Fall is in the air, trees are dying a beautiful death, decorative gourds have descended on doorsteps en masse and pumpkin spice has clenched its vice grip on society. This can all mean one thing: Halloween is nigh. With summer in the rearview mirror, the onset of autumn signals that spooky season is upon us, and there’s no better way to get into the spirit than with a good haunting.
Sure, there are haunted houses to visit and murder mystery dinners to attend, but for those brave enough to linger after dark, haunted hotels really scratch that itch. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how fun you find ghosts to be), America is filled with ghoulish hotels plagued by eerie happenings, potential apparitions, and guests that have long overstayed their reservation. From infamously haunted cities like New Orleans and Savannah to the far-flung forests of Arkansas and West Virginia, these are some of the most haunted hotels in the country — lucky number 13 of them, in fact.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Any Victorian-style hotel nestled in the wooded Ozarks is pretty much required to be haunted, and the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, overlooking the small mountain town of Eureka Springs, understood the assignment. Looming over the valley like an Arkansan Hill House, the majestic and mighty property has been plagued by creepy lore since its inception well over a century ago, starting with a stone mason falling to his death from room 218. To this day, the ghost nicknamed “Michael” has been said to emerge in mirrors, slam doors and cry out like he’s still mid-plummet. Slightly less terrifying, sights of men and women in Victorian attire have been spotted in the Crystal Dining Room as well. Most chilling of all, the hotel was temporarily used as an experimental cancer hospital in the 1930s, run by fraudulent Dr. Norman Baker who conned patients and families out of their money. To this day, the doctor and his patients make occasional ghostly appearances in the hotel, and guided ghost tours take guests to the on-site morgue, which still contains an autopsy table.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Rising over downtown Rapid City like a sky-scraping beacon, the historic Hotel Alex Johnson has hosted luminaries and dignitaries from the world over, who come to marvel at the awe-inspiring wonders of the nearby Black Hills. The hotel has also hosted its fair share of ghosts. It all dates back to its origins, when Alex Carlton Johnson dreamt up a luxe homage to the Black Hills and the Lakota Sioux Tribes, in the form of an ornate hotel filled with wood, brick and Native American tapestries. The hotel began construction in 1927, just one day before work started on Mount Rushmore, and it opened the following year. Over the subsequent century, there have been reported sightings of Alex Johnson himself, a young girl and a “Lady in White” who may or may not have committed suicide by jumping from the window in room 812. Nowadays, she’s said to roam the eighth floor in search of the person who may or may not have pushed her. When you check in, employees might regale you with tales of housekeeping staff who quit abruptly over unexplained noises and sights, or warn you that you could hear the sounds of people sprinting down hotel hallways late at night.
“One inconvenient location since 1851” is the ominous tagline for Story Inn, an adorably ramshackle abode nestled in the backwoods of Brown County State Park in a particularly middle-of-nowhere part of south-central Indiana. Comprised of a general store, restaurant, and basement bar in the main building, with four quaint rooms upstairs and a handful of cottages around the 18-acre property, the place looks like something out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales — the kind of lodging you’d expect to be run by a devious witch, perhaps. But in this case, the only folkloric figure is the Blue Lady, the former wife of Dr. George Story, and a blue-eyed apparition that has been known to loiter in the aptly dubbed Blue Lady Room overlooking the garden. Guests brave enough to stay in that room recount smelling cherry tobacco (her favorite!) and finding blue-colored trinkets scattered around. It’s not just the Blue Lady Room that has alleged happenings, though. The other three upstairs rooms are no walk in the park either, with plenty of their own accounts of inexplicable noises, flickering lights, bursts of cold air and errant whispers.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Scorned lovers are great fodder for ghost stories, as evidenced by the rather sinister tale of The Skirvin Hotel. Built in 1910 by wealthy oil magnate W.B. Skirvin, the historic downtown property is among the most iconic old-school buildings in Oklahoma City, complete with decadent Austrian chandeliers and a 500-person ballroom. Back in the day, though, it wasn’t all glitz and glamor. Skirvin was reported to have had an illicit affair with one of the hotel maids, who he sequestered away on the top floor when she became pregnant, like some kind of spurned Rapunzel. Even after the birth of her child, she was still hidden away, eventually becoming so depressed and isolated that she jumped to her death — baby in tow. All these decades later, even through an extensive multi-million dollar renovation, there have been consistent reports of a baby crying, the sound of a maid’s cart being pushed down empty hallways and even sightings of a naked woman popping up in showers. It turns out there are some things that $46.4 million just can’t change.
