The Hotel Alex Johnson sits at the heart of beautiful downtown Rapid City. It is a luxury hotel with stores, a coffee shop, and a bar and restaurant on the first floor and a swanky rooftop club on the tenth floor. Prices are reasonable in the off season, so when a friend and I visited South Dakota in early April, we jumped at the opportunity to stay here. It helped, of course, that this hotel is rumoured to be haunted.
Alex Carlton Johnson was Vice President of the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad. As construction began on Mount Rushmore, he knew tourists would need somewhere to stay, so he invested his fortune in a hotel. The Hotel Alex Johnson opened in 1928 and was described as the “showplace of the West.” Its famous guests included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Alex Johnson died in 1938, but according to some hotel employees, part of him never left.
There are two rooms on the eighth floor that are widely believed to be haunted, so much so that the Hotel Alex Johnson offers a special “ghost adventure” guest package to stay there. The rooms are 802 and 812. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, a young couple staying in Room 802 had several hair-raising encounters. They described hearing music that did not seem to have a source, and both said they awoke to feel like they were being choked. Their pets also appeared agitated and behaved strangely.
Room 812 is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a bride-to-be who jumped from the window on her wedding night. According to Lewis and Fisk, this legend is actually based in fact – there was a documented suicide of a young lady at the hotel in the 1970s. She is said to wander the eighth floor in her wedding dress. The windows in Room 812 have reportedly popped open on their own, and one guest got out of the shower to see the words “help me” written on the mirror.
There are also rumours of a ghostly girl who skips down the hall on the eighth floor, knocking on doors. When guests peer out their peep hole, they see nothing but an empty hallway.
Among the more active ghosts, there are some minor disturbances. The elevator, for instance, will occasionally stop on its own when it reaches the third floor. No one has been able to explain why it does this. Pianos in the lobby and ballroom have also played on their own, and guests have reported hearing piano music in other parts of the hotel.
If you ever get a chance to visit Rapid City, make sure to spend at least one night in this remarkable hotel. Come for the fine accommodations, the rooftop lounge, or to take in the interesting memorabilia in this “showplace of the West.” Perhaps you will be one of the lucky ones to experience something otherworldly as well.