Published: April 2009
By Rebecca Barry
These hotels must be good -- why else would certain guests settle in for eternity?
It may seem spooky to sleep in a haunted hotel, but there's no guarantee you'll actually see a ghost. Some are picky; some are shy; some stick to one room (which may not be yours). Others appear as nothing more than a chill or a flash of color. But maybe, just maybe, you'll be one of the lucky ones. Think of what you can tell your friends! Any hotel can offer candy on the pillows and cable on the TV, but a place where plates break for no reason or the spirit of a former party queen jitterbugs down the hall?That's something to write home about.
Hotel Monte Vista
The sturdy brick Monte Vista, one block from Route 66 and within striking distance of the Grand Canyon, has a history of glamorous guests-- the brochure touts "raven-haired actress Jane Russell," "star of film noir Humphrey Bogart," and "diminutive Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox." Add to the list two ladies of the evening killed here some 30 years ago; they haunt room 306. According to a desk clerk, the lounge is also home to a bank robber who died there in the 1970's. "TV's turn on and off by themselves," she reports. "Our coffee shop has no ghosts that I know of, though sometimes the Belgian waffle maker acts up." 520/779-6971, fax 520/779-2904; doubles from $40.
Hotel de la Poste
New Orleans, Louisiana
Two spirits, Gerald and Diane, live-- if that's the right word-- in this 100-room courtyard hotel on Chartres Street, in the French Quarter. A former carriage servant, Gerald won't leave the garage; Diane appears mostly on the second floor. "She's slim, with dark, shoulder-length hair-- not bad-looking," says a former housekeeper. Viva Pesante, who works in the restaurant, has also felt Diane's presence. "Something frosty passes behind your back," she says. Viva eventually got tired of Diane, who would often drop in at the end of a long night. "I finally said, 'Leave me alone, Diane. I'm trying to count money.'" It worked . . . for a bit. 800/448-4927 or 504/581-1200, fax 504/522-3208; doubles from $99.
Orcas Island, Washington
Built in 1909 by some of the country's best shipwrights, the Rosario resort's original 54-room mansion has the feel of an ocean liner, with its teak floors and mahogany walls. It was bought in 1938 by Donald Rheems, who thought it would be a safe place to tame his rowdy wife, Alice. (She was famous for roaring around on a motorcycle in her red nightie.) "Alice loved to party at Rosario and drank herself silly," says Christopher Peacock, curator of the house museum. Apparently she misses the glory days: her lusty sighs reportedly drift through her old rooms. 800/562-8820 or 360/376-2222, fax 360/376-3680; doubles from $175.
Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Known as "Florida's Pink Palace," the Moorish-style Don CeSar was built by Thomas J. Rowe in 1928 as a tribute to a Spanish opera singer named Lucinda, with whom Rowe had fallen in love during a trip to London. Lucinda was forbidden by her family to see him, and he returned to the States to wait for her. He constructed a mansion in her honor, with a replica of the fountain where they used to rendezvous. But unlike most people, Lucinda died before moving to Florida. Thank heaven for the afterlife: when Rowe died of a heart attack in 1940, Lucinda's ghost finally made the journey. Some guests have seen the couple walking hand in hand on the beach. 800/282-1116 or 813/360-1881, fax 813/367-3609; doubles from $195.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Built in 1722, the colonial Logan is one of the country's five oldest inns. Strange things occur in room 6, which despite its southern exposure is always the coldest. A former owner once saw, reflected in the mirror, someone lying next to him in bed. (A particularly disturbing point, since the room is said to be haunted by his mother, who lived and died at the inn.) More recently, a nonbeliever woke up to the sensation of a cat licking his nose. "He thought it was his wife," says innkeeper Gwen Davis, "but she was asleep. And his nose was wet." It is also said that a Revolutionary soldier roams the halls at night-- one winter during the war, corpses were stored in the basement until the ground thawed. 215/862-2300; doubles from $95.
Manchester Village, Vermont
No one knows the identities of the spirits that haunt the third and fourth floors of the Equinox resort's south wing, though some speculate that one may be Mary Todd Lincoln; the hotel was a favorite of the post-assassination Lincoln family before they moved into a house down the street. "Our maintenance man, Bob, was once called to a room in the middle of the night," says concierge Linda Malachuk. "Furniture was shaking, shades were flapping . . ." Another night, a guest requested a bottle of wine from the tavern. "Those ghosts drove me nuts last night," Malachuk recalls her saying, "so tonight I think I'll just get drunk and go to sleep." 800/362-4747 or 802/362-4700, fax 802/362-4861; doubles from $179.
New York, New York
The Chelsea's guests and residents-- it's now part hotel, part apartment building-- have included Dylan Thomas, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, and Leonard Cohen. It has had its share of deaths-- Sid Vicious allegedly killed Nancy Spungen in room 100-- but many believe that the place is haunted by a general force rather than a specific ghost. "It tests you," says one resident. "Lots of people move in, get about half a room painted, and want to leave." The ghosts, however, don't much bother those passing through-- except on the elevator, which is said to stop on Nancy's floor when the button hasn't been pushed. It's Sid trying to visit her, even though room 100 has been incorporated into an adjoining apartment. 212/243-3700, fax 212/675-5531; doubles from $150.
"Are we haunted?" asks Peter Mortensen, concierge at Milwaukee's elegant, old-world Pfister. Not if haunted implies anguish and despair. "What we are is visited," he finishes delicately. The "visitor" is the spirit of Guido Pfister, who built the hotel in 1893 and amassed its vast collection of Victorian art. One housekeeper claims to have ridden the elevator with a man dressed in old-fashioned clothes. When she turned to talk to him, he was gone. Another swears she passed him in the hallway one night. "He's not scary," insists Mortensen. "It's more as if his pride in his accomplishments has brought him back from the grave." That's one way to spin it. 800/558-8222 or 414/273-8222, fax 414/273-8082; doubles from $244.
St. James Hotel
Cimarron, New Mexico
Three mainstays inhabit this adobe structure (decorated like a Victorian) on the old Santa Fe Trail. One is a prostitute named Mary who died there in her sleep; another is a friendly dwarf called "Little Imp"; last but not least is T. J., who won the hotel in a poker game in 1881 and was subsequently shot in the back by Mary's husband, the hotel's previous owner. While Mary hangs around male guests-- they smell her rose perfume-- and the dwarf messes about in the kitchen, T. J. gets angry. One employee was knocked to the floor by a shiny ball of energy in T. J.'s room, No. 18. "We put some tobacco, rolling papers, a bottle of J. D., and a picture of girls in bikinis in there," says owner Perry Champion. "The room finally quieted down." 800/748-2694 or 505/376-2664, fax 505/376-2623; doubles from $100.
The secluded Chateau Marmont has always been known for its celebrity guests (and their scandalous behavior). This is where Garbo smoked a cigarillo, Howard Hughes used binoculars to spy on ladies at the pool, and Jim Morrison, coked up and drunk, fell off his cottage roof. Not surprisingly, the hotel's ghost is somewhat louche. "A woman sensed an invisible someone joining her in bed," says Patrick O'Shea, the director of sales. Later, she swore that same someone threw a leg across her body. "We didn't ask for details," says O'Shea (the staff is famously discreet). He does add that she refused an offer to change her room: "I suppose you can draw your own conclusions." 800/242-8328 or 213/656-1010, fax 213/655-5311; doubles from $205.
REBECCA BARRY is a contributing editor for Mademoiselle.