Parkersburg, West Virginia
West Virginia is a state with a particularly spine-tingling history. After all, this is a place whose haunted locales run the gamut from an abandoned amusement park to a full-blown “lunatic asylum.” But don’t count out The Blennerhassett Hotel, an opulent gem of a property in the charming mountain town of Parkersburg. At first glance, the architecture and design looks somewhat like the Tower of Terror in Disney World, but instead of plummeting elevators, guests report being on elevators that randomly take them to different floors, or seeing a woman board an elevator and promptly disappear. The “main” ghost is the hotel’s former owner, William Chancellor, a dapper gentleman known to make appearances in mirrors, along with probably-translucent children known to frolic the halls at night and ride tricycles. Other ghosts have been spotted wearing bowler hats and tuxedos, which makes this one of the more fashionably haunted hotels in the country.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Renowned for its voodoo lore, vampire mythology, witchcraft and even pirates sailing up the Mississippi, it’s no surprise that New Orleans is often touted as the most haunted city in America — and it’s also no wonder that it’s home to a miscellany of creepy-cool hotels. Most folks come to the French Quarter’s hallowed Hotel Monteleone for the Carousel Bar, but some come for the ghosts of children and doors that open on their own. Initially opened in 1886 by Sicilian expat Antonio Monteleone, the longstanding property is said to be one of New Orleans’ most haunted, home to the ghosts of William Wildemere and a young boy named Maurice Begere, both of whom died of natural causes on the property. Other oddities include restaurant doors that swing open — despite being locked — and elevators that bring guests to wrong floors filled with inexplicably chilly hallways. For your best bet at seeing an apparition, roam the 14th floor (which is actually the 13th floor, because superstitions), where young Maurice likes to play.
Pennywise would feel right at home at The Clown Motel, a chillingly decorated freak show of a hotel in the desolate Nevada town of Tonopah. For non-Pennywise guests, though, the accommodations might be a tad less comfy. The motel itself is a spectacle of nightmarish kitsch, bedecked floor-to-ceiling with clowns, polka dots and circus-themed shlock — there are even rooms heavily themed after horror films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and, of course, It. On the one hand, this is one hotel that fully leans into the creepiness, and while the property itself may not be haunted, there’s the fact that it sits right next to an old miners’ cemetery that definitely is. During the gold rush, this once-bustling town was teeming with miners, hundreds of whom succumbed to gristly mining deaths. Unsurprising, then, that if you stay at a creepy clown-themed motel right next to a creepy graveyard, there’s a slight chance some of those ghosts may mosey over.
Of all the spookily storied towns in America, Salem is like the Coachella of ghostly lore. Infamous for its witch trials, it’s not a coincidence that it’s become quite the haunted little hamlet. Along with a bevy of museums and shops that dig into the town’s witchy past, the Hawthorne Hotel is one particular property that stands out as a hotspot for unexplained sights and sounds. Originally opened in 1925 in the former Franklin Building that had been razed in a fire, the lavish property is named after author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was born just down the street. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t haunt the hotel himself, but it has been used for filming Bewitched, and plenty of other paranormal activity has also been documented. Ghost-hunters believe that the building’s destructive past may have turned the hotel into prime birthing ground for ghosts — guests have reported finding their belongings strewn all over the room, feeling someone tugging on their blankets at night, hearing children sobbing and even smelling apples, due to the possible fact that accused witch Bridget Bishop once had an apple orchard where the hotel currently stands. That being said, the Hawthorne Hotel throws a killer Halloween party every year.
