|By Brian Anderson, The Dallas Morning News|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 28, 2003 - When things go bump in the night at the historic Hotel Adolphus in downtown Dallas, Eric Langley gets the call.
"It's usually somebody just complaining of hearing conversations and the like," said Langley, who has spent the past four years handling guest services on the aptly named 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. graveyard shift. "I get calls at night that people hear someone walking down the hall." Sometimes, the sleepy-voiced guests say they are bothered by the steady drone of a distant piano. Other times, the patrons complain of the loud Big Band music echoing down the hallway.
"The 19th floor used to be the ballroom level," Langley explained. "That's where most of the stories generate from." But when security officers arrive to investigate the complaints, the result is always the same. No one is wandering the hall. There is no piano player or swing band. In fact, for decades, there hasn't even been a ballroom.
At first glance, the 19th floor looks like any other of the Adolphus today. Rows of white doors stretch along the sides of the quiet carpeted hallway. There are no clues to its former opulence.
John Valis, the hotel's director of engineering, said the long-abandoned ballroom was gutted in 1979 to make way for a subsequent remodeling that filled the 19th level with new guestrooms. But behind an inconspicuous door on the 21st floor, through a hidden crawlspace and over a rickety catwalk high above the ceiling of the current 19th floor, a giant cavity is at the hotel's core. And below lie the decrepit remnants of the once grand gathering place.
Pillows of insulation have replaced the polished hardwood floors where Dallas' elite once danced the night away. Peeling wallpaper hangs from the gritty walls and a marble staircase leads to nowhere.
"I guess you have to use a little bit of your imagination to see what it was," Valis said, surveying the emptiness beneath his perch. "It's said it was glamorous, and it probably was." Arched ceilings are now only rusty steel ribs suspended overhead. Small, boarded windows hint at where spotlights were once stationed to illuminated the dance floor.
"This is 1912 vintage construction," Valis said. He proudly patted a steel beam above his head and bragged that rivets, not welds, hold the steel structure together. "You get better quality, but it takes longer to put it together." But is the dark, dusty ballroom the nightly setting for supernatural carousing?
"I haven't seen anything myself," Valis said.
Many of his co-workers say they have.
Since its construction in 1912, the Adolphus has maintained a reputation for lavish comfort and keen service. They're what keep customers coming back, and perhaps why some never leave.
Hotel guests and employees have reported numerous instances of unexplained activity throughout the building. They've reluctantly attributed the incidents to the ghosts of visitors from long ago.
"People feel like someone is watching them. They hear doors slam. Over the years, I've heard it all," said Louis Ford, a 16-year employee who now supervises the hotel's Bistro restaurant.
Ford said he, too, worked the graveyard shift early in his career at the Adolphus. He said he often sensed he was not alone as he made his late-night rounds to collect room service carts.
"I have felt a presence at times. You feel like someone is watching you, but no one is there, of course," he said.
Longtime bartender Dale Rust blames one playful spirit for routinely rearranging the beer bottles displayed behind his counter.
"It would always move out," Rust said, pointing to the last bottle in the row of samples on a shelf. "You'd put it back and later it would be moved out again." Rust said last spring marked a particularly busy period of paranormal activity.
In the weeks following the death of a frequent customer, employees repeatedly saw the image of the deceased woman, taking a place at her favorite table near the front of the Bistro's seating area.
In another incident, a housekeeper claimed an unseen visitor repeatedly tapped her on the shoulder as she was attempting to clean one of the hotel's restrooms.
At least two hotel employees reported separate instances of windows bursting open with a violent blast of cold air.
"Out of nowhere, the window just flew open." Langley said, recalling how the incident caused one visitor to fall to the floor in a rush to escape the room.
"We assumed somebody didn't latch the window, but that's very odd. It was on the interior of the building. It would be hard for the wind to get in there." And on one occasion, two women fled the hotel in the middle of the night after awakening to find the apparition of an unknown man standing in their room.
However, no single supernatural occupant of the Adolphus has registered more visits than the specter of a spurned woman in white.
"We've had people say they saw a bride," Langley said. "Supposedly it was a bride who was left at the altar." According to hotel lore, the grand ballroom was the scene for many musical events and elegant weddings during the hotel's earliest years. But in the 1930s, one young bride's dreams of a fantasy marriage in the ornate hall were dashed when her husband-to-be abandoned her on their wedding day.
The distraught bride promptly hanged herself only steps from where she had hoped to begin a new life with her beau.
Now, the lonely spirit is said to haunt the halls of the 19th floor, occasionally making her presence known to unsuspecting hotel guests.
"People will say they hear a woman crying in the room next to them, but there won't be anyone there," Rust said.
Johnny Bauman, a Bistro waiter, said he recently encountered the ghostly bride as he wandered the building with a friend late one night.
"I was telling her about the ghost stories I'd heard working here. She said we should go up to the 19th floor," Bauman said.
But when the couple arrived at their destination, they knew something was terribly wrong.
"As soon as we walked off the elevator, this heat rush hit us and my ears turned bright red," Bauman said. "We could feel a presence there. We knew we shouldn't be toying with that stuff." The pair raced back to their room on the 10th floor. But when they arrived in the company of more friends who were staying at the hotel, at least one woman from the party sensed that they were not alone.
"Without us saying a word, she said, 'What did you bring here with you?' We could all feel there was still a presence there. Everyone in the whole room felt it," Bauman said.
Some of the room's occupants eventually fell asleep, but for those who remained awake, the peculiar events continued. The gentle sound of an unseen music box played for more than an hour.
David Davis, director of public relations for the Adolphus, isn't sure if ghosts really are roaming the halls. But he agrees that many guests and employees feel a unique connection to the building's past.
"That's why I started working here. There is a feeling of history," he said.
Whether tall tales or vivid imaginations are to blame for the hotel's paranormal phenomena, Davis said it's all just part of the Dallas institution's intriguing character.
"Whatever that spirit is, that sense people get here, it draws a certain type of guest and a certain type of employee," Davis said. "There is something about the Adolphus that wants to draw people in. It wants you to be a part of the family."
-----To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com.
(c) 2003, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.