From disembodied voices to apparitions dressed in Victorian-era suits, some of the most legendary hauntings have occurred in hotels. In historic lodgings across the United States, people have reported unusual smells, like the lingering scent of a live cigar or old-fashioned perfumes in hotel corridors, general feelings of unease accompanied by inexplicable drops in temperature, or phantom apparitions who awaken them in their rooms in the middle of the night. And it’s no wonder—many people who have checked into hotels (cue spooky music) have never checked out.
Some of the country’s most iconic haunted hotels have been immortalized in films like the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, made famous in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece The Shining (1980). Others include the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, whose celebrity ghosts live on in pop culture legend. For those seeking spooky thrills, October is one of the best times to visit a haunted hotel for history lessons through the lens of its ghostly residents, especially around Halloween, when it’s said that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest.
Whether it’s a spooky hot springs resort in Missouri or New York’s most infamous bohemian lodgings, here are seven of the most haunted hotels in the United States to get you in the spirit.
1. Chateau Marmont
- Where: Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, California
- Book now: starting at $760 per night
Chateau Marmont has long held a reputation as the place where stars go in Los Angeles to misbehave. During Hollywood’s Golden Age (1930–1945), Columbia cofounder Harry Cohn famously told two of his most popular leading men at the time, William Holden and Glenn Ford, “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” In recent history, the Chateau Marmont has seen its fair share of celebrities behaving badly: Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle through the lobby in the ’60s; Britney Spears was temporarily banned from the hotel for smearing food on her face in a dining area during her (tragically and unfairly) public mental health crisis in 2007; and Lindsay Lohan was permanently banned from the property in 2012 after racking up a delinquent $46,350.04 bill. The hotel has a castle-like appearance and it’s said that the staff guard its high-profile guests’ secrets like a fortress.
However, the hotel has also seen its fair share of tragedy. On February 28, 1982, actor and comedian John Belushi checked into a bungalow on the property and was found unresponsive the next day by his personal trainer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. EMTs who arrived shortly afterward declared him dead at the scene—he had suffered a heroin overdose. Then, in 2004, fashion photographer Helmut Newton lost control of his car on Sunset Boulevard and fatally crashed into the Chateau Marmont.
Guests have since reported seeing apparitions around the property—some claim they’ve heard the faint click of a ghostly camera. Most famously, Al Franken claims he saw Belushi’s ghost, which appeared to him in the room he was staying in, a week after the comedian’s death. Others have heard an exuberant party and the tinkling of glasses, only to turn the corner and find an empty room.
2. The Elms Hotel & Spa
- Where: Excelsior Springs, Missouri
- Book now: starting at $160 per night
The Elms Hotel and Spa, in Excelsior Springs, which is about a half-an-hour drive northeast from Kansas City. The town is known for its ferro-manganese mineral water hot springs, Siloam Spring, the only one of its kind in the country. During the late 1800s, Excelsior Springs became a wellness destination, with people traveling to soak in its therapeutic waters, which were said to have curative properties and even the power to heal tuberculosis. The original Elms Hotel and Spa was built in 1888, just down the road from its present location, to accommodate travelers from far and wide and visitors like President Harry S. Truman coming to Excelsior Springs. The original hotel burnt down in a fire in 1898 but was rebuilt at its current location in 1909. Ironically, the Elms burned down yet again in 1910, but was restored three months later using salvaged limestone and building materials from its second incarnation. The third rebuild, which underwent a $20 million renovation in 2012, is what stands today; it was purchased by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts in 2019.
The hotel hit its stride during the 1920s, where it gained a reputation as an illicit speakeasy during Prohibition and became a playground for the rich and famous. Gangsters Al Capone and Bugsy Moran frequented the resort, as well as bank robber “Pretty Boy” Floyd—they’re said to have held illegal gambling and gin parties on the premises. There’s even a Capone Suite on the second floor of the Elms, his preferred hangout; the legendary mob boss liked being able to easily see who was arriving at the property and quickly duck out the back door if he needed to.
Said to be haunted by several different ghosts, the Elms Hotel has such a spooky reputation that it was featured on the Syfy show Ghost Hunters in 2013. All of the spirits on the property, however, are friendly—for the most part. Rumor has it that one ghost started the fires that destroyed the Elms in 1898 and 1910. Some of the most frequently spotted apparitions include a gambler dressed in Prohibition era–style clothing (he hangs out near the lap pool) and a housekeeper wearing an old-fashioned uniform. The hotel offers a Paranormal Package, which includes a stay and two tickets to its nightly ghost tour—prices start at $250 per night. Tickets to the ghost tour start at $20 per person.
