America's Top 10 Haunted Hotels

A ghost tour underway at the famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining." The Stanley Hotel
By Jessica Langan-Peck

As the air turns crisp and fall gets into full swing, consider spending a night or two at one of these haunted hotels and inns in Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Austin, and more.

We've uncovered the spooky stories behind the spirits you may see (or feel). It turns out that some are friendly ghosts, others are downright mischievous, many are heartbroken, and a few are even in various stages of undress.

Even if you don't believe in ghosts, don't be surprised if a night at one of these haunted hotels leaves you looking over your shoulder -- or hoping for a supernatural encounter.

Photo Caption: A ghost tour underway at the famous Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.
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Outside The Orleans Inn. Rick Knight
A fixture of this small Cape Cod town for more than 100 years, the family-run Orleans Inn has 11 rooms, a waterfront dining room, and plenty of historic seafaring charm. According to the innkeepers, the inn is haunted by more than one paranormal presence, though they must be doing something right. "Our guests always remark on the great welcoming feeling they get," says Marketing Director Megan Kaser. "The spirits must be very happy with the way the inn is running."

How To Tell if It's Haunted: The inn's feistiest spirit, Hannah, is a relic from its seedy past. It is said that Hannah, a "lady of the night," lived and worked in the inn when it housed a brothel in the early 19th century. Rumor has it that she may have been murdered on the job. Guests and employees report mysteriously extinguished candles and flickering lights.

Guests who stay in Room 4, a lovely waterfront suite, have reported conversing with Hannah via flashlight. Position the flashlight in the bathroom, and ask yes or no questions -- if the answer is yes, Hannah turns the flashlight off and then on again. Note: she's usually not wearing any clothes.

More Info: tel. 508/255-2222; www.orleansinn.com

Photo Caption: Outside The Orleans Inn in Cape Cod.
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Outside the historic, haunted Kehoe House, Savannah. Kehoe House
Savannah is a veritable hotbed of spiritual activity, and the red-brick Kehoe House is at the center of the city's historic district, just off Columbia Square. Built in 1892 for William Kehoe, the owner of a local iron foundry, the B&B is included on the National Register of Historic Places. According to paranormal experts, its most prominent haunts are unsettling indeed -- the story goes that Kehoe's children, twins who were killed in an accident in the house, still run and play in its hallways.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: According to author and Savannah historian James Caskey, it's very likely that many of the ghosts in the Kehoe House are children, even if the story of the ill-fated twins is the stuff of legend -- after all, the family had 10 children. Many guests have reported the sound of children running and laughing in the hallways, despite the inn's strong discouragement of pint-size guests.

Most supernatural activity seems to occur in Rooms 201 and 203, where a guest has reported waking up to a child stroking her face. Book Room 203 if you'd like to put your paternal or maternal instincts to the test.

More Info: tel. 912/232-1020; www.kehoehouse.com


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Exterior of The Driskill, Austin. The Driskill Hotel
The Driskill's old-fashioned elegance is legendary in Austin. Built in 1886 by cattle baron Jesse Driskill, the hotel's marble lobby and lavish rooms have attracted Austin high society, including politicians -- Lyndon B. Johnson met his wife Lady Bird here on a breakfast date. The columned lobby is just as grand today as it must have been when the first guests arrived.

Despite this sophistication, or perhaps because of it, The Driskill Hotel is considered by many to be the most haunted hotel in Texas (the property is a featured stop on many Austin ghost tours).

How To Tell if It's Haunted: The first reported haunting at the Driskill occurred in 1887, when a senator's young daughter fell to her death down the grand stairway while chasing a ball -- a week after the accident, she was up and at 'em, running and playing once more, albeit in a ghostlier state.

More recently, guests have reported mysteriously steamed-up rooms, unintelligible scribbling on notepads, and an unhappy female apparition who whispers and cries on the fourth floor. The center of the action seems to be Room 525, where two brides are believed to have taken their own lives within 20 years of one another. Since this room was refurbished in 1998, reports of unexplained leaks, incessantly peeling paint, and cold gusts of air suggest a fickle supernatural presence.

