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"Is This Hotel Haunted?"
National Trust Historic Hotels of America Share Tales of Otherworldly Guests


"Is this hotel haunted?" is an obvious question to ask about hotels dating from as early as the 1700s. Check into one of these historic hotels and you may meet some “guests" that will make your stay event more memorable. Apparitions range from former owners to waiters and maintenance men to mysterious guests who never check out. Some assist guests, host parties or await a lost love, while others are merely mystifying presences. Offering a blend of architecture, history and service, it is no wonder that some guests just don't want to leave members of Historic Hotels of America.

The Party Continues

Guests in the North Annex of The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, Calif., sometimes complain of noises in the wee hours of the night from the guests below. Loud voices, doors slamming and heavy footsteps have been heard. However, below these rooms is the bakery, not guest rooms. Once upon a time this area housed apartments where neighbors-two men lived in one apartment and two women in the other-often got together for parties. Apparently, they enjoyed it so much that they still continue their party to this day. The hotel staff investigates every complaint and the outcome is always the same. The bakery is empty and locked tight for the night.

Haunting Honeymoons

Shortly after the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, Ariz., opened in 1927, newlyweds checked into the balcony suite. The husband went "out for a pack cigarettes" and never returned. Three days later, his grief-stricken wife, Faith, hung herself in the room. There is a long list of Faith sightings throughout the inn including an image of a young woman holding flowers standing at the end of the bed crying. She has also been seen dressed in a pink gown crossing a hallway and disappearing into a room. The kitchen staff has learned to feel Faith's presence and know that soon all the gas burners on the stove will extinguish. Another staff member, standing with a cup of coffee, mentioned she would like to go to the library to research what was written about Faith. The employee’s coffee jumped and spilled all over her hand. She decided not to go to the library.

The Plains Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyo., tells the legend of Rosie, her husband and his acquaintance. Spirits of all three have been sighted by employees and guests though the years and today.

Rosie and her husband spent their honeymoon at The Plains Hotel. The husband went downstairs to the lounge where he met a lady of the evening. Concerned about his prolonged absence, Rosie went searching only to find her husband and his lady friend heading upstairs together. She followed silently to the other woman's room on the fourth floor, where in a jealous rage Rosie killed them both with her husband’s gun. Rosie returned alone to the honeymoon suite and killed herself.

Today's housekeeping staff has heard both laughter and crying outside of Rosie's room but when the door opens, there is no one there. The spirit of Rosie has been seen dressed in a long blue gown walking on the second floor. Her husband has been seen all over the hotel, from the fifth floor to the most recent sighting in the basement. He is recognized by the period clothing that he wears: a long tail black dress coat, black pants, black boots and a very distinguishable large, shiny silver button on the top of his white shirt.

The spirit of the lady of the evening has also been on the second floor dressed in a short red dress with white lace. It seems as if she may have some jealous rage. On Halloween, the lobby was decorated with costumed mannequins, including a couple dressed in wedding clothes. An employee saw the spirit in the short red dress just as the mannequin dressed in a wedding gown toppled over. The employee looked at the mannequin and back up to the spirit, and the spirit was gone.

Looking for a Lost Love

On a crisp fall day in the late 1800s, Emily, the town beauty with long chestnut hair, was to be married. She was in her bridal suite at The Partridge Inn in Augusta, Ga., dressing for her wedding. Her gown was custom-made in Atlanta with the finest lace imported from Ireland. Just as she was placing the veil on, there was a knock on the door. She learned that her young fiancé had been mistaken for a soldier wanted for treason and was shot as he rode his horse through town. Emily's grief was so overwhelming she would not take off her wedding dress for weeks. Though courted by many, she never married. She died at the age of 86- relatives say of a still broken heart.

To this day, some guests and employees of The Partridge Inn say they have seen a beautiful girl with long dark brown hair in white flowing gown wandering the hall. It is believed to be Emily waiting for her groom to come for her.

Opened in 1930 in the midst of a busy working harbor community, The Landmark Inn in Marquette, Mich., is located on Lake Superior. The story is told of a spinster who worked at the town library and fell in love with a sailor. The sailor was making a final voyage-he planned to return so the two could marry. The ship was ill-fated. It is said that Superior never gives up its dead and ships or even debris are never found from most wrecks. The librarian died of heartbreak. It is believed that she now frequents the Lilac Room on the hotel's sixth floor-perhaps watching for the ghost ship to return. It also seems as if the librarian plays pranks on male guests-some have reported keys not working and phantom phone calls waking them. The front desk has also received calls from the Lilac Room when no one is staying there.

