Have you ever felt the urge to sleep under the watchful eye of your favorite Victorian author or Hollywood starlet? Apparently, plenty of people do, because many haunted hotels across the United States have become major tourist attractions.
Some haunted hotels are inhabited by a single, distinct, and even famous (or infamous) ghost. Others are merely rife with eerie coincidences, such as inexplicable shadows and orbs; loud, echoing cries and disembodied laughs; pungent smells; and elevators, doors, and clocks that seem to have minds of their own. This spooky energy is enough to keep people up at night, but for some hotel guests, that’s precisely the draw. After all, it’s not like people go to hotels to, you know, sleep. That would be crazy.
Some guests/ghost hunters flock to haunted hotels to experience a taste of the paranormal, while others visit them to immerse themselves in their long, rich, and intriguing histories. One of the country’s most haunted hotels served as headquarters for notorious Mafia bosses, another became full of makeshift studios for iconic Beat poets and rock ‘n’ rollers, and another sparked one of the most famous thriller novels and horror movies ever. Here’s a list of some of the most haunted hotels in America, so you can plan a visit if you dare.
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO
There are few haunted hotels more iconic than the Overlook Hotel, the setting of Stephen King’s 1977 horror novel "The Shining" and its 1980 movie adaptation. While it is the stuff of fiction, the Overlook — and the creepy events that unfolded there — was inspired by King’s stay in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The stately, 140-room Stanley Hotel opened in 1909 in a remote, mountainous landscape an hour from Denver, per the hotel’s official website.
According to the Travel Channel, the hotel’s owners deny that any evil spirits roam the halls, but many visitors disagree. While guests may not encounter a stir-crazy writer wielding an ax at the bathroom door or a pair of identical twins staring them down in the hallway, they may run into one of the hotel’s alleged friendly ghosts. Among them are the hotel’s founder, American inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley; his wife Flora, who allegedly plays the piano in the hotel’s music room; and, in room 217, the hotel’s former housekeeper, Elizabeth Wilson.
The Hotel Chelsea in New York, NY
The Hotel Chelsea is most famous for being a headquarters for famous artists, from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to director Stanley Kubrick (who, incidentally, directed "The Shining") to music legends Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. Singer-songwriters Leonard Cohen and Janis Joplin had an affair at the hotel in 1968, which inspired Cohen’s songs "Chelsea Hotel" and "Chelsea Hotel #2."
With all of that artistic energy came a significant amount of substance abuse and serious drama. In room 211, the poet Dylan Thomas grew ill and fell into a coma in 1953 after allegedly drinking 18 consecutive whiskies, per The Guardian. "I’ve had 18 straight whiskies," Thomas is quoted as saying that day (via Vanity Fair). "I think that’s the record." He died a few days later due to pneumonia, at age 39. Today, the entrance to the hotel features a plaque dedicated to the poet that reads, "Dylan Thomas lived and wrote at the Chelsea hotel and from here he sailed out to die."
Perhaps the most notorious incident in Hotel Chelsea history is the death of Nancy Spungen, who had been in a turbulent relationship with Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious. Spungen was found dead from a single stab wound in room 100 in 1978. The weapon that ended Spungen’s life belonged to Vicious, and he was accused of murdering her before dying of a heroin overdose four months later.
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, LA
With its rich history of voodoo and ghostly spirits, New Orleans is home to a multitude of hotels and other sites that are allegedly haunted. One of the most notable examples is the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, which sits on a site with a long, haunted history. In the 1800s, the site hosted a ballroom and a theater before being converted into a convent near the end of the century, per the hotel’s official website. Some of the ghosts that are believed to roam the halls of the Bourbon Orleans linger from the site’s previous iterations.
One of the ghosts of the Bourbon Orleans is a confederate Civil War soldier, sometimes referred to as "The Man," who supposedly haunts the third and sixth floors of the hotel. The ghosts of several children and nuns remain from the site’s time as a convent, orphanage, school, and medical ward, when an outbreak of yellow fever hit the city. Some guests claim to have seen a young girl rolling a ball down the hotel’s sixth-floor corridors. From the time of the Orleans Ballroom, a lone spirit allegedly dances beneath the hotel’s crystal chandelier.
The Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago, IL
The Congress Plaza Hotel opened in 1893 in anticipation of the world’s fair that was held in Chicago later that year, according to CBS. Located at 520 South Michigan Avenue, the hotel was originally called the Auditorium Annex. Through the decades that followed, the Congress Plaza became known as a place where countless people had died by suicide.
In 1900, Spanish-American war veteran Captain Louis Ostheim fatally shot himself in his hotel room on the eve of his wedding. In 1939, Adele Langer — who had recently fled the Nazis and emigrated to the United States — threw her two sons out of her hotel room window before jumping to her death herself. One of the Langer sons allegedly haunts the hotel’s 12th floor. Notorious mobster Al Capone had a suite on the eighth floor of the hotel, which allegedly served as his Mafia headquarters, per WGN. Since the gangster’s death in 1947, his ghost has been said to lurk the halls near his former suite.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Omni Parker House in Boston, MA
In the late 1860s, during his second tour of the United States, British author Charles Dickens stayed at the Omni Parker House, which was at that time the most luxurious hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. Dickens stayed in suites 138-139 for six months, as noted by Atlas Obscura. The door and mirror of the author’s suite remain in the hotel today, about a century after the original building was torn down in the 1920s and replaced with a more modern iteration. Many claim Dickens’ mirror is haunted by the Victorian author himself.
According to Historic Hotels of America, paranormal sightings began in the 1940s at the Omni Parker House. The hotel’s 9th and 10th floors are considered to be particularly haunted by ghosts and orbs of light. One of the elevators allegedly stops on the third floor with no one inside. Room 303 is said to contain the smell of whiskey and the sound of laughter. Multiple guests claim to have seen the ghost of hotelier Harvey D. Parker himself roaming around the hotel and even materializing in their hotel rooms.
The Southern Mansion in Cape May, NJ
The Southern Mansion in Cape May, New Jersey, was the subject of a 2018 episode of "Ghost Hunters" on the SyFy Channel, as noted by My Central Jersey. The mansion was built in 1863 and used as a seaside summer home by the family of a Philadelphia industrialist named George Allen for the next 83 years, according to the Southern Mansion website.
In 1946, Allen’s niece Ester Mercur died and her husband, Ulysses, sold the family’s mansion, per its website. It was then transformed into a boarding house before being deserted and deteriorating over the course of half a century. In 1994, the current owners, the Philadelphian Bray/Wildes, bought the mansion and transformed it back into an immaculate estate and destination for visitors. Today, Ester’s friendly ghost is said to roam the restored mansion.
"This is a beautiful place, and just happens to be very haunted, but nothing scary," Bruce Tango, host of "Ghost Hunters," concluded after exploring the haunted estate (via My Central Jersey). "There is nothing evil at this place."
La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM
La Fonda on the Plaza stands on the site of the first inn in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The original inn was built around the time the city was established in 1607, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The hotel as it exists now was built in 1922, and has since become shrouded in ghost stories. The most prominent is that of the Honorable John P. Slough, former chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, who was fatally shot in the hotel lobby following an altercation with a fellow member of the territorial legislature in 1867, per Albuquerque Business First.
Today, Slough’s ghost allegedly haunts the hotel in his signature long, black coat. A young bride who was supposedly murdered on her wedding night haunts the hotel’s wedding suite, Room 510. Other La Fonda ghost stories include that of a cowboy haunting the bar; and that of a housekeeper who saw the shape of a person under the covers of a bed in an unoccupied guest room, only to pull them back to find no one there.
The Hay-Adams in Washington, D.C.
In the late 19th century, political figure Henry Adams and wife Marian "Clover" Adams resolved to build a townhouse next to their friends’ home near Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C., as noted by The Washington Post. Marian never got to see the house realized, as she died by suicide in December 1885. The site of the townhouse later became the site of The Hay-Adams, a luxurious hotel with views of the White House.
The hotel’s personnel insist that there are no ghosts or spirits haunting the Hay-Adams, but strange occurrences point toward the contrary. Each December, around the anniversary of Marian’s death, the fourth floor is allegedly enlivened by eerie coincidences, such as radios turning off and on and doors opening and closing without prompting. Even before the hotel was built, guests at Adams’ townhouse reportedly claimed to see a woman in a rocking chair and hear a woman’s cries.
