For decades, hotels have been advertising rooms as having ‘character’, but in the case of several hotels this has gone one step further, offering rooms with, in the most literal sense, ‘a personality’. Ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists, whatever the unearthly spirit there is to be seen roaming rooms and stalking staircases, you can be assured that some hotel somewhere has filled the niche in the market. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these hotels and guest houses are steeped in history, and have a back-story explaining the origins of these spooky occupants.
For example, Redworth Hall Hotel in Durham can boast four-star accommodation, a health club and a swimming pool, but it is the ghostly occurrences that have piqued the interest of the public and the imagination of their guests. Rumour has it that a child can often be heard crying and wailing, and guests have even reported being able to see this child through the viewfinder of their cameras. So, who is this unfortunate being? As with many spooky stories, the history of this ghost can apparently be traced back to a cruel and heartless former occupant, in this instance, Redworth Hall’s 18th century landowner Lord Surtees. The cries are thought to be those of his mentally-ill child, who was subjected – so say the rumours – to being chained to the fireplace and beaten.
However, Redworth has another ghoulish guest whose story has also been traced back through the history of the hall. Wandering round the corridors (as ghosts ALWAYS seem to be doing…) can apparently be seen the morose and pale face of a woman, searching endlessly for her lost love. According to the rumours, it would appear that Lord Surtees may once again be at fault. This time, the pesky peer stands accused of having an affair with a scullery maid, who became pregnant from this illicit relationship. When his wife discovered this affair, the poor pregnant scullery maid was driven to suicide, and it is her who can be seen traipsing the corridors of Redworth Hall.
So, given that one stands at risk of bumps and bangs on the bed, TVs mysteriously switching off, and the peculiar feeling of being watched while you sleep, why on earth would one want to sleep in a haunted hotel?
Thrill-seekers of this kind would likely include fans of the quintessential hotel horror, The Shining, a book (and later film) in which the desolate, eerie setting of the hotel forms a key part of the overall effect. Indeed, the hotel which has the (perhaps dubious) honour of inspiring author Stephen King to pen his famous thriller is still a fully functional hotel. The Stanley Hotel in Colorado has numerous reports of hauntings, no doubt acting as inspiration for King. For example, kitchen staff, guests and hotel employees have all reported hearing the ballroom piano playing, only to find the room deserted and the piano unoccupied. The woman is suspected to be Flora Stanley, the wife of the hotel’s founder Freelan O. Stanley, although why she should have returned in ghost form remains unexplained. Also, reports of ghosts wandering the corridors (…told you…) have been investigated by various television ghost-hunting programmes.
Far from putting off potential guests, these ghoulish goings-on have been actively used by the hotel management to increase business. For example, guests are able to watch the entire uncut R-rated movie of The Shining on their televisions on channel 42, where it is shown on continuous loop; that is, of course, if the ghosts don’t mischievously interfere with your set…
This is not the only hotel to have benefited from The Shining. For the external shots of the hotel used in the Stanley Kubrick film, The Stanley Hotel was not used, the director instead preferring the bleak setting and imposing look of The Timberline Lodge, set in the wintry mountains of Oregon. Whilst not being able to boast any ghost stories of its own, The Timberline Lodge draws more than a million visiting tourists annually; clearly, the hotel has benefited from this out of the ordinary publicity.
So, if you get a thrill from the ethereal, a sensation from the supernatural, then rest assured, from Redworth Hall to Timberline Lodge, there are plenty of historic hotels that can cater for your demands.