Some hotels have rich histories — from illustrious past guests to previous lives as castles and ocean liners — that can add charm and even a bit of education to your next vacation. But others come with intrigue of the paranormal variety. Each of these 19 hotels has a haunted history that makes them unlike any other accommodations on Earth, from ghosts that wake up guests just for fun to former hotel owners that still roam the halls at night. Are you brave enough to check in?
Crescent Hotel (Eureka Springs, Arkansas)
It doesn’t get much spookier than a hotel with an old morgue in the basement (now conveniently located right next to the spa). The Crescent Hotel, often deemed the most haunted hotel in America, originally opened in 1886 as a luxurious resort for wealthy train travelers making their way through Eureka Springs. It didn’t stay that way for long, though.
Within just a few years, the hotel fell into disrepair. It reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women in 1908 and operated as a college of some form until 1934. Then, in 1937, the dark history of the place began to take shape. A crooked “doctor,” Norman Baker, bought the property and turned it into a cancer hospital (hence the morgue). The problem was, he wasn’t offering actual treatment — instead, he was hawking natural spring water with flavoring as a bogus cure. After countless deaths, the hospital was shut down in 1940, and Baker was sent to prison. The hotel’s current iteration opened in the early 2000s, but ghosts of the past remain. Guests and paranormal investigators have reported seeing full-body apparitions of adults and children, and the hotel even offers ghost tours of the property.
Dragsholm Slot (Zealand, Denmark)
Dragsholm Slot was originally built in 1215 as a palace. From there, it transformed into a castle, a prison, back to a castle, and now a hotel. It’s often considered to be one of the most haunted buildings in Denmark — legend says it’s home to more than 100 ghosts.
Three of them are more famous than the others. The White Lady was the daughter of one of the noblemen who lived in the building. She fell in love with a commoner — something her father viciously disapproved of — and as punishment, she was imprisoned and bricked into the castle walls. She’s reportedly seen wandering the halls wearing a white dress. The second famous ghost, James Hepburn, died in the dungeon in 1578 — now, his ghost tears into the courtyard on horse and carriage every night. The third ghost, the Grey Lady, is much happier than the others. She had a terrible toothache in life that was healed by someone at the castle. In death, she is said to traverse the halls looking for good deeds to do as repayment.
The Langham Hotel (London, England)
One of Europe’s first grand hotels, the Langham debuted in London in 1865 to much fanfare — even the Prince of Wales came to the opening. It has remained a posh place ever since, hosting illustrious guests such as Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Princess Diana. But among those famous visitors, you can also find occupants of the ghostly kind — particularly in Room 333, considered to be the most haunted hotel room in London. It’s said to be home for more than a few ghosts, including one who likes to shake the bed just for fun, a Victorian doctor who stares into the distance, and a German prince in military dress. Throughout the hotel, you may also be greeted by a man with a wounded face, a footman in a powdered wig, a lost butler, or Emperor Napoleon III himself.
Hotel Monte Vista (Flagstaff, Arizona)
According to the Hotel Monte Vista, more than seven ghosts haunt the halls of the property — and guests are encouraged to try to communicate with them. The hotel opened on January 1, 1927, just off Route 66 in Flagstaff. It’s connected to other downtown buildings through secret underground tunnels, and it was used as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Famous visitors have included Mary Costigan (who broadcast her radio show from there), Michael J. Fox, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Siouxsie Sioux. But as far as ghostly guests, you can expect to meet a man who messes up the bed and turns on the TV at full volume, a rocking chair that moves on its own, a bellboy, a crying baby, a dancing couple, and a bank robber who rearranges the bar and wishes people a good morning.
The Shelbourne (Dublin, Ireland)
In the heart of Dublin, historic luxury hotel The Shelbourne is reportedly haunted by a ghost named Mary Masters, who loves to mess with water fixtures in one of the rooms. She died of cholera in the hotel, which opened in 1824, when she was just seven years old. Mary enjoys startling guests by opening and closing wardrobe doors, but her favorite thing to do is turn on the water. Guests regularly report the taps, shower, and tub being turned on unexpectedly. In fact, so many guests have recounted the same unexplained activities that the hotel had a staff member sleep in the room to see if the claims were true — it turns out, the staff member had the same experience.
