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Spooky Places to Stay: Haunted Hotels and Airbnbs

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Halloween is almost here and while these days it’s mostly associated with fun dress up parties and sugar rushes from trick or treating candy, it all started in a much more spiritual way.

More than 3,000 years ago the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-win) celebrated the harvest and welcomed ‘the dark half of the year’ on October 31st, when it was believed the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is the thinnest.

Last year thousands of people gathered in Ireland’s ancient east to celebrate Samhain at the first Puca Festival, and as this year’s festival will be virtual you can watch the lighting of the fires from where it all began anywhere in the world.

Or if you’re feeling brave perhaps you’d like to stay in a haunted room on the night when it’s believed spiritual activity is at its strongest?

After living with a poltergeist who well and truly got our attention when it started throwing things at a wall I fall into the believer side when it comes to the woo. In fact, when I stay somewhere new I’ll usually introduce myself to any spirits that might be there and if needed I’ll do some space clearing exercises that I shared in this story on the woo woo things I do on my travels.

While I’ve already stayed at some of the hotels below, as I searched for strange and unusual places to share with you in this story there were times when I thought ‘hell no!’ as soon as I saw an image. And other times when a room was put on my personal wish list to stay in someday.

Read: The best holiday homes with Sydney Harbour Views

Let’s see what your intuition has to say as we take a tour of some of the world’s haunted hotels and Airbnbs in America, Europe and Australia.

America’s Haunted Hotels and Airbnbs

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, USA

When Stephen King was suffering from writers block in 1974 he checked into the Stanley Hotel at the end of the season. By the next day he had all the inspiration he needed for The Shining.

One of America’s most famous haunted hotels, The Stanley hosts ghost tours and you can turn the TV on any time of the day or night to see Kubrick’s The Shining on a loop.

Read: Green and gorgeous – Australia’s best sustainable Airbnbs and holiday homes

While Kubrick changed the room to 237 in the movie, King and his wife spent the night in room 217 where former housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson was seriously injured while lighting lanterns in the room. She may have survived the blast but it’s believed her spirit has returned and likes to move things around. Apparently she’s also doesn’t approve of couples sharing a bed if they haven’t tied the knot, with some unmarried guests in 217 saying they felt a cold presences between them while they were in bed.

Staff members say the ghost of Freelan Oscar (F.O) Stanley who built the hotel and died aged 91 can often be spotted in the billiard room while his wife Fiona’s ghost likes to play the piano. Other ghosts include those of children and even a cat and a dog from the – you guessed it – pet cemetery.

Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood, Oregon, USA

If the Stanley Hotel above looks spooky enough, but not like the hotel you know from The Shining, that’s because Stanley Kubrick used the exterior of this one, the Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood, Oregon.

Timberline lodge on Mt. Hood National Forest

When I drove up Oregon’s tallest mountain to stay at this historic hotel I was having major Shining flashbacks and when Timberline came into view for the first time I had to catch my breath before I could say ‘woah!’

While the exterior is forever linked to that iconic film, when you step through the front door everything is vastly different, in a good way. The hotel was built as part of an economic programme to create jobs during the Great Depression, and is filled with woodcarvings by local artisans and has a huge 800,000-pound stone chimney in the centre of the main house. 

Even though the interior looks nothing like the movie I’ll admit if they were about to close for winter I wouldn’t have stuck around. But considering Timberline Lodge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Oregon and is the only ski area in North America open 12 months of the year that’s not going to be a problem here.

Fans of The Shining who want to stay in room 237 will be disappointed. The whole reason Kubrick changed it is because the hotel was worried people wouldn’t want to stay in 217 once the movie came out and they don’t have 237 rooms. But wouldn’t you know it, a whole lot of people read the book as well as seeing the movie, and now 217 is the most requested room at Timberline Lodge.

The Driskill, Austin, Texas, USA

When I stayed in Austin, Texas I took off my new cowboy boots at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin and didn’t feel anything spooky at all.

I have to wonder if I’d be saying the same if I stayed across the road at another historic landmark hotel, the Driskill.

The Driskill is so beautiful I couldn’t resist popping in for a little look around, and when I asked the concierge if they had any information on the hotel they gave me a guide to the ghostly activity so I could take a self-guided spooky tour around the hotel.

