Hotel Online  Special Report

Heavy Footsteps, Doors Slamming, Cool Drafts; 
Unexplained Occurrences at Historic Hotels
of America Member Hotels


What Goes Bump in the Night? National Trust Historic
Hotels of America Shares Tales of the Unexplained

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 15, 2004 - Heavy footsteps. Doors slamming. Cool drafts. This is just the beginning of the unexplained occurrences at Historic Hotels of America member hotels. With hotels dating from as early as the 1700s, it is no surprise that a few spirits have stuck around to dabble in the modern world. Apparitions range from characters dubbed Ms. Clean, Red and Walter to those with historic ties to the hotels like former owners, employees and guests. Some spirits are seen, others are heard and some play harmless pranks. Staying at one of these members of Historic Hotels of America offers a blend of architecture, history and service, and the chance to meet some "guests" that will make the stay event more memorable.

Don't Worry, We Live Here

Prior to the main dining room being renamed Ellyngton's the restaurant space at The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver was known as the San Marco Room, home to big bands and later, the San Marco Strings. One evening, a houseman went to investigate sounds coming from the dining room. Upon entering, he discovered a quartet of formally dressed musicians practicing their music. The houseman was not amused as it was long past closing time. "You're not supposed to be in here," he said. They replied, "Oh, don't worry about us. We live here."
The San Marco Strings await their
next "gig" in Ellyngton's at the
Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.
Normandy Invasion?

At 3:00 a.m. on June 6, 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, a guest in room 144 at The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, Calif., awoke feeling a bit odd. Suddenly, she 

heard heavy footsteps on the staircase outside of her room. Up and down, several people ran stomping on each step and a door was repeatedly slammed. This continued for a while. At last, the frightened guest opened the door and peered out but theere was no one to be seen. She was certain she heard multiple heavy footsteps of men running up and down the uncarpeted stairs. She discovered the slamming door was not from a guest room but rather from a meeting room. She notified hotel staff and was assured no late-night meeting was taking place in the room. At her request, the guest was moved to another room so 
The staircase to the Sun Room
at The Grande Colonial in
La Jolla, Calif.
she could sleep a bit easier.

The meeting room in question was the Sun Room. Sixty years ago, the room was used as a temporary barracks for single servicemen during World War II. The area did not have carpet at the time. Hardwood floors still exist under the carpet today. The historic battle known as "D-Day" occurred on June 6, 1944. Perhaps what the guest heard was the spirit of those soldiers who were reliving the events of the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.

Civil War Love Letters

In a former life, the grandiose building now home to the Hotel Monaco in Washington, D.C., was once the nation's first General Post Office. An extensive rehabilitation of the historic building was undertaken in 2001 to transform it into a luxury hotel. One afternoon a construction worker was startled by the sight of a beautiful woman standing in the courtyard's entrance-an area off limits to the public. He was perplexed by her attire - she was dressed head to toe in clothing of the Civil War era. She stared longingly out towards the street, as if she were waiting for something or someone to arrive, and then disappeared into thin air.

Confused by what he saw, the construction worker sought an explanation. Why was she there, and what was she waiting for? He later found out that in the Civil War era, home delivery of mail did not exist, so it was common to see women pacing the courtyard of the General Post Office eagerly awaiting the delivery of the day's mail for news of loved ones. Paranormal experts believe the construction worker witnessed a ghost, awaiting a letter from her husband who was off at battle. Her anxious expression was likely due to her hopes that she would be receiving a love letter, rather than a letter informing her of his death in the line of duty.

The sighting has made the courtyard of the Hotel Monaco a popular part of the Civil War Capital bus tour, but the courtyard isn't the only part of the hotel that is thought to be haunted. Legend has it that Hotel Monaco's Paris Ballroom was used as a surgical room during the Civil War. Guests and employees of the hotel have reported hearing whispering in the ballroom thought to be the murmurings of doctors in surgery, and many have claimed to see the ghosts of doctors and nurses hurriedly walking the hotel's long corridors.

Going for a Smoke

One evening while working in the main hotel at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, N.Y., employee Patricia Allen-Roberts, used the elevator outside of Trillium restaurant to return her dinner dishes to the employee cafeteria.

"We have a courtesy rule that employees do not get on the elevators with the guests, said Allen-Roberts. "I checked out the elevator very carefully, making sure it was empty. I stepped onto the elevator. The door closed and I pressed the button for the basement. I stepped back one step and bumped into a person. I turned quickly to apologize for bumping into him. No one was there. But slowly, a man materialized. He was a portly man with a walrus mustache. He was dressed in a three piece brown suit. Spanning his vest was a gold watch fob."

Allen-Roberts continued, "As I stood next to him I kept getting impressions of what may have been going through his mind. This imposing figure-obviously someone very important-was either on his way to a good smoke or had had a good smoke."

Upon reporting this incident to security, Allen-Roberts learned that Trillium was originally a men's parlor where men could go to smoke and play cards. This spirit has been named "Walter" by the employees at The Sagamore and his presence is seen often. In the smoke-free environment of today's Sagamore, Walter must be an unhappy soul.

Oh My Darling

At the Pierpont Inn & Racquet Club in Ventura, Calif., many otherworldly sightings have occurred since the hotel underwent renovations near the start of the 21st century. It is believed that many of the recent "visitors" are the spirits of previous owners checking in on the progress of the restorations.

One such visitor is thought to be Eliza (Emma) Darling. She died in 1997 and this is when her spirit began appearing at the hotel. She was good friends with Mattie 

Emma Darling wanders the
grounds of the Pierpont Inn
in Ventura, Calif.
Gleichmann who owned the hotel for 70 years.