Eerie Employee Encounters

The maintenance crew at The Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo., has a guardian watching over them-Bob the Ghost. A long-time employee starting at The Wort in 1950, Bob was a maintenance man at the end of his career. "Today's maintenance crew takes Bob's hints," says Jacquie Riley, director of marketing. "Mysteriously opened doors or strange breezes often lead to things that need fixing."

The employees of The Fairmont Algonquin in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, are adept at working as a team, but many of them didn't realize how diverse that team would be. Among the hundreds of employees cleaning, cooking and serving each day are several long-standing team members-at best guess they began working at the hotel in 1890.

Guests in the wintertime frequently come to the front desk to praise the bellman. This uniformed older gentleman will meet guests in the elevator and escort them to their room, helping with their bags and chatting about the history of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Interestingly, the hotel does not employ a bellman in the winter, and has no staff members of the bellman's description. He is obviously a previous employee who loved his job so much he has returned to continue serving his guests-and with the compliments he receives, the hotel is happy to have him.

More than one modern-era employee has reported riding the service elevator at The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver with a spirit dressed as a former Palace Arms server (the hotel's fine dining restaurant). He always exits when the elevator stops, much to the horrified employees' relief.

The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, Ark., is well-known as a haunted hotel, even offering ghost tours to guests. Recently, a group often visiting the hotel saw one of the hotel's many specters-before embarking on their ghost tour. As they left dinner the young ladies encountered a man at the elevator wearing a uniform similar to the dining rooms' servers, carrying a large bowl of butter packets. They left the elevator on the third floor and headed to their guest room, noticing that the "Butter Man" was following them, so closely, in fact that "it seemed like he was walking right beside me, even though I was extremely close to a wall," said one of the girls. The girl looked at her friend and when she looked back, their companion was gone. Or so she thought. Arriving at their room, they were let in by another friend, who saw the mysterious "Butter Man" looking straight at the girls.

The Boss Who Never Leaves

The shadow of a tall lanky cowboy in his Stetson roaming The Hermosa Inn in Scottsdale, Ariz., has frequently been reported by guests and staff. The gentle, fun-loving spirit of legendary artist Lon Megargee lives on at this historic hotel that was once his home and studio until his death in 1960.

"It's amazing … he's a harmless 'ghost' whose appearance, even in guest rooms, has never frightened anyone. He dearly loved this place, and it seems that he wants everyone - guests and staff alike - to have as much fun here as he did," says Greg LaMonica, hotel manager.

In addition to the "cowboy" sightings, he has made his presence known in other ways. Many employees report toilets that keep flushing when no one is around and of finding mysteriously broken bottles and glasses that point to late night phantom poker parties. When asked to quit “bothering" people, Lon obliges with a tip of his Stetson.

Rumor has it La Playa Hotel & Cottages in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., was haunted by the original 1904 owner's wife, Angela Ghiradelli, a member of San Francisco's famous Ghiradelli chocolate clan. "The legend changes like the wind, depending on who tells the story," says longtime La Playa Hotel Concierge Julie Dillion. According to Dillon, Carmel residents like to believe the rumor that Angela drowned in Carmel Bayand her ghost haunts the shores of Carmel's white sand beach. However, Dillon points out that in fact, it was Angela's visiting cousin who drowned there long ago. But, says Dillon, "I believe that when someone passes away, their soul often returns to the place they loved the best. At times, I must admit that I sense Angela's kindly presence watching over La Playa's guests."

At the Pierpont Inn in Ventura, Calif., many otherworldly sightings have occurred since the hotel underwent renovations near the start of the 21st century. It is believed that many of the recent "visitors" are the spirits of previous owners checking in on the progress of the restorations. However, it is not just the reconstruction projects that have brought former owners back. In the mid 1980s, the night auditor and front desk clerk were disturbed at their work as a well-dressed gentleman in a suit entered the bookkeeping office and sat down. They recognized the apparition as Ted Gleichmann, who owned and managed the hotel for nearly 25 years until his death in 1975. It seems that the spirit was simply maintaining Gleichmann's routine of dropping by the bookkeeping office daily.