More Info: tel. 512/474-5911; www.driskillhotel.com

Photo Caption: Reported hauntings abound at The Driskill, Austin.
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Room 8 at the Battery Carriage House Inn, Charleston, where guests have reported the presence of male ghost with no torso. Battery Carriage House Inn
This carriage house's history dates back to 1843 -- it weathered the Siege of Charleston and served as a rendezvous place for the city's gritty dock workers and prostitutes in the 1940s.

After opening as an inn some 30 years ago, the property delivers the authentic Southern charm experience in the form of cookies and sweet tea on the porch -- and, of course, ghosts galore. Since its first reported sightings in 1992, the inn has gained a reputation as the most haunted inn in Charleston, no easy feat in a city where "spirits are just as much a part of the city as the living," according to innkeeper Drayton Hastie.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: According to witnesses, two ghosts reside at the Battery Carriage House Inn: the Gentleman Ghost (a young man who is rumored to have jumped to his death from the roof) and a headless torso (a decidedly less friendly spiritual presence).

Guests have described otherwordly light, profusely dripping faucets, and in Room 10, a ghostly apparition of a slightly built man crawling alongside them in bed (don't worry: according to one guest, this ghost really knows how to take care of himself -- she noticed his "clean, soapy smell."). If you're skittish, you may want to stay away from Room 8, the chief haunt of the less agreeable headless torso spirit.

More Info: tel. 843/727-3100; www.batterycarriagehouse.com

Photo Caption: Room 8 at the Battery Carriage House Inn, Charleston, where guests have reported the presence of male ghost with no torso.
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Room at the Hotel Congress, Tucson. Hotel Congress
The lit-up marquee at the Hotel Congress makes this downtown icon hard to miss. Its history is a reflection of Tucson's Wild West past, when it served as lodging for passengers on the Southern Pacific Railroad. The hotel also sheltered the notorious Dillinger Gang, bank robbers, and all-around ne'er-do-wells who hid out in the hotel in 1934. The rooms maintain a Western feel -- iron beds, retro phones, and the frequent rumbling of an actual train. And like the original patrons of the hotel, its ghosts are a colorful crew.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: A gentleman ghost in a gray suit is said to peer out of the hotel's second-story windows, but the classiest spirit flitting around the lobby and stairways of the Hotel Congress is a lovely Victorian lady in a dark dress. The nicest touch? She leaves behind a faint rose scent as she glides by.

In Room 242 (where a suicide is reported to have taken place and a bullet hole is still visible in the bathroom's plaster), guests have reported a chilly presence -- sometimes at the foot of that historically accurate bed they're sleeping in.

More Info: tel. 520/622-8848; www.hotelcongress.com

Photo Caption: A room at the Hotel Congress, Tucson.
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The lobby of the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for "The Shining." The Stanley Hotel
This grand hotel is most famous for its role in a certain Stephen King novel. Whether you're making a literary pilgrimage to the site of The Shining or you're simply looking for a mountain getaway in the Rockies, you can experience the Stanley Hotel's history firsthand on its Ghost and History Tour. Learn about early 1900s mining lore, the hotel's most haunted spots, and Room 217, where King's story began.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: F.O. Stanley himself is said to haunt his old stomping grounds, strolling through the bar area or materializing in the corner of Room 407. His wife Flora, not to be outdone, has been heard tickling the ivories at the hotel ballroom's piano. And if you're eager to see what Mr. King saw, book Room 217, where guests report the sightings of the spirit of a small, agitated child. Perhaps you'll be inspired to write a story of your own.

More Info: tel. 970/577-4000; www.stanleyhotel.com

Photo Caption: The lobby of the Stanley Hotel, inspiration for The Shining.
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Sitting room overlooking the water at the Casablanca Inn, St. Augustine. Casablanca Inn
Set in a restored 1917 Mediterranean Revival house on St. Augustine's Matanzas Bay, the Casablanca Inn exudes Old Town charm and a slice of local history -- which, in this city's case, is quite scandalous. The port city of St. Augustine served as an entry point for illegal alcohol during the Prohibition era. According to local legend, the inn itself played an active role in harboring the smugglers and their goods. Today, the inn's owner, Jayne James, has said that she often does not feel alone in its rooms.

