Supernatural tourism is big business. In fact, one only has to turn on the Travel or Syfy channel, where shows like Most Haunted, Ghost Adventures, and Ghost Hunters feature psychics, mediums, and parapsychologists getting locked down in haunted locations with thermal cameras and EVP recorders, to see how big of an industry the paranormal has become. But when it comes to fantastic tales and local legends, how do we decipher fact from fiction? How do we separate the history from the mystery? Is it possible to corroborate bizarre and inexplicable stories with actual events or historical data? There are hundreds of haunted destinations in America. Over the years, however, these 7 hotels have earned a reputation for being places where history and mystery are interchangeable, a boundary that is as blurry and transient as the ghosts and apparitions that make their home in hotel rooms and corridors.
7. The Stanley Hotel: Estes Park, Colorado
Built in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Stanley Hotel is a 140-room neo-Georgian hotel. With reports of phantom piano players, thieving ghosts, and the sounds of children playing in empty corridors, The Stanley is one of the most visited haunted hotels in America. Nevertheless, whether The Stanley is really a haunted hotel or simply capitalizing on its famous history, and even more famous guest, is contested amongst ghost hunters.
The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining. In fact, the horror maestro wrote half of the novel in Room 217. Parts of the television mini-series of The Shining were filmed at the hotel, too. Much of the paranormal activity that’s been reported at The Stanley, which includes the ghostly presence of the hotel’s previous owners, F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora, took place after Stephen King used the hotel as inspiration. The idea that The Stanley Hotel’s previous owners are roaming the hotel has as uncanny and questionable resemblance to King’s classic novel: “You’re the caretaker, sir. You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I’ve always been here…”
6. The Queen Anne Hotel: San Francisco, California
Located on Sutter Street in the tranquil Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, the Queen Anne is a historic 1890 Victorian mansion. The hotel is decorated in the Painted Lady style (a term used to describe Victorian and Edwardian buildings that are painted in three or more colors to enhance their architectural details), and the opulent interior is a combination of authentic art, antiques, and modern luxuries.
The Queen Ann Hotel was originally a girl’s boarding school known as “The Mary Lake School for Girls.” The school was closed in 1896 because of financial difficulties. Mary Lake, the former headmistress, is believed to haunt her former office in Room 410. According to Jim Fassbinder, the director of the San Francisco Ghost Hunt tour, “Mary Lake is the friendliest ghost around. The place oozes with love.” Supposedly, Mary Lake wanders the hotel, keeping an eye on her guests; she unpacks and hangs-up clothes, picks up dropped objects, and even tucks the covers around people in the middle of the night.
5. The Hawthorne Hotel: Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts was the site of one of the nation’s most notorious cases of mass hysteria. In 1692, the hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft resulted in 20 executions (19 hangings, 1 stoned to death -known as peine forte et dur), and at least 5 more of the accused died in prison.
The Hawthorne opened in 1925. The hotel is named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem’s most famous writer and the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. It’s believed the land beneath the hotel was once an apple orchard owned by Bridget Bishop, who was the first person hanged at Gallow’s Hill during the Salem witch trials. There have been reports of a misty apparition in the hotel’s corridors, and staff and guests claim that a strong smell of rotting apples is experienced from time to time. Other reports of paranormal activity at the hotel include sightings of deceased sea captains and their widows (the Hawthorne was the meeting place of the Salem Marine Society in the 1830s), and a ship’s wheel, which is part of the nautical décor in the hotel’s lower deck restaurant, is said to turn on its own.
4. The Roosevelt Hotel: Los Angeles, California
During a multi-million dollar renovation in the 1980s, a Roosevelt employee was dusting a mirror in suite 1200 before the hotel’s grand opening when she saw a blond-haired woman’s reflection in the mirror. Coincidentally or not, suite 1200 was the room where Marilyn Monroe lived for two years while her modeling career was taking off. The blond bombshell isn’t the only ghost of the glitterati that haunts the 75-year old, 12-story landmark on Hollywood Boulevard. Montgomery Cliff’s ghost is sometimes seen playing a trumpet, or pacing the halls practicing lines for the film “From Here to Eternity.” The ghost of Errol Flynn has been spotted in the hotel as well. The Roosevelt was a hotspot for the movie industry in the 1920s and ‘30s, and it appears some of the Hollywood elite who stayed at the Tinsel Town landmark left a bit of themselves behind.
3. Hotel del Coronado: San Diego, California
When it opened in 1888, the Hotel de Coronado was the largest resort hotel in the world. Over the years, it has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities, and in the 1920s was the personal playground of stars like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Mae West. The Hotel de Coronado, known affectionately as The Del, is the second largest wooden structure in the United States and one of the few remaining examples of “Victorian beach resort” architecture. The hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan.
1892. A young woman carrying no luggage and appearing in poor health checks into the Hotel de Coronado. She tells the staff she’s meeting her estranged husband for Thanksgiving. A few days later, she’s found dead on the hotel steps by the ocean. The woman was later identified as Kate Morgan. She signed into the Hotel de Coronado under an alias: Lottie Bernard. Why? All sorts of stories circulated about the mystery woman. Some say Kate and her husband, Thomas, were grifters wanted by the law or a criminal network. Others claim that a lover’s spat drove Kate to suicide. Since her mysterious death on the steps of the hotel, guests and staff have reported strange breezes, smoky apparitions, and the pale figure of a young woman walking in a black lace dress.
2. The Myrtles Plantation: St. Francisville, Louisiana
Build a plantation on a former Native American burial ground, as General Bradford did in 1796, and stories of restless spirits are certain to follow. In fact, General Bradford took the desecration of the burial ground one step further and actually burned the remains when the workers discovered them, an act that’s cursed the Myrtles Plantation ever since.
The 11-room Bed and Breakfast is believed to be haunted by Chloe, a former slave who had an illicit romance with General Bradford’s son-in-law. Chloe was caught eavesdropping on her lover’s private conversations, and she had her ear cut off for punishment. However, her fellow slaves feared further retribution and lynched Chloe from a chandelier. Chloe’s ghost has been seen and photographed numerous times at Myrtles Plantation, and in every sighting she’s still wearing the turban she once wore to cover her severed ear.
1. The Crescent Hotel: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 and is a member of the Historical Hotels of America Association. The landmark building has had many uses over the years. It was originally opened as an Ozark mountaintop resort, but quickly went into decline and re-opened as a school for girls. In the 1930s, the building was converted into an “alternative” cancer hospital and health spa.
However, in an American Horror Story-like twist, it was discovered that the flamboyant, medical maverick Dr. Norman Baker, who oversaw the ward, wasn’t a licensed doctor but a fraud. Dr. Baker deceived patients with sham treatments (his cure for cancer was a mix of watermelon seed, brown corn silk, alcohol and carbolic acid), carried out experiments on the living and the dead, and swindled fortunes from the families of the sick. It’s said that nearly 300 residents died in the hospital, and some of the bodies were supposedly hidden on the grounds in order to conceal the actual mortality rate at the facility.
The Crescent Hotel is the only place paranormal experts have captured a full-body apparition on infrared camera. There’s a “ghost book” at the hotel’s front desk where guests share stories and pictures of mysterious spirits and floating orbs. Rooms 202, 242, and 218 report the most paranormal activity. In fact, one of the ghosts believed to inhabit the grounds is named Michael, an Irish stonemason who came to America to help build the hotel. According to legend, Michael leaned over a landing to watch a pretty girl pass by and fell to his death near Room 218.