Tis’ the season for a good ghost story, and the Bay Area has no shortage of hallowed haunts. Anyone can visit Alcatraz or tour the Winchester Mystery House, but sleeping with the spirits – now that’s for the fearless few. If you want Halloween thrill, check into one of these six haunted hotels in California. In addition to the spooks that visit them, we tell you about the spirits of the hotels themselves.
The Claremont Resort & Spa | 41 Tunnel Road | Berkeley
The spooks: Overlooking the San Francisco Bay, this majestic white mansion eerily resembles the Stanley Hotel from The Shining. Guests report seeing lights mysteriously flicker and hearing knocks on the door, only to find that no one is outside, and some report spirit sightings, including Mrs. Thomburg, the original owner’s wife, who wanders the garden decked out in Victorian dress.
An elderly woman died in a 1901 fire on the property in 1901, and her ghost haunts the tower room, opening drawers and changing the television channel. The fourth floor is the most haunted part of the Claremont, and room 422 is the center of the ghostly
The spirit: Ghost stories aside, the Claremont Resort & Spa is truly a beautiful and luxurious experience. Even architect Frank Lloyd Wright had to agree—he called the Claremont, “one of the few hotels in the world with warmth, character, and charm.” Fine dining at The Meritage comes with breathtaking views, and the property also offers a world-class gym and tennis courts. (Rooms from $250.) mischief. The legend goes that a child wandered into the room’s fire chute and got trapped. She now plays in the hallway and often intercepts phone lines calling for “Mama.”
Directions: Take BART to Rockridge. From there it’s a short walk to the hotel, or you can take Bus 49 to Claremont and Ashby.
Paso Robles Inn | 1103 Spring Street | Paso Robles
The spooks: In addition to historic charm (it’s registered with Historic Hotels of America) and soothing hot springs, the Paso Robles Inn boasts dedicated staff members—both living and dead. On December 19, 1940, a fire broke out on the inn’s second floor. Night clerk J.H. Emsley rushed to sound the alarm.
Elmsley died of a heart attack that night, but his quick-thinking ensured that all of the hotel’s guests safely evacuated. However, his ghost seems to have missed the memo, and continues to sound the fire alert. Both front desk managers and 911 operators have received calls from Room 1007, which is always empty upon inspection.
The spirit: While you’re at the Paso Robles Inn, make an appointment at the spa, take a walk through the beautiful gardens, stroll downtown for a meal, or have dinner at the Inn’s Steakhouse. Paso Robles Inn is a perfect base camp for exploring the region’s wine country and small towns.
Directions: Take Amtrak to Paso Robles. The hotel is less than a 10-minute walk to the station, or you can take the bus to Spring and 10th Street.
Hollywood Roosevelt | 7000 Hollywood Boulevard | Los Angeles
The spooks: If it’s hobnobbing with Hollywood you’re after look no further this celebrity, um, haunt (both past and present). Miss Norma Jean stayed at the hotel so often that she purchased a full-length mirror for her favorite suite. The mirror was retired after the starlet’s death, but then hung in the lobby for a time, and Marilyn herself was sometimes spotted preening there. Alas, the mirror has since been removed, but the starlet’s presence remains.
As though to keep her company, Montgomery Clift, who co-starred with Miss Monroe in Misfits, also lends his star power to the Roosevelt. The four-time Oscar nominee lived in room 928 while filming From Here to Eternity, and is said to perform all sorts of high jinks in that room, including practicing his bugle, blaring the radio, and thwarting attempts to capture his spirit (through well-timed fire alarms, randomly depleted camera batteries, and the like).
The spirit: It’s not wonder Marilyn and Monty—in addition to children playing in the hallways, an aged pianist, and after-hours swimming spirits—hang around the Roosevelt. Hollywood history was made here, at the site of the very first Academy Awards. It was in the Blossom Room on May 16, 1929 that Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Cecil B. DeMille first presented 14 awards (in 25 minutes) in what would be come the annual awards extravaganza.
Today the spot is just as swank, featuring an array of happening hangouts, including Teddy’s Hangout, which is popular with (living) celebs, the poolside Tropicana Bar (and pool painted by artist David Hockney), a vaudeville-inspired theater, and “speakeasy gaming lounge” The Spare Room. In short, all of Hollywood at your fingertips.
Directions: Fly into LAX and then take bus 102 to Overhill/La Brea. Transfer to bus 212/312 to Hollywood/Orange, a one-minute walk from the hotel.
The Rose Hotel | 807 Main Street | Pleasanton
The spooks: The Rose Hotel is situated smack in the middle of Pleasanton, a small town with a ghostly past. The building has changed hands several times, transitioning from general merchandise store to indoor golf course to charity shop to hotel. Back in the charity shop days, an employee was in the basement when the lights went off and back on several times. She heard three knocks on the door and then saw a man walk downstairs and through the basement wall.
The spirit: Set in charming historic Pleasanton, the hotel itself is plush and modern, with sumptuous beds and jet tubs.
Much of the appeal, though is that that the area is a hotbed for hauntings. Town Center Books (555 Main Street) is haunted by the ghosts of two Chinese teenagers who mischievously turn books around move bookshelves in the night. And over at Gay Nineties Pizza (288 Main Street) you’ll hear “the lady in blue” legend. This female ghost stands in the upstairs window, leaves freezer doors open, and has written “Boo” in a restaurant mirror.
Directions: Take BART to Dublin/Pleasanton, and the hotel is a short cab ride from the station.
Hotel del Coronado | 1500 Orange Avenue | San Diego
The spooks: In 1892, lovely young Kate Morgan checked into Hotel Coronado. She spent five days in the beachfront property, but never checked out. Theories go that she was waiting for a lover who never showed, and ended up taking her own life.
In the hotel’s long history since, countless paranormal happenings have been reported, from surprising breezes to wayward electronics. One guest awoke to find his pillows stacked in a pyramid on his laptop. Miss Morgan, who is said to be a playful ghost, also seems to play pranks in the hotel’s gift shop, which chronicles the property’s history. The Coronado’s historian, Christine Donovan, has chronicled these ghostly high jinks in her book Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan.
The spirit: Having celebrated its 125th birthday in 2013, the “Hotel del” has no shortage of historic charm. Many a movie has been filmed here (including the Marilyn Monroe classic Some Like It Hot), and it’s not hard to see why. From the beautiful beach to its iconic turrets, this is a place of magic.
Directions: Fly into San Diego International Airport, and take bus 992 to Broadway and Front Street. Change to bus 901, and get off at Orange Avenue and R H Dana Place.
Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa | 3297 Mt. Diablo Boulevard | Lafayette
The spooks: A great spot for weddings or other special events, this pretty property sports a haunted side that keeps guests on their toes. Visitors say paintings fall from the walls and there are cold spots in certain rooms. You may even return to your room to find the ghost of a little girl jumping on your bed before vanishing, and if you’re lucky, one of the hotel’s spirited vending machines will offer you soda free of charge!
The spirit: The hotel’s French-Norman architecture makes it feel a bit like a villa nestled into the hills of Lafayette, replete with luxurious spa, heated pool, and more. And if the ghosts don’t play tricks at the vending machine, you can treat yourself to a meal at raved-about Bistro bar and restaurant.
Directions: Take BART to Lafayette, and then catch bus 2 or bus 6 toward Walnut Creek. Get off at Mt. Diablo Boulevard.