Haunted Historic Hotels Drive Occupancy in October

NATIONAL REPORT—Best known as the inspiration for Stephen King’s best-selling novel The Shining, The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, CO, has been said to experience paranormal activities though the entire property, from the concert hall and ballrooms to the underground tunnel.

And then there’s room 217.

In June 1911, The Stanley Hotel’s chief housekeeper, Elizabeth Wilson, was involved in an explosion, which sent her crashing into the MacGregor Dining Room, located directly under room 217. After recovering from her injuries, she worked at the hotel until her death in the 1950s. Since then, guests of room 217 have reported extra housekeeping services, including having their belongings mysteriously put away or unpacked.

Like The Stanley Hotel, more than 120 historic hotels in the U.S. have reported hauntings and ghostly apparitions of guests who “have checked out of the hotel but never leave,” according to Historic Hotels of America. Some of these properties, which are members of Historic Hotels of America, have taken advantage of their spirited stories to boost occupancy and generate additional revenue during October, in celebration of Halloween.

“The advantage of having a haunted hotel is that it diversifies our clientele and brings us visitors who otherwise may not be interested in our hotel strictly for its historic elements,” said Dave Ciani, general manager of The Stanley Hotel. “We also recognize that we are able to hold a higher rate and charge a premium for the haunted rooms.”

He added, “Lastly, there is a huge level of guest engagement, word-of-mouth and social marketing as guests want to share their experiences, whether they felt they had a paranormal experience or not, by posting photos and telling stories about their experience.”

During October, The Stanley Hotel has offered a series of signature events, including an annual Murder Mystery Dinner, The Shining Ball, Boo Bash and an annual Halloween Masquerade Party. “Collectively, we sell more than 800 tickets to these events combined,” said Ciani. “We also offer nightly ghost tours and occasional paranormal investigations, which bring in a lot of revenue annually and are particularly popular around Halloween.”

Featured on The Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel for ghostly hauntings, Hotel Galvez & Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, in Galveston, TX, has utilized its national exposure as a selling point. The hotel offers Dinner with the Ghosts, a guided ghost tour followed by dinner, held Tuesdays through Fridays in October as part of an overnight package. “Our ghost tour dinners sell out every year, and this year, we sold approximately 80 overnight packages during the month of October,” said Steve Cunningham, general manager. “This was an increase from last year.”

The 104-year-old hotel also provides a free multimedia app for iPhone and Android smartphones that gives a 20-minute ghost tour and includes content on “The Ghost Bride.” Cunningham stated, “The public is intrigued by these ghost stories and these shows, and it differentiates our hotel from the others on the island. Plus, it generates a lot of interest, especially during this time of year. We often have guests request room 501, our ‘Ghost Bride’ room.”

For the first time, The Algonquin Resort, a Canadian seaside property in St. Andrews, New Brunswick that opened in 1889, has actively promoted its rumored hauntings, which has led to more than 200 guest bookings in October 2015. Ghost stories include the “Bride,” “Night Watchman,” “Lady of the Dining Room” and “Bellman.”

“Historic properties have layers of emotional connections spanning generations, which is truly a benefit to operations at The Algonquin Resort,” said Matthew Mackenzie, general manager. “Hauntings and ghost stories have evolved many times over the decades yet seem to weave into the memories of the returning guests forming emotional attachments to our facility.”

Providing guests with a ghostly experience may not be a property’s primary business but helps generate a separate source of revenue. October is one of highest occupancy months for 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, AR, according to Bill Ott, director of marketing and communications, as a result of travelers looking to see the location’s fall foliage and learn more of the hotel’s haunted history.

“We’ve been told by locals and those who’ve worked here that previous owners didn’t want stories to be told because they thought it would scare people off,” said Ott. “But when Marty and Elise Roenigk bought hotel in 1997, they said if we’ve got stories about ghosts, let’s tell them. It’s become a fun aspect of our hotel and a side business.”

Throughout the year, the hotel provides three-to-five ghost tours per day. But, during the month of October, the property has increased its tours by five-to-eight per day as a result of popular demand. The intrigue of paranormal activity has drawn guests to specifically request overnight stays in room 218.

During construction of the property in the 1800s, a stonemason plunged to his death in what is now room 218, where ghost sightings have been reported. Throughout the history of the hotel, employees have referred to this entity as “Michael,” a classified poltergeist due to the nature of the unexplained activity. Guests have witnessed hands coming out of the bathroom mirror, cries of a falling man in the ceiling and the door opening then slamming shut, unable to be opened again.

Matthew Marin