Hotels are transitory spaces, ripe with the anonymity that comes with escape. When you visit one, the room is only yours for however long you pay to pass through it. You aren’t the first nor certainly the last to sleep in that bed, and you don’t always know who occupied it before you—in most cases, it’s better that way. All this is to say that hotels are spookily similar to the liminal space ghosts inhabit, neither here nor there, neither dead nor alive. So it’s only (super)natural that hotels are some of the most haunted structures around, from the most opulent to the seediest, and every unassuming accomodation in between.
In his book Ghostland, Author Colin Dickey even invites readers to “assume, then, that every nightmare you’ve ever had in a hotel was a cry for help, some violence from the past reaching out to you.” Some hotels, of course, are more haunted than others… If you’d like to the dabble in a dark tourism adventure—or at least learn about some of the fascinating backstories that make these places so infamous—you’ll be excited to read all about the most haunted hotels around the country below. Whether you yourself are brave enough to visit these places and plan to book a stay, or you just like reading the ghostly tales behind these eerie accommodations, the 12 haunted hotels ahead are just what the parapsychologist ordered.
Hotel Jerome, Aspen, Colorado
The Hotel Jerome attracts guests for many more reasons than just the alleged hauntings. It also happens to be an Auberge Resort Collection and is over 120 years old, making it an important local haunt, ghosts or no ghosts. Full of incredible antiques in a classic western-style building, you feel like you’re walking through a very well-preserved time capsule—it’s easy to see why it inspired some of the greatest imaginations (the 19th century piano bar was reportedly one of Hunter S. Thompson’s favorite places to grab a drink and think).
As far as paranormal activity goes, there have been reports of a little boy shivering in a towel who suddenly disappears into thin air that matches the description of a guest who tragically died in the hotel pool in 1936, and many guests and staff members report mischievous ghosts playing tricks on them. When I visited, someone who worked at the hotel told me that one night, when they were on a graveyard shift, they saw a shadow of a woman get super close to the video camera secured to the ceiling corner (too high for anyone to reach without a ladder) and look at it dead in the eyes. When she got the security guard to check it out, there was nobody there.
Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisica, Iowa
On June 10, 1912, Josiah and Sarah Moore were bludgeoned to death inside of their home in Villisca, Iowa. Their four children—and two friends who were spending the night—were also killed, and to this day, the crime remains unsolved. Several ther families have occupied this home since, and by the 1990s, it was connverted into a overnight museum.
Considered one of the most haunted houses in the country, the home draws guests of all types, from crimonolgy students to ghost hunters to Halloween enthusiasts. People pay $400+ to stay for one night, and the owner, Martha Linn simply hands over the keys and leaves you and your party alone in the home at nightfall. “Tours have been cut short by children’s voices, falling lamps, moving ladders, and flying objects,” says the Villisca Axe Murder House website. Needless to say, “skeptics have left believers,” as the home’s website says.
The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
In addition to chronicling the lives of the upper class during the Gilded Age, famed American writer Edith Wharton penned several ghost stories. Also a design aficionado, Wharton designed and built a sprawling home dubbed The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, that is now a sophisticated retreat, museum, and wedding venue. But it’s also rumored to be haunted, and the historic home runs seasonal ghost tours to drive up Halloween foot traffic.
Since you can’t actually sleep on the grounds of The Mount, The Red Lion Inn is a great haunted alternative. There have been reports of a ghostly figure, usually in the form of a little girl, holding flowers as she haunts the fourth floor hallways.
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Before we even get to the ghosts, let’s just be clear: This 5-star hotel and resort is celebrated for its incredible interiors. It was redesigned by decorating doyenne Dorothy Draper in what was then the host expensive design commission in history—and since then has been maintained by Draper’s protégé, Carleton Varney. Many iconic figures have passed through the Greenbrier, including several U.S. presidents, Davey Crockett, and Halloweentown‘s very own Debbie Reynolds. Speaking of Halloween…
On Halloweekend, the hotel hosts tons of fun seasonal activities, from tarot card readings to a costume gala. And while it doesn’t host any official ghost tours, guests and staff have reported some paranormal activity. According to USA Today, when the Arizona Cardinals stayed there in 2015, one of the team members said the voice of a little girl kept him up all night. One person who works at the hotel claims that the golf curse is the most haunted locale on the property.
Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
In 1937, millionaire inventor Norman G. Baker posed as a doctor (OK, already a very bad sign) and turned the Crescent Hotel into a hospital where he said he could treat and cure patients with cancer. Do you have the chills yet? Baker, who had an obsession with purple, painted many sections of the hospital in the color, and today, the chimneys remain that same hue. In addition to wearing purple shirts and ties, he drove a purple car as well… But enough about the color.
People came from all over the country with hopes of curing their illnesses, and many who were “treated” died while in his care. Eventually, Baker was exposed and run out of town, but it’s unclear what ultimately happened to him and if justice was ever served. Today, the property is run as an active hotel. It’s said to be haunted by several ghosts, including a bearded man wearing Victorian clothing and a five-year-old girl.
Sagamore Resort, Lake George, New York
Lake George’s Sagamore Resort is another haunted hotel famed for the ghosts roaming the golf course. While we’re not really sure what makes golf courses ghost magnets, it can usually be traced back to some tragedy that happened on the land.
