As you know, I rather specialise in weird. I don’t draw conclusions about the supernatural (as I’ve never witnessed anything that could be scientifically proven), but I’ve experienced more than my fair share of strange things, and it’s given me cause to wonder.
Which leads me on to today’s post – ghosts in hotels. Because (yes, you’ve guessed it), I used to work in a hotel that was reputedly haunted. And I can testify, it was quite a spooky place at times.
The George – Bishop’s Stortford
I started working in The George at the age of 14 – waitressing, to be precise. I moved on to pint-pulling a few years later, and was pretty awful at it. God, those enormous heads on those pints! But anyway, I digress. The building was old, and notorious for its ghosts, so much so that occasionally, people would come in and ask questions about it.
When I started working there, I wasn’t interested in any of that. My focus tended to be on stealing scampi from the kitchen (I used to LOVE scampi) and teasing the lads who worked in the kitchen. However, in spite of my lack of interest, I did encounter some odd things there.
Incident one – the flying keys. The keys used to be hung on a hook, just by the back counter-area of the bar. I saw (with my own eyes, no less) those keys fly off the hook on three separate occasions. The lady who worked the bar never seemed perturbed, so I followed her example. It was just one of those things. The glasses also used to occasionally do the same. Now admittedly, they could have been stacked up badly, and just fallen over naturally. But it did happen with surprising regularity.
Incident two – the terror of the toilet. Just for the record, I never saw or heard anything in the bar toilet. However, I did witness a few people emerging from there, looking absolutely terrified. One woman came up to me and asked if I’d been knocking and scratching at the door while she’d been on the loo (answer – no, I hadn’t. I’m odd, but not that odd). Another said she’d seen a grey, misty shape poke through the door, before retreating again. Eep.
Incident three – the push on the stairs. There were some back-stairs leading down to the staff area, where we worked. Once, when I was coming down the stairs, I felt someone ‘push’ me. It was quite a firm push too – not particularly sudden or violent, more like hands easing me very firmly downwards! So did one of the boys who worked in the kitchen – he actually lost his footing and fell, but luckily didn’t hurt himself. I heard other members of staff say they’d experienced the same.
Incident four – the smashed bottle. Okay, so I admit, this one scared the living bejeezus out of me. Just behind the bar, there were some stairs that led down to the basement, which was where the big box freezers were, with all those lovely frozen bags of scampi. I’d been sent down to get something (it might even have been scampi, as it happens), and as I was rummaging around in there, I heard some clinking noises behind me.
I straightened up pretty sharpish, just in time to see movement by the wall to my right. It looked like something small, rising into the air. A moment later, the object whizzed across the room and smashed on the floor. I then saw it was a bottle of orange juice, that had just VERY freakily flown itself across the length of an entire room. No-one else was down there with me, just for clarification!
Needless to say, I absolutely bricked it and raced up the stairs ASAP. And then made someone else go down to get what was needed from the freezer – ha! My bravery has its limits you know…
There are hundreds of hotels in the UK (and across the world) that have their own ghost stories. This is something that many authors cash in on, and it’s easy to see why. After all, what could be more frightening than safely locking yourself in a hotel room, only to find you’re locked in with something rather spooky?
In a hotel room, we’re effectively dislocated and vulnerable. We’re away from our cosy houses, in a place designed to mimic home, but which is distinctly ‘other’. In fact, we have no idea what happened in that room before we arrived, and we don’t know what’ll happen after we’ve left. People could have done depraved acts in there, wept tears in there, throttled someone to death in there, and we wouldn’t have a clue.
Then there’s the fact that we sleep in the hotel room, and when are we more vulnerable than when we’re unconscious? It’s a rather unsettling idea, when you think about it.
Famous ‘ghost hotel’ stories
Here are just a few famous ‘ghost hotel’ tales – I’ll provide a brief summary and leave you to conduct your own further research!
- The Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Famous for appearing in the film Ghostbusters (very apt), it’s thought to be one of Los Angeles’ most haunted locations. Elizabeth Short, who was brutally killed (the infamous Black Dahlia murder), was last seen in the hotel bar, and there have been numerous sightings of her since.
- The Cecil Hotel. This hotel (also in LA), was already notorious before Elisa Lam stayed there. Elisa Lam was a young woman staying at the hotel – who was later found dead in one of the establishment’s water tanks. No-one could figure out who had killed her, or indeed any details about the incident – not even how she managed to get to the tank in the first place. There’s also disturbing CCTV footage of her in the lift, just before she died. I have to say, I’m not into these macabre explorations of murders (too scary, and it feels a little disrespectful to the victims), but it’s certainly a strange and unsettling case – and since then, people have reported seeing and hearing all sorts of strange things there.
- Jamaica Inn, Cornwall. I couldn’t possibly do a list of haunted hotels without adding one from the South-West of England! Jamaica Inn is a famous haunted spot in Cornwall, and if you want some real insight into its ghosts, here’s an interview with the location’s official supernatural investigator.
- Hotel Burchianti. This opulent Italian hotel is reportedly brimming with ghostly activity, with spectral kids running down the corridor (hopefully not late at night, that’d really mess up your beauty sleep) and an old woman knitting in one of the rooms. The room where Mussolini stayed is meant to be the worst; several guests have reported feeling watched, and an icy breeze running over their face.
Writing about ghost hotels
I don’t think I’ve ever included a haunted hotel in my books (now I’m going to have to, aren’t I!). However, one of my more recent books (currently with my agent, here’s to hoping a publisher likes it) is partially about moving to a new home. It’s the same unsettling vibe really – that notion of staying in a new place, and not knowing its history.
If you’ve got any spooky ghost stories about hotels I’d LOVE to hear them…