How to Tell If Your Hotel Is Haunted

Some of us enjoy the zenlike calm of solitude in a hotel. Some of us are up for spectral roommates. Some of us...just want to know what to expect.

So you’ve found yourself lodging for the night! You’re probably hoping for soft, clean sheets, a room that doesn’t face the interstate and a respectable array of premium cable channels.

Guests at Oregon’s Wolf Creek Inn have reported visitations by a spectral stagecoach driver, the ghost of Jack London(!) and—in the Clark Gable Suite (above)—a mysterious young woman.

Guests at Oregon’s Wolf Creek Inn have reported visitations by a spectral stagecoach driver, the ghost of Jack London(!) and—in the Clark Gable Suite (above)—a mysterious young woman.

Are you also hoping for fellow guests who haven’t (or have) shuffled off this mortal coil? Yelp might not be of help here, but we’re glad to be of service. In the spirit of Haunted USA, ask yourself these questions.

Is your room suddenly or inexplicably sweltering or freezing?

It should go without saying that hotels’ central heat and A/C aren’t always the best, particularly when said hotels have been around for a century or two. That said, paranormal investigators report that “cold spots” (sudden drops of 10 degrees or so) in particular are classic haunting symptoms—because ghosts draw heat from the spaces around them in order to manifest. Consider the frigid spaces in The Hollywood Roosevelt, the city's oldest continually-operating hotel, where guests have reported meeting Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe after the stars’ deaths—and feeling those cold spots. Is old-school Los Angeles air conditioning really that good?

Is that piano music you hear? (Bonus points if your hotel lacks a piano.)

Guests on the 6th floor at central California’s Hotel Stockton (which is now an apartment and condo building) reported hearing a ghostly musician tickling the ivories in the ballroom late at night, and F.O. Stanley’s wife, Flora (d. 1939), was and is well known for entertaining guests at the grand piano in the Stanley Hotel’s music room in Colorado. Wherever you are, don’t bother following that tune: It’s likely to cease if you try to find the source.

Are your bedside lamps on a timer? No?

Circular End Table and Lamp

Circular End Table and Lamp

Guest Bedroom of the HGTV Urban Oasis 2014 located in Atlanta, GA.

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry

Sixth-sensitive author Alison Wynne-Rider (The Quirky Medium) maintains that lights turning on and off or brightening and dimming on their own—and light bulbs blowing out more often than they should—are all calling cards of visitors from the other side.  What gives, ghosts? The proprietor of the Casablanca Inn in St. Augustine, Florida (built in 1914) is said to have been a bootlegger who would wave a lantern to signal ships ashore when the coast was clear. As one guest told TripAdvisor, she’s still at it: During their stay, a light turned on and off even after it was unplugged. (Sadly, they did not report on whether or not the contents of their minibar spiked after that.)

What’s going on in that spare bed?

Ghost pros—professionals interested in ghosts, that is, not professionals who are ghosts—often say that spirits abhor a vacuum. (An absence, that is, not the one housekeeping will use in your room.) If your place boasts an extra sleeping berth and you’re not using it, suspiciously-rumpled sheets could be a sign that you’ve got company. Good news: If you’re not interested in that company, the pros also say you can deter some spectral bedfellows by parking your luggage on any spots they might find attractive. Even the bodiless don’t fancy being squished.

Are you returning from a ghost tour? (Are you returning from a ghost tour at the hotel itself?)

Fans of Disney’s Haunted Mansion are familiar with the concept of “hitchhiking ghosts”—one sees them in a mirror at the end of the ride, grinning ghoulishly as they’re superimposed on the living. While it would be awfully presumptuous to assume that all spirits tire of their historical haunts and cozy up to unsuspecting tourists, it’s fair to say that messing with tourists is fun—and who isn’t up for the occasional change of scenery? If you’ve splurged on a spooky-walkthrough-plus-room combo at your vacation residence of choice, in turn: C’mon, man. This one’s a gimme.

Did you book the place right next to the graveyard?

Ghost hunters from all over cultivate encounters from beyond—and two-for-the-price-of-one terror—at Nevada’s Clown Motel, built within spitting (or flitting?) distance of the town cemetery, established by local silver miners in the early 1900s. Clown-related scares are most likely unique to said motel (fingers crossed), but let’s be honest: It’s probably best to leave your Ouija board in your suitcase when the majority of your neighbors have gone to their eternal rewards. Speaking of,

What’s the Ouija board’s take on the situation?

This is an entirely rhetorical question. Please don’t use a Ouija board if you think your hotel is haunted. It’s just not going to end well.

Okay, then: What does your ghost-tracking app say?

If you’ve got a smartphone and a cavalier approach to restful sleep, you can download something like Ghost Detector Radar with Camera, which will sense nearby entities, give you a sense of what you’re dealing with (a vengeful spirit? a ghost? a demon?), and...let you chat with them. The developer offers a disclaimer: “[S]ince paranormal activity can’t be scientifically proven, we can’t guarantee that the app communicates with real spirits.” Catfishing: Sometimes a relief.

Who can it be knocking at [your] door? Tune in to tour the country’s darkest destinations on Haunted USA, Sundays at 10|9c.

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