BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (MainStreet) -- It's around this time of year that the Web flutters with some familiar hotel ghost stories, including the inevitable Marilyn Monroe tales where the actress is said to stalk the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel or the apparitions seen at properties such as Hotel del Coronado near San Diego or The Breakers Palm Beach. But then there's another level of hotel hauntings, rooted in history and folklore and traced back through some of the world's most notable wars and battles in castles and hotel palaces. These generations-old ghoulish legends can make even a nonbeliever struggle to fall asleep -- especially on Halloween night.
, located on a once-noble estate in North Wales just outside the historic town in Denbighshire that dates back to before 1277, when legend has it was visited by King Arthur. The castle was eventually passed onto the Crown Estate in 1508 and ultimately presided over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and subsequent monarchs through Charles I in 1632. And then there was civil war and an epic 11-week siege when the castle's tunnels were utilized as torture chambers and dungeons of "untold crimes." It was also here that the wife of a famous commander under Edward I is rumored to have abruptly ended her husband's extramarital affair -- with an ax, resulting in her own execution and ultimate burial near castle walls where she's now known as the ghostly "grey lady" and still said to haunt.
Haunted or not, Ruthin Castle Hotel in North Wales certainly looks the part.
When you see Ruthin Castle, you realize why it's a tourist attraction and popular site for weddings and holiday banquets, with its iconic stone facade and gabled roofline used by tourists to peek out onto the vistas where cannons thundered and archers once faced death. Dramatic courtyards and rolling lawns lead to a lobby of period hardwood floors and wood wainscoting under pale white walls and a ceiling capped with a robust crystal chandelier. A plush, regal aesthetic supersedes the usual Welsh country charm of these parts, and there's Bertie's Restaurant -- named after King Edward VII, a frequent guest of the castle -- and neighboring Library Bar with its oak panel bookcase and aristocratic vibe. Those can afford it should go for the Salon rooms or Prince of Wales Suite, where HRH Prince Charles once stayed amid grand beds and open fireplaces that compensate for any midnight stirrings. After all, any noises or rumblings likely have nothing to do with the fact that before it was a hotel, the castle was a hospital for obscure medical diseases from 1923-50.
A frequent visitor to Alberta's
in Canada, we sought long and hard for concrete evidence of ghosts in the baronial and sometimes-spooky luxury resort. But aside from a few awkward chills in its grand staircases and midnight fear to use the first-floor bathroom in our rooftop Honeymoon Suite, we can't substantiate any actual sighting at this imposing winter haunt. But the ghost stories of others, well, they are rather extraordinary, and the Scottish-inspired palace us undoubtedly the proper setting for them. It was built in the late 19th Century by the Canadian Pacific Railway among the Canadian Rockies, and they offer as grand a silhouette as the mountains themselves.
Inside, beyond the newer main lobby, "the dancing bride" reportedly haunts the original grand staircases. She is rumored to have died years ago after falling to her death, and today it's said she can be seen dancing her wedding waltz in various hallways and reception rooms. Other ghost stories include a bellman that just won't seem to ever retire and a room that -- according to Internet reports -- is missing from the hotel roster and the site of an entire family's death. But the concierge insists "There's no room missing at all, and no murder on record, so I would assume it's another case of internet accuracy."
has been one of the city's top luxury hotels since opening in 1865, and it's proud to be "one of England's most haunted hotels." Recently the hotel wrapped up a stunning $129 million restoration that includes a refurbished lobby with more modern design (retaining historic elements, though, such as its Palm Court, where the tradition of afternoon tea is said to have been born). Its Italianate facade was a regular stomping ground for Victorian-era luminaries such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, as well as several ghost sightings dating back when the BBC occupied the property during the 1950s and '60s. "One of the BBC dormitory areas was frequented by a gray-haired Victorian gentleman dressed in a cloak and cravat with blank, staring eyes," a hotel history says. "It is said that he is the spirit of a doctor rumored to have killed himself after murdering his bride while they honeymooned in the old hotel."
Hotel management touts its Room 333 as the most haunted. It is here in the month of October that several guests, including an American journalist and BBC reporter, offer varying depictions of a "man wearing Victorian evening wear" with "with its legs cut off some two feet below the ground, arms outstretched, eyes staring emptily." (For those who prefer more prominent spirits, former famous guests include exiled French emperor Napoleon III, who supposedly still favors The Langham's basement.)
More recently Room 632 has offered regular paranormal activity, as has the hotel's corridors, but that doesn't seem to distract guests or staff who simply consider it part of the hotel's allure -- and giving new meaning to the term "late" checkout.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.