Peter Greenberg, Today Contributor
Yes, it’s that time again, when our thoughts turn to the supernatural, ghosts, visions and other hauntings. And each year, there never seems to be a shortage of haunted hotels — places where you can get a room (or rooms) with a boo! And this year’s crop is, as always, guaranteed to give you an experience that goes beyond — and in some cases, way beyond — the mints on the pillow.
Anchorage Hotel, Anchorage, Alaska
This hotel has had so many ghost sightings that it actually keeps a guest ghost log, and many guests have shared their ghostly encounters. On the second floor of the hotel, guests have reported that they have witnessed the curtains rumble. The shower curtain also sways back and forth, and the picture over the mantelpiece has reportedly flown across the room and hit the coffee table. The ghost most often reported is the city’s first chief of police, John J. Sturgus. In 1921, the Anchorage sheriff was shot in the alleyway, and he died while he was being taken to the hospital. But he seems to return to the hotel frequently.
A female ghost is also apparently haunting the hotel. In the 1920s, a lady was supposed to wed her fiancé, but when he struck it rich in the gold rush, he jilted her on the wedding day. She was so distraught that she hanged herself while wearing her wedding dress. And, you guessed it, she appears in the dress and walks the halls.
Another guest reported to the front desk that he felt restless spirits in the hotel, specifically after he encountered an insane old woman and a happy little boy. Other guests of the hotel have called the front desk and asked the staff to quiet the kids running up and down the hall, but when the staff went to quiet the children, they found none. When they checked the hotel computer, they found that no children were even registered.
The Stone Lion Inn, Guthrie, Okla.
The Stone Lion Inn was built in 1907 by F.E. Houghton, the founder of Cotton Oil Company and owner of the first car dealership in Oklahoma. The Houghtons started out in a little house that once was located on the lot next door on the east side of the Inn. The Houghtons had 12 children, and all survived childhood except for one daughter, who died before the family moved into the Stone Lion Inn. Becky Luker purchased the Stone Lion Inn in 1986 and converted the house into the first bed-and-breakfast in Oklahoma. Back in the 1920s, the house was leased to Smith’s Funeral Home and was used as a mortuary. You can imagine what’s coming next: The Smiths lived upstairs and the embalming was done in what is now the Inn’s kitchen. Today, the owner uses the beautiful porcelain embalming table as a hallway buffet where guests can help themselves to refreshments throughout the day.
Supposedly, the Houghton daughter haunts the Inn. The girl was 8 years old when she died of whooping cough. It is believed that the maid overmedicated her with cough syrup. The medication had codeine and opium, which was once common. Guests have reported being awakened at night between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., when a small child comes into the room and pats them on the cheek, but when they are fully awake, no one is there.
Another ghost is an older gentleman who is recognized by the scent of his cigar smoke. He wears a suit and a derby-like hat. A ghost woman haunts the wedding suite, and laughter sometimes can be heard around 4 a.m. on a regular basis.
The Stanley, Estes Park, Colo.
Colorado has its share of haunted hotels, including The Stanley, in Estes Park (Stephen king stayed at The Stanley and wrote the shining — at least part of it — while staying there) and in Denver, the Brown Palace Hotel, especially Room 904.
That’s where Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill, a Denver socialite, lived from 1940 to 1955, and according to a number of guest accounts, she’s still there. During the renovation of the top two floors of the hotel (where permanent residents such as herself lived), a hotel historian conducted a series of tours. When he recounted stories of Mrs. Hill’s life and heartbreak over a lost love, the hotel’s main switchboard began receiving calls from Room 904, but there was only static on the other end of the line. Amazingly, when Mrs. Hill’s room was then stripped of its phone, furniture and carpet, and when her story was intentionally taken out of the tour, the calls stopped.
But Mrs. Hill still roams the halls.
Rockliffe Mansion, Hannibal, Mo.
The 13,500-square-foot colonial-style home was built between 1898 and 1900 and was deemed “the finest home in Missouri.” Its original owner, John J. Cruikshank Jr., died in his bed in 1924. Now, more than 83 years later, housekeepers often have to straighten Mr. Cruikshank’s bedding in that room, as it mysteriously retains the form of a 5-foot-4-inch body. Caretakers who watched over the house for a decade when it was left empty report strong cigarette smoke that would waft in at midnight. There have been reports by guests of hearing footsteps that walk into the room that Mr. Cruikshank occupied. And guests have witnessed Mrs. Cruikshank — yes, let’s not forget her — floating through her grand music room.
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, Santa Fe, N. M.
In 1882, a prosperous German-Jewish immigrant merchant named Abraham Staab built a three-story brick mansion on the property. Abraham and his wife, Julia, entertained Santa Fe society in their home; however, when Mrs. Staab lost her child only a few weeks after it was born, legend says she withdrew from Santa Fe society, and then in 1896 her obituary appeared in the newspaper. Legend has it that Mrs. Staab loved her home so much that she decided never to leave it. Julia’s old bedroom, now the hotel’s Room 100, is called the Julia Staab Suite. Many hotel guests, hotel staff and local residents reportedly have seen her ghost and felt her presence. One guest even saw her in the mirror when he was shaving.
Bourbon Orleans, New Orleans, La.
The Bourbon Orleans hotel is well-known for its lingering guests. In 1881 part of hotel was a convent and also an orphanage. Several areas of the hotel are considered haunted, such as the ballroom, which was built in 1817. The ballroom was the first one in New Orleans, and it was originally part of an opera house. A ghost often can be seen going up and down the staircase.
Hotel officials claim that the office and bathroom on the seventh floor are haunted by an old Creole man, and on the sixth floor, guests often hear kids playing.
Also in New Orleans, you’ll find the Hotel Provincial and a 25-year-old lady ghost ready to greet you. She haunts the place, wearing a white, flowing dress. But hotel officials insist she is not scary and has even been seen “helping” the employees of the hotel. She is normally spotted in a building by the river, but she also occasionally walks up and down the hotel staircase and paces back and forth on the patio by the fountain.
Some haunted-hotel honorable mentions:
The Groveland Hotel of Yosemite Park, Groveland, Calif.
The ghost of an old gold miner named Lyle frequently and playfully haunts the historic gold-rush inn. In life, this gentlemanly spirit occupied Room 15 for many years, until his death in 1927. His body was discovered with a box of dynamite tucked under his bed. Warning: He doesn’t like clutter on his dresser, and is known to remove women’s cosmetics.
Accomac Inn, Wrightsville, Pa.
This inn has two ghosts. A young man named John Coyle Jr. fell for a lady named Emily Myers, and when she rejected his advances, he became frustrated and shot her with a pistol about 50 feet north of the Inn. John was later tried and convicted of the crime. He was hanged in Gettysburg, and his mother claimed his body, which was buried about 50 feet south of the Inn, and his grave was marked with a stone marker. Over the years, many guests and employees have stated that they have seen and heard John “up and around.”
One final note: No need to rush to any of these hotels simply to celebrate Halloween. As any hotelier will tell you, once a ghost has “inhabited” a hotel, it’s Halloween every night!