With Halloween just around the corner, we're all gearing up to delight in things that go bump in the night. Best of all, for enthusiasts of ghost stories and paranormal encounters, this scary season doesn't have to end. To experience chills and thrills year-round, consider treating your conference attendees to a stay at a haunted hotel.
According to Historic Hotels of America, a program under the National Trust for Historic Preservation that honors some of the most storied landmark properties in the nation, there are a handful of establishments playing host to some very, er, spirited guests. HHA recently announced its Top 25 Most Haunted Historic Hotels in the nation. Following, we've exhumed five of those properties, paying homage to a few of America's best-told ghost stories.
- 60 School St., Boston
- Meeting space: 23,000 square feet
- Year built: 1855
The 551-room Omni Parker House was opened in the 1800s by Harvey Parker, a well-known Boston hotelier. Parker was involved with the operation of the building until his death. Over the years, many guests have reported him interacting with them and inquiring about their stay.
According to the Omni brand, there have been many ghost encounters here, but one in particular happened around 1950. "An elderly woman guest insisted she saw an apparition outside room 1078. At first it was a misty apparition in the air, then it turned toward her," recalled the late longtime bellhop John Brehm in a 1992 Boston Globe interview. "She said it was a heavyset older man with a black mustache — Parker. He just looked at her, then faded away. She came downstairs and security went up to the 10th floor. They checked it out, but reported they couldn't find anything."
The third floor of the hotel is allegedly also ghost-ridden. The elevator has been reported to repeatedly arrive there and open its doors, though no one is in it and no one called it up. A reporter for the Austin American Statesman, Becca Hensley, confirmed this occurrence when she stayed there to research her article, "Boston’s Scariest Haunts."
"Nevertheless, my elevator does send itself several times to the third floor — though I don't push the button — and when I arrive nobody is waiting. 'Ah, yes,' says the woman at the front desk, as if it's nothing. 'That elevator’s been doing that since [actress] Charlotte Cushman died there,'" recounts Hensley.
If that isn't enough, Charles Dickens once stayed on the third floor of Omni Parker during his U.S. tour, practicing his speeches in a mirror that now hangs in the hotel's mezzanine. Some travelers report his silhouette still appears when they gaze into the glass.
- 214 Royal St., New Orleans
- Meeting space: 26,000 square feet
- Year built: 1886
Hotel Monteleone is one of the last family-owned and -operated hotels in New Orleans. Built in 1886 as a then 64-room French Quarter hotel by Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian shoe-factory operator, the property has been maintained by more than five generations of the namesake family.
According to the hotel's website, guests and staff at the now 522-room property have reported experiencing haunted events for years. The hotel has a restaurant door that reportedly opens almost every evening and then closes again, despite it being locked, an elevator that stops on the wrong floor, and a hallway that grows chilly and reveals the ghostly images of children playing when guests walk along it.
In 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research spent several days at the Monteleone. While visiting, the team supposedly made contact with several entities, among them former employee William Wildemere, who died on-site of natural causes. Another spirit is that of a friendly toddler named Maurice Begere. According to the hotel's own lore, the boy died in the hotel, and his distraught parents returned frequently in hopes he might visit them. To this day, guests frequently recount seeing Begere near the room where he passed away.
HHA also says that a maid known as "Mrs. Clean" is often seen by guests. Paranormal researchers reportedly once asked why she stays at the property even though she is dead, and the maid — whose mother, grandmother and great-grandmother also worked there — responded that she was picking up after housekeeping to ensure high standards.
- 100 East San Francisco St., Santa Fe, N.M.
- Meeting space: 20,112 square feet
- Year built: 1922
This 180-room hotel has been providing a pillow for travelers since 1922, but the location had been home to an inn for much longer. When Santa Fe was founded in 1607, records show that a lodge at the East San Francisco Street address was one of the first business established in the new settlement, according to Legends of America. Local lore also suggests that court was held in the original structure, as well as executions, with guilty offenders being hanged in what is now the hotel lobby.
In addition, HHA reports that in 1867, John P. Slough, then-chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot to death in the hotel lobby following a dispute. It is said that his presence still lingers. And more than a century ago, a distraught salesman who lost his company's money in a card game leaped to his death down a deep well located outside the gambling hall of the property.
Through the years, the hotel has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Today, La Fonda on the Plaza is said to host several ghosts that have carried over from sites past. Aside from ongoing sightings of John Slough, Legends of America says the hotel's dining room is haunted. The eatery, known as La Plazuela, is situated directly over the old well, and both guests and staff alike have reported a ghostly figure (namely that of the suicidal salesman) that walks to the center of the room, then seemingly jumps into the floor and disappears.
- 65 Avenida de Otero, Tubac, Ariz.
- Meeting space: 7,000 square feet
- Year built: 1959
HHA reports that at least four unique ghosts — a boy, a lady in gray, a hyperactive man and a cowboy — frequent this historic hotel. The ongoing paranormal encounters have been investigated by the Arizona Paranormal Society, which reported hearing moans, "woos" and "oohs," and seeing objects slide across the floor throughout the evening.
The Paranormal Phenomena Blog in 2010 reported on travelers experiencing unexplained, unpleasant smells throughout their stays here. They also recounted the terrifying tale of a hotel worker who once stayed the night after a long day's work. The story goes, "Suddenly, he felt the couch move — not just a little. Where his head lay relaxing on the arm rest, the entire couch lifted up from the floor, with him in it, and jerked a good distance towards where the television stood in the far right corner of the room.
"The unexpected jolt startled him. But before he could get up from the couch, the large heavy curtains which hung snugly on an iron curtain rod next to the couch lifted up and came down in a swoosh on top of the employee, draping his face and upper torso...." You can read the full tale here.
- 2365 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii
- Meeting space: 13,137 square feet
- Year built: 1901
One of the oldest hotels in Hawaii, the 791-room Moana Surfrider, opened in 1901 and was the first luxury property along Waikiki Beach, beating out famed establishments like the Royal Hawaiian by more than 25 years. The historic hotel is often referred to as "The First Lady of Waikiki," and while it undoubtedly embodies old-time elegance, it is also rumored to be haunted, per the following.
Jane Stanford, cofounder of Stanford University, died in her room at Moana Surfrider on Feb. 28, 1905, where she had gone following an attempt on her life. She had been poisoned one month earlier at her Nob Hill mansion in San Francisco, when she consumed water that tasted bitter. According to a report by Stanford Magazine, a subsequent investigation showed the drink had been laced with a lethal dose of strychnine. Her maid fell under suspicion and was dismissed, though no evidence existed pointing to a specific culprit or motive. Depressed and suffering from a cold, Stanford sailed to Hawaii to recover.
On the evening of her passing, Stanford allegedly asked for soda to settle her stomach, which her personal secretary, Bertha Berner, prepared for her. According to the report, Berner was a trusted employee of 20 years, and the only other individual also present during the previous incident. Stanford died in her hotel room that evening of what was determined to be yet another case of strychnine poisoning. Berner was never charged with the murder, and what exactly happened remains a mystery to this day.
According to account by HHA, there have been reports that the her ghost still frequents the hotel. Guests and hotel staff have said that they've seen her roaming around at night trying to find her room (and perhaps a glass of water).