Sans Souci, one of the guest buildings at Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Jekyll Island, Ga., was built in 1896 as a condominium with apartments for six members of the original hunting club. One of these members, J.Pierpont Morgan, was especially fond of the large porch on the front of his apartment with a view of the Jekyll River. A phenomenal cigar smoker, Morgan would rise every morning at 5:00 a.m., sit on the porch and smoke in peace. Contemporary guests staying in his third floor room and rising early have faintly smelled the scent of a cigar when no one else was awake and certainly no one smoking a cigar.

Military Specters General Anthony Quitman, an early resident and owner of Monmouth Plantation in Natchez, Miss., as well as a Mexican War hero and early governor of Mississippi, is known to return from time to time, startling guests and employees alike. A guest in room #30 recalls being awakened in the early hours of a cold morning by an unusual sound. Unable to go back to sleep, he sat in the wicker rocking chair on the porch. As he kept hearing that unusual sound, he saw a gray headed man in a blue military uniform with dust appearing to come off from his shoulders. As the man got closer, the guest realized that the noise was coming from the spurs the man was wearing on his boots clinking on the brick hallway. As the guest stood up to talk to the mysterious man, he disappeared in the early morning mist. The next morning while taking a tour of Monmouth, the guest recognized the man from a painting as General Quitman.

Located adjacent to the Alamo, The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, was established in 1859, 23 years after the fall of the Alamo. In July of this year, a banquet captain and an assistant entered the catering office on the fourth floor. Suddenly, they heard very heavy footsteps as if someone was wearing boots. Thinking it might be hotel security, the banquet captain called out, "Security, is that you?" There was no answer. He called out again. Instead, both men heard the sound of someone kicking a cardboard box in the next office. Curiosity got the best of them. They entered the adjoining office and saw a pair of military boots by the door. The two men ran out of the office and down to the first floor. When questioned, the captain would only say, "I got out of the catering office as fast as I could!" Perhaps a soldier returning to the Alamo?

Otherworldly Occurrences

Typical of hotels built in the 1920s, the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Mass., had guest rooms with shared bathrooms. Modernization has given each guest room a private bath but it appears as if a visitor from the past is not aware of these changes.

In February of 2000, a guest was checked into room 325, an oddly configured room which has two bedrooms and one bathroom with one hallway entrance. The following morning the guest reported to the front desk that, as a European traveler, he was accustomed to shared baths, however, he always looked forward to his US. visits so he could have a private bath. The guest was assured that he had a private bath and that the hotel doesn't have shared baths. With great adamancy he explained that during the evening he heard someone in the bathroom and that person had very courteously closed his door to the bath. He could see that the light was on, he heard water running, the toilet flush and the TV in the other bedroom. The front desk clerk to whom he reported this event was thoroughly confused and escorted him back to the room to show that there was no other access to his room except the door he had just entered.

Despite the incident, the guest stayed in that room for a week, commenting that he had no objection to sharing his room with a "ghost,” he simply did not want to share his bath with another guest.

If you ask the old timers about ghosts at The Heathman Hotel in Portland,Ore., they will eventually mention room 703. The room is freshly cleaned. A guest checks in. The guest leaves for a few hours, returns to find a glass of water on the desk. The guest calls to report that someone has been in the room. The electronic key record indicates that no one has been in the room. Easily rationalized? Maybe the first or second time but this sort of thing has been happening for years in room 703. A desk chair turned outward. A towel used. Maybe many years ago a guest checked into 703 and for some reason never checked out. A psychic staying in room 803 claimed to see a ghost at the end of her bed. "The hauntings have all taken place in the column of rooms between 303 and 1003. My theory is that someone once jumped to their death and is haunting all the rooms he passed on the way down," said the psychic.

Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historic Hotels has identified 200 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. To be selected for this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance. A directory of member hotels can be purchased for $4.00 by sending a check to Historic Hotels of America, P.O. Box 320, Washington, D.C. 20055-0320. Rooms at any of the member hotels can be reserved by calling 800-678-8946 or at www.historichotels.org. Reservations made through Historic Hotels of America support the National Trust, a non-profit organization of 200,000 members that provides leadership, education and advocacy to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize our communities.