spot in the witchery department. Naturally, Salem also has itself an allegedly haunted hotel. And the PR team of said hotel isn’t too happy about it.
Unlike the other properties on this list, which proudly wear their haunted reputations on their sleeves, the management of the Hawthorne Hotel denies that anything otherworldly has occurred on the property, including in room 325, which was the subject of a 2007 episode of “Ghost Hunters” in which a team of paranormal researchers known as TAPS investigated reports of inappropriate touching by unseen forces and the crying of phantom children.
In fact, General Manager Juli Lederhaus was positively mortified when Travelocity ranked the Hawthorne as one of top 10 haunted hotels in America. She tells the Boston Globe: “I’m sure this is just an outgrowth of that kind of thing but TAPS didn’t find anything. Of course [guests] do look up haunted hotels on the Internet and those things pop up, the more people site those kinds of stories the more they get published out there. I feel like I’m constantly putting out fires all the time.” She adds: “The Internet made it even harder to struggle against bad stories. It’s sort of like the placebo affect. If someone wants to believe something, what can I do?
We won’t add to Lederhaus’ headache by claiming that something truly weird is afoot — despite the rampant rumors that something is going on. Drafty windows and overactive imaginations might be to blame for all this. But if you’re in Salem for the Halloween festivities and want to stay in a stunningly appointed luxury property with a little more, umm, character than the Days Inn in Danvers, this is your spot.
And here are 10 more historic hotels where you might receive turndown service from a specter:
The Queen Mary, Long Beach, Calif.
La Fonda, Santa Fe, N.M.
The Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago, Il.
The Marshall House, Savannah, Ga.
Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, Wis.
Copper Queen Hotel, Bisbee, Ariz.
Green Park Inn, Blowing Rock, N.C.
The Sagamore, Bolton Landing, N.Y.
The Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
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