Did you hear that? It was probably just the wind … or was it one of the spirited souls rumored to be a permanent guest at these historic hotels? Plan a trip to see for yourself … if you dare.
Foley House Inn, Savannah, Georgia
In 1896, the Foley House Inn began as two prestigious townhomes built on the ashes of the Great Savannah Fire and was later transformed into the city’s very first B&B. A century later, workers discovered skeletal remains within a wall. Wally, the phantom aptly nicknamed by the staff, is believed to have been a wealthy businessman who disappeared while a guest at the B&B. Stay in one of the 19 stately rooms overlooking the verdant, secluded courtyard and you might catch a glimpse of a top-hatted Wally strolling around the fountain. Get ready for a day of sightseeing with a hardy, authentic Southern breakfast served al fresco (or indoors) and enjoy complimentary wine offered every evening. At the Foley Inn, staying in room 301 might get you a tuck-in by the widow Foley who continues her hospitality beyond the grave. Rates start at $149.
While you’re here: A ghost walk led by Ryan Dunn, a historian and paranormal investigator with Afterlife Tours, includes a stop at Moon River Brewing company — owner of bragging rights to the most documented poltergeist activity in Savannah.
Grand Galvez, Galveston, Texas
Celebrating more than 100 years of glamour, the Grand Galvez welcomes guests with towering palms and a grand lobby with high arches and elegant seating. Spend the day swimming in the heated outdoor saline pool and lounging in a luxe cabana before heading back to the room. If you’re staying on the fifth floor, you might encounter Audra, whose spirit remains at the hotel to search for her fiancé, whom she thought was lost at sea. For weeks, she would climb the ladder to the turret to gaze over the water to wait for his return. When she lost hope, she took her life. Tragically, the groom arrived at the hotel a few days later, ready for his wedding. Rates start at $229.
While you’re here: Snag a complimentary hotel bike and helmet and pedal along the flat Galveston Seawall for a day filled with sun, sightseeing and shopping. If you prefer darker thrills, schedule a 90-minute paranormal hotel tour with the Ghostess of Galveston or step back in time at the nearby Grand 1894 Opera House, the official opera house of the state of Texas, for a silent viewing of The Phantom of the Opera, with an accompanying organist to add to the chill factor.
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Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans
It’s no surprise the oldest working hotel in the heart of the French Quarter is steeped in spectral lore. Since opening in 1886, the ghost stories have flowed more freely than the Sazeracs in the hotel’s renowned Carousel Bar, a circular merry-go-round-themed setup whose 25 seats take customers on a leisurely revolution around the bartenders every 15 minutes. Stay on the 14th floor (really the 13th), where guests have reported visits from Maurice, a young lad who loves to surprise sleeping vacationers with his childlike laughter and echoes of a bouncing ball in the hushed hallways. Perhaps booking a literary haunt would be more restful? Luxuriate in one of five suites paying homage to authors like Hemingway, who frequently patronized the beaux-arts-style establishment. Rates start at $159.
While you’re here: Leave your vehicle with the hotel valet, stroll to the National WWII Museum and purchase tickets for the new light and sound show, Expressions of America. Along the way, pop into countless antique shops and art venues, and catch plein-air artists and soulful musicians in Jackson Square. Hungry? The area encompassing the hotel is home to more restaurants than any NOLA neighborhood. For something sweet, drift into Laura’s Candies, New Orleans’ longest-established candy shop, for a delicious melt-in-your mouth praline. Be sure to bring back a treat for Maurice.
Omni Parker House, Boston
Old-world elegance meets modern luxury in this iconic hotel created by Harvey Parker in 1855. If the polished wood walls could speak, they’d tell the tales of hearing Dickens’ first reading of A Christmas Carol and hosting the engagement dinner of John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier. And they’d brag about being witness to the genesis of Boston cream pie and the Parker House rolls, still served in house. Standing at the foot of Beacon Hill and overlooking King’s Chapel, next to Boston proper’s oldest burial grounds, it’s no wonder the Parker House has the reputation of “most haunted hotel in Boston.” Patrons have seen floating orbs on the 10th floor and heard cheerful whispering outside their doors when no one is present. A staffer once stepped aside to let a bearded gentleman in a stovepipe hat pass, then discovered he was alone. Legend has it that Parker was a consummate host and perfectionist; perhaps his idea of afterlife is spending eternity in his eponymous venue, making sure his guests are content. Rates start at $329.
While you’re here: For more spirited tales, follow the 2.5-mile red-brick Freedom Trail — which begins just a few short blocks from the hotel — to 16 momentous sites of the American Revolution. You prefer your spirits in a glass? Settle in at the hotel’s legendary bar and pub, The Last Hurrah, and sample some of the finest whiskeys or pay tribute to Parker with his namesake martini. Cheers!
Union Station Nashville Yards, Nashville, Tennessee
Before it was reimagined as a chic boutique hotel, Union Station was a bustling train terminal and an onlooker to thousands of tearful farewells during the 1900s. Legend has it that a young woman named Abigail once stood on the platform and kissed her fiancé goodbye as he departed for France. They planned to meet at the station again, but he didn’t return, and so she threw herself in front of a train.
Patrons and staff have reported flickering lights and random noises in room 711. They suspect that the ghostly Abigail has come back to wait on her beau, or perhaps they’re together again, enjoying the hotel’s many amenities. The inviting Romanesque lobby, with its 65-foot vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows shining light onto marble floors, would lure anyone from across the ages. The property boasts 125 bespoke modern guest rooms and is within walking distance to the live music venues and eateries on Broadway. Visit UnionStationHotelNashville.com for rates.
While you’re here: If boots are made for walkin’, then scoot on over to the Country Music Hall of Fame, housing the world’s largest collections of music culture. Then slide down to The Gulch for the best boutique shopping and restaurant hopping in Nashville.
Grande Colonial Hotel, La Jolla, California
This landmark 1913 hotel, with its recently renovated guest rooms and suites, is the perfect spot to rub elbows with the stars — or at least their spirits. Visitors in Hollywood’s heyday included Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Groucho Marx, who enjoyed this establishment’s secret entrance to avoid paparazzi. Some of these icons may have loved the exclusive hotel so much that they’ve returned to relive the past. The unearthly partying is so popular among the ethereal and famous that the hotel maintains a log of eyewitness accounts, including staffers who’ve watched pans move across the kitchen and chased the sound of running footsteps into empty rooms. Be treated like a star in the on-site restaurant Nine-Ten, where the kitchen crew have noticed doors opening and closing and mysteriously changing heat settings on the stoves. Don’t worry, the apparitions of the elite have settled down since the restaurant received a Michelin Plate award; they still maintain their high expectations after all. Rates start at $249.
While you’re here: Take a stroll over to La Jolla Cove to see playful harbor seals and sea lions. In the afternoon, catch a play at the La Jolla Playhouse or go shopping downtown, a.k.a. in “The Village,” which is lined with boutiques, galleries, bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants, all within a stone’s throw from your accommodations. Grab a cocktail at George’s Ocean Terrace to toast a breathtaking West Coast sunset. Freelance writer and research editor Mamie Walling has contributed to numerous lifestyle publications, including Coastal Living and Veranda magazines.