Read: The best glamping in America including a top Texas spot

The Driskill ghosts have been described as ‘helpful and mischievous’ and my favourite story is that time Annie Lennox was staying and couldn’t decide which dress to wear to her concert that night.

She laid the two dresses out on the bed and went to have a shower, and when she got back she discovered the decision had been made by a spirit playing stylist and that one of the dresses had been put away. The story became such a legend that it inspired Concrete Blonde’s song ‘Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man.’

The ghosts at Austin's Driskill hotel have a reputation for being mischievous and helpful

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, California, USA

The legendary ship that became a hotel, The Queen Mary has been named one of the ten most haunted places in the world by Time Magazine, and if you really want to put some spook in your stay, Stateroom B340 is the one to be in.

Back when she was still sailing the ship’s logs included complaints about the bathroom lights and sink taps in B340 turning themselves on and off, and some guests have even reported the covers of their bed being pulled off and seeing a dark figure at the foot of the bed.

The stateroom has appeared on episodes of the American series Ghost Hunters and the British TV show Most Haunted, and along with the usual amenities B340 comes with a Ouija board, tarot cards, and a crystal ball.

The Queen Mary embraces its spooky side with an annual Dark Harbor Halloween attraction where hundreds of live monsters roam the ship and guests can give themselves a fright as they try to make their way through six haunted mazes.

Sadly this year’s Dark Harbor has been cancelled due to Covid and the hotel itself is closed at the time of writing. But hopefully you’ll have a chance to stay in Stateroom B340 again soon.

Myrtles Plantation, St Francisville, Louisiana, USA

This beautiful old bed and breakfast in Louisiana is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but it’s what you can’t see that attracts a lot of visitors.

The Myrtles Plantation is famous for being one of the most haunted places on the planet, and is said to be home to at least twelve spirits, including a slave girl named Chloe who was executed at the property.

Unexplained images in photos include a shadowy figure that’s believed to be Chloe standing between two buildings, and a ghostly girl standing in a window.

The owners and guests have reported hearing cries from children, rattling doorknobs and the apparition of a lady in a green turban, and when a television show moved some furniture into another room so they could do some filming they found it all back in its original place when they returned.

The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana is considered one of the most haunted places in the world

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

A few years ago in Ottawa I did the Ghost and Gallows Haunted Walk and didn’t feel spooked at all as we made our way from downtown to the old Carleton County Jail. Then we went inside.

As soon as we stepped over that threshold I got a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Built in 1862 the jail was the main cell block anywhere near Ottawa for more than a century, the top floor was used to hold death row inmates, and three executions took place right outside the building, the last one in 1946.

Read: The ten best closest hotels to Rogers Centre Toronto

I was already wigging out as we stood in some of the old jail cells and didn’t exactly calm down when some of my fellow tour goers started screaming as a bat flew around our heads.

So I was not remotely interested in swapping places when a couple on the tour told me they’d be spending the night right there in the old jail.

When the jail closed in 1972, Hostelling International transformed some of the old cells into accommodation. The HI Ottawa Jail Hostel has shared eight kinds of accommodation including rooms for up to eight people, private double rooms in the former solitary confinement area, right down to a small bed in an authentic 3’ x9’ jail cell.

Some areas, like the bright white sixth floor don’t look too scary with the lights on, but the exposed brick and marked walls on the fourth floor are giving me the creeps from the safety of the other side of the world.

HI Ottawa Jail hostel sixth floor
HI Ottawa Jail Hostel fourth floor rooms
HI Ottawa Jail is one of the most haunted places in Canada

I had to laugh when the tour guide told me that he’s had people booked into the hostel who had no idea it was one of the most haunted places in the city until they did the tour with him. Hopefully they managed to have a better night’s sleep than I would have after that tour! 

Henry Derby House, Salem, Massachusetts

This historic home in downtown Salem was converted into a full house rental in 2016 that sleeps up to ten guests in five bedrooms.

It’s also a stop on local ghost tours in the city that’s famous for its 1692 witch trials.

