October just might be my favorite month of the year. Along with the warm colors and scents of the season and the crisp feel of autumn weather, I love the scary movie marathons on television and the prospect of creepy ghouls lurking on my front porch. I've always had a fascination with the macabre and an affinity for ghost stories. It's no wonder, then, that I enjoy hearing tales about haunted hotels. So just in time for Halloween, I offer you a few hair-raising tales about some of my favorite haunted hotels in America.
1. The Myrtles Plantation
The Myrtles isn't simply known as a haunted hotel — it's generally recognized as the most haunted location in America. Built in 1796, this beautiful mansion is located in St. Francisville, Louisiana, just north of Baton Rouge. While the approximately 10 murders that occurred on the property have no doubt contributed to the troubles at the plantation, it's the slave girl Chloe, legend has it, who is responsible for getting the haunting started. Stories vary, but according to the usual story line, Chloe was abused by her master. Seeking revenge, she used oleander to poison a cake she baked for his wife and children. After their deaths, Chloe's fellow slaves feared their master would take revenge on them all, so they took matters into their own hands and killed her. Chloe, the wife, and the children are just a few of the ghosts who regularly appear in mirrors and beside guests' beds.
I've visited The Myrtles, and it's truly a spooky place. But even if you don't believe in ghosts, you can still enjoy a true taste of the relaxed Southern lifestyle as you sit on the mansion's veranda, rocking away a steamy afternoon while sipping iced tea. The Myrtles operates as a full-service bed-and-breakfast, and guests brave enough to stay overnight get a free guided tour of the property. Historical tours and mystery tours are also available for non-guests for a nominal fee.
2. The Hotel Monteleone
The Hotel Monteleone is located south of The Myrtles in the heart of New Orleans' historic French Quarter. Although this high-rise hotel was built in 1954, the original hotel that stood on the block was built in the late 1800s. Like most old sites in New Orleans, the Monteleone claims to be haunted. Locked doors often fly open, elevators stop on phantom floors, and former staff members roam the building. But rather than trying to discount the stories of strange happenings at the property, the Monteleone has embraced its creep factor, offering "Haunted Weekend" packages, hosting conferences on the paranormal, and inviting the International Society for Paranormal Research to spend a few days investigating the ghosts. The hotel's Web site even features a video about its spirits!
I've stayed at the Hotel Monteleone a few times, and I did experience something odd one night. I awoke with a start, and realized that the tap in the bathroom sink was on full force. Then it turned off. Then back on. It happened more than a few times, but I was too scared to get up and check it out. Maybe it was a ghost. Then again, maybe I'd drunk one too many hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's.
3. The Hay-Adams
The Hay-Adams is a luxury property in Washington, D.C., located just minutes from all the city's major attractions. The hotel's outstanding service and beautiful appointments ensure that most guests leave happy — but there was at least one former resident who was reportedly very, very sad.
Henry Adams, a descendant of U.S. presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, built a Romanesque mansion on the original site in the late 1800s. His wife, Marian, was often depressed, and she committed suicide in the house just after it was completed in 1885. Her ghost is known to be especially active in early December, near the anniversary of her death. The spectral Marian supposedly calls people by name and even hands out ghostly "hugs" from time to time.
4. The Stanley Hotel
Stephen King's novel "The Shining" has scared countless readers, and the movie has freaked out many more. Is it any wonder, then, that the real hotel that was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's Oscar-winning film is said to be haunted?
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, may be tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but it was designed to resemble the classic seaside resorts of the East Coast. The hotel's fourth floor is said to exhibit the most paranormal activity, with many guests claiming to have heard phantom children playing in the hallways.
If you don't want to stay at the hotel, you can still take a ghost tour or history tour if you decide to visit. I'd love to sleep at the Stanley, but I don't know if I could muster the courage. I can just imagine some prankster sneaking up behind me and whispering "redrum" in my ear; I'd most likely drop dead of a heart attack.
5. The Crescent Hotel
If you ever find yourself in northwest Arkansas, you've got to visit the historic town of Eureka Springs. Surrounded by the peaceful beauty of the Ozark Mountains, this little community has just the right ratio of tacky tourist shops, outlet malls, neat art galleries and interesting historical sites. The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa is one such historical site.
