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Ghost stories and things that go bump in the night have fascinated me since I was a kid. For a while, I was convinced there was a mummy hiding behind the water heater in the basement (I was eight and stayed up watching Boris Karloff in the original The Mummy) and I still can’t resist a good ghost story.

Years later, I was in the Banff Springs Hotel and was thrilled to hear from our waiter about the ghost of a young bride who, alas, never made an appearance. If you’re like me and can’t resist a good ghost tale, you might not be able to resist booking a room at some of these haunted inns. Even if you don’t see ghosts on your getaway, you’ll be surrounded by enough spectacular scenery, good food, and historic venues to bring home a few great stories of your own.

1. Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Canada

Banff Springs HotelThe beautiful Banff Springs Hotel is located amidst the Rocky Mountains and the glacial waters of Lake Louise in Alberta. Ghost stories abound in this old hotel, which was initially developed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the late 1800s.

Legend has it that workmen built one room in the hotel without windows or doors, and promptly sealed it up to disguise their mistake. The corridor near the sealed room had sightings of misty apparitions, and the presence of a ghostly bellhop named “Sam” became well-known at the hotel. The room remained a secret until a fire in 1926 revealed its presence, but Sam stayed on, collecting tips from guests and occasionally playing harmless pranks in the staff elevator.

A more tragic ghost is that of the young bride in 1920 whose evening gown was set on fire by the candles lining the grand marble staircase as she descended to meet her groom. While trying to put out the flames, she fell down the staircase and broke her neck. A scorch mark from the fire can still be seen on the marble stairs and employees have seen the bride descending the stairs, vanishing as her dress catches on fire.

2. The Crescent Hotel & Spa, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Cresent HotelThe Crescent Hotel & Spa is known as one of the most haunted hotels in America. During construction, a stone worker fell to his death from what became room 218. Known as “Michael” around the hotel, the spirit is very active in room 218; doors open and slam shut, hands appear out of the bathroom mirror, and horrifying cries can be heard coming from the ceiling.

Starting in the early 1900s, the hotel housed various colleges until becoming vacant in 1934. In 1937 “Dr.” Norman Baker leased the hotel, precipitating the most infamous period in the hotel’s history. Baker, a former vaudevillian, inventor, and radio station owner with no medical training announced he had a cure for cancer and set up shop at the hotel. Denouncing surgery and other available cancer treatments, he started giving his patients horrific treatments, injecting a mixture of crushed watermelon seed, corn silk, alcohol, and carbolic acid directly into his patients’ skulls. It was rumored that several of his patients went mad following Baker’s brutal treatments. After being incarcerated in a mental ward on the fourth floor, they died from their treatment and their bodies were burned in the hotel’s incinerator.

Ghost sightings abound on the fourth floor: a nurse with a gurney appears and disappears in the hallway near room 434 and the ghost of a woman who calls herself “Theodora” often materializes in room 419. After introducing herself as a cancer patient, she then disappears. “Dr.” Baker has also been known to return to the scene of his crimes. Sentenced to four years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, he was released in 1944 and spent the rest of his life in Florida, dying unrepentant in 1958. Baker has been sighted in the hotel lobby and has been known to play pranks on the front desk staff.

Gadsby's Tavern3. Gadsby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

Founded around 1785, Gadsby’s Tavern in Virginia was a favorite watering hole for our founding fathers. While there have been no sightings of Washington or Jefferson, the ghost of a beautiful young woman who died on the premises in the early 1800s is a frequent visitor to the tavern. Apparently a young Englishwoman and her male companion disembarked from their ship after she fell ill from typhoid. The town doctors were unable to save her life and, for reasons unknown, her husband made those present swear never to reveal her name. He disappeared soon after, leaving enough money to pay for her medical bills and funeral. She was buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Cemetery and her tombstone is inscribed with a lachrymose verse dedicated to a “Female Stranger.”

No one present ever disclosed the woman’s identity, and it appears she doesn’t like her eternal anonymity. Guests of the tavern have heard footsteps and a woman crying, and have seen candlelight in the woman’s room from tapers that have never been lit.

4. The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Asheville, North Carolina

The Grove Park InnThis lovely hotel was built in 1913 and counts F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harry Houdini, and eight Presidents of the United States among its guests.

A more permanent guest is the Pink Lady, reputed to have fallen to her death in the Palm Court atrium in the 1920s while wearing a pink dress.

Complaints of cold spots and unexplained laughter around room 545, which is above the Palm Court atrium, led hotel management to investigate the Pink Lady in the 1990s, and ended with two hotel engineers vowing never to enter the room again. Hotel guests have also had encounters with the ghost.

Luckily for the hotel and its guests, the ghost is described as gentle and playful. Occasionally appearing as pink smoke to guests, she visits rooms and tickles the toes of hapless sleepers. Ears have also been known to be tweaked!

5. The Brookdale Lodge, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
The Brookdale Lodge
Surrounded by giant redwoods, the Brookdale Lodge in California was built as the headquarters for the Grove Lumber Mill in 1870 and converted into a hotel in 1900.

The lodge has played host to Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Tyrone Power, and Joan Crawford and U.S. President Herbert Hoover was also a guest. In a tribute to its natural setting, the Brookdale also has a natural stream running through the Brookroom, its main dining room. The Brookroom was the scene of a tragic accident in the 1940s, when Sarah Logan, the six-year-old niece of the owner, drowned in the stream, and there have been frequent sightings of her ghost ever since.

During the 1940s and ’50s, the lodge was also a favorite meeting spot for local organized crime gangsters; hidden rooms and secret passages were installed throughout the property, giving rise to rumors of buried bodies beneath the floorboards. There are reports of murmured conversations and rattling plates when the dining room is empty, as well as footsteps and slamming doors late at night.

The current owners had so many complaints, they called in a psychic, who reported they had forty-nine ghosts inhabiting the lodge, including a lumberjack named George, from the early years of the lodge, and the ghost of Sarah Logan’s mother, who smells of Gardenia perfume.

Are these places really haunted? I have no idea, but I’m keeping an open mind while also remembering that ghosts are good for business. These hotels and inns are all located in beautiful, historic settings and are well worth a visit—even without the ghosts.

This article was featured on in August 2008. Reproduced with permission.

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