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Haunted Hotels Provide a Perfect October Getaway

  • Lizzie Borden, St. James & Stanley Hotels

  • What's that entering Governor Lew Wallace Room #9 at the St. James Hotel?Courtesy of St. James Hotel

With Halloween right around the corner, there’s no better time for travelers to test their mettle than with a stay at a haunted hotel. 

Here are six spooky spots across the country where you might not be the only guest in the room, from a historic New Mexico hotel whose otherworldly occupants keep the spirit of the Wild West very much alive, to a New England inn where two of the most ghastly – and still unsolved -- murders in American history took place. 

And yes, you might want to leave the light on.

The Marshall House, Savannah, Georgia

It's no surprise why this charming B&B experiences plenty of otherworldly phenomena: It was the first hotel in one of the world’s most haunted cities. It was built in 1851 and served as a hospital various times, housing wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War and then later victims of yellow fever. With that eerie history, the Marshall House is quite a spirited place. Guests report hearing children run up and down hallways, even when no children are present, and faucets are said to turn on and off by themselves. There are even reports of guests feeling pressure on their wrists while they’re in bed, as if someone is trying to take their pulse. Rooms from $129 weekdays in October.

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

No list of haunted hotels would be complete without this 138-room, 16,000 square-foot grand dame, which inspired Stephen King's The Shining, after the horror novelist stayed in room 217. King's tale might have been fiction, but The Stanley, which opened in 1909, oozes plenty of real-life weirdness. Besides its eerie, isolated feel in the mountains of Denver, guests have reported seeing the original owner, F.O. Stanley, on the premises, usually in the lobby or billiards room. And his wife, Flora, is believed to play the piano just like she did in real life. Ghost tours are held daily; rooms from around $209 in October.

The Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, Mo.

The Lemp family, at one time the most powerful beer barons of St. Louis, have a tragic history that spans the mysterious death of a young son, loss of a fortune once valued at $7 million and three suicides that took place in the mansion where they lived and worked. The grand building is now a quirky, five-suite hotel proud of its haunted history. Ghost tours with a psychic are offered every Monday night, and guests can also take part in paranormal tours that come with refreshments and use of an infrared camera to document the mansion’s ghostly happenings. Rooms from $125 weeknights in October.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, Calif.

This historic ocean liner, which now operates as a hotel and tourist attraction, is overflowing with spiritual activity. More than 50 people are believed to have died aboard the ship, many of whom still make their presence known. For example, about 300 sailors met their watery end when the giant ship, used for military transport in World War II, sliced through their boat. Tour participants often report hearing pounding on the ship’s hull below decks. Other hotspots of activity: the first-class swimming pool and the Promenade Deck, near the passenger information booth.

Several tours and events during October focus on the ship’s paranormal activity. The most authentic are those led by psychic Erika Frost, during which visitors are encouraged to snap photos and take audio recordings. Check ahead of time for October tour schedules, which vary to accommodate Halloween-specific events. Rooms from $129 weeknights.

The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast/Museum, Fall River, Mass.

You may not get a good night’s sleep at this eerie old inn, which is the site of perhaps the country’s most gruesome unsolved murders. But you will get a trip back in time to the fateful August morning in 1892 when Andrew and Abby Borden were hacked to death by an axe-wielding, still-undetermined killer in the inn. The Victorian-era inn boasts décor and details of the day, right down to the New England johnny cakes served at breakfast. The enduring question of who dunit lingers, too, though many point the finger at daughter Lizzie Borden, who, at 32, was the only official suspect of the brutal murders of her father and  stepmother.

Thrill-seekers vie to spend the night in the John Morse guest room, where Abby Borden’s body was found (the room is booked months in advance). But guests throughout the B&B report all sorts of odd activity, from whispers and strange noises, and regularly leave in the middle of the night. More timid souls can opt for a day tour, held hourly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rooms from $175 in October; a few still available this month.

The St. James Hotel & Restaurant, Cimarron, N.M.

The Wild West spirit abounds – quite literally – at this historic hotel, whose famous guests have included Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Buffalo Bill Cody since it first opened in 1872. Since then, 26 deaths have occurred within its confines, and the tin roof in the bar area still boasts gunshots from its gun-slinging days of debauchery. Today, guests can stay in any of the hotel’s 12 original rooms, which are named for the outlaws who once stayed there. However, one that’s off-limits is Room 18, reserved indefinitely for ill-fated cowboy T.J. Wright, who died of a fatal gunshot wound while toting his poker winnings to his room and is believed to still occupy the room.

The hotel is offering several spook-tacular specials during October, including a paranormal investigation weekend on Oct. 21-22, and discounts on Halloween night. Rooms in the haunted historic side from $125.

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