Editorial

The Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels That Inspired Horror Movies

For me, much of the excitement of going on vacation came from the planning, and thanks to COVID removing hopes of vacations for some time to come, it looks like that might be all most of us will be able to do for a while. But fear not! When we can finally get away from our homes, you can still find the horrors and frights you missed so much. Best of all, you can plan your vaca and your screams all on the same trip as you take a look at The Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels. 

The Winchester Mystery House

The sprawling estate located in San Jose, California, is undeniably unique. Construction started in 1866 and didn’t stop until Sarah Winchester died in 1922. The house was owned by Sarah and William Wirt Winchester, who ran the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. An eight-room farmhouse turned into a maze of hallways leading nowhere, doors ending in brick walls, or opening three stories up to nothing. Entire rooms made for seemingly no purpose except to take up space sit alongside ordinary parlors and bedrooms.

The story behind the house gives several motives for its construction. Grief-stricken over Sarah’s dead husband and daughter, she began building rooms for the victims of the family who died by her husband’s guns. Sarah feared instead of a positive legacy as rifle innovators, she and her husband were guilty of mass death and violence. The building is now open to the public and is sure to be a haunt worth remembering. Not sure if the house is fun to visit? You can take a virtual tour right now. Of course, the deliciously cheesy Winchester was inspired by this house.

La Fonda Hotel

Several notable spirits can be found in this hotel, including Judge John P Slough. The good judge got into a bloody argument in the hotel’s lobby and never quite gave up his bickering. Gunfights, public hangings, and more give the hotel a big background to dig from. Those include some rooms coming with their own individual ghosts such as the young bride who was murdered on her wedding night by an ex-lover. She can be seen in the wedding suite, room 510, as well as the lobby and the elevator. Be sure to stop and dine at the nearby La Plazuela, a restaurant where a man drank and gambled everything he had away. Penniless and mad, he ran into the courtyard and jumped headfirst into a deep well. You can’t leave this one off your Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels list.

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The Stanley Hotel

Located in Estes Park, Colorado, this hotel is the inspiration of the amazing Stephen King story, The Shining. The historic hotel is stunning and perfectly preserved it just, unfortunately, is home to many a ghoul and ghost. Room 217 is the resting place of Elizabeth Wilson. Elizabeth was a maid who nearly died in an explosion when she tried to light a lantern in a room filled with flammable gas.

It is rumored to be the room where Stephen King slept in when visiting. The Stanley Hotel has a long history of paranormal activity. The hotel has other haunted rooms including the Ghost Hunters favorite room 401, as well as 407 and 428. Piano music can often be heard despite the lack of a musician, and laughter can be heard echoing throughout the hotel. The hotel runs spirit tours where the staff is glad to tell stories of past guest encounters as well as some of their own. The Shining was both conceived and shot at this stunning hotel.

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The Omni Grove Park Inn

Ashville, North Carolina, is the home of the next on the Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels list. In the early 1900s, a young woman lept to her death from room 545 and has forever left part of herself within the inn. Nearly a century later, guests still tell tales of her spirit. She often appears as a pink mist or as a woman in a flowing pink gown, thus earning her the nickname, Pink Lady. She is harmless unless you have an aversion to pink. According to several reports, young children are more welcomed by her spirit and are more likely to spot her. If you ever need a babysitter during your trip, maybe let the ghost take good care of them? Assuming you are okay with noncorporeal sitters.

The Cecil Hotel

In 1924 the hotel was built by William Banks Hanner in Los Angeles, California. The history behind this hotel is a gold mine in and of itself of tragedy. Elizabeth Short, known as the “Black Dahlia”  is L.A.’s most famous unsolved murders. She was reportedly spotted drinking there in the days before her murder. The Cecil also housed serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger during their bloody walk across the U.S. W.K. Norton ingested poison capsules and died via suicide. Ben Dodich, a maid of the hotel, died via a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Mrs. Osgood was found raped, beaten, and stabbed in her room, and the crime remains unsolved.

Perhaps out of the many suicides, including several not mentioned here, one stands out among the rest. Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student, was found dead in 2013 inside one of the water supply tanks on the hotel roof. Lam has been missing for nearly three weeks when a maintenance worker checked on the water tanks after guests had complained about low water pressure and a funny taste. Authorities ruled her death as an accidental drowning, but video surveillance taken from inside the hotel elevator tells a different story.

Footage from shortly before she disappeared shows Lam acting strangely. She is seen pressing several elevator buttons, hiding in the corner, and moving about frantically. Some rumors argue she died playing the “elevator game,” an urban legend that can take someone to another more ghostly dimension. Similar to Candyman or Bloody Mary, when you do things in a specific sequence, you find yourself in a paranormal reality. Entering on the first floor by yourself, you take the first step into the game. Press the fourth floor, ride until the doors open and close, and then press the second floor. Continue this cycle for the sixth, the second again, the tenth, and the fifth.

Voices can be heard during this process, but you must not reply. Answering in any way might leave you trapped or found later in a water tank. A woman may enter the elevator on floor five. She may appear as either a stranger or as someone you know. Do not acknowledge her in. Now press the first floor. If you ascend to the tenth floor, you have performed the ritual correctly. If you instead descend, get off immediately. And of course, should you arrive in ghost floor central, be sure to give a victorious cheer to both the ghosts and to anyone on the other side. 

Whether the game works or not is irrelevant. The hotel has too many stories and too many witnesses to rule everything out as folly. The hotel has served as the inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, a docu-series Horror At The Cecil Hotel, and The Bringing, which sadly never got made.

Whether you are a true believer or just a casual internet lurker, there is no disputing something is out there in the dark, quiet halls of America’s haunted hotels. The truth of the matter is, it’s much more fun to experience it for yourself. So when it’s safe again, venture out and find a different kind of danger in the Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels.

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