Top 10 Most Haunted Hotels in the Midwest

Photo by Ken Lundon Flickr

With their storied history, famous guests, and romantic atmosphere, Mysterious Heartland has found that hotels can attract quite a number of ghostly tales. From the smallest bed & breakfast to a luxurious five-star resort, the Midwest has more than its fair share of famous hotels, and nearly all of them are believed to have an uninvited guest or two. Which one will prove to be the most haunted of them all?

10. Hotel Blackhawk

Davenport, Iowa

Hotel Blackhawk, or the Blackhawk Hotel as it is also known, has gone from opulence to disrepair and back again several times over its storied existence. A businessman named W.F. Miller began construction on the Blackhawk in 1915, but all the floors were not added until 1920. It played host to many celebrities, and it is widely believed that actor Cary Grant died on the 8th floor in 1986 (in fact, he died at a nearby hospital). In the early 1970s, there were plans to turn the hotel into low income housing for the elderly, but it declared bankruptcy and the building was seized by the bank. During the 1990s, the hotel gained a sleazy reputation, and in 2006 a meth lab exploded on the 8th Floor. Since then, Hotel Blackhawk has undergone renovation and has been restored to its former glory. Still, stories of strange activity remain. The ghost of a woman in a blue or red evening gown has been seen floating through the hallways. Cary Grant himself is also said to make an appearance from the afterlife.

9. Original Springs Hotel

Okawville, Illinois

During the late 1800s, Okawville was widely known for its mineral springs, which were believed to have an invigorating effect on health. After the particular quality of the springs was discovered in 1867, a local businessman and a farmer established the first bathhouse and spa at the location. That burnt down in 1891, and the current building, which became the Original Springs Hotel, opened in the spring of 1893. The hotel is still in operation today, although it has had many owners. One previous owner, Tom Rogers, died in an upstairs room in 1962. Guests at the hotel have reported seeing a mysterious woman wearing a white dress in the fashion of the early 1900s sitting on the second floor balcony. Her face is always hidden beneath her hat. One guest reported seeing her standing near his bed, and another saw her staring out the window of a locked storage room in the men’s bathhouse. Ethereal music has also been heard in the laundry room.

8. Hotel Alex Johnson

Rapid City, South Dakota

Built by Alex Carlton Johnson and opened in 1928, the Hotel Alex Johnson 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. 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.

7. Lafayette Hotel

Marietta, Ohio

The Lafayette Hotel, built over the ruins of the Bellvue Hotel, which burnt down in 1916, opened on July 1, 1918. It was owned by the Marietta Hotel Company and a man named Reno G. Hoag was hired as the manager. When he died in 1944, his son S. Durward Hoag took over the position. Since Durward’s death, his ghost is believed to haunt the third floor, which has been dedicated to him. Lights flicker and bulbs burst without explanation. The elevator also behaves erratically, often moving on its own and stopping at the roof. Guests have also reported toiletries that go missing or are dumped on the floor, and one man even claimed to have been locked out of his room after the water in his shower suddenly turned ice cold! The vaporous specter of a woman wearing an Edwardian dress has also been spotted in the Lafayette’s Riverview Lounge.

6. Savoy Hotel and Grill

Kansas City, Missouri

Built by owners of the Arbuckle Coffee Company in 1888, the Savoy Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Its restaurant, the Savoy Grill, is the oldest restaurant in Kansas City. The restaurant features stained glass windows, lanterns, and a large carved oak bar. The Savoy has served many famous guests, but some more ethereal visitors are less than welcome. According to legend, during the 1800s a woman named Betsy Ward lived in Room 505. One tragic day, she was discovered dead in the bathtub. Some say she committed suicide, while others called it murder. Regardless, her ghost is blamed for many strange occurrences in Room 505. Another ghost, that of a man named Fred Lightner, is believed to haunt a different room, and a young girl wearing a Victorian dress has been seen wandering the fourth floor.