3. The Emily Morgan Hotel
- Where: San Antonio, Texas
- Book now: starting at $130 per night.
The Gothic revival–style building is located within shouting distance of the Alamo and was constructed on what was the fort’s long barracks where Texan defenders battled against Mexican forces during 13 days—nearly 600 men would die in the fight for the Alamo. The building that the hotel now occupies was constructed in 1924 by architect Ralph Cameron to house the city’s Medical Arts Building, a hospital with more than 100 doctors and dentists. First-time visitors to the Emily Morgan are often struck by the building’s intricate exterior, with its cast iron embellishments, a copper roof with wooden ribs, and an assemblage of gargoyles that portray various medical ailments. After functioning as a hospital for more than 50 years, the building became a hotel in 1984.
The most haunted levels of the Emily Morgan are said to be the basement and the 7th and 14th floors. The basement served as the hospital’s morgue and crematorium, and visitors have reported that the elevators will sometimes take them to the bottom level even if they’ve selected a different floor. The 14th floor—which is actually the 13th—was the hospital’s surgical ward, and some people have said they can still smell the faint odor of disinfectant there. The 7th floor, which is the hospital’s former psychiatric unit, is rumored to be the hotel’s most haunted, and there are multiple theories why: One story says it’s haunted by a ghost of a jilted bride. Some hotel guests on the 7th floor have experienced unexplained phenomena, such as ghoulish shrieks in the night, misplaced belongings, and phone calls with no one on the other end. Consider booking a room yourself to find out if the hype is real. During October, the Emily Morgan hosts a “Room With a Boo” package, which includes an overnight stay, a welcome cocktail, and “boo-berry” pancakes in the morning—prices start at $159 per night.
4. The Stanley Hotel
- Where: Estes Park, Colorado
- Book now: starting at $320 per night
The famously haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, opened its doors in 1909 and was owned by inventor Freelan Stanley, who fell in love with the area after he traveled to Colorado in hopes that the dry mountain air would help ease his tuberculosis symptoms. The hotel quickly garnered a reputation as a luxury wilderness retreat and people like socialite Molly Brown (famous for surviving the sinking of the Titanic), President Theodore Roosevelt, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan would all stay at the Stanley.
The hotel is best known for its starring role in what many critics consider one of the greatest American horror classics: The Shining, based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King. After staying just one night at the Stanley, King was so creeped out by his experience, he was inspired to write what would become his third major work, which was adapted for film by director Stanley Kubrick (who famously took a few liberties with the source material).
Several different ghosts supposedly haunt the Stanley, including the specter of the original owner, his wife, and the spirit of a mysterious child. One of the most requested rooms in the hotel is number 217, which is where King stayed. The space is said to be haunted by the spirit of a maid named Mrs. Wilson. She was blasted out of the room while lighting a lantern in it, which had a gas leak. Though she lived, the powerful explosion sent her tumbling into the MacGregor Dining Room below, and she broke her ankles. Apparently, Wilson isn’t a fan of unmarried couples sleeping together, and any unwed lovebirds who try sleeping in Room 217 will sometimes feel a cold presence push them apart at night. Famously, Jim Carrey stayed in Room 217 while filming Dumb and Dumber (1994) and was so unnerved by the hotel that he left the Stanley in the middle of the night.
5. Bourbon Orleans Hotel
- Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
- Book now: starting at $170 per night
New Orleans has long held a reputation as one of the most haunted U.S. cities, so it only follows that some of the Big Easy’s hotels have supernatural visitors.
The French Quarter property that is now home to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel was originally a theater and ballroom, constructed in the early 1800s and destroyed by a fire in 1816. The remains were purchased by entrepreneur John Davis, who commissioned British-born architect Henry Latrobe—who designed the U.S. State Capitol—to rebuild both the theater and ballroom. The newly constructed, 1,300-seat theater placed New Orleans on the map as one of the country’s major cultural centers and was the setting for hundreds of Creole soirees, plays, and operas.
