Halloween has us all pre-occupied with scary ghosts, goblins, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night. Here are some historic USA hotels said to be haunted, but only with friendly ghosts, nobody scary or malevolent, like the ones in Hollywood movies like The Shining.
Have you ever slept in a haunted hotel, or haunted hotel room? I have. It was the medieval castle of Meldrum, on the beautiful moors of northern Scotland. I was in the room that had belonged to the daughter of the lord of the manor some time in the 1700s, who committed suicide when daddy ended her romance with the stable boy. Story sound familiar?
It inspired the classic Emily Bronte story Wuthering Heights, which inspired the classic 1930s movie of the same name, starring Sir Lawrence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as the doomed Cathy. Her ghost is said to sit by the table at the window in her former room, looking for a glimpse of her beloved. Even though she’s a friendly ghost, I slept with the bedside light on.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado — The Stanley Hotel was known for its architecture, magnificent setting and famous visitors before its inspirational role in Stephen King’s novel, The Shining and the 1980 movie of the same name starring Jack Nicholson at his most sinister. The hotel has been featured as one of America’s most haunted hotels and with the numerous stories from visitors and staff, The Stanley Hotel continues to “shine” today, as it did in 1909 when first opened. There are scheduled ghost hunts bringing travelers through some of the hotel’s attractions in search of their own ghostly experience.
The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California — Rich in history, The Queen Mary is renowned as the grandest ocean liner ever built, counting Winston Churchill, Clark Gable and Greta Garbo among her guests. Since her maiden voyage in 1936 (shown here), the ship has served as a luxury passenger ocean liner, a troopship in World War Two, and now a historic hotel. It is rumored that some 55 ghosts remain aboard The Queen Mary, including a young girl named Jackie, who has been known to take a swim in the pool every now and then, instead of swimming with the sharks and dolphins at the sprawling Long Beach Aquarium a few minutes walk from The Queen Mary.
1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, Eureka Springs, Arkansas — Spirits from various places and various eras make up the “guest register” of those “guests who checked out but never left” at the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, often considered America’s most haunted hotel. This five-story mountaintop spa resort seems to discover yet another one of those famous guests by name each year. In 2011, it was Irene Castle, a dancing legend of the early to mid-twentieth century. She was a frequent visitor of the Crescent, and her spirit is said to still visit guests even 42 years after she passed away in town — not in the hotel. Three of the better known spirits at this haunted hotel are Michael, the Irish stonemason who died during construction of the hotel in the footprint of Room 219; Theodora, a cancer patient who fumbles for her key outside Room 419; and even a ghost cat named Morris. Nightly ghost tours give visitors and guests the chance to walk with these Ozark specters on the night they desire.
Napa River Inn, Napa, California — Stories have abounded for years that the former Hatt Mill Building, now the site of the Napa River Inn is haunted. The former warehouse and feed store, the Napa River Inn is visited by more than one otherworldly being, at least as reported by several self-described reliable witnesses. One of the most legendary stories from the Inn is that of Captain Hatt. The building’s original owner, Captain Albert Hatt married and had six children. Son Albert Jr., married in 1889 and had five children. Wife Margaret died in 1906. She was just 46. Albert Jr., apparently despondent about being caring for five young children, being sued over the ownership of a company steamboat and in poor health, he committed suicide in the warehouse in 1912 in the area now occupied by Sweetie Pies Bakery. The first ghost sightings were visions a woman in a white dress, who seems to be searching for someone. Some say it might have been Margaret, so much in love with her husband, perhaps trying to stop him from taking his life. Guests staying in rooms above Sweetie Pies Bakery report the sounds of footsteps and doors opening and closing when nobody is there. Could this be Margaret and Albert Jr.?
Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia — Sans Souci, one of the separate buildings of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a handsome four-story structure built in 1896 as apartments for wealthy club members. One of these members, J. Pierpont Morgan, was especially fond of the large front porch overlooking the Jekyll River. He was a phenomenal cigar smoker and would rise every morning at 5:00 a.m. to enjoy a smoke on the porch without disturbing his family. You could always find Morgan by following the trail of the cigar smoke, or its smell. Current guests usually are not up at 5:00 in the morning, but several of those who are have reported the area smells faintly a cigar wafting about when absolutely no one else had been awake and certainly not one smoking a cigar.
Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans, Louisiana — In 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research (ISPR) spent several days investigating the Hotel Monteleone and identified that more than one dozen earthbound entities — that’s the scientific name for ghosts and spirits — have made the Hotel their permanent resting place. Generations of hotel guests and staff have experienced such haunted events as the unexplained opening and closing of a locked restaurant door and the ghostly images of children playing. The Hotel Monteleone, considered one of the top 10 haunted hotels in the country, is honors its friendly “guests who never leave” by serving special spirited beverages named after them in the hotel bar. Red’s Rum, Maurice’s Madness, Solemn John and Headless Helen all reflect names of some of the Hotel Monteleone’s most popular, friendly ghosts. Red was a hotel engineer, Maurice was a a young boy from the 19th century; Solemn John was a distraught businessman from Tennessee in the 1920s, and Poor Helen thinks she’s still alive.
The Heathman Hotel, Portland, Oregon — Guests and employees have reported breezes, as if someone has just hurried past, the sound of footsteps descending the hotel’s grand staircase, whispering voices and old spots in the halls. Among favorite stories from the hotel is the history of room 703 where, as the story goes, a guest jumped from the window, subsequently “haunting” all the rooms ending in -03 as he passed them. Guests have reported leaving the room for a few hours, coming back to find a glass of water on the desk. When the concierge checks the electronic key record, they find that no one has been in the room since the guest first left. Things of this nature have been happening in Room 703 for years.
The Menger Hotel, San Antonio, Texas — This historic hotel is across the street from The Alamo, so you would think that the ghosts of Jim Bowie, Sam Houston or other famous Texans would be the ghosts here, but you would be wrong. The Menger seems to be haunted by a woman named Sallie White, a chambermaid who stayed here with a man who was not her husband, who found out about the tryst, and attacked her at work one day soon after. The hotel paid for the funeral cost — it cost $32. Sallie White is said to roam the halls of the Victorian wing of the hotel. A few years ago, a guest requested extra towels. He opened the door of his room when he heard footsteps in the hall, and called out to a maid who ignored him. The guest called the front desk to complain. He described the maid and her uniform — one that was worn in the late 1800s, about the time Sallie’s worked there.
It’s probably too late to book these hotels for Halloween 2011, but you are just as likely to see a friendly ghost at one of the 364 other days of the year.