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Hotels haunted by celebrities

From Marilyn Monroe to Janis Joplin, celebrity spirits that have taken up residence in hotels across America.
Marilyn Monroe first stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel when her modeling career began, posing on the hotel pool's diving board for a suntan lotion.
Marilyn Monroe first stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel when her modeling career began, posing on the hotel pool's diving board for a suntan lotion.Courtesy of Jorge Mir
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You’ve checked into the Beverly Hills Roosevelt hotel, donned your chicest outfit, and are ready to hit Tinseltown. On your way out, you stop to admire your fresh look in a lobby mirror when eerily, you see a ghostly figure next to your reflection — that of the world-famous blond, Marilyn Monroe.

Tales of haunted hotels abound, of course, especially in older establishments like the Roosevelt. Usually, the haunting spirit is that of a random person — someone who died there, perhaps, or someone who simply doesn’t want to check out. But some of these hotel spooks — like Sid Vicious, Anna Nicole Smith, and Marilyn (who’s specter has also been reported at Lake Tahoe’s Cal Neva Resort) — became famous before their deaths. And conveniently, some of them inhabit easily booked hotels.

So who are these A-listers who have come back from the great beyond to haunt hotels? Elvis Presley, for one. People all over the world have laid claim to seeing the still-living King, of course, but his spirit is popular, too. It’s been spotted in his old performance space at the Las Vegas Hilton — just waiting, perhaps, to do one more show.

Another singer, Janis Joplin, has a different kind of connection to the hotel she’s said to haunt. It was in the Landmark Hotel (now the Highland Gardens Hotel) in Los Angeles that she died of an overdose in 1970.

Naturally, some hotels don’t like to discuss the celebrities — either living or dead — who stay with them. The Roosevelt maintains that their hotel isn’t haunted by anyone, celebrity or otherwise. And the Algonquin Hotel — where writer Dorothy Parker is said to lurk — says it has no documented occurrences of a haunting. (On the flip side, other members of the Historic Hotels of America proudly publicize their ghosts.)

As with any unexplained phenomena, there are more rumors than documented cases. So perhaps these celebrity spirits don’t exist, and the sightings have proliferated because diehard fans don’t want to accept that their beloved star is gone. But maybe there’s some truth to them. After all, why would so many guests insist that what they saw was real?

Regardless, there’s nothing more exhilarating than a spirit surprise around Halloween — especially if it’s a star from days gone by. So grab your Ouija board, pick a hotel, and prepare for an Academy Award–winning ghost hunt.