As noted by The New York Times, Adams strangely excluded Marian from his autobiography, "The Education of Henry Adams." He reportedly burned some of the diaries he kept during their marriage, and some historians have speculated he was indirectly responsible for her death.
The Hotel Sorrento in Seattle, WA
The Hotel Sorrento opened in Seattle, Washington, around the time of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in June 1909, as noted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The upscale hotel was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Harlan Thomas. Today, it is said to be haunted by one notable, if puzzling, ghost: that of the avant-garde writer Alice B. Toklas, who has also been credited with the creation of the pot brownie.
It is unclear why Toklas would be associated with the Hotel Sorrento at all. She was born in San Francisco 32 years before the hotel was built. While she studied music at the University of Washington in Seattle, she returned to San Francisco years before the hotel opened, and spent her later years in Paris, France, with her partner, the novelist Gertrude Stein. It is unlikely that she ever visited the Hotel Sorrento in her lifetime.
Even so, some say they have seen the late writer’s ghost dressed in black or white and wandering the halls outside Room 408. She allegedly causes lights to flicker and drinks to move in the hotel’s bar, the Dunbar Room. In 2018, the hotel hosted a dinner in their alleged ghost’s honor, serving up dishes from her cookbook, "The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook."
The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, CA
Naturally, a hotel in Hollywood, California allegedly hosts some of the world’s most famous and glamorous ghosts. The iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel opened in 1927 on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was notably the site of the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony. In keeping with the theme, Kendall Viola, the hotel’s Director of Sales & Marketing, told Vice that the ghosts could only be seen through photographs and videos. "My colleague has a picture on her phone of a rock ‘n’ roll-looking figure, kind of screaming as the photo was taken," Viola told the outlet.
The hotel’s most famous ghost is that of iconic film star Marilyn Monroe, who reportedly met her ex-husband, the writer Arthur Miller, at the Roosevelt. The Marilyn Monroe suite is situated on the hotel’s second floor, overlooking the Tropicana Pool. "There’s [a] story of a room attendant cleaning the Marilyn Monroe suite, where she saw Marilyn’s face in the mirror," Viola told Vice. "She ran out of the room and never went back."
According to Forbes, Monroe’s ghost has allegedly appeared in a full-length mirror she used to use at the hotel, and the starlet’s "spirit energy" is said to hang over the Tropicana Pool. The outlet also notes that Monroe has been called "the hardest working ghost in Hollywood," because she is also said to haunt her former home in Brentwood, as well as the carousel on the Santa Monica Pier.
The Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio, TX
In 1836, the Texans fought the Mexican Forces in the Long Barracks at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. According to the Emily Morgan Hotel website, more than 600 men died in the battle. Nearby stood the Medical Arts Building, which was the workplace of a variety of medical professionals which reportedly included psychologists. The building was built in the gothic style, complete with gargoyles designed to look like they were suffering from various maladies. Today, the building is home to the historic — and possibly haunted — Emily Morgan Hotel.
The various paranormal occurrences at the Emily Morgan include phones that ring in the middle of the night that guests answer to find sheer silence, beds that unmake themselves, and doors that close or elevators that stop without being prompted. One hotel guest found her bathtub filled with blue water, while others have seen inexplicable shadows moving along the walls. According to the hotel, the 14th floor — which is technically the 13th floor — is said to have a distinct, medicinal, antiseptic smell. The hotel website maintains that the building is "probably not" haunted. Even so, it has been named the third-most haunted hotel in the world.
The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, AS
Built in 1886, the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, unfurled as a conspicuously fancy resort in the Ozarks. From 1908 until 1924, it was a boarding school for women, per the Smithsonian magazine. It was deserted by the time the Great Depression hit and remained that way until it was transformed to the Baker Hospital in 1937.
The hospital’s head honcho, Norman Baker, claimed he had found the cure for cancer, and peddled these claims through flyers, brochures, and word-of-mouth. In truth, Baker was a conman who was injecting patients with a bogus cocktail of watermelon seed and clover leaves. He was imprisoned in 1940 for selling $10 million worth of false hope to cancer patients. Eighteen years later, he died of cancer himself.
Today, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is known as "America’s most haunted hotel." Among its specters is a nurse who pushes a gurney throughout the third floor, presumably a former Baker Hospital staff member, and a girl who flings herself off of one of the hotel’s balconies, assumed to be a former boarding school student.