Her spirit has been seen in massage rooms, dancing in the parking lot or leaving wet footprints on the lobby floor for the cleaning crew. She is always described being dressed for a formal, serious occasion such as a funeral.

A Happy Spirit

Established in 1982, The Windsor Hotel in Americus, Ga., is no stranger to paranormal activity. Guest and staff have reported seeing and hearing the voice of a little girl on the third floor of the hotel. The little girl runs, laughing down the hallway at night. Additionally, kitchen staff has reported seeing pots and pans flying at nights and being mysteriously misplaced.

Tall Man in a Black Coat

In the 1970s, a guest at La Fonda in Santa Fe, N.M., called the front desk to complain that someone was walking up and down the hallway in front of his room. Employee Lalo Ortega was sent to investigate. Ortega saw a tall man in a long, black coat disappear into a stairwell. Ortega could find no trace of the mysterious visitor but the legend still haunts the hotel.

Messy Bedrooms

Two housekeepers at The Equinox in Manchester Village, Vt., encountered a spirit while cleaning the two-story Green Mountain Suite one day. They made the beds on the first floor and then split up to do the upstairs beds and bathrooms. When they returned to do the downstairs beds the sheets, blankets and pillows had been ripped off the beds and thrown about the room. No one is sure of the identity of the mischievous specter or why it would play this game.

Lost Love

Built in 1886 as the Hatt Mill Building, a warehouse and feed store, it is now The Napa River Inn in Napa, Calif. The son of the building's original owner, Captain Albert Hatt, seems to still be visiting. Albert Jr. married a woman named Margaret in 1889 and together they had five children. Margaret died in 1906. Within a few years Albert Jr., 46, was overwhelmed with caring for his five children and in poor health. On April 1, 1912, Albert Jr. hung himself from a beam in the warehouse. It is the area now occupied by Sweetie Pies Bakery.

Nancy Lochmann, general manager of the hotel, says the first ghost sightings when the hotel opened were visions of a woman. "A woman in a white dress, who seems to be searching, looking for someone," says Lochmann. "It might have been Margaret, so much in love with her husband, perhaps trying to stop him from taking his life."

In another story occurring in the guest room above Sweetie Pies Bakery, a guest tells of hearing a heavy dress sway down the hall and the door opens in room 208 then shuts. The guest then heard what sounded like a man's footsteps. A door at the other end of the hall in room 207 opened then closed with force. Next, the guest heard walking down the hallway toward room 208. The guest sees nothing. Could this be Margaret and Albert Jr.?

Everyday Ghostly Encounters

Christine Donovan, director of heritage programs at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., has researched the phenomena of ghosts extensively. She even wrote a book about the hotel's most famous ghost, Kate Morgan. But not all of The Del's paranormal activity can be attributed to Kate nor are all the occurrences grand. Donovan claims, "It is the decidedly non-dramatic aspects of most of the stories that has made a believer out of me."

"For instance, a doctor e-mailed me that during his stay, his shoes and socks (which he always carefully placed by his bed at night) would end up all over the room by the time he woke up. In my mind, that's not enough of a story to have made up. In addition, it fits very well with other paranormal accounts I've heard about objects being tossed about a room for no apparent reason," says Donovan.

Donovan, who has yet to encounter Kate or any other kind of paranormal activity at The Del, says that suits her just fine. "I always say there are two kinds of people in the world-those that would like to see a ghost, and those who wouldn't. I'm definitely in the second group."

Spirits Caught on Film

The Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans dates to 1886 and is home to several friendly spirits. Recently, the International Society of Paranormal Research (ISPR) of Los Angeles conducted investigations at the hotel. According to Andrea Thornton, director of sales at the hotel, "The findings are in accordance with what guests and employees have been experiencing for years." She continues, "Most of the reports we receive about our ghosts are sightings, but some detail benign mischief like opening doors and moving soap. We had no idea this investigation would unearth such rich stories."

A handful of stories involve past employees:

The "doormen" of Le Café are caught in the act on film by ISPR. For years the doors of Le Café have unexplainably opened and closed. Employees attributed this occurrence to a draft although they could not find the source. Investigations captured on film show that the mysterious opening is caused by the spirits of two former employees, one, a maintenance worker who prefers the doors open as they were when the area currently occupied by Le Café was a maintenance area. The other entity is a butler or a waiter;

"Ms. Clean," a maid for whom good housekeeping is a family affair (she, her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all worked at the hotel). When ISPR asked her why she continues to haunt the hotel she replied that she picks up after the current housekeeping staff ensuring the hotel is cleaned to her high standards; and

"Red" is a middle-aged man and a faithful engineer from years past who continues to make his rounds at the hotel.

Looking for more? Fifty additional tales of ghostly encounters can be found in the "eerie archives" on the Historic Hotels of America Web site.

Historic Hotels of America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Historic Hotels has identified more than 200 hotels that have faithfully maintained their historic integrity, architecture and ambiance. To be selected for this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old, listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or recognized as having historic significance.

Mary Billingsley
Director of Public Relations
Phone: 202-588-6061
Fax: 202-588-6292
Web site:
Also See: With Hotels Dating Back to the 17th-century, National Trust Historic Hotels of America Often Played Host to Presidents and Sometimes the President Leaves Behind an Interesting Tale / February 2004
Designers Provide Tips on Historic Integrity and Ambiance; Designing for the Ages, National Trust Historic Hotels of America® / December 2003
Hotel Adolphus Guests and Employees Report Numerous Instances of 'Unexplained Activity' Throughout the Hotel Built in 1912 / October 2003

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