5 of North America's Most Haunted Hotels
Most people love a good ghost story: a haunted house, a chance encounter with a spectral traveler on a lonely country road, a restless spirit unable to leave until a wrong has been righted, and many other such spooky tales, but nothing seems to capture the imagination quite like a haunted hotel. Horror writer Stephen King knows this well. His best selling novel, The Shining, which was also made into a successful movie, was based on a haunting at the fictional Overlook Hotel; inspired by the real life Stanley Hotel, in Colorado. He also had a hit with the movie 1408, based on his short story by the same name, about a haunted hotel room in the fictional Dolphin Hotel.
So just what is it about a haunted hotel that makes it so interesting and alluring? so much so that many people will book a stay at one of these hotels for no other reason than the hope of catching a glimpse of a ghost, or having a supernatural experience. Perhaps it's the credibility inherent with continued corroboration. Unlike a haunted house where the story can often be verified by only one or two witnesses (even the famous story of the Amityville Horror was only witnessed by a couple of members of the Lutz family), a hotel haunting is generally experienced by many different people, from many different walks of life, over an extended period of time. Such is the case with the following ghostly tales from five of North America's most haunted hotels.
The Stanley Hotel - Colorado
The Stanley Hotel is a 140 Room Luxury hotel located in Colorado's beautiful Estes park. The hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley, inventor of the famous steam driven automobile, the Stanley Steamer, and his wife Flora, and opened in 1909. Once a holiday retreat for wealthy city dwellers looking for a wilderness escape, while still enjoying the amenities of a first class metropolitan hotel, it fell into a state of neglect and disrepair in the 1970's. It may have suffered the same fate as many a fine old building that has seen better days, and been torn down, if not for an overnight stay by author Stephen King, that served as the inspiration for his best selling novel, The Shining.
Today the hotel has been fully restored, with all the modern amenities, while still retaining the old world charm of its glory days. Though, it would seem, that its charm may not be the only thing that it has retained from the past.
The hotel's two most famous apparitions are believed to be the ghosts of none other than the Stanleys themselves. Many people, hotel employees and guests alike, have reported seeing Mr. Stanley and his wife moving throughout the hotel, most often in the lobby or billiard room. They have also been known, on occasion, to take a spectral hand to the piano keys and play a little something for anyone within earshot.
There are also a couple of rooms that are purported to have their own resident spirits. Room 407 is believed to be occupied by the ghost of the former Earl of Dunraven, Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn. The Earl loved the area of Colorado where the Stanley Hotel now stands, and once had a hotel there himself, which burned down in 1909. By this time he had already sold his interests in the area to Stanley, and moved to Ireland, where he died in 1926, at the age of 85. It is believed that the Earl had stayed at the hotel, in room 407, from time to time, and upon his death his spirit returned to the area of Colorado he loved so well, and took up residence in the place that was familiar to him. The aroma of his pipe tobacco can often be detected in the room, and guests have experienced items being moved from place to place, and lights turning off and on of their own accord.
Room 217 is often visited by the ghost of a former housekeeper who had passed away years ago. Guests often wake up to find the room tidied up and blankets neatly folded by the side of the bed.
There have also been countless reports of people hearing the laughter of unseen children, whispered voices in empty rooms, and mysterious footsteps. Others have experienced having their clothes grabbed by invisible hands. Doors have also been seen to open and close by themselves.
Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast - Massachusetts
"Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one". This creepy little children's skipping rhyme comes from the case of a Fall River, Massachusetts, women named Lizzie Borden who, in 1892, was arrested and charge with the axe murders of her father, Andrew Jackson Borden and step mother, Abby Durfee Gray. It was alleged that, on the morning of August 4, 1892, while her father was out for a walk, Lizzie went upstairs to the guest bedroom, where her stepmother was making the bed, and attacker her with a hatchet. The first blow struck the women on the side of her head, knocking her down. She was then finished of by seventeen subsequent strikes on the back of her head. Lizzie's father returned about an hour later and, being unaware of anything having happened in the house, went to the sitting room and lay down on a couch to take a nap. It was then that Lizzie supposedly attacked and killed him, with the same hatchet she had used on her stepmother.
Though strong evidence existed linking Lizzie to the double homicide she was never convicted. On June 20, 1893, after a trial that took only fifteen days, she was acquitted by the jury. There were other possible suspects but no one else was ever charged. Lizzie remained the prime suspect. The case is still a matter of much speculation to this day.
Today the Borden family home, located at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, is operated as a bed and breakfast, and believed by many to be haunted by the ghosts of Abby and Andrew Borden. Though the owner says that she has never actually seen a "full on" ghost there she does admit to having had some unusual experiences, including seeing a dark figure floating up the stairs, just before all the bulbs in a hallway chandelier burned out simultaneously.
Many guests have reported hearing strange noises, such as floors creaking when nobody is there, seeing lights turning on and off on their own, and doors opening and closing by themselves. Vast numbers of people say they have experienced an eerie, uncomfortable feeling in and around the sitting room and guest bedroom, and some have even claimed to have seen the bloodied ghosts of the Borden's themselves.
