By: Gogobot Editors’ Choice
Between the 400-thread count sheets and top-end toiletries, a former resident or two often lingers…
Hotel del Coronado – San Diego, California
During the late 19th century, San Diego was abuzz with a major real estate boom. Elisha S. Babcock, Jr., Hampton L. Story, and Jacob Gruendike saw an opportunity, and purchased Coronado island in 1885 for just $110,000. Bringing in a few more investors, they formed The Coronado Beach Company, and began construction on the elegant Victorian Hotel del Coronado in 1887. By the early 1890s, with the input of new investor John D Spreckels, it was becoming one of California’s most sought-after destinations. The resort instated quirky schemes like Tent City, a giant camping field just outside the hotel, to increase capacity in the summer months, and people flocked to enjoy the Ferris wheel and swimming. But while children splashed in the sea and parents sipped lemonade, a more tragic story was unfolding, one that continues to ‘haunt’ the Hotel del Coronado.
The Legend: The Beautiful Stranger
Kate Morgan, daughter of a prominent postmaster in Iowa, married Thomas Edwin Morgan in 1885. Their love affair, however, proved very short lived, and Kate ended up in Los Angeles, working as a domestic servant in various wealthy homes. In late November of 1892 she left LA for San Diego to take a few days’ vacation, and on November 29, five days after checking in at the Hotel del Coronado, Kate was found dead on an exterior staircase leading to the beach with a gunshot wound to the head. Having registered under an assumed name, she was called the ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and not identified for days. Since that time, guests staying in what is now room 3327 report unexplained cold breezes and strange electrical problems over the staircase where she died.
The Algonquin Hotel – New York, New York
Literary luminaries, elegant actors, and cultural pundits have long made the forward thinking Algonquin, in midtown Manhattan, a destination. The venerable New Yorker magazine was founded and funded (at a poker game) within its walls. Ladies traveling alone were welcomed here when few other places would accommodate. And manager-owner Frank Case had the foresight to accommodate the members of The Algonquin Round Table, one of history’s most inspiring social circles. The Round Table, known amongst themselves as “The Vicious Circle,” was a group of writers, publicists and actors who lunched daily at the hotel and included Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. The group, though often rather broke, was well-hosted by the hotel, presented with free celery and popovers (retro snacking, apparently) along with a private table and waiter. And yet despite the zingy lines spawned by the group during the gatherings – “Let’s get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini!” – for one, the Group imbibed nothing stronger than coffee at the hotel during this era, as it was Prohibition and Case, ever the teetotaler, had closed the bar in 1917.
Although The Algonquin was sold by Case in 1946 and has changed hands many times, the bar has long since reopened and now serves classic cocktails as well as a few unique options like the “Martini on the Rock” – a $10,000 martini served over a single piece of “ice” (diamond at the bottom of the glass!). This particularly extravagant cocktail choice may have irked denizens of the Round Table, but even today the Algonquin continues to attract members of the literary community with such offers as lunch discounts for struggling writers (in honor of Frank’s long-standing tradition of sending popovers and celery to the more impoverished members of The Round Table). Guests also receive free copies of the New Yorker magazine.
The Legend: The Round Table
Hotel residents claim to have seen members of The Vicious Circle, including American writer, poet, critic and satirist Dorothy Parker, roaming the halls of the Algonquin. Other apparitional sightings have included that of famous literary figures like Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber and famous American writer, Robert Charles Benchley.
The Myrtles Plantation – St Francisville, Louisiana
This antebellum plantation was built in 1796 by General David Bradford, known as “Whiskey Dave” due to his role in the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion, when George Washington’s attempt to institute a new grain/corn tax was poorly, and sometimes violently, received by farmers. “Whiskey Dave” himself organized what was believed to be one of the largest protests of the Whiskey Rebellion during which over 7,000 men gathered at Braddock’s Field. In later years, Bradford moved from Laurel Grove (subsequently known as The Myrtles Plantation)…which went on to acquire more spooky stories.
The Legend: Slaves and Murder
Up to 12 ghosts are said to roam the plantation. Those said to haunt the grounds include a young Native American woman (the plantation is built near an old burial ground) as well as union soldiers who died here and a former slave named Chloe (who remains unverifiable in any historical texts). But perhaps the creepiest apparition to be seen is that of a man staggering or crawling up the stairs. Less famous than Chloe, this ghost is said to be William Winter, the only verified victim of murder in the house, who died on the 17th step after being shot on the front porch.
The Congress Hotel – Chicago, Illinois
Said to be the most haunted place in the “Windy City,” The Congress Plaza Hotel was built in 1893. It was originally called the Auditorium Annex and hosted visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition. In later years, a marble tunnel called “Peacock Alley” was built to connect the Annex with the Auditorium Hotel just across the street. The Congress Plaza Hotel was the first of the Chicago hotels to feature air-conditioning in its ballroom (known as the “Gold Room”) and has been referred to as the “Home of Presidents,” as the site served as campaign headquarters for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and hosted meetings for Taft, Harding, Coolidge, among others.
The Legend: Al Capone and Others
Al Capone is the most famous ghost of the Congress Plaza hotel, even if he is not necessarily the most goose-pimple-inducing. Capone never lived at the property but is said to have played many a game of cards here with his pals who did. Over the years, some guests have reported seeing apparitions of the famous mobster wandering the halls. It’s Room 441 that sparks the most calls to security, however, with each caller reporting a similar story: the ghostly outline of a woman inside. Hotel staff have also reported the ghost of a young boy in the North Tower, the victim of his own mother who threw him off the roof before jumping to her own death. And don’t even try to visit the 12th floor, where there is reportedly a room so terrifying it has been locked – from the outside.
Omni Parker House – Boston, Massachusetts
Cited as one of the top ten historic hotels in the U.S., the Omni Parker House in Boston was founded by Harvey D. Parker in 1855. Originally a restaurant and hotel called Parker’s, its excellent food and service was an immediate hit in a city where travelers normally had to pitch up at rough taverns. Amongst the large number of historic hotels in Boston, the Omni Parker stands out to this day. Literary greats like Thoreau (ostensibly not during his minimalist Walden phase, given the opulence of the surroundings), Emerson, Dickens and Hawthorne frequented the hotel, followed by a parade of famous names from Babe Ruth to Bill Clinton. Famous names have also emerged from the kitchen, including homegrown dishes such as the Boston Crème Pie which was created here.
The Legend: Harvey the Host
If you like your ghosts courteous, this is your place. Harvey Parker himself is the main sighting at the hotel, and as the consummate host, he’d do anything but turn the lights out on you. Instead a guest has reported waking to see a man dressed for the late 19th century at the foot of her bed, smiling solicitously as if to enquire about her experience. She returned the favor and he disappeared. That is until she awoke and saw a portrait of the mysterious man hanging in the hotel. Turns out, it was Harvey Parker.
For more supernatural stories, have a look at our Spooky Cemeteries Guide. If you prefer your history a little less bone-chilling, spend some time in the History Buffs tribe, a great way to connect with other travelers who love to uncover the tales of times past.