In the case of the Sagamore, which opened in 1883, then burned down a decade later and was rebuilt, one of the spirits haunting the course is said to be a little boy who died in a car accident where the golf course is now. He is rumored to throw golf balls at visitors. There are also often reports 0f old-timey music and sounds of dancing in the middle of the night when there are no parties or other physical sources to explain the noise complaints. Another common ghost sighting is a female spirit who hovers over guests while they sleep and blows cold air onto them.
Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff, Arizona
The Hotel Monte Vista has numerous paranormal guests that simply never checked out. The property opened as the Community Hotel in 1927, named after the townspeople who helped raised the funds for its construction. It has a rather sordid reputation as a former venue for underground opium dens, speakeasies, and gambling. Now it’s known for the paranormal activity that haunts some of the rooms and halls, in particular room 220. Guests sleeping in it have experienced the TV changing channels on its own, and some have said they felt cold hands touching them in their sleep. No, thank you!
And if that isn’t creepy enough, there’s also reportedly a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and announces “room service,” and then disappears once guests get to door. One of the more common (and more disturbing) encounters is the sound of an infant crying in the basement. The hotel website reads, “Staff [members] have found themselves running upstairs to escape the sound of the cries. Though the sounds are very real to those who hear them, there has been no information that has explained the phenomenon.”
Hotel Cecil, Los Angeles, California
Is it cursed or is it haunted? Or is it just the stuff of Hollywood legend? Maybe a bit of each, but there’s definitely something going on in downtown L.A.’s Hotel Cecil. In fact, it got such a bad rap that it actually changed its name to Stay on Main in recent years. The first recorded death by suicide is in 1931, followed by a long string of similar deaths every year through the ’60s. At some point in the ’30s, one man was pinned to the exterior wall by a truck. In 1962, a woman jumped from the ninth-floor window and landed on a pedestrian, killing them both. In 1964, tenant Goldie Osgood was brutally murdered, a crime which remains unsolved to this day.
In the ’80s, serial kill Richard Ramirez stayed at the hotel, and in the ’90s, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterwege lived there. In 2015, it gained new attention from the disappearance and death of 21-year-old traveler Elisa Lam. A few weeks after Lam went missing, her body was discovered in the rooftop water tank after visitors and tenants reported a funky taste. They later found footage of her in the elevator from the night of her disappearance. It looks like she’s either playing hide-and-seek with someone outside the elevator, or she’s frightened and attempting to hide from someone but the doors won’t seem to shut. Authorities ruled the death accidental drowning—but because you need a key to access the roof, many suspect foul play.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanely Hotel was founded in the early 1900s by the twin brothers behind the Stanley Steamer automobile. Though it was marketed as a great Western escape in the mountains, it was also the only hotel in the area to boast electric lights, phones, and en suite bathrooms. There was also a robust staff (all formally uniformed) and a fleet of automobiles at the disposal of the guests.
It only became infamous as a haunted hotel once Stephen King made it the setting for his 1977 horror novel The Shining. King’s biographer George Behman describes him roaming the halls, going to the hotel bar, and pulling back the shower curtain, thinking “What if somebody died here? At that moment, I knew I had a book.” Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation really put the hotel on the map, so after years of declining bookings, management decided to leverage their newfound fame. Now restored to its former glory, guests can stay in one of the Stanley’s “Spirited Rooms,” which the hotel website characterizes as having “high paranormal activity, including the famous Stephen King Suite 217, the Ghost Hunters’ favorite room 401, as well 407 and 428.”
Mizpah Hotel, Tonopah, Nevada
In 1907, the Mizpah Hotel opened as one of the first luxury hotels in Nevada. With a rich history and elaborate decor, the hotel is best known for its legend of the “Lady in Red.” While the date remains unclear, the story goes like this: A woman was murdered in her room on the fifth floor. Some say it was a jealous ex-boyfriend, while others say the Lady in Red had been caught cheating by her husband and he killed her in a jealous rage.
Those who’ve stayed at the hotel say the Lady in Red whispers in men’s ears and leaves pearls from her broken necklace on guests’ pillows. Guests can stay in the Lady in Red suite to experience it themselves, and if that’s too much for you, the Red Lady Bloody Mary at the hotel restaurant should suffice.
Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Missouri
The Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, now a hotel, is known to be one of the most haunted places in America due to its tragic history. The 33-room home was built in the 1860s by William Lemp, a successful brewery owner who ended up dying by suicide in 1904 after the youngest of his four sons, Frederick, died. A few years later, his wife also died of cancer in the house. Then, in 1922, William Lemp Jr. died by suicide in the same room as William Sr.
As if that weren’t enough tragedy for one place, in 1949, Charles Lemp—William’s third son—shot his dog in the basement of the home and then died by suicide himself in his room. That same year, when there were no more living members of the Lemp family, the house was sold and transformed into a boarding house, where reports of hauntings began. According to Destination America, witnesses have experienced burning sensations and slamming doors. Today, the Lemp Mansion is a restaurant and inn that also holds events. On Sunday night, the inn hosts a Murder Mystery Dinner.
Queen Anne Hotel, San Francisco, CA
In 1890, the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco was an etiquette school for girls, so you know it’s gotta be haunted today… And apparently it is. However, the good news is that the ghost in charge at the Queen Anne is of the friendly variety. There are 48 rooms for guests, and the most haunted is room 410, which was the head headmistress’s office back in the day. Some believe the ghost of Miss Mary Lake, the school’s headmistress, still lingers, and folks who have stayed there have woken up to find their blankets closely tucked around them in bed or their clothes unpacked. A well-mannered and hardworking spirit, indeed.
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