How to Tell if It's Haunted: In Prohibition-era St. Augustine, the Casablanca Inn's business-savvy proprietess was not one to pass up a money-making opportunity. The lady formed an alliance with a band of bootleggers, and the inn became the center of a smuggling operation. According to locals, you can still see her on the verandah, waving a ghostly lantern to warn the pirates (one of whom she'd allegedly taken as a lover) of the presence of lawmen.

More Info: tel. 904/829-0928; www.casablancainn.com

Photo Caption: A sitting room at the Casablanca Inn overlooks Matanzas Bay, St. Augustine.
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The haunted suite 730 at Le Pavillon, New Orleans. Le Pavillon
Steps from the French Quarter, Le Pavillon preserves the Southern opulence of the Big Easy. The gilded building, which was originally completed in 1907 and underwent an extensive restoration in 1970, was the first in New Orleans to have hydraulic elevators. The hotel does have some secrets, though -- according to records, a tunnel exists between Le Pavillon and a neighboring building that was likely used for unsavory purposes during Prohibition. And as you'd expect, Le Pavillon's rooms are said to be inhabited by ghostly guests.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: A recent visit from paranormal investigators confirmed the presence of the otherworldly at the Le Pavillon. Haunting reports include a teenage girl who may have been struck by a carriage while waiting for a ship passage out of New Orleans, and a dark-suited prankster who hassles the cleaning crew. Guests have also reported ghostly presences in their beds, levitating bedsheets, and the sensation of icy hands.

More Info: tel. 504/581-3111; www.lepavillon.com

Photo Caption: The haunted Suite 730 at Le Pavillon, New Orleans.
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Mariners Room at Heceta Head Lightstation B&B. Steve Lenz Photography
Just outside of the town of Yachats, these unique lodgings cling to the cliffs of the Oregon Coast. Built in 1892, the lighthouse and lightkeeper's cottage helped mariners navigate the rocky headland known as Heceta Head. Today, you can sleep in the cozy rooms and wake up to incredible views, not to mention a seven-course breakfast.

Of course, Heceta Head's rich history includes a ghost story or two, the earliest of which date back to the 1950s. Visit the lighthouse's interpretative center for the inside story -- tours of the lighthouse tower are offered through October.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: The lady of Heceta Head, affectionately known as "Rue" by locals, is described as a misty apparition. It is said that she lost a young child in an accident and took her own life shortly thereafter. Over the years, lightkeepers and their families (and more recently, visitors and employees) have reported the sounds of a child laughing, as well as a woman's desperate screams.

The most famous story took place in the 1970s, when a maintenance worker who had come face to face with Rue was so spooked he refused to return to the attic, even when he accidentally broke a window there. Overnight guests reported sounds of scraping, and in the morning, the glass shards were neatly piled, as though they'd been swept. Most agree that Rue is a benevolent, if restless, spiritual presence.

More Info: tel. 866/547-3696; www.hecetalighthouse.com

Photo Caption: Mariners Room at Heceta Head Lightstation B&B.
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The North Star Lounge at the Landmark Inn, Marquett. The Landmark Inn
The Landmark Inn, the centerpiece of downtown Marquette, boasts views of Lake Superior and a rich history that dates back to 1930. Guest rooms are furnished with antiques; in the common areas, details like original stained glass and a chandelier salvaged from the Marquette City Hall complete the sophisticated look.

Notable guests have included Amelia Earhart, Duke Ellington, and Abbott and Costello, and the cast and crew of the 1942 classic The Anatomy of a Murder, which was filmed in the area. The hotel has had its fair share of otherworldly guests, too -- guests and employees report mysteriously faulty locks, phantom telephone ringing, and wine glasses with minds of their own.

How To Tell if It's Haunted: From the Lilac Room, a lonely librarian is said to watch in vain for her lover, who was killed in a fierce Lake Superior storm in the 1930s. After the hotel reopened in 1997, the first guest to stay in the Lilac Room reported finding screws in his sheets, which reappeared even after his sheets had been changed. The front desk has received calls from the unoccupied Lilac Room, with nothing but ghostly silence on the other end of the line. The inn maintains that its spirits are harmless, if a bit mischievous -- they're not above making prank calls.

More Info: tel. 906/315-8144; www.thelandmarkinn.com

Photo Caption: The North Star Lounge at the Landmark Inn, Marquette
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