NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you’re into things that go bump in the night, there is no better time of the year than Halloween to stay in a purportedly haunted hotel.
From television shows such as Ghost Hunters to talk shows that report ratings spikes on days they feature nationally known psychics, Americans are fascinated by ghosts.
Paranormal tourism not only gives traveling ghost hunters a chance for an encounter with something otherworldly, ghost tours routinely provide a wealth of knowledge about the history of the town and establishment as well.
MainStreet took a look at five of the most haunted hotels in America and their spooky stories. If you want to stay in a haunted hotel, book soon because Halloween will sneak up on you like a… well, like a ghost.
Read on if you dare:
1. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa – Eureka Springs, Ark.
Ghost tour leaders on the nightly excursions through the hotel tell visitors that the professional ghost hunters from the television show proclaimed this luxury hotel-turned-school-turned-cancer-hospital-turned-hotel as the third most haunted building they had ever investigated.
The hotel is one of the only places the team supposedly caught a full-bodied apparition on infrared camera. Those aren’t the only cameras capturing spirits though, as guests routinely share photos of ghostly faces and orbs – round balls of light thought by some to be spirits. Many of the photos can be seen on the website or in the “ghost book” at the front desk.
One of the most playful ghosts to inhabit the grounds is Michael, a young Irish stonemason who came to America to help build the hotel. According to legend, when he leaned over the landing to see a pretty girl passing by, he fell to his death near room 218, one of the rooms with the most reported paranormal activity.
Another part of the hotel that is haunted involves the area on the 4th floor in which Dr. Baker, who wasn’t actually a doctor, lived when he converted the hotel to a cancer hospital. Under his care in the 1930s and '40s, it is thought that nearly 300 residents died there. Baker and some of his patients and nurses have reportedly been seen roaming the halls as ghosts. One patient has been seen numerous times fumbling for her keys outside of room 419. Recently, a little girl who was visiting the hotel with her parents began talking to someone in their room who the mother could not see. The parents concluded from the girl’s description and reported conversation that she had seen Irene Castle, a famous ballroom dancer of the 1910s who was later depicted in a movie by Ginger Rogers. Castle frequented the hotel in her later years and died at her nearby home in 1969. Perhaps she is one of the spectral dancers who have been heard in the ballroom late at night.
The hotel also houses a former morgue where autopsies were performed and bodies were stored, with some reportedly taken and hidden on the grounds to conceal the actual mortality rate at the facility. Believers typically have some sort of experience at the hotel, say staff members and skeptics – well, they have been known to leave in a hurry in the middle of the night.
2. Buxton Inn – Granville, Ohio
Audrey and Orville Orr, owners of the Buxton Inn since 1972, said they never advertise their inn as haunted, but the stories of the ghosts that inhabit the 199-year-old building have gotten around, resulting in recognition by TripAdvisor.com as one of The 10 Most Haunted Hotels in America.
Orville Orr said that when he and his wife first purchased the property, they didn’t even want to talk about the strange happenings at the hotel, being of a conservative background. Even when he saw the apparitions for his own eyes, he says he didn’t want to believe it. “I couldn’t understand it."
The inn was originally a tavern and has operated continuously since 1812, on a major road heading west through which many supplies were traded and travelers passed. By 1972, there was talk of razing the building for a parking lot, but the Orrs stepped in and completed a full authentic restoration of the four buildings and 25 guest rooms.
Major Buxton was one of the owners and operators of the inn from 1865-1902 and can periodically still be spotted on the first floor of the main building. Ethel “Bonnie” Bounell was an owner from 1934-1960 and her favorite scent of gardenias can still sometimes be smelled wafting through the hallways.
The Orrs have long made peace with their permanent guests. “A psychic told us we don’t want to get rid of them, they like coming back to visit,” says Orville. The Orrs wish to respect their predecessors’ dignity by not hyping the ghosts, but they don’t mind when the curious come to see if they can experience them too.
3. The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa – Denver
Built in 1892 by a well-known Denverite named Henry C. Brown, the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa has been a temporary stop for every president since Teddy Roosevelt, with the exception of Calvin Coolidge. The Beatles even have a suite named for them, as they stayed at the hotel during a tour stop in the 1960s.
Many believe the hotel has a connection to the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, the Denver socialite who survived the 1912 Titanic disaster, but that is just legend, says hotel management.
While none of their purported ghosts are believed to be legendary singers or former presidents, one is believed to be Louise Crawford Hill, another Denver socialite who took up residence there in the 1930s when the top two floors were converted to apartments.
The front desk has reported calls coming from Room 904, the room Hill occupied during the time. It wouldn’t be so creepy if the 9th floor hadn’t been under renovation at the time, with the wires all stripped from the entire top two floors.
Others have reported seeing a train conductor wearing clothes from the turn of the century walking through the lobby. He is believed to be a visitor who came to the hotel when a train depot operated near the hotel. Still other visitors have reported gas fireplaces turning on by themselves and music emanating from the restaurant late at night.
4. The Myrtles Plantation – St. Francisville, La.
Many of the country’s haunted places are in the historic southern states, and ghost hunters have long designated the Myrtles Plantation as one of the nation’s most haunted. The plantation, built in 1796 by General David Bradford, was reportedly built on a former Native American burial ground.
The most famous of ghosts who inhabit the Myrtles, however, is Chloe, a former slave who had a romance with Bradford’s son-in-law. Scared of being banished from the home to the fields, the story goes, Chloe began eavesdropping on her lover’s private conversations. Her lover and master caught her, drew a sword and cut off her ear. More desperate to show her worth to the family, she baked a poisoned birthday cake for one of the children, hoping to nurse the sick family members back to health. Instead, the wife and two of her children died.
Her fellow slaves, fearing retribution, lynched Chloe from a chandelier in one of the rooms, and since then is said to have been photographed numerous times at the inn, still wearing the turban she wore to cover her severed ear. The chandelier in that room has been reported to sway back and forth in the middle of the night for no reason as well.
Other ghosts, including children who died from then-incurable diseases, are also reported to roam the halls of the Myrtles. If you stay in one of the 11 guest rooms, make sure to book your spot on the ghost tour early and if you run across a woman wearing a turban or see balls rolling across the floor on their own, think nothing of it. The owners say their ghosts are harmless.
5. Hotel del Coronado – San Diego
Built in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado was known in the late 19th century and early 20th century as a resort for anyone who was anyone and those who took months to travel the vast space between the East and West Coasts. The Hotel del Coronado even once had its own school to teach the children of their most long-term guests.
Since that era, some of those long-term guests have apparently never left, bringing their occupancy into the afterlife. One of the most famous of the hotel’s ghosts is said to be Kate Morgan, a lovesick woman who checked into the hotel in 1892. She waited for five days for the love of her life to meet her; he never did and Kate was found dead at the bottom of an exterior staircase leading to the beach.
Since then, Kate’s ghost has been reported on the beach and in the hotel, and when she is feeling particularly feisty she plays harmless pranks on guests, says the hotel’s management.
Another hot spot for paranormal activity is the hotel gift shop, where crystal routinely flies off of the shelves and pictures fall off of the walls. The target seems to be souvenirs of the movie Some Like It Hot starring Marilyn Monroe, which was filmed at the hotel in 1958. Marilyn’s ghost, perhaps? Hotel management doesn’t think so. They believe whoever’s ghost it is just doesn’t like sharing the limelight with the 20th century beauty.
Are you less interested in the scary and more interested in the history? Check out MainStreet's look at some other ways to spend your weekend vacations, like 5 Scenic Train Rides Through America, Great Trips for Civil War Buffs and 10 Must-See Fall Festivals!