by Mandi Ringgenberg | Photo © Fairmont Empress
From Montana to Oregon and all the way to the Last Frontier of Alaska, there are countless sights to see and places to stay. With the fall season also comes Halloween and spooky tales of historic hotels, elegant inns and B&Bs with colorful pasts that, to no surprise, harbor a few ghost stories. So pack your P.K.E. meter (of Ghostbusters fame) and your imagination, cozy up with a snifter of brandy by the fire, and travel with us as we highlight five hotels where spirits are said to linger, perfect for those chilling weekend getaways.
Fairmont Empress, Victoria, British Columbia
Named after Queen Victoria, the city of Victoria is full of rich, European culture and architecture. One architectural gem is the Fairmont Empress, commonly known as “The Empress,” one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Victoria. Opened in 1908, the elegant hotel featured The Bengal Room, an Indian-themed cocktail lounge, and a formal tea room, bringing a high style to this city, considered by some to be an outpost on the edge of the continent.
Since its opening in 1908, many in the upscale hotel have reported seeing apparitions and hearing unexplainable sounds. Reports include sightings of a tall man with a thin mustache walking around the halls; some speculate he is the ghost of the building’s original architect admiring his work. There have also been reports of a woman knocking on doors on the sixth floor, claiming to need help finding her room. When guests open the door to help her, no one is there.
“Ghosts build the intrigue,” according to Indu Brar, General Manager of the Fairmont Empress. “We have a beautiful, iconic, romantic hotel and, with that, we have had so many interesting stories from the past. We have guests who are adamant that items were moved around, or a door shut out of the blue, or maybe they saw something blurry out of the corner of their eye. But the common theme is always that it is intriguing and fun to share.”
When staying at this luxurious, grand hotel, guests have more than ghost stories to be excited about—perhaps a craft cocktail in the Q Bar, or a proper pampering in the Willow Stream Spa downstairs, or a pot of their famous house-blend tea with all the trimmings at Tea at the Empress.
Historic Anchorage Hotel, Anchorage, Alaska
The Historic Anchorage Hotel, established in 1916, is true to its name as a historic landmark and is the only hotel in Anchorage on the National Register of Historic Places. But with a rich history also comes a fair share of paranormal activity.
Terri Russi, General Manager of the Historic Anchorage Hotel since 2004, has experienced her share of unexplainable activity in the hotel just a few months into the job. Soon after, she began asking the staff if the hotel was haunted. The response was affirmative.
Some postulate a past incident might be the key. In 1921, J. J. Sturgus, first Chief of Police of Anchorage, was shot in the back right outside the hotel’s front doors. Since that day, witnesses have reported hearing yelling downstairs and observing objects fly across the lobby. His murder is still a mystery, and some believe Sturgus has never left the hotel. Russi now keeps a guest log so guests can record their paranormal experiences in the hotel.
The Historic Anchorage Hotel has been featured on Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” television series, and ghost-hunters believe it’s one of the most paranormally active hotels in North America. The hotel will be hosting seasonal 2016 events just in time for Halloween: Murder Mystery Dinner on October 27th and Spend the Night in a Haunted Hotel on October 29th.
When in Anchorage, don’t let ghost stories scare you away, because the Historic Anchorage Hotel has plenty more amenities to offer guests than a lurking ghost.
Manresa Castle, Port Townsend, Washington
The northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula is home to the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, one of the few remaining Victorian seaports in the country. As charming as this quaint little town may be, one historical landmark must not go unnoticed when visiting. The Manresa Castle, or, as some locals refer to it as the “Eisenbeis Castle,” was built in 1892 and named after Charles and Kate Eisenbeis, the first mayor of Port Townsend. The castle functioned as the Eisenbeis’ home until the husband died, and Kate Eisenbeis later sold the castle to be used as a vacation home for nuns and later a Jesuit training college. The imposing building was eventually renamed Manresa Castle in 1968.
Manresa Castle, now an inn, has gained a reputation for ghostly activity over the last century. A monk who hanged himself in the attic has been seen roaming the third floor, and a lady who threw herself from a window after hearing that her loved one died in the war makes an occasional appearance. Yelling has been heard in the hallway of the third floor in the middle of the night, and, when guests investigate, no one is there. Be forewarned that downstairs in the café, drinking glasses have been known to move of their own accord.
Outside the haunted hallways of Manresa Castle lies a world firmly anchored in physical reality. The castle features an onsite botanical garden, a banquet hall for weddings or conferences, and a library where guests can enjoy some down time.
The Copper King Mansion Bed & Breakfast, Butte, Montana
Williams Andrew Clark built the three-story, red brick building as his residence for a half-million dollars, said to be a half-day’s pay for him in 1884. The miner-turned-entrepreneur had amassed financial interests in mining, newspapers, railroads and many other enterprises. He became one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Copper King is one of Butte’s great historical buildings, filled with fine architectural detail and antique artifacts. Visitors can even tour the mansion during summer months. Year-round it hosts guests as an inn, and when the sun goes down, there have been reports of unexplainable activities. Foggy apparitions downstairs, a “warm” presence in the home, and even a trunk lid flying open by itself have kept staff and guests on their toes. At times, guests have even heard eerie creaks and knocks throughout the halls. Some have said that staying at the Copper King is like sleeping in a haunted museum.
The mansion features five well-appointed guest rooms, including Clark’s master suite, each decorated with early 20th century furnishings, claw-foot tubs, and dark woodwork reminiscent of the style popular at that time.
The Geiser Grand Hotel, Baker City, Oregon
The Geiser Grand Hotel has earned a reputation among aficionados of the paranormal as one of the most haunted hotels in Oregon. Built in 1889, during the Baker City gold rush, the hotel was originally one of the top hotels in the West. Baker City was a mining boom town, and such a grand hotel was a fitting hub for the town’s rough and tumble nouveau riche. After its heyday it fell upon hard times, and since has undergone a meticulous renovation, faithful to the original spirit of the building.
Speaking of spirits, the hotel guests, both in the early establishment and since its restoration, have claimed numerous ghost sightings. One in particular is of a woman, known as “The Lady in Blue,” who has been observed ascending the grand staircase. The former owner, who lived in room 302, still lingers and enjoys rearranging guests’ belongings. Other apparitions include a 1920s saloon dancer, a cowboy and even a headless former chef.
The Geiser Grand, restored with its original style in mind, features hanging chandeliers, dark wood interiors, floral wall decoration and antique furnishing. Hauntings aside, the hotel has reclaimed its position as Baker City’s elegant centerpiece.
The Geiser Grand celebrates “good spirits” every fall with special events. At a Masquerade Ball on Oct. 29, dance with high spirits in elegant attire or a crazy costume; inspired by Anne Rice’s Vampire Ball in New Orleans. Or, on Oct. 22, during Witches Weekend, partake in the Witch’s High Tea, a real séance and more. Check the website for those events and join in on monthly Ghost Hunts with paranormal investigators.