Whether staying for a weekend or an eternity, it seems that both the living and the dead delight in frequenting certain hotels. Providing old-world charm and storied histories, these nine properties across the country have been purportedly visited by otherworldly spirits—all of whom appear to relish in making their presence known with curious apparitions and inexplicable noises and odors. We can’t guarantee a good night’s sleep (or refunds for scaredy-cats who depart before dawn), but there’s a reason ghosts keep returning to these hotels—they’re worth a visit.
Hotel Del Coronado
On Coronado Island, just six miles from downtown San Diego, this wooden Victorian beachfront resort has hosted many presidents and celebrities since opening in 1888. But perhaps its most notorious resident is one who never checked out. As legend has it, a beautiful and mysterious guest named Kate Morgan arrived on Thanksgiving weekend in 1892 and spent days waiting for her lover to join her. When he didn’t, she killed herself in a third-floor guest room. In the 138 years since, there have been reports of flickering lights, unexplained gusts of air, abrupt changes in temperature, doors opening and closing seemingly on their own, and inexplicable sounds (footsteps, voices) and scents. Interest in her case is not only shown by paranormal investigators—Morgan’s room remains the most requested at the property. A book chronicling the lore, Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado, is available at the gift shop, where items are curiously known to fly off the shelves but land upright and unbroken.
Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley hotel brings a grand, old-world charm to the Rockies in Estes Park, about a 90-minute drive from Denver. But if you ask Stephen King, the 140-room property conjures more than sophistication. One night in room 217 (and a hair-raising nightmare about his son) was enough to inspire The Shining (later adapted into the horror film starring Jack Nicholson). The room is said to be haunted by a former housekeeper who tends to be a little intrusive—unpacking guests’ luggage, turning lights on and off, misplacing items and disapproving of unwed couples (who have reported a cold presence wedged between them in bed). The apparition of the hotel’s first owner has been purportedly spotted in the billiard room and bar. Another phantom is said to tap on the piano keys, and there are unexplained sounds of children playing on the fourth floor. Scores of guest photos are believed to have captured ghosts and orbs in the background. In addition to concierge and housekeeping, the hotel also employs a paranormal investigator who leads monthly ghost hunts. It is believed that the high concentration of limestone and quartz on the grounds draws spirits here.
20 South Battery
Charleston, South Carolina
Plush robes, evening turndown service and reports of a floating headless torso are just a handful of the amenities at 20 South Battery. Sightings of the latter are by far the most terrifying, but not the only ones at this historic property dating back before the Civil War. A giant glowing orb has been seen hovering around room 3, and another “gentleman” spirit—sometimes believed to appear as a grayish shadow—reportedly gives guests the feeling that they’re being watched as they unpack their suitcases. It’s rumored to be the most haunted hotel in not just Charleston but the whole state of South Carolina.
Bourbon Orleans Hotel
New Orleans, Louisiana
Over the past 200 years, this property in the French Quarter has operated as an opera house, theater, ballroom, convent, orphanage, school and yellow-fever ward—and the spirits that are said to now inhabit the 218-room hotel are equally as diverse. From a Confederate soldier in tattered clothes to an elegant apparition dancing by herself in the ballroom, there’s no shortage of sightings here. There have been unexplained accounts of children laughing and guests having their clothes yanked on. And a bloodstain is rumored to reappear no matter how many times staff clean it—it’s believed to be linked to a duel that took place here when two men fought over the same woman. The most haunted room might be 644, where the apparition of a nun is said to appear at night and cry.
Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Fall River, Massachusetts
Back in 1892, Lizzie Borden allegedly took an axe and gave her father and stepmother a lot of whacks. She was acquitted by an all-male jury but more than 120 years later the victims, Andrew and Abby Borden, are said to remain active at the site of their murders, which was converted into a bed & breakfast in 1996. The property has been restored to look like it did in 1892, and guests are served the same breakfast Abby and Andrew had—johnnycakes—on the table on which they were autopsied. Guests report inexplicable sounds of footsteps, drawers shuffling and self-rocking chairs. The owners state that there are no refunds for early departures. If you’d like to visit Lizzie Borden’s ghost, it’s said to reside nearby at Maplecroft Mansion (though paranormal investigators warn that you should address her as Lizbeth—not Lizzie).
The Hollywood Roosevelt
Los Angeles, California
This historic hotel opened on Hollywood Boulevard in 1927, hosted the first Oscars ceremony in its ballroom in 1929, and is a lasting pillar of Hollywood’s Golden Era. Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, Prince and Angelina Jolie are just a few of the A-listers who have checked in through the decades—but it seems that not all of them have checked out. Anecdotes from guests and staff have led many to believe the property houses the spirts of some of the most famous celebrities of all time: Marilyn Monroe is said to appear in mirrors around the hotel and in her old room (1200); actor Montgomery Clift is believed to be partly responsible for the paranormal happenings on the ninth floor, from tapping guests to the sounds of a trumpet to the eerie feeling of being watched; and the apparition of actor Carole Lombard has been spotted on the upper floors. There have been unexplained sightings in the pool at night, sounds of children playing, and tuxedoed men in the ballroom.
With its stained-glass dome and wood-paneled bar, this landmark in the Texas capital has been a popular choice for senators and presidents since opening in 1886 (Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird had their first date here). Unsurprisingly it also seems to be a popular choice for otherworldly spirits, including that of the hotel’s former owner Colonel Jesse Driskill. Even though the property has been smoke-free for years, Driskill’s ghost is believed to be responsible for the lingering scent of cigars in the halls and rooms occupied by women. In 1887, the young daughter of a senator fell to her death on the grand staircase as she was chasing a ball. Her portrait now hangs on the fifth floor, and guests have reported the sound of a little girl and a bouncing ball ever since. An apparition of a man riding the elevator might be responsible for a strange phenomenon some guests report —arriving to their proper floor without pushing any buttons. Whatever you do, avoid room 525: It’s rumored to be where two brides committed suicides on their honeymoons—20 years apart.
Today guests can enjoy a delectable three-course country breakfast with their stay at the quaint Baladerry Inn, which served as a Union field hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers 157 years ago. But no matter how much time has passed, the property contributes to the town’s reputation as one of the most haunted places in America, with guests reporting phantom voices, taps, knocks and soldier apparitions. The main source of the hauntings is believed to be linked to the seven Confederate soldiers buried beneath the tennis court.
The muse for Gertrude Stein’s best-selling book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas might have passed away in 1967, but she continues to inspire stories—ghost stories, that is. It is believed that Toklas’ family lived near (or perhaps even on) the grounds where the Hotel Sorrento stands today, and guests have reported her apparition wandering the fourth floor (especially room 408) in a white gown. A ghost with a seemingly robust wardrobe, Toklas has also been spotted wearing a floor-length coat and hat in the garden. Since she studied piano at the University of Washington, she is also credited with tickling the piano keys on the seventh floor. Every October, the hotel hosts a feast in her honor featuring a dinner and wine pairing inspired by The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, which she published in 1954.