In 1881, the property was sold to the Sisters of the Holy Family, the first Black American religious order in the country. While it was under the Sisters’ care, the ballroom (the theater burned in another fire in 1886) would serve as a school, orphanage, and a makeshift hospital for children sick with yellow fever. The property was sold to Bourbon Kings Hotel Corporation in 1964, and it has been welcoming overnight guests ever since.
Visitors to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel have reported experiencing several different types of specters. Some have heard the ghostly laughter of children, seen nuns who disappear into walls, or had their personal items misplaced without explanation. Others have caught sight of a lonely dancer waltzing alone underneath the ballroom’s chandelier. One of the most famous spirits of the Bourbon Orleans is the ghost of a Confederate soldier, who can sometimes be seen marching solemnly in his gray fatigues.
6. Crescent Hotel and Spa
- Where: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Book now: starting at $150 per night
Constructed in 1886 by the Eureka Springs Improvement Company in partnership with the Frisco Railroad, the Crescent Hotel and Spa soon garnered a reputation as a luxurious hotel, with people traveling from all over the country to experience the town’s 60 hot springs. It earned the nickname of the “Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks” and was advertised as the “the finest hotel west of the Mississippi.” Sadly, the original hotel owners were not able to turn much of a profit, and in 1901, the building became a girls’ school.
In 1937, the building was sold to radio personality and (soon to be revealed) charlatan Norman G. Baker, who claimed he’d found a cure for cancer that didn’t require surgery or radiation. The hotel became the Baker Hospital, and he sent flyers to people across the nation advertising the clinic as a place “where sick folks get well.” His cure? A mixture of chemicals and substances that included carbolic acid, ground watermelon seeds, corn silk, and alcohol, injected into patients up to seven times a day. During the 20 months that the Baker Hospital was in operation, 44 people died there. (After cooking up other frauds and money schemes, Baker would serve time in prison and eventually, in an act of poetic justice, died in 1958 of liver cancer.)
Afterward, the building would pass through the hands of various owners who would sink money into renovating the building, lose their steam, and sell it once again. In 1997, it was purchased by its current owners, Marty and Elise Roenigk, who restored and reconstructed the Crescent back into a hotel.
Since its reopening, guests have reported a number of strange phenomena. Some say they’ve seen a sad-looking young girl drift through the corridors. She’s believed to be the spirit of a student who once attended school there and died by suicide after finding out she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Others have spotted a specter of a nurse pushing a gurney down a hall, only to see her disappear into thin air. One of the most famous ghosts of the hotel is a young woman named Theodora, who resides in Room 419; she introduces herself to guests as a patient of Dr. Baker then vanishes before their eyes.
7. Hotel Chelsea
- Where: New York City
- Book now: starting at $345 per night.
Manhattan’s Hotel Chelsea is the stuff of American literary and pop culture legend—it also happens to be haunted. The building was constructed in the late 1800s as one of the first private cooperative apartments in the city. It became a hotel in 1905 that also accepted long- term tenants, many of whom were the glamorous, pop culture-icon kind. Arthur Miller moved into the building after his divorce with Marilyn Monroe. Bob Dylan wrote “Sara” from his Desire album there in Room 211. Jack Kerouac had a one-night stand with Gore Vidal in the hotel, and Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen hooked up here, too. It was the place where Arthur Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps most tragically, it was also where groupie Nancy Spungen would die after she was stabbed in the abdomen in her room’s bathroom—her boyfriend, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, was charged with her murder but died of a heroin overdose before he could be brought to trial.
In addition, several notable figures have died at the hotel by suicide, and their ghosts are said to haunt the hotel’s halls. One of the most commonly seen apparitions is a young woman named Mary, who was a survivor of the Titanic. Mary’s husband perished during the ship’s sinking and she was later so overcome by grief that she killed herself at the Chelsea. (The Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli reported that he saw Mary at the hotel during a stay in 1996.) Another ghost, a tortured artist known only as Nadia, also died by suicide at the hotel (and cut off her hand in creative frustration beforehand), and so did Charles R. Jackson, author of The Lost Weekend. In addition to glimpses of apparitions, guests of the Chelsea Hotel have experienced a wide array of phenomenon from hearing ghostly whispers and having chills to general feelings of uneasiness on the premises.
This story was originally published in October 2015 with information by Jen Murphy and was updated on October 10, 2022, by Mae Hamilton to include current information.