Stanley Hotel (Estes Park, Colorado)
Most people know the Stanley Hotel as the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, which he wrote after just one night at the property. The hotel opened in 1909 as an oasis in the Colorado mountain wilderness, complete with electric lights, en-suite bathrooms, and telephones. But even before Stephen King arrived in the 1970s, the hotel had a reputation for paranormal activity. Hotel owner F.O. Stanley, who died in 1940, has been a common sighting at the check-in desk since his death. There have also been reports of mysterious piano playing, laughter, shadowy figures, items moving on their own, and lights turning on and off. Guests at the hotel can book a special package guaranteeing them a stay on the most haunted floor, plus a ticket to the evening ghost tour.
First World Hotel (Pahang, Malaysia)
The popular First World Hotel in Malaysia isn’t just a colorful favorite — it’s also the world’s largest hotel, with more than 7,300 rooms. Guests with rooms on the 21st floor may find it a bit difficult to get to bed at night, however, as it’s rumored to be a cursed floor that the elevator skips. In other rooms at the hotel, visitors report seeing vanishing figures and being pushed while sleeping. The hotel has a built-in casino, which many say is the reason for the ghosts; supposedly people who have lost their fortune there decided never to leave.
Lord Milner Hotel (Matjiesfontein, South Africa)
The Lord Milner Hotel opened in 1899 just as the South African War was beginning. During the war, it was a military hospital with a lookout tower. It reopened in 1970 after renovations, with 15 rooms decorated in old-world splendor. But it’s the hotel’s history as a military space that gave way to the ghosts reported to live there today. One is Kate, a young nurse who used to play cards with soldiers as they recovered; she tends to walk up and down the staircase. Mary-Anne likes to jiggle the doorknob on Room 26. Lucy walks around in her nightgown. Olive hangs out in the gardens. British officers and soldiers congregate on the hotel balcony and spend time in the library. And with even more ghosts beyond that, the hotel certainly lives up to its legend as the most haunted hotel in South Africa.
The Queen Mary (Long Beach, California)
In 1972, the first hotel rooms opened in the permanently docked Queen Mary, a former luxury ocean liner that also served as a troop ship for World War II. It now serves as a kind of floating museum in Long Beach, California, but even before the ship was permanently docked, people reported hearing knocking on doors and seeing full-body apparitions, flickering lights, mysteriously running water, a woman in a wedding gown, disappearing children, and ghostly crewmembers. Today, the hotel might just be one of the most haunted in America — curious visitors can take ghost tours to judge for themselves.
Le Château de Marçay (Marçay, France)
Le Château de Marçay is a 15th-century castle that was converted into a 22-room hotel in 1973. A mysterious legend lies at the heart of the property’s rumored ghost encounters. It’s said that a former female resident of the castle turned into a werewolf every night, until she was shot by a terrified farmer. When the sun rose, the farmer realized he hadn’t shot a wolf at all, but instead a woman. He secretly buried her, in her white shroud, on the property. Now she’s seen every night, wandering the courtyard and the castle halls in her white dress.
Congress Plaza Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)
The Congress Plaza Hotel opened in 1893 to house visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition that same year. In the years since, president after president has stayed at the ornate hotel, including William Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt — a distinction that earned it the nickname “The Home of Presidents.” It’s also known, however, as the most haunted hotel in Chicago. Dozens of ghosts are said to walk the halls, from businessmen who perished in nearby Lake Michigan to roller skaters who played in the roller rink before it became a ballroom.
Dalhousie Castle Hotel (Edinburgh, Scotland)
For more than 800 years, Dalhousie Castle has stood guard over the Scottish countryside. In the beginning, the fortress and castle welcomed knights suited up in armor, who crossed a moat to get into the building. The moat is still there, along with remnants of the original drawbridge, but its function has changed. The castle has been used as a fortress, a home, a boarding school — and, since 1972, a hotel. Dalhousie runs ghost tours for curious guests to see some of the famous specters — like the Grey Lady, a mistress of one of the former lairds who was locked in a turret by his wife around 1500, and Sir Alexander Ramsay, a former resident who died there in 1342.
