5 Glamorously Haunted Hotels to Put You in the Halloween Spirit

5 Glamorously Haunted Hotels to Put You in the Halloween Spirit

Sleeping with ghosts in America’s most haunted hotels is not for the faint of heart, but for many it’s an unforgettable adventure not to be missed, especially with Halloween approaching. And when specters have the good taste to haunt luxury lodges and charmingly intimate B&Bs, you might not even mind when they steal the 400-count Egyptian cotton sheets a little (as long as they don't cut eye-holes in them).

Here are five spooky sleepover suggestions guaranteed to indulge and entertain waking visitors, and inspire bedtime dreams of things that go bump in the night.

hotel alex johnsonPhoto Courtesy of Hotel Alex Johnson
Hotel Alex Johnson  — Rapid City, South Dakota

Once known as “The Showplace of the West,” the historic Hotel Alex Johnson is now considered one of America’s most haunted places. Yet, no one’s quite sure why the “Lady in White” haunts the 8th floor of this landmark. Built in 1927 by a railroad tycoon, it was meant to coincide with the construction of a nearby “tourist trap” to be called Mount Rushmore. The ghost is believed to be a regular customer who mysteriously jumped from the window of room 812, dying from the fall.

Hotel Alex JohnsonPhoto Courtesy of Hotel Alex Johnson

There have been occasional ghostly sightings in the halls ever since, including some of Alex Johnson himself, and 8th floor guests sometimes awake to find their window is unexpectedly open, and drawers have been placed upside down. Whether it was suicide, murder or an accident we’ll never know, but it’s clear why the tasteful lady chose the Alex Johnson: it’s the best hotel in the Black Hills, filled with historic charm and crowned by the deco-styled Vertex Sky Bar on the roof. Hotel Alex Johnson has hosted six US Presidents from Calvin Coolidge to Ronald Reagan, but it’s possibly most famous for becoming the on-location home for Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant during the filming of “North by Northwest.”

the Timberline LodgePhoto Courtesy of The Timberline Lodge
The Timberline Lodge — Mt. Hood, Oregon

Heeeeerrrre’s The Shining hotel! When director Stanley Kubrick was looking for the perfect stand-in for the fictional Overlook Hotel, this unique 1930s ski lodge on top of Oregon's Mt. Hood is what he chose for exteriors after bringing The Shining’s author Stephen King himself for his seal of approval. Attracting more than a million people annually, this 1930s National Historic Landmark is instantly recognizable for its imposing stone masonry, hand-carved beams, pitched roof and snowy mountaintop setting. There’s no hedge maze at The Timberline Lodge, but there’s a snowmobile like the one Scatman Crothers drove in the movie to save the day, and there’s an Instagram-worthy, axe-through-the-door photo op in the lobby.

The Timberline LodgePhoto Courtesy of The Timberline Lodge

For ghost hunters, the most popular room in the hotel is #217 because of its role in King’s book. Ironically, the Timberline Lodge asked that Kubrick not feature it in the film, fearful that it would scare away guests, so Kubrick complied and created a nonexistent room, #237, for the film instead. My wood-paneled room on the same floor was not officially haunted but I did hear footsteps and whispers coming from the hallway all night, well, because of the lodge’s beautiful-yet-thin walls. For peace and quiet, large parties can book the lodge’s isolated Silcox Hut, Oregon’s highest hotel room (it’s above the main lodge at 7,000 feet, right next to the ski-lifts) and it’s the biggest bunkhouse you’re likely to ever see, sleeping 24 guests. 

The Stanley Hotel Photo Courtesy of The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel — Estes Park, Colorado

Although The Timberline Lodge is the hotel fans most closely relate to The Shining, it was actually used in only a few establishing shots; all interior scenes were shot at Elstree Studios in England using a mock-up of the Timberline’s exteriors. King, as it turns out, ended up hating Kubrick’s film so much that he supported a 1997 remake filmed at The Stanley Hotel, the historic resort that inspired King to write The Shining in the first place. Before and since, the grand hotel at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park became known as one of the most haunted places in the US. In room 407, the pipe smoke of The Earl of Dunraven can still be smelled. Guests of room 217 (including King) sometimes experience extra housekeeping services—bags unpacked, blankets folded—possibly because of a deadly bone-breaking accident experienced there in 1911 by the chief housekeeper. But room 418 is the hotel’s most-haunted room, says the staff, who insist they’ve seen the ghosts of children and even their impressions left behind in mattresses. King himself reported that he saw a ghost of a small child on the second floor.