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The Crescent sits high atop Crescent Mountain, offering great views of the local scenery. The paranormal activities at this property include rattling lampshades, knocks at the door, ringing telephones, and phantom dancers in the ballroom (check out the hotel's Web site, which has a great page dedicated to tales of its haunted history). The Crescent was even featured on an episode of the Sci-Fi Channel's "Ghost Hunters." The Crescent offers ghost tours, led by local mediums, every evening.
6. The Hotel Del Coronado
Hotel Del for the first time, my reaction was "Wow!" A perfect example of Victorian beach resort architecture, this stunning property sits perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean on Coronado Island, just across the bay from San Diego. This luxury hotel has hosted movie stars, socialites and politicians and has been the location for a few Hollywood movies over its 115-year history.
The Del's most infamous former guest, however, was no celebrity. Kate Morgan was a young woman who led a transient lifestyle and often used aliases. In 1892, she was working as a domestic for a family in Los Angeles. Just before Thanksgiving, she traveled to San Diego. Instead of returning to Los Angeles in time to cook the holiday dinner, she checked into the Del. Kate seemed unhappy and exhibited some strange behavior during her stay. Five days later, Kate was found on a staircase leading down to the beach, killed by a bullet to the head. It's still disputed whether her death was a suicide or murder.
Kate is said to be responsible for plenty of paranormal occurrences, including items flying off shelves in the gift shop and ghostly breezes and cold spots. Some guests report hearing footsteps and lots of activity above them — but their rooms are on the top floor! Even if these anomalies can all be explained, Kate's tragic story is still very interesting. The Del has published a book about Kate and the haunting titled "Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado." The book can be purchased through the hotel's gift shop, and is a must-read if you plan on visiting this resort.
7. The Amargosa Hotel
In a less inviting, though no less beautiful, part of California sits the Amargosa Hotel. Located in Death Valley Junction, this hotel is operated in conjunction with the historic Amargosa Opera House. The Amargosa is by no means luxurious. Vending machines offer the only food and drink, and the nearest restaurant is seven miles away. And to preserve the property's sense of history, there are no televisions or telephones in the rooms (but there are air conditioners —this is Death Valley, after all!).
The caretaker of the hotel and opera house is the fascinating Marta Becket. Becket grew up in New York City, and was immersed in the dance, music and theater culture of Broadway and Radio City Music Hall. On a road trip in 1967, Becket and her husband were sidetracked in Death Valley Junction by a flat tire. While waiting for the tire to be fixed, Becket wandered around the town and stumbled upon an abandoned theater. She immediately felt a connection with the building, and the very next day, she struck up a rental agreement with the town manager. Becket began staging her own productions in the theater, often for small or nonexistent crowds. To make up for the lack of theatergoers, Becket painted a mural of an audience on seemingly every square foot of the opera house walls. Her murals also decorate some rooms in the attached hotel.
The hotel is reportedly haunted by many spirits, some of which may be former miners who lived in the area during its "better days" in the 1920s, when the Pacific Coast Borax Company built the town and operated a mine there. Visitors have reported hearing babies crying when none were around, and have carried on conversations with ghostly residents.
The story of Death Valley Junction and Becket and her theater is touching and fascinating. Becket grew a thing of beauty from the barren desert, and she continues to nourish creativity and culture to this day. I recommend watching the Emmy-award-winning documentary "Amargosa" if you're interested in finding out more about this historic site.
I could go on and on with stories of even more haunted hotels, but I'm over my limit here! Please post comments letting us know about some of your favorite creepy lodgings.
I encourage everyone to take at least one trip to a haunted hotel. Go with an open mind, and go for the sole purpose of having fun and possibly being scared out of your wits. Because if you show up with an I'm-a-big-tough-skeptic attitude, I can promise you one thing: You'll look really silly when you're begging the front desk agent for a new room at midnight because you woke up to find a floating woman at the end of your bed!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. E-mail her or read more of her articleson Tripso.com!