The Pfister (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
The most well-known ghost stories at the Pfister Hotel come from professional sports teams — some players have been so scared that they refuse to stay there again. Charles Pfister built the hotel in 1893, and since he passed away, there have been reports of his ghost wandering the hotel to make sure things are running properly. But when Major League Baseball players started staying there regularly, more stories began to surface. Colby Lewis said he saw a skeleton in his room. Matt Treanor heard tapping and a child shouting. Brandon Phillips had a radio in his room that turned on and off by itself. Carlos Gomez saw his iPod move across the bedside table on its own. The stories go on.
Taj Mahal Palace (Mumbai, India)
The 1903 Taj Mahal Palace hotel has seen a lot of history. It has served as a military hospital, been the site of terrorist attacks, and welcomed illustrious guests including royalty and even Alfred Hitchcock — which is rather apt for how haunted the hotel is said to be. One main ghost haunts the property: its architect, W.A. Chambers. He designed the hotel, approved the plans, and then went on a short trip out of the country. When he returned, he discovered — to his horror — that the hotel had been built backwards. It was too far along in construction to start over, and Chambers stewed in the misery of it until he couldn’t take it anymore. Now his ghost looks after the hotel and fights off people trying to steal or damage the property.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (Quebec City, Canada)
The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac towers over Quebec City, high up on a hill overlooking the old town and its European-style streets. It replaced a previous castle used as wartime headquarters, and though it’s styled to look much older, it has only been there since 1893 and has been a hotel the entire time. But even still, the hotel reportedly has ghosts roaming the halls. One is Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, who mourns his lost love, and the other is a woman dressed in a nightgown who enjoys waking people up at night.
Mermaid Inn (Rye, England)
Though the original building from the spot is gone, the cellars at the Mermaid Inn date back to 1156. It was a hotel from the 12th century until 1770, welcoming sailors during the Middle Ages and smugglers in the early 1700s, the latter of whom built tunnels and secret cellars. When it finally reopened as a hotel in 1993, it welcomed famous guests including Charlie Chaplin. Ghosts from the building’s past might visit as well. There’s a lady in white sitting by a fireplace, a rocking chair that moves on its own, and smugglers who still roam the halls.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Banff, Canada)
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was built in 1888 to be a luxurious hotel for those passing through the Canadian Rockies on the Canadian Pacific Railway. It has continued to grow and expand ever since, except for a brief three-year shutdown during World War II. Ghost stories have grown with the hotel as well. Some specific rooms are considered haunted — though staff won’t reveal the exact room numbers — by ghosts that either push guests out of bed at night or wake them up with screaming. Elsewhere in the hotel, a ghost of a bride haunts the staircase where she fell and the ballroom where she never got to dance. And a bellman from the 1960s and 1970s named Sam roams the hotel looking for guests to help.
The Russell Hotel (Sydney, Australia)
Carrying the designation of Sydney’s most haunted hotel, The Russell Hotel was built in 1887 on the site of Australia’s first general hospital in The Rocks, the city’s oldest neighborhood. Bubonic plague sufferers were treated there, and once the hotel was built, it was used as a sailors' hostel and allegedly a brothel for a period of time. Its long rocky past has given way to the ghosts of today. Room 8 is supposed to be the scariest, with a sailor appearing only to women at the foot of the bed and waking them up. A woman in white appears in the downstairs part of the hotel, footsteps with no person attached walk around the floors and up the stairs, and other paranormal activity happens regularly — like temperature changes and electronics losing power.
Chillingham Castle (Northumberland, England)
Built in the 12th century with full battlements added in 1344, Chillingham Castle looks the same as it did when it struggled through battles, hosted royalty, and handled treason cases. Members of the current royal family still visit, continuing a long tradition of royals staying in private rooms at the castle. The hotel challenges guests, asking if they’re “brave enough” to stay the night at one of England’s most paranormal spots. At least four spirits are said to reside there: a frail woman in white in a pantry area, a ghostly sensation in one of the rooms, two men having a conversation in the chapel, and shadows in the courtyard.