It all began in a hotel. More specifically, in the shower in a room at the Bates Motel. Marion Crane screamed in horror as a shadowy figure wielding a massive kitchen knife pulled back the shower curtains and cut her to pieces. the scene terrified a generation of cinema-goers and became the most influential scene in horror movie history. It set the bar for a film genre, but also created a spooky relationship between hotels and all the scary things that keep us up at night.
We have to admit, even as an accommodations website, there’s something creepy about hotels. Who are your neighbors? What’s happened in the room before you checked in? What stories are the staff members not so quick to tell you? Is the paranormal activity harmless or are you truly putting yourself at risk (see the last hotel on the list). Let’s get our imaginations running. Here’s our list of the spookiest hotels in the US.
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Does the bathroom door look familiar? Maybe someone hacking through it with an ax will jog your memory. When Stephen King and his family stayed here in the early 1970’s they found the massive hotel empty except for the staff. Imagine a massive 140-room hotel empty. Now picture the empty hallways. Better hope the staff doesn’t creep you out check-in. King’s experience inspired his novel The Shining, which of course caught the attention of director Stanley Kubrick, who turned it into one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
The combination of the hotel’s isolation, the constant reminders of memorable scenes from the film, and the rumors of supernatural activity make this a great “I dare you” stay. Book a room at the Stanley, roam the hallways (watch out for creepy twins) and try not to get too carried away reenacting scenes. The hotel is actually quite attractive during the day and the surrounding mountains make for great scenery. We just wouldn’t stick around at night time, especially if the snow starts falling hard.
Emily Morgan Hotel, San Antonio, Texas
Spending the night in the hospital automatically comes with negative connotations. Serious injuries, crippling diseases, operations — it’s almost always concerning. But rarely do we consider the fact that the hospital also houses a morgue, and in some cases, a psychiatric ward. Just a few floors away are things that you don’t want to see.
Check both of those boxes for the Emily Morgan Hotel, a building that once housed a large hospital. The building alone looks creepy. It’s a towering neo-Gothic structure that looks ominous on the sunniest of days. Stories from guests include shadows moving throughout the hotel and the feeling of being touched while sleeping. Strange noises are also frequently reported.
If you want to take your experience to another level, seek out a room on the 12th or 14th floors where most surgeries were conducted. The 14th floor was even home to a crematorium which was used for deceased patients without known family. Sleep tight!
Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts is synonymous with witches and the perhaps equally frightening hunting of those accused of practicing witchcraft. Don’t think we’re headed into childish things like broomsticks and bubbling cauldrons. The Hawthorne has plenty of believable stories to make you think twice about spending a night there.
Multiple guests have reported flickering lights and faucets that turn on and off at random. One staff member tasked with organizing a room called “the lower deck” at night finished his duties only to return to the isolated room to find that all the furniture had been rearranged. The employee refused to work night shifts after that.
If that’s just a common ghost story for you, the property on which the hotels stands is rumored to have once been owned by Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged under the suspicion of being a witch. The history works in the ghosts’ favor.
Gettysburg Hotel, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
No Civil War battle took more lives than Gettysburg. The small town and the surrounding territory is essentially one massive grave and one can imagine that there is no shortage of ghost stories. A walk through the town will bring you to the very places where thousands drew their final breaths more than 150 years ago.
As for paranormal activity, the town has no shortage of stories. One of the eeriest commonly-heard reports is of residents and visitors hearing screams in the woods, presumably from the ghosts of wounded soldiers bleeding out. As for locations with exceptionally high frequencies of reports, there’s a farm located in the town that was used as the Confederate field hospital. Locals say that the ghosts of the soldiers who passed on the farm still haunt the grounds. The Gettysburg hotel is the other hot spot. Guests have told stories of a woman dancing in the hotel’s ballroom at night and the ghost of Union soldier James Culbertson of the Pennsylvania Reserves patrolling the hotel.
Gettysburg’s small-town feel (the population is about 8,000) adds to the haunted vibe. There’s something eery about looking around the small town and knowing that 150 plus years ago it was overrun by tens of thousands of soldiers, many of whom would live their last days in the fields and woods of the town. Booking a room in the Gettysburg Hotel can get you uncomfortably close to one of the most important events in American history.
Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
The hotels mentioned on the list report a wide range of strange sightings and experiences. We don’t mean to downplay the terror of lights flickering or screams in the forest, but there is a certain comfort in the fact that none of these reports include any aggressive paranormal activity. They creep us out, but there is little record of direct threats. The Congress Hotel crosses into new territory.
You could say we saved the creepiest for last. One of the most chilling hotel legends is that of Karel Langer, a six-year-old boy who was staying in the hotel with his mother after fleeing Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The boy’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown (reportedly due to not knowing if her husband had made it out of Czechoslovakia) and threw the boy out the window of her twelfth-floor room. There have been stories of a strange boy wandering the halls of the twelfth floor, but what scares us are staff members reporting that they felt the sensation of being chased down the halls of that same floor.
But it doesn’t end there. The hotel has a striking history of suicides and natural deaths. One of the more disturbing cases is that of a woman her slit her wrists in a bathtub in the 70’s. The room is still available and guests have reported seeing the woman in the tub late at night. Another disturbing tale is that of an exorcism that took place in one of the hotel’s rooms. The hotel refuses to specify which room. Guests also report being kicked in the middle of the night by shadow figures.
The haunting comes with a degree of irony as well. In 1928, G. Herb Palin, the man credited with coining the term “safety first” died of a heart attack in the hotel.
The skeptic’s natural conclusion is that the hotel promotes these stories to attract guests eager to experience a paranormal encounter. Building a legend will be good for business right? There’s a major hole in this argument. The hotel has closed a number of rooms and even sealed the doors. Of course, they lose business when these rooms are sealed up. Makes you wonder. Book your room at the Congress Plaza and… well, we would say leave the light on, but it might just flicker in the middle of the night.