For true crime enthusiasts, or ghost hunting thrill seekers the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast is the place to stay. If one is feeling truly brave they can book the very guest room where Abby Borden's corpse was found, or take a nap on the couch in the sitting room where Andrew Borden met his gruesome end.
Banff Springs Hotel - Alberta
Opened on June 1, 1888, The Banff Springs Hotel, located in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, is an elegant, Scottish Baronial style building, originally constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway to provide luxury accommodations to its passengers that wished to stay for a bit, and enjoy the splendor of the Canadian Rockies.
In 1926 this original, wooden, structure was destroyed by fire. Construction of the new hotel began in 1928, and continued for the next 28 years, with additions and improvements being continually added, until it became the hotel it is today: a beautiful, modern day castle nestled in Canada's majestic Rocky Mountains. It is a National Historic Site of Canada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most haunted hotels in North America.
Perhaps the strangest story of the Banff Springs Hotel, and certainly the one that has caused the most speculation, is that of the missing room. Why has room 873 been walled over? and the hotel's owners pretend the room does not exist?
As the story goes, some years ago a family of three, a husband and wife and their young daughter became the victims of a triple homicide in room 873. Another version of the story has the husband killing his wife and daughter, then committing suicide. Either way, the legend has three people dying violently in that room.
Following the incident, and the subsequent investigation, the hotel owners took steps to cover it up. The room was cleaned, carpet and furnishings were replaced, and 873 was once again rented out. It soon became apparent, however, that the previous guests had not left. People staying in room 873 would be awakened in the middle of the night by terrifying screams. Upon waking, and turning on the lights they would discover bloody hand prints on the walls and a child's bloody fingerprints on the bathroom mirror. Each time the staff would clean up the mess, and the room would be let out again, and each time the screaming would occur, and the bloody hand prints would be back.
After several occurrences of this the owners decided that it would be in everyone's best interest to close off the room. The door was walled over, and that was that. Well, not quite. From time to time hotel staff and guests have reported seeing the ghostly family in the hallway outside where the room used to be, and passing through the wall where the door once was.
Though there appears to be little or no evidence to corroborate the story of the murders (perhaps because they never happened, or maybe the hotel's owners did a great job of covering them up) the fact remains that room 873 has been walled over for a reason.
Then there's the ghost bride that haunts the Cascade Ballroom. According to the legend, sometime in the late 1920's a young bride was making her way down the stairs to where her new husband was waiting for her at the bottom to escort her to the Cascade Ballroom for their first dance as husband and wife. On her way down the stairs a draft caught her wedding dress, blowing the hem into the flame of a candle. The dress instantly burst into flame. In her panic the bride tripped on the stairs, tumbling to her death.
Not long after people began to see a ghostly form of a young lady in a wedding dress, dancing alone in the ballroom, sometimes with her flaming dress bellowing out around her as she twirls across the floor. She has also been seen gliding down the stairs, and once in a while in the bridal suite where she and her new husband were to have spent their wedding night.
There have also been reports of a ghostly bartender who continues to perform his duty of gently pointing out to bar patrons when they have had enough. In addition there's the headless bagpiper who roams the grounds with his bagpipes, which he somehow manages to play even though lacking the means to blow air into them.
And then there is the case of Samuel McCauely, the Scottish Bellman, who would often joke that he would return and haunt the hotel after his dearth. It would appear that God, the universe, or something, had taken Sam's jest seriously, for when, after 40 years of service to the hotel Sam passed away, reports of his ghost being seen around the hotel, still wearing his bellhop uniform, began almost immediately. Sam can still be seen to this day, wandering the corridors. He has been known to help guests to their rooms, or with their luggage, disappearing when they would attempt to tip him or engage him in conversation.
The Marshall House - Georgia
The Marshall House is just one of the many haunted locations in, what many consider to be, the most haunted city in America, Savannah, Georgia. Besides being named the most haunted hotel in Georgia it has also been given the dubious distinction of being named the 8th most haunted hotel in the world.
Built in 1851 by Savannah business woman Mary Marshall, The Marshall House has quite a bit of history, including serving as a hospital during the American Civil War, and the Yellow Fever epidemics of 1854 and 1876. Aside from these brief periods of special service The Marshall House operated as a hotel until 1957, when the decision was made to close the rooms, which were located on the top three floors, and maintain only the ground floor for the various shopkeepers whose businesses were located on this level of the premises. Then, in 1999, The Marshall House was extensively renovated, and restored to its former, pre-Civil War glory, and once again opened as a hotel.
It wasn't long after the reopening that stories of eerie noises, strange occurrences, and ghostly apparitions began to circulate. Perhaps the most frightening are the ghosts of the civil war soldiers that are frequently seen wandering the hotel's hallways. One particularly disturbing specter is that of a young union soldier who appears in the lobby holding his severed arm in his good hand, and imploring guests to help him locate a surgeon. Other guests have reported seeing doctors treating injured soldiers in the area that had once been the operating room. There have also been reports of sightings of Mary Marshall herself, still wondering the halls of her beautiful hotel.
