Ghostly Grounds: The Haunted Hotels in California That Will Make You Scream

Ghostly Grounds: The Haunted Hotels in California That Will Make You Scream

Ghostly Grounds: The Haunted Hotels in California That Will Make You Scream

By Oliver Jenkyns October 31, 2019

The Golden State is brimming with Hollywood film stars, Gold Rush mining sites, and popular vacation destinations, so it’s no wonder there are also dozens of haunted hotels in California. From strange sounds in hallways to mysterious figures appearing in mirrors, there is no shortage of apparitions. Thankfully, the majority of the state’s spirits tend to be more helpful than harmful; some tuck guests into bed while others simply roam the rooms they once inhabited.

Of course, unexpected and unusual occurrences are always a bit startling—like when the doorknob moves on its own or when whistling can be heard in the room but nobody is there—but it is October, so you can anticipate plenty of tricks. Whether you’re looking for a spooky Halloween story or for an overnight stay at the single most haunted hotel in California, we’ve got you covered.

American River Inn, Georgetown

Room 5

Filled with bright colors and floral patterns, the American River Inn may not look haunted, but things aren't always what they seem. Photo courtesy of the American River Inn. 

Just from looking at the quaint yellow-and-blue exterior of the hotel or greeting the pleasant owner and his staff, you may never think this place was one of the most interesting haunted hotels in Northern California. Opened during the Gold Rush in 1849, the American River Inn was intentionally constructed right beside the then-productive Woodside Mine in Georgetown. While several large chunks of gold were found in the mine over the years, it eventually collapsed, trapping many miners inside—some of whom are thought to still be buried underneath the hotel. 

Along with these potential spirits roaming the grounds, a miner named Oscar is also believed to haunt the American River Inn. When he wasn’t down in the mines, Oscar worked as a carpenter at the hotel and ended up falling in love with a woman of questionable morals who lived in room 5. While he enjoyed working in such close proximity to his love, Oscar was known to be a jealous man and after one of her former clients spoke badly about her, Oscar found himself in the middle of an altercation. Unfortunately, Oscar’s life ended on the steps of the hotel. Feeling distraught upon hearing the news, his lover is said to have leapt off her balcony to meet her demise on those same steps. 

Today, the spirit of Oscar appears in many ways: The room often feels cold even on hot days, a mysterious force brushes up against guests when nothing is there, footsteps can be heard in the halls, his figure makes appearances, and the doorknob to the balcony of room 5 is known to rattle—even though the only way onto the balcony is through the room. 

In addition to these known hauntings, more unusual activity has occurred just down the hall. While the inn was undergoing renovations, a picture of a little girl was taken out of a room, and soon after, many guests who stayed in that room mentioned having very similar dreams of the same girl. Wondering what had happened, the owners decided to return the picture to the room, but they placed it in the wardrobe to avoid interrupting the new aesthetic. Once the picture was returned to the room, the peculiar dreams stopped and honey began to drip from the cracks in the windowsill. 

6600 Orleans Street, Georgetown

Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood

Bungalow 3

The iconic Chateau Marmont looks like something out of a storybook, but stay in Bungalow 3, and you might have another kind of story to tell. 

Known as a celebrity hotspot, West Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont is visited by plenty of actors—both living and deceased. The most popularly reported spirit is that of actor and comedian John Belushi, who passed away in Bungalow 3 in the early 80s. Aside from many guests feeling uneasy and avoiding looking in the mirror while staying in the room, there’s also a famous report describing an encounter that a toddler had with Belushi.

As the story goes, the toddler was sitting in a corner laughing to himself. After a while, the parents worked up the courage to ask him who he was talking to, and he supposedly said, “the funny man”. The family continued on with their day and eventually opened up a book of previous guests, and tucked into the pages was a photograph of Belushi. Upon seeing the photo, the toddler pointed at it and said, “funny man”, confirming who he had seen earlier in the visit. 

8221 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles

Historic Cary House Hotel, Placerville

Room 212

Nestled in the heart of a Gold Rush town, the Historic Cary House Hotel is full of stories and spirits. Photo courtesy of the Historic Cary House Hotel.

Much like the American River Inn, the Historic Cary House Hotel found success during the Gold Rush, thanks to its location. Nestled in the heart of Placerville, right across from the famous hanging tree, the hotel sits on the land that once housed The El Dorado Hotel and Saloon. (The front porch of this establishment also served as a Wells Fargo stop, where giant bags of silver and gold were plopped as they waited for the Wells Fargo Bank drivers to pick them up, which led to flecks of silver and gold falling underneath the porch). 

But due to a devastating fire, the majority of the El Dorado—which was largely comprised of wood—burned to the ground, and a new structure took its place. The Historic Cary House Hotel was built out of bricks and welcomed countless visitors after its debut, including well-known figures like Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, Ulysses Grant, Levi Strauss, and Elvis Presley. Though the original hotel was only three stories high, the owners later added a fourth story after discovering the piles of gold and silver dust under the porch and using them to finance the extra floor. 

