Haunted Hotel Stories from AAA Inspectors
AAA Travel Editors
1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Legend has it that the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has several ghosts residing within its walls. It is rumored that some ghosts date back to the 1930s when this historic hotel served as a hospital to treat cancer. Unfortunately for the patients, the hospital was run by Norman Baker, a man who pedaled a fake miracle cure for cancer. Hotel guests and visitors to Eureka Springs can take a ghost tour of the hotel year-round to learn more.
The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel's iconic white building and red roof draw the attention of every visitor to the picturesque town of Estes Park, Colorado. Built in 1909 by the inventor and entrepreneur F.O. Stanley, the historic hotel has had over a century to develop an extensive collection of ghost stories. It is most famous for inspiring the author Stephen King to write his famous novel “The Shining,” which Stanley Kubrick made into a film starring Jack Nicholson. The movie was remade as a TV miniseries in 1997, and unlike the original, it actually was filmed at The Stanley Hotel.
The story goes that King and his wife, Tabitha, stayed at The Stanley the day before it closed for the winter. They were the only guests and found the vast, empty hotel incredibly creepy. The Kings stayed in room 217, which they later found out was said to be haunted. Although neither Stephen King nor his wife experienced paranormal activity, many guests haven’t been so lucky.
Over the years, guests and staff say that they have heard piano music and party-like sounds coming from the empty ballroom, the stomping of children running around in empty hallways and even awakened to find a man standing over their bed while they slept.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to increase your chances of experiencing a haunting, request to stay in rooms 217, 401, 407 or 418, which I am told have the most reported ghost sightings. If you prefer to enjoy hearing about the paranormal history of the haunted hotel without the thrill of experiencing it first-hand, take the one-hour ghost tour offered daily by The Stanley. Don't forget to mention you are a AAA member for a discount on tour tickets.
The eeriest experience to have happened to me was at the Graduate Berkeley in Berkeley, California. The hotel manager showed me around the hotel while I inspected guest rooms on several floors. I felt uneasy the entire time, but thankfully the inspection was going very well, and I would be out of there very soon! Each corner we went around, I was afraid that someone — or something — would be there. Every hair on the back of my neck, my arms and even the top of my head was standing on end. I was never more relieved as we walked out of the last room. The inspection of guest rooms was finished.
We proceeded downstairs and went into a small meeting room where we could discuss the evaluation results. As the hotel manager and I entered the room, we walked past a restroom door and could hear someone moving around. The manager thought it was an employee because no hotel guests were staying on that floor. When he knocked on the door, the noise stopped. The manager and I looked at each other and shook our heads. I said, "They have to come out sooner or later." We sat at a table, and the rattling in the bathroom started again. The manager got up, walked over to the bathroom door and knocked. He said who he was and asked who was in the bathroom. Again it went silent. He returned to the table, and the rattling grew louder as if someone was trying to get out. The manager called a maintenance person to come downstairs to unlock the door.
The maintenance person knocked, asking if whoever was in there was ok. Silence. The maintenance person opened the door, then asked, “Are you sure you heard something? There is no one in here.”
I responded, “Yes! Is there a window where they could have crawled out?”
The manager motioned me to come over. As I looked into the restroom, no one was there. It was just a tiny room with one toilet, a small sink and a window so small a child could not fit through. I took another step closer and felt a sensation like a ghost left the bathroom through me! It was the oddest feeling that I have ever experienced. It is difficult to describe, but I know that I don't want it to ever happen again!
The three of us walked back to the hotel lobby. I thanked the hotel manager for his time and drove away as fast as I could!
Courtesy of The Hay-Adams
Washington, District Of Columbia
The Hay-Adams hotel in Washington, D.C., may be haunted by the spirit of Marian “Clover” Adams, the wife of Henry Adams. The Hays-Adams Hotel was built in 1927 where John and Clara Hay’s and Henry and Clover Adams’s homes once stood. Though Clover Adams died by suicide in 1885, well before the hotel's construction, many believe that her spirit inhabits the fourth floor.
Staff have said that they have seen the opening and closing of locked doors, clock radios turning on and off, the sound of a woman crying softly in a room or stairwell, and the disembodied voice of a woman asking, "What do you want?" Housekeepers also have claimed to have been called by name and even received hugs while cleaning vacant rooms. It is said that these incidents happen most frequently during the first two weeks of December, around the anniversary of Clover Adams’s death.