The Stanley Hotel Photo Courtesy of The Stanley Hotel

Every year The Stanley celebrates the presence of the hotel’s supernatural, non-paying guests, as well as the literary work of Stephen King, with its annual Shining Ball, Halloween Masquerade Party, murder mystery dinners and a Ghost Adventure Package including a room on the haunted 4th floor, a paranormal activity K2 Meter, a glow-in-the-dark Stanley Hotel squishy ghost and a REDRUM mug. “We expect it will bring together people from around the world for something to remember forever,” says general Manager, Frank Wetenkamp. For your own eerie Shining experience, grab a stool at the Cascades Whiskey Bar, just like Jack Torrance did, and order a Corpse Reviver from the bartender…who might or might not be a figment of your twisted imagination. But one thing’s for sure: he’s sick of customers doing Jack Nicolson impressions.

The Ships InnPhoto Courtesy of The Ships Inn
The Ships Inn — Nantucket, Massachusetts

This historic, romantic B&B didn’t feel the least bit haunted when I arrived on a 100 percent perfect summer day. Its staff and cheery lobby living room couldn’t have been more pleasant, the neighborhood is a gorgeous residential street just two blocks from the red-white-and-blue Main Street, and the downstairs restaurant is the best on the island, having won honors from the James Beard Foundation and Wine Spectator. But things changed the moment The Ships Inn's innkeeper Ellie Gottwald joined me for dinner. I recognized her as actress Ellie Cornell, the star of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5 and the best movie scream queen since Jamie Lee Curtis. She told me that the Ships Inn was built in 1831 by whaling captain Obed Starbuck who inspired a Moby Dick main character—and much later, a coffee franchise that you might have heard of—which is why all the rooms are named after his fleet of ships (including, incidentally, a room called Spermo until guests stole too many of the engraved brass keys as naughty souvenirs).

The Ships InnPhoto Courtesy of The Ships Inn

We saluted the captain's memory with a wine toast, and raised a second glass for brave abolitionist and women’s rights activist Lucretia Coffin Mott, who was born in 1793 on the spot where the B&B now stands. Then things got scary; money-pit remodeling scary. Cornell told me horror stories about the Ships Inn renovation when she and her accomplished Chef husband, Mark, took over the weathered place before fixing it up, reopening, and attracting the local millionaire foodies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Lee Iaoccoa, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and political pundit Chris Matthews, who happened to appear for dinner just as we finished our Grilled Local Flounder main course.

Between desert bites, Cornell gently warned me that come nightfall I might see a shadowy figure on the upstairs landing, believed to be the ghost of the good Captain Starbuck himself, gazing out the front window toward the sea. “I saw him once,” she swore, giving a Girl Scout salute. “It was late one night when I was painting upstairs. He went through one closed door then right through the wall to the next room.” I privately suspected paint fumes, not poltergeists, for Cornell’s vanishing vision until something shocking happened. Licking my spoon, I looked down at an empty ramekin, my chocolate soufflé had mysteriously disappeared! I’m still not sure if it was due to Captain Starbuck’s spooky tricks or Chef Gottwald’s Michelin-star-worthy skills, but I suspect the latter because I brought home an extra pound as a my Nantucket souvenir.

The Queen MaryPhoto Courtesy of The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary — Long Beach, California

Once the largest passenger ship in the world, the stately Queen Mary retired in 1967, becoming a permanently-docked hotel. The renovated “Grey Ghost” features the pinnacle of authentic Art Deco grace and style from the original 1930s artwork to the unique staterooms and suites with operable portholes and to the numerous sightings of spirits who apparently sailed onboard long ago. The Queen’s Salon is supposedly the favorite haunting spot for the ghost of a young woman dressed in white, while a less-affluent lady has been seen in the Tourist Class Swimming Pool. Two pool drowning victims haunt the First Class Swimming Pool, children have been seen and heard near the storage room, and a gentleman in a 1930s suit lingers in the First Class suites. When the ship served in World War II a tragic event left 300 men drowned, and it’s said that they can sometimes be heard pounding on the exterior walls, crying for help.

The Queen MaryPhoto Courtesy of The Queen Mary

Recently, two workers, on two occasions, were in the First Class Pool room when they were scratched by something. Coincidentally, this occurred during the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor haunted ship event that celebrates Halloween each year. The ship also offers paranormal ship walks and investigation tours, and a Dining With the Spirits evening that combines horror d'oeuvres with a ghost hunt and haunted history tour. If dining on board at Sir Winston’s, Promenade Cafe or at the Champagne Sunday Brunch, you might want to stick with the grilled items, because the ship’s old oven, tragically, is where the body of a WWII cook was found after he was killed because troops hated his cooking. Choosing your room is no less tricky since all 346 of the original first-class staterooms and nine suites are unique. Just don’t ask for Cabin B340 because it had so many disturbances that it’s no longer rented. Sleep tight!