Despite the rebuilding and remodeling, the spirits of former hotel employees live on. Supposedly, Stan—the hotel’s desk clerk from the 1800s—can still be heard coughing in the lobby and on the stairs. Known to be mouthy, Stan made an unfortunate comment about a man who was staying at the hotel, and the man became so enraged that he stabbed Stan on the stairs. However, Stan continues to remain loyal to his post. 

Along with Stan’s presence, a plethora of other paranormal activity has been reported at the Historic Cary House Hotel. A woman in a long dress, a woman in a flapper dress, running children, and voices coming from nowhere have been seen and heard, too. The activity is particularly prominent in rooms 208, 406, and 212 where whistling, shaking doorknobs, and cooler temperatures have been noted. Plan a visit during the fall or winter for a higher chance of an encounter—the rain is thought to drive the spirits inside. 

300 Main Street, Placerville

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles 

Suite 1200

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel quickly found success as a celebrity hot spot. Some of Hollywood's stars liked it so much, they still visit as ghosts. 

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is one of the most popular haunted hotels in Los Angeles. Opened in 1927, the Roosevelt became a top destination as Hollywood’s stars frequented the hotel, with some even staying for extended periods of time. And given its 12 stories of luxury, 300 glamorous guest rooms and 63 suites, and breathtaking Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, it’s easy to see why people would want to stop by. But for those chasing a good ghost story, the haunted Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel presents a different draw: the spirits of some of Hollywood’s elite. 

Suite 1200 is the most notable. Marilyn Monroe lived in this room during the 1950s and still stops by occasionally, showing her reflection in the mirror (though she has also been known to appear in the lobby mirror, which used to hang in her room). While this is one of the most enticing reasons to visit, room 928 features more frequent ghostly sightings. Actor Montgomery Clift stayed in room 928 while filming From Here to Eternity and apparently liked it so much that he decided to visit in the afterlife, too. He’s been known to brush up against guests, move their luggage, walk around the room and the hallway outside, rehearse his lines in the hallway, and practice his trumpet. 

Along with these famous apparitions, other mysterious activity abounds: A man in a tuxedo is often noted in the Blossom Ballroom, a man in a white suit occasionally plays the piano, and the hotel operator gets calls from empty rooms.  

700 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

Hotel Del Coronado 

Room 3327

From its manicured gardens, to its beachside location, to its spirited guests, The Del is iconic for many reasons. Photo courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado.

The Hotel Del Coronado has received a lot of attention over the years. Aside from being a popular filming location, a beautiful property, and an incredible resort destination, The Del is also one of the most haunted hotels in San Diego. After all, it’s the last place Kate Morgan went before her untimely death. 

As the story goes, she and her husband got into a fight on their way to the Hotel Del Coronado on Thanksgiving Day in 1892. The pair separated, and Morgan checked into room 302 (now room 3327) under the name Lottie A. Bernard. She spent several days wandering the grounds alone, and she is rumored to have been waiting either for her husband to return or for her lover to arrive. Her body was found on the staircase leading to the beach, but her spirit never left the hotel. 

Morgan’s room is now the most requested in the entire hotel, with guests reporting strange experiences such as having the covers torn off of them in the middle of the night, hearing footsteps by the bed, seeing the faucet turn on by itself, and having their pillows stacked into a pyramid. Her presence can also be felt outside of the room—her figure has been seen walking around the hallways, through the garden, and along the beach. But the most active area seems to be the gift shop, where film memorabilia from Some Like It Hot—which was shot at The Del—often falls to the ground. Though we may never know, this particular phenomenon is rumored to occur because Morgan doesn’t want to share her spotlight with Marilyn Monroe.

1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado

Queen Mary

The Queen’s Salon and boiler room

As one of the most famous haunted hotels in California, the Queen Mary is no stranger to visitors. Hop aboard if you dare, but don't expect much privacy with 150 spirits haunting the vessel. Photo courtesy of the Queen Mary.

The Queen Mary is one of the most talked-about haunted hotels in California—and is likely the most haunted of them all. In 1936, the ship served as an ocean liner before being used as a troopship during the war. It was during this time that the vessel ran through its escort ship, leaving hundreds of men flailing in the waters below. Because of strict orders, the ship was not allowed to stop and help those who survived, so the men were abandoned in the open ocean. It is because of this accident that many spirits haunt the ship today. 

The Queen Mary is thought to have as many as 150 ghostly guests, including a woman dressed in all white dancing in the Queen’s Salon, a man who was killed in the boiler room by the water-tight door, a chef who was killed in the kitchen because of his poor cooking, and of course, the men who were left in the water and can still be heard calling for help. 

1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach

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