5. The Story Inn

Brown County, Indiana

“One inconvenient location since 1851” is not only this country inn’s tagline, it is also an apt description. To get to the inn, visitors must make a 20 mile trek into the wilderness down State Road 135 from Nashville, Indiana. The Story Inn and its cottages is all that remains of a tiny mining town named Story, which went defunct in the early 1900s. The Inn was restored in the 1960s and now sits at the edge of Brown County State Park. For decades, owners of the Inn kept logs in each room so that guests could document their ghostly encounters. One of the most well-known ghosts haunting the Story Inn is known as the “Blue Lady.” She is believed to have been a wife of Dr. George Story and can be summoned by turning on a blue light in one of the rooms above the restaurant. Literally hundreds of encounters have been recorded, from simply sensing her presence to witnessing and interacting with the apparition. The owner is a skeptic, but continues the tradition of inviting guests to share their stories.

4. Bullock Hotel

Deadwood, South Dakota

The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits. Whether it is the scent of his cigar, the sound of his boots in the hallway, or seeing his image in the mirror, many hotel patrons have reported feeling his presence. The Bullock Hotel was originally built between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, restaurant staff have heard the piano playing an old ragtime tune without the aid of human hands. Glasses, dishes, and other items fall or are tossed through the air without any explanation.

3. The Holly Hotel

Holly, Michigan

Built in 1891, the historic Holly Hotel has had a tragic history. It suffered not one, but two devastating fires. The first took place on January 19, 1913. The second erupted on January 19, 1978, exactly sixty-five years to the day and hour of the first fire. The hotel quickly recovered, but many of its original furnishings were destroyed. Its owners, however, took great care to reincorporate every piece of wood, railing, molding, tile and glass which could be salvaged from the 1978 fire. Today, the hotel features fine dining by candlelight and one of Michigan’s oldest comedy clubs, with a side of ghosts. Over the years, many guests have reported smelling cigar smoke and the scent of perfume, while others have seen the spirit of a young girl who plays in the kitchen and on the banquet room steps. The young girl is said to knock over pots and pans. A petite specter named Nora sometimes appears in photographs taken at the hotel, and she has been heard softly singing at night. A parapsychologist named Norman Gauthier once declared the Holly Hotel to be “loaded with spirits.”

2. The Pfister Hotel

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Pfister Hotel was built for an extravagant $1 million in 1893 and contains the largest collection of Victorian artwork of any hotel in the world. It is a member of Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Pfister Hotel is also famously haunted by the ghost of its namesake, Charles Pfister. MLB players who have stayed there are open about their encounters with the otherworldly. Michael Young of the Phillies told ESPN Magazine, “Oh, f— that place. Listen, I’m not someone who spreads ghost stories, so if I’m telling you this, it happened. A couple of years ago, I was lying in bed after a night game, and I was out. My room was locked, but I heard these footsteps inside my room, stomping around… so I yelled out, ‘Hey! Make yourself at home. Hang out, have a seat, but do not wake me up, okay?’ After that, I didn’t hear a thing for the rest of the night.” Despite all the hair-raising stories, this world-class hotel continues to attract guests and charges upwards of $250 a night.

1. Congress Plaza Hotel

Chicago, Illinois

The Congress Plaza Hotel has the nefarious distinction of being one of Chicago’s largest and most haunted hotels. According to Ursula Bielski, some even believe one of its rooms inspired Stephen King’s short story “1408.” Since 1893, the Congress has played host to gangsters, celebrities, millionaires, and presidents. In recent years, it has suffered from the longest hotel employee strike in history. Its ghosts are numerous. Security guards have heard organ music and the sound of skate wheels sliding across the floor in the Florentine Room, a former roller skating rink, after the guests have gone to bed. Wedding attendees have gone missing from photographs taken around the grand piano in the Gold Room, and a one-legged man has been seen in the south tower. In the north tower, moans have been heard coming from the elevator on the fifth floor. Finally, the twelfth floor is believed to be home to a room so frightening that its door has been permanently sealed and hidden behind wall paper.


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