The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection
Washington, District Of Columbia
Washington, D.C., has more than its share of historic sites and seems to have several haunted historic hotels as well. Some strange occurrences in The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection appear linked to the inauguration ball for President Calvin Coolidge. President Coolidge did not attend his 1925 inaugural ball at the hotel, reportedly because he was mourning the death of his 16-year-old son, who had died a few months prior.
The story goes that every year since 1937, on January 20, Inauguration Day, the lights in the Grand Ballroom flicker and dim around 10 p.m., when the first guests arrived at the ball. Some hotel staff say they found a plate of exquisite hors d'oeuvres and a glass of fine wine on the balcony of the Grand Ballroom when neither had been served that day. They also say that one of the hotel elevators is stuck on the eighth floor all day, only lowering to the lobby level at 10:15 p.m. — when President Coolidge should have made an appearance at the ball.
Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, District Of Columbia
Two mysterious deaths occurred in what is now a presidential suite at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. In the 1930s, Henry Doherty and his family moved into the eighth-floor apartment. One morning, their live-in housekeeper Juliette Brown awoke around 4 a.m. and called the front desk for help. She was later found with the phone off the hook. It is believed that she was calling for a doctor but died of natural causes before she was able to ask for help. Shortly after, the Doherty’s daughter Helen died in the same suite.
Witnesses report seeing the television and lights suddenly coming on at 4 a.m. and housekeeping carts inexplicably moved around. Some have said they feel a breeze as if an unseen presence was running past them. Guests staying next to room 864, Juliette's former bedroom, have called the front desk complaining of noises even when the room was unoccupied.
Staff nicknamed the ghost Vivica, although some believe it is haunted by the two women who died there.
New Orleans, Louisiana
There is no shortage of ghost stories at Hotel Provincial in New Orleans. Some believe a section of the hotel served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. There have been reports of unexplained events and sightings of Confederate soldiers.
People have claimed to have found blood stains on the otherwise pristine white bed linens, only for stains to vanish as curiously as they appeared. Stories also are told that some people have seen and heard wounded soldiers cry out for help. Stay in Hotel Provincial Building 5 if you hope to experience paranormal activity during your New Orleans visit. It's also a stop on many of the ghost tours in New Orleans.
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an elegant French Art Deco-style hotel that opened in 1931. Stories abound about the Lady in Green, a spirit that wanders through the ornately-decorated Hall of Mirrors and the mezzanine.
I was told her husband, who worked on the hotel during construction, was tragically killed in an accident before the hotel’s completion. His body was never found, and the Lady in Green’s mournful spirit is still searching for him. Recently, an airline pilot, riding the elevator down to the lobby to catch an early morning flight, found himself accompanied by a silent woman who disappeared between floors.
The Historic Menger Hotel
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas, boasts several haunted hotels. Perhaps the best known is The Historic Menger Hotel, built in the 1850s and located next to The Alamo, the site of a bloody battle during the Texas war for independence from Mexico. The Menger is known for its famous guests that refuse to check out.
In 1898, Theodore Roosevelt drank at and recruited cowboys in the Menger Bar for his wartime cavalry unit known as the Rough Riders. Staff have claimed that Roosevelt is still seen sitting in the dark bar after hours.
Allegedly Sallie White continues making up rooms despite being murdered in 1876. Housekeepers report seeing the ghost of Sallie carrying linens in the halls and have noticed items moved in vacant guest rooms.
The irrepressible Captain Richard King, the founder of King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the world, came to The Menger in the 1880s to write his memoirs and stayed until his death in 1885. Today, staff and guests report seeing the spirit of Richard writing away late at night in what is now the King Ranch Room.
While I have never heard of these spirits bothering the guests, I admit to being very cautious during evaluations when looking under beds, opening doors to dark closets and looking behind shower curtains.
The Algonquin Resort, Autograph Collection
St. Andrews, Canada
Some people say that Stephen King took inspiration for the floor plans for the hotel in “The Shining” from The Algonquin Resort, Autograph Collection in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The polished hardwood floors alternate with stretches of carpet, and it is a maze of winding, interconnecting hallways. I can see why local lore is that this century-old hotel is the one that inspired King (who lives about a three-hour drive away in Bangor, Maine). Add to that the hotel’s reputation for harboring a ghost, and the character of “Lloyd” becomes even more real.
I have heard that winter guests at the luxury hotel have repeatedly had an older gentleman dressed like a bellhop greet them at the elevator and help them carry bags to their room — despite the hotel not offering bellhop services during the winter season. The description of the gentleman has never matched anyone on staff. If you ever get the chance to visit The Algonquin and feel the urge to never leave, remember that might be just how Jack felt, too.
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AAA Travel Editors
AAA Travel Editors is an AAA Travel Expert.