12 of the Most Haunted Hotels in the World | Historical Landmarks | History Hit

12 of the Most Haunted Hotels in the World

Stay the night if you dare: these hotels have got dark histories, ghostly guests and plenty of unsettling stories to tell.

Chris Smith

26 Oct 2021

If you’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, you will be readily aware of just how chilling hotels can be.

Whether they date back a few years or several centuries, many hotels have seen their share of darker incidents. And these sinister stories make for some fascinating ghost tales, unexplained mysteries and supernatural superstitions.

Here’s our pick of 12 hotels around the globe that are guaranteed to thoroughly unsettle you. Amongst the ranks are former fortresses, converted prisons and spooky mountain retreats. Visit them and stay the night… if you’re feeling brave.

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1. The Russell Hotel, Australia

With Sydney’s reputation as one of the world’s most haunted cities, it’s hardly surprising a hotel there has a reputation for paranormal activity. Built in 1796, the Russell Hotel was used variously as a sailors’ hostel, a convicts’ hospital, a bubonic plague quarantine centre and an unofficial brothel.

The Russell Hotel’s most renowned ghost is that of an unnamed sailor murdered by a sex worker. In some sort of twisted afterlife revenge, the sailor’s ghost is said to haunt Room 8… but only when women stay there alone.

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2. The Stanley Hotel, USA

When Stephen King wrote The Shining, he had Colorado’s Stanley Hotel in mind having visited the site in 1974 with his wife and son. They were the only guests in the 140-room property, and King formed the basis of his novel while gazing into the Rockies’ snow after a nightmare.

King stayed in Room 217, a curious choice given it’s said to be the hotel’s most haunted room, home to the ghost of chambermaid Elizabeth Wilson who was blown through the floor and broke both ankles in an explosion in 1911.

The ghost of original owner Freelan Oscar Stanley is also said to frequent the bar, while the pet cemetery on the grounds is also the inspiration for King’s Pet Sematary.

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3. Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Canada

Of Fairmont Banff Springs’ many ghost stories since it opened in 1888, none is more prominent than the bride who fell down a staircase to her death in 1920. A veiled figure traversing the stairs has been regularly reported.

Another tale revolves around room 873 where a family was allegedly murdered. There, numerous guests reported having pillows knocked from under them or being pushed out of bed altogether.

There’s also the friendly ghost of Sam McAuley who was once the hotel’s head bellman. Several guests have described conversations with a plaid-dressed man matching Sam’s description long after his death in 1975.

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4. Chateau Tongariro, New Zealand

Located within Tongariro National Park, the Chateau Tongariro is frankly one of the most picturesque places you could be frightened.

If you do happen to catch a fright at Tongariro, it will likely have something to do with the ghost known as Charlotte, a nurse from when the hotel served as a women’s asylum in the early 1940s. There have been numerous reports of fires suddenly blowing out, curtains moving and unexplained noises.

Image Credit: Nick Kenrick

5. The Savoy Hotel, India

Built in 1902, The Savoy in Mussoorie is an English Gothic-style hotel overlooking the Himalayas. Once the place to be during the height of the British Raj, its enduring notoriety derives from the mysterious death of a clairvoyant.

In 1911, Frances Garnett-Orme was staying at The Savoy with fellow spiritualist Eva Mountstephen. The morning after Mountstephen departed for Lucknow, Garnett-Orme was found dead in a locked room, poisoned with prussic acid. Although Mountstephen was arrested, she was found not guilty at trial. The case was never solved. Many guests claim to have come face-to-face with Garnett-Orme’s ghost.

On the recommendation of Rudyard Kipling via Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie used the story as the basis of her 1920 novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

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6. Taj Mahal Palace, India

The oft-repeated story behind the haunting of this grandiose hotel in Mumbai is based around WA Chambers, an English architect thought to be responsible for the main hotel design. After submitting his design plans, Chambers left India for a holiday before returning to find construction well underway. At this point, he realised his plans hadn’t been followed and that the hotel was being built facing backwards. He was supposedly unable to live with the shame and later jumped to his death from the hotel’s fifth floor, before returning to restlessly roam the Taj.