San Antonio, Texas
When most folks think of haunted hotels, they might envision historic old buildings that may or may not have once burned down in a fire. A Holiday Inn Express? Not so much. But the Riverwalk-adjacent location in San Antonio is not your typical Holiday Inn. Because most Holiday Inns weren’t once jails where people were executed in front of an audience. The modest-looking budget property was once the site of the Bexar County Jail, the site of one of Texas’ last public hangings that took place in 1921. Naturally, this place has some dark roots, so it’s no wonder that the hotel is haunted by prisoners of yore. In addition to reported sightings of imprisoned ghosts, guests recount drastic fluctuations in temperature at random moments and having their laptops forcibly grabbed out of their hands. Meanwhile, a general manager named Gene says he has seen motion-sensor security cameras triggered by seemingly nothing, and waking up to find inexplicable bruises on his body. In other words, this isn’t your standard Holiday Inn stay.
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Like a Floridian Romeo & Juliet, the iconic Don CeSar hotel on St. Pete Beach stands as an opulent ode to love lost — and the ghosts left behind. The story behind the colorful castle-sized property, aptly nicknamed the Pink Palace, is one of a broken heart: Thomas Rowe built the hotel as an homage to a Spanish opera singer named Lucinda, who he met — and fell in love with — while studying abroad in England. The romance was real, and she nicknamed him Don CeSar, before her inexplicably enraged parents forced them apart and took her back to Spain. Back in the U.S., Rowe/CeSar spent years trying to contact her, to no avail, before eventually learning about her death. The resultant hotel is an almost frame-for-frame tribute to the courtyard and fountain where they formerly met in England. Fortunately, the haunted happenings here are more romantic than eerie, with reported sightings of a well-clad couple wandering the grounds, one in a white suit and the other in a Spanish dress.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
While sipping a Sazerac on the see-and-be-seen rooftop Apothecary Lounge atop Albuquerque’s Hotel Parq Central, you might be surprised to learn that this swanky cocktail haunt was once a psychiatric hospital. Nowadays, the hotel feels hip and modern, but prior to its relatively recent renovations in 2010, it had served as a longstanding hospital and mental health facility since its construction in 1924. Long before its hotel days, the building has laid claim to unexplained sounds and apparitions in the hospital, all of which seems to have endured the renovations. Guests frequently report unsettling feelings of being watched, hearing voices while they’re alone, or having objects moved without explanation. Whether or not these happenings can be cited to a few too many sunset cocktails, or if the building’s psychiatric bones are manifesting spirits, remains to be verified.
In terms of quasi-spooky gothic-chic Southern cities, Savannah is like a mini New Orleans, with more Spanish moss billowing in the breeze like a macabre weeping willow. Down here, in the city that begets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, you can indeed find plenty of good…and evil. Of Savannah’s many haunted hotels and inns, the Olde Harbour Inn reigns as a real bone-chiller, thanks to its resident ghost, Hank. The riverside hotel, opened in 1892, lives up to its timeworn name, and Hank is rumored to be the mystical remnants of a worker who died in a fire during the building’s construction — even more morbid, legend has it that he may have started the fire himself, only to become the only casualty of the blaze. Arsonist or not, no evidence exists to suggest Hank is evil, per say, but guests have smelt cigar smoke, experienced rattling door knobs and heard pounding on the walls. If you’re really hank-ering for a spook, book rooms 405 or 406, the two where Hank is said to spend the most time.
Estes Park, Colorado
Whether or not the singular Stanley Hotel is haunted, the Colorado mecca merits a spot on this list for its sheer ability to conjure fear. Looming over the touristy Rocky Mountain town of Estes Park like a domineering Disney castle, the luxe property is most famed as the inspiration for the book The Shining, after Stephen King spent a lonely, wind-swept night there at the end of the hotel’s season. The room he was staying in that night, room 217, is still the most coveted suite on the property, but its eerie background predates King. In 1911, the room filled with a buildup of gas from lanterns, resulting in a maid blowing it up when she accidentally lit a candle. Today, that same maid, Elizabeth Wilson, allegedly still haunts that room, but rather than cause terror or chop her way through your door with an ax, she’s more of a Casper-like ghost who has been known to tuck guests into bed as they sleep.
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