Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ghosts and gremlins on the road

I love soaking up ghost legends and local lore when I'm on the road. The family and I spent most of last week at the gorgeous  Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, which is known for its resident ghost: Kate Morgan, aka "Beautiful Stranger."

Evidently Kate checked into the hotel in 1892, and committed suicide by shooting herself in the head five days later. Presumably the cause was a failed love affair (is there ever a better reason?) Ever since Kate's passing there have been repeated sightings of her ghost, plus numerous mishaps and phenomena attributed to her restless spirit.

We may have had our own run-in with Kate's ghost last week. At the end of a musical show in the main ballroom, the sound system mysteriously went out just as the chorus was reaching the climax  of their  finale. Someone said a drunken salesman had tripped over a cable, but the rest of us suspected Kate was a music critic.

Is your hometown the source of any local legends or ghost stories? Have any of them made their way into your fiction?

Note: I had a devil of a time getting this post done on my iPad--I battled gremlins galore, plus the one picture I had of Kate Morgan mysteriously failed to display in the post. You draw your own conclusions.


  1. Kathryn, next time you're in Hollywood check out the Roosevelt Hotel. It has two celebrity ghosts. Montgomery Clift can still be heard, so they say, rehearsing lines. And there's a mirror where Marilyn Monroe is said to appear from time to time.

  2. Florida has a lot of ghost tales. In fact, I used a book called Haunt Hunter's Guide to Florida to research Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery. Resorts are fabled places for hauntings. Also watch Disney's Tower of Terror film.

  3. I actually played a ghost one time back when I was 12. We were on a tour of haunted New England islands with an old salt whose name I believe was Captain Snow. The highlight of the tour was a fort haunted by 'The Lady in Black'. He had me don a black poncho and hide inside a small cellar. My job was to jump out and scare the tourists, which I have to say, I did well.

  4. Years ago I lived in farm country in Ohio. As a 13 year old I was fascinated with the old farm houses, many dating from the early 1800s, that kept the family cemetery in their front yard. You had to pass by, or in some cases through, the cemetery to get to the house. I loved looking at the tombstones and wondering what live was like back in 1802 when the earliest stones were carved in Ohio's pre-statehood days.

    One year, I was maybe 15, my cemetery touring was cut a bit short when I was standing in a cemetery in a rural area that recently had discovered signs of Satanic cultic activity. Animals had gone missing and been found tortured. Pentagrams were painted on abandoned barn floors. One person's home had been broken into and their dining chandelier disassembled and the crystals arranged into a pentagram on their dining table. With that creepy stuff in mind I was standing in front of tomb stone and squatted to read the details of this person who'd died in 1806 when suddenly the ground beneath gave and I dropped a few inches into the soft soil.

    I immediately freaked and may have even cried out. I jumped off of the grave half expecting a hand to come up. The logical part of my brain was whispering that it was only the ancient wooden casket collapsed beneath the soil. But the rest of my mind was screaming that the devil's minions were rising to get me. Once I unfroze from my terror I hopped on my moped and scootered home fast as I could, zombies on my mind.

    Never spent much time in grave yards after that.

  5. Years and years ago I happened to visit friends who were living in a big old house in LA that was formerly owned by WC Fields. The house was filled with secret doorways and stairs rooms. Apparently, WC liked to creep around and spy on guests. I was warned to be careful if I ended up alone somewhere. So what better place than the bathroom? And that's when it all started. The tiles in the floor. The tiles in the walls. There were tiles all over the place. Black and white. And they all began to move about. I felt like I was trapped inside of a lung or something. My watch said I had been in there over an hour but it had only been ten minutes, tops.

    It still creeps me out just thinking about it. Sorta like a baby's breath blowing lightly across the back of my neck.

  6. Basil, that would have been the end of graveyard visits for me as well! Jim, I'm sure old WC would've gotten a kick out of your distress--he probably planned it that way!

  7. About five years ago, I visited a "haunted" abandoned prison in West Virginia with a couple of friends. It was part of an organized tour, complete with a guide who dressed like Van Helsing, with a long black coat and a wide-brimmed hat. We got to the prison around midnight. The place had no electricity, of course, and the tour lasted the better part of four hours. And it was cold.

    Van Helsing saw ghosts everywhere, and some of the more gullible on the tour saw them, too. I mostly giggled with my buddies.

    Until we got to the mental ward where electroshock therapy was widely used, and where lobotomies were performed. The place looked a lot like the set for One Flew Over the Coocoo's (sp) Nest. Big common rooms led to operatories, past which there'd be another common room and more operatories. The pattern repeated itself three or four times. Lit only by flashlights, it was pretty creepy, but I still never saw a ghost.

    When I walked into the operatory bay where the electroshock therapy was performed, my skin came alive with tingling. Upon crossing the threshold, I was overcome with a terrible sense of malevolence. It was just awful. Unable to stay in there for more than minute or so, I walked back out into the hall, and it stopped immediately. I mentioned it to Van Helsing, and he smiled and said, "That's the only room in this place that I refuse to enter."

    That was as unnerving an experience as I've ever had.

    John Gilstrap

  8. Just imagining you "giggling" with your buddies scares me, John G. I love going on ghost tours. I organized a tour of 24 authors in OK & the Gilcrease Mansion in Tulsa was interesting. All of our cameras & video gear stopped working in one section of the mansion, but worked immediately after we left. Very cool.

    And Kathryn, I live in San Antonio, Chupacabra Central, and have written about the demon goat-eating dog. A Latino thing. The scene scared me so badly that I had to stop & call my mom.

  9. I had two encounters with ghosts in hotels in New Orleans. Well, one, actually. The first, second-hand contact was in a hotel in the Quarter. I was walking to my room around 1 AM and when a door flew open and two women in night clothes ran out, shrieking at the tops of their lungs. They saw me and clung to me, yelling, "Joe, it's really you!" Actually, what happened was that they had awakened and seen a man standing at the foot of the bed. I cleared the room and no one was in there. The hotel is reputed to be haunted; when I told them that it was probably just a ghost it made things worse.

    My second, and actual encounter was in the Central Business District at a hotel that had been an office building. The last afternoon of my stay I was sitting at the desk, typing, and something kissed the top of my bald head and ran fingers across it. I never went back.

  10. Thanks for all your comments, guys! This is helping me get in the 'spirit" for Halloween!

  11. Weirdest ghostlike thing that has happen to me was footsteps. My house is not old but it is settled. Therefore, the floors squeak when you walk on them in certain areas. One of those is in the master bedroom, which is above my office. One day I was writing away and heard the floor squeak like normal from somebody walking across the bedroom. Problem was I was alone in the house except for my dog who is a great dane. When I looked over at his bed to see if he was upstairs, he was sitting there looking at me as if to say “Wrut row raggy.” Then he looked over at the stairs expecting somebody to enter the room. I figured it was time to get some coffee at my local Starbucks and left. He seemed very happy when I returned but I could never explain it.

  12. William, what time of day was it? Check for anything that might expand or contract due to the temperature falling off or rising. Once we solved a ghost who "walked" up the stairs of an old house every day at sunset. Turned out there was an old iron rod in a closet under the stairwell--every day at sunset, when the temperature fell, the rod would contract audibly, causing the ghost to "walk" down the stairs.