I had the pleasure, or horror(depending on how you look at it) of staying at The Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. It is a beautifully maintained hotel dating back 125 years. In its current form, it has existed since 1912 when it was rebuilt from the second of two major fires which destroyed the original structure. Many key elements such as the gorgeous tile floor, parts of the foundation and the sundry ghostly inhabitants still reside. It is a one of a kind historical gem and it has been visited by gangsters and Presidents alike. The amenities and spa are top-notch and the nightly tour led by Jay is fun. There’s just one problem. It’s haunted AF. My night spent there was no joke and legitimately scared the crap out of me. Here was my experience.
Full disclosure, I believe in ghosts, or at least I do at night. I heard a quote the other day that went something like, ” During the day, I don’t believe in ghosts, but at night I’m more open-minded.” This pretty much sums up my philosophy on our friends from another plane of existence. The Elms although, really pretty does its level best to both play up the original architecture but also give off a seriously Overlook vibe. Even if no one ever reported any ghosts you would be a little creeped out here. The hallways are quiet and allow every footfall to echo and the fire escapes at the end of every corridor make the spaces seem narrow and remind you this place has burned several times before. No one died in the fires but it is rumored that the pyromaniac that set the fire still resides in the hotel, yikes! I took some pictures during the day but I’ll be honest I purposely chose not to during the evening as I didn’t want to see what I would capture.
The European lap pool in the basement of the hotel is stunning, filled with the natural spring water that put the hotel on the map, and is very VERY haunted. There are reports of a young child grabbing guest’s ankles as they swim, someone pushing people from behind and a gentleman in 1920’s attire hanging out in the corner just…. observing. The spa was a speakeasy in the 1920’s and the criminal activity that took place here can be felt with every breath. There is a story of a gangster who was shot in the corner of the room. He is said to reside here permanently. I did not see anyone down there or have any wayward children grab me but the feeling of being watched is oppressive. The air was thick with more than just chlorine. I would not swim down there alone or at night. It’s just that unnerving.
The ballrooms feature mysteriously moving chandeliers, ethereal women in white, and men dressed in server uniforms. Strange noises including heavy breathing, large animal noises, women screaming, electronic noise mimicry can be heard in the hallways throughout the hotel, and doors open and close for no reason in the lobby. Ghost Hunters investigated this hotel in July of 2013 and they did determine that is was indeed haunted. This came as no surprise to the hotel staff and many guests. I can concur wholeheartedly there is something there.
I arrived during the day around 3:00 pm and really nothing weird happened until about 5:30 pm. As I was freshening up before heading to Dubious Claims a local microbrew and grill within walking distance of The Ems(more on this later), I felt something breathe on the back of my neck. I assumed it was my husband and turned around only to find him sitting in a chair across the room. He denies moving. He also felt strange air movements and said more than once he was woken up by a chill in the air. It is important to note it was warm that day and my husband rarely gets cold.
Just a brief note about Dubious Claims. This place was incredible. The space is light and airy and maintained a great deal of the industrial touches from its previous tenants. The beer was all good and they have a large selection of beer both crafted in-house and other local brews to choose from. The Build Your Own Flight is an amazing deal. You get four, five-ounce pours of your choosing for $9.00. It really was a great deal. The Bathhouse Blueberry Wheat is fantastic. It tastes like beer and blueberry muffins put together. I know that sounds gross but it really works! It is a short and easy walk from the hotel in the historic Hall of Waters District where you will find other local shops and museums. The plates are plentiful and the staff is friendly and efficient. If you get a chance check out their pizza’s.
The next time I felt anything hinky was during the paranormal tour at 9:00 pm. Jay, who is a wealth of otherworldly information regaled us with stories of furniture being repeatedly overturned in certain guest rooms especially on the fourth floor, ghost servers in the ballrooms, swimming children in the pool, screaming women in the hallways, and the most chilling, a door handle that would turn repeatedly from the inside. This is especially disturbing because the handles work independently from the inside meaning if it was moving from inside the room there was someone trying to get out, NOT in! One of the couples on the tour with us reported having their suitcase moved repeatedly and hearing strange noises in their room. Another mother/daughter combo reported hearing moaning in the spa. I myself only felt scared during the tour but the sincerity with which Jay and the guests reported their stories gave credence to the claims.
After the tour, we had a drink in The Tavern and the friendly bartenders there saidthey had not personally seen any ghosts in this area but they had been pushed near the outdoor pool late at night when no one was around and had the booze which is locked up each night depleted. They claimed quite earnestly that the alcohol was locked each night by the two of them and not unlocked until the next evening by only them. They take stock of the levels each night and on more than one occasion the levels had been off. They had no explanation beyond a thirsty ghost.
Finally, just after 11:00 pm we headed to our room for the night. Whether it was my overactive imagination or an actual ghost I will never know but I hardly slept at all. I was constantly awoken by strange noises and at one point what felt like butterfly wings across my cheek. My husband was turned away from me so it is unlikely he touched me. I never actually saw anything but heard and felt plenty to confirm there is something in the hotel. Luckily it did not seem to want to do us any harm. It scared us enough though that we gave up on sleeping in and enjoyed the picturesque outdoor pool in the morning hours before heading home. All in all, it was a nice weekend and a fun if not particularly restful trip. If you are a lover of history or paranormal you won’t go wrong here. Just don’t plan on getting too much sleep.
1. The Elms is haunted. There is something there that can’t be explained away and there are too many reports to ignore.
2. The hotel staff is gracious and the grounds are amazing.
3. The Paranormal tour is a hoot and Jay is super fun. If you are in the area it is not to be missed.
4. The hallways and the European pool are the most disturbing places, although many rooms on the fourth floor have a poltergeist.
5. I would go back again in a heartbeat, but this time bring the Signal Horizon staff.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.