That story should be taken with a pinch of salt, though. It’s since been discovered that the hotel’s key designers were two Indian architects, Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, and that Chambers only took over the project at the final stages. Also, the hotel wasn’t built ‘backwards’, but was simply constructed to give guests a sea view. Both elements make the supposed hauntings slightly more complicated, but that hasn’t stopped the reports coming in over the years.

In this episode, Dan talks to David Gilmour about the British in India. David Gilmour’s new book is a vast exploration of the social history of India. David Gilmour is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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Image Credit: Nik Cyclist/Wikimedia Commons

7. Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Thailand

Towering high above Bangkok (it was formerly Thailand’s highest building and is still one of the country’s tallest structures), the Baiyoke Sky Hotel is an impressive sight, but it was struck by tragedy in 2012. 3 workers installing a billboard high up on its exterior fell to their deaths, after a cable supporting their platform snapped.

Since then, there have been claims of objects being moved in hotel rooms, unexplained shadows, strange noises and a general feeling of unease, all attributed to the ghosts of the three workers.

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8. Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, United States

If you like your ghosts with a little glamour, the Roosevelt in Los Angeles is the hotel for you. The Roosevelt opened in 1927 and then hosted the first Oscars ceremony 2 years later, cementing its glitzy reputation. Everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Brad Pitt has stayed there, but some guests apparently just don’t want to leave.

Marilyn’s reflection has reputedly appeared in a mirror to staff that clean her old room (room 1200). The unsettled spirit of actor Montgomery Clift has also been reported to walk around his favourite room, as well as playing his trumpet in the corridor. Other non-celebrity ghosts are also said to be found around the hotel, including a young girl in the lobby and several men in smart suits or tuxedos.

Image Credit: Ann Williams/Wikimedia

9. Lord Milner Hotel, South Africa

The Lord Milner hotel was built in 1899 in the tiny village of Matjiesfontein in Karoo, a rural region of South Africa. The hotel claims that it has two ‘live-in’ female ghosts – Lucy and Kate – both thought to be people who died in the building many years ago. Both ghosts are reputed to make their way around the hotel, occasionally getting up to mischief, such as floating through the corridors and around the rooms they are believed to have died in, sometimes even causing loud clattering noises as if crockery is being smashed.

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10. Parador Jaén, Spain

Being set in an 18th-century hilltop Arab fortress in Andalusia is undoubtedly a big selling point for the Parador Jaén hotel. But some guests may be more interested in its famed residents, the two ghosts said to frequent its rooms.

The hotel claims its records show that a guest in room 22 was woken up in the night by thuds on the door and a woman’s cry. The room was later investigated by a team of paranormal experts, who concluded that the spirit of a woman who died in the building centuries ago was indeed present. The other spirit is claimed to be that of a prisoner, nicknamed Terrible Lizard, who was locked in the building when it was a fortress, later starving to death.

Image Credit: Agnes Monkelbaan/Wikimedia Commons

11. Hotel Val Sinestra, Switzerland

Perched dramatically in a remote and heavily forested area of Switzerland’s Engadin Valley (all adding to the spooky appearance, of course), Val Sinestra was originally built as a kurhaus, a type of spa and resort for treating people with health conditions like tuberculosis.

A Belgian patient from these years who died while at Sinestra is said to haunt the hotel, opening windows and doors, sending the lift up and down and occasionally moving or launching objects, although he is reported to be friendly. Some accounts claim that the man fell in love with an employee from the kurhaus, perhaps explaining his attachment to the building.

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12. Dragsholm Slot, Denmark

Considered by some to be ‘Europe’s most haunted castle’, Dragsholm Slot has become notorious as the home of Selina Bolves’ ghost.

The daughter of a nobleman, Bolves dismayed her father by getting pregnant to a labourer thus sabotaging her proposed marriage into another noble family. Distraught, her father entombed Bolves within the building’s walls – a story seemingly corroborated when a 1930 renovation uncovered a young woman’s corpse.

The 4th Earl of Boswell, James Hepburn, was kept prisoner in the castle, chained to a pillar for a decade. Hepburn had fled to Denmark after a revolt against him and his wife Mary, Queen of Scots – not the smartest move as he’d previously jilted his Danish fiancée, Anna Rustung. Hepburn’s ghost is believed to haunt the castle on horseback.