Numerous other ghostly apparitions have been seen throughout the premises over the years, including many reports of small children running and playing in the hallways, a ghostly woman in white floating about, and a gentleman that sits reading a book in a window.
Author Joel Chandler Harris, best known for his Uncle Remus stories, was a frequent guest at the hotel, and though his ghost has never been seen many people have reported the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter clicking away in what had once been his room.
Guests regularly hear the sounds of children's laughter, baby's cries, or whispered voices. Many have also experienced faucets and lights turning on and off by themselves, electronic devices starting up of their own accord and then stopping again, and the rattling of doorknobs, as if someone were attempting to enter their room.
The Battery Carriage Inn - South Carolina
The Battery Carriage House, in South Carolina, is a charming little, family owned, hotel in the historic district of Charleston. The original house on the property at 20 South Battery Road was built in 1843 by a wealthy factor by the name of Samuel Stevens. Stevens sold the house in 1859 to another wealthy business man, John Blacklock. Unfortunately for Blacklock the Civil War broke out shortly after and he was forced to abandon the property, which was severely damaged during the siege of Charleston, in 1863.
In 1870 Blacklock sold the property to a Southern Born, Union Colonel by the name of Lathers. Born in Georgetown, South Carolina Lathers had later moved to New York, where he married into a wealthy banking family. After the war he wanted to help his home state, which was suffering great economic hardship. He purchased the South Battery Road property and had it extensively renovated, in the New York style. There he hosted U.S. senators, and wealthy New York financiers. Even the governor of New York Came down. Lather's plan was to establish business ties and create opportunities for the people of South Carolina. Unfortunately, the people of Charleston were not ready to reconcile with the north and the plan failed.
In 1874 Lathers sold the property to South Carolina money man, Andrew Simonds. The Simonds family lived in the house until 1912. Sometime after the property passed into the hands of the Pringle family, who, in the 1920's, turned the rear outbuilding into a motel (known at the time as a motorcourt), called Pringle Court.
In the 1940's, due largely to Charleston being then a Navy Town, things went a little downhill in south Charleston. It became more lucrative to rent rooms by the hour rather than by the night. Prostitution and gambling thrived. Bars and night clubs, complete with strippers, filled what is now the Market area.
Then, in the 1960's, things began to change for the better. The nightclubs, and other evening activities, moved out of southern Charleston in favor of the more modern, northern area of the city, restoring a level of respectability to the historic district. Pringle Court was converted from a motel to small apartments, that were let out to college students.
The 1980's saw yet another makeover for the South Battery Road property. It was renovated and, once again, opened as a hotel. This time, however, not as a motel but rather as the beautiful, historic, southern inn that it is today.
Given the inn's interesting, and somewhat colorful history, it is not surprising that many people believe it to have a few ghosts kicking around. In fact, it is known as the most haunted inn in Charleston.
The hotel's most often seen apparition is a spirit dubbed the Gentleman Ghost. He appears most often as a grayish shadow, and always in room 10. He is described as being of average height, and displaying a peaceful demeanor, as he glides stylishly about the room. Guests have also been startled to wake and find the ghost sleeping in the bed beside them. It is not known who this specter had been in life, but perhaps it is that of a college student who had committed suicide by jumping from the roof of the inn, back when it served as student apartments.
This may not be the only spirit haunting room 10 however, as others have reported sensing a much more sinister presence in the room, and feeling the sensation of being watched over by an unseen eye.
Room 3 is also believed to have a resident ghost, or perhaps ghosts. Guests have reported being awakened in the middle of the night by electronic devices operating by themselves: one man reported his cell phone turning on and making strange noises. Others have heard odd tapping and scrapping sounds, like furniture being moved about. There are also people who claim to have seen bright orbs of light floating about the room, and feeling the presence of multiple spirits.
The inn's most terrifying spirit, however, is that of a headless torso in an old-fashioned wool coat and cape that often manifests bedside in room 8. The ghost appears to be of a surly disposition and has apparently been heard to utter a guttural, growling sound. Who this unpleasant specter is no one knows. Perhaps it is the ghost of one of the many pirates that were hung from trees on the Battery, back in the buccaneer days, who became separated from his head during his execution: or maybe a civil war soldier decapitated in battle.
Aside from these three haunted rooms, many guests and staff have reported seeing ghostly apparitions in other areas of the hotel, hearing strange noises when there has been nobody around to make them, and experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of being watched, even followed around.
If you're into the paranormal, and want the opportunity of perhaps seeing a ghost, or having a spooky, otherworldly experience, then a night in any one of these five historic, and purportedly haunted inns should do the job. They are also great places to stay for non-thrill seekers just looking to spend the night in a beautiful, old, and historic hotel.
© 2017 Stephen Barnes