The owner Phil Marchand says while he can’t guarantee the Henry Derby house is haunted, he’s heard plenty of stories over the years. Some guests have heard strange footsteps, others have said objects moved when they left the room, while some have just felt something strange was in the air.

It certainly looks sunny and bright enough from the outside. The only question is, are you brave enough to stay there all by yourself after the sun goes down?

Henry Darby House, Salem, Airbnb

The Manor Master Chamber, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Once voted the most mysterious house in Saint Paul, Minnesota, The Manor’s gothic architecture dates back to 1883 and has remained in the same family for more than 130 years.

The house is said to be haunted by a girl in a white dress, and the house is sometimes booked for paranormal investigations.

The Manor Master Chamber is a large bedroom with tall ceilings directly attached to the master bath, and you can have an airbed and extra linens put in the room for another two people if you’re thinking there’s safety in numbers.

Most of the  house has been decorated with oddities and antiques, and there’s also a friendly Doberman named Scorch who loves to welcome new guests.

Manor Master Chamber Airbnb
Manor Master Chamber Airbnb interior

Europe’s Haunted Hotels and Airbnbs

Huntington Castle, Clonegal, Ireland

An Irish pirate queen, a monk, a bishop and a soldier are among the ghostly sightings at Huntington Castle in the historic Irish village of Conegal.

The castle, which dates back to 1625, offers tours of the building including a visit to the basement that was turned into a temple for the Egyptian goddess Isis in the 1970s, or you could really get to know the castle by spending the night.

You can sleep in a four poster bed with original period features in one of Huntington Castle’s historic guest rooms. Each room has it’s own distinct character and story to tell, and after spending the night some guests have had a story or two of their own to share after hearing strange noises in the night.

Huntington Castle, Ireland
Bedroom, Huntington Castle, Ireland,

The Witchery By the Castle, Edinburgh, UK 

The last time I was in Edinburgh I fell in love with The Witchery By The Castle, and promised myself that the next time I came to Scotland I’d treat myself to a stay in one of their sumptuous suites.

When that day comes I’ll definitely be talking to the room and introducing myself, because this landmark building is only a stone’s throw from where hundreds of accused witches were murdered from the mid 16th to early 18th century. 

Just down the road from the Witchery By the Castle you’ll find a small fountain called the Witches’ Well that remembers those who were burned or hanged without trial.

It’s little wonder there are so many ghostly tales around this part of the city, but if you’re going to share your space with a spirit, this is one very special place to do it.

Witchery By the Castle, Edinburgh, Heriot Suite
Witchery By the Castle, Edinburgh, Heriot Suite Bathroom

Dragsholm Slot, Hørve, Denmark

In the luxury travel world, Dragsholm Slot is a Relais & Chateaux hotel with Michelin starred Nordic cuisine in Denmark’s beautiful Odsherred peninsula.

In the parapsychology world this 800-year-old castle is considered to not only be one of the most haunted hotels in Europe, but one of the most haunted buildings of any kind, with tales of more than 100 ghostly apparitions on the grounds.

The three best-known ghosts are the grey lady, who apparently does good deeds for those who work and stay at the hotel, the white lady, whose skeleton was rather gruesomely found in a white dress entombed in one of the walls, and the Earl of Bothwell, a former prisoner who is said to ride around the courtyard on his ghostly horse.

You can take a guided tour of the castle and its manicured gardens on a day trip, but better yet spend a night in luxury and treat yourself to a meal by ex-Noma chef Claus Henriksen in the castle’s award-winning restaurant, Slotskøkkenet. 

Dragsholm Slot is considered one of the most haunted hotels in the world, image courtesy Dragsholm Slot
Dragsholm Slot chefs in garden, image courtesy Dragsholm Slot

The Haunted Bedroom, Great Dunmow, UK

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t think I’d sleep a wink in this room as even the photos are creeping me out. But I really, really want to go and see this house someday as it’s one seriously amazing creation.

The Haunted Bedroom is part of the Talliston House and Gardens, which has been described as “Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home.” There are thirteen extraordinary rooms, but only guests staying in the Haunted Bedroom have guaranteed use of the entire house and gardens.

The Haunted Bedroom was designed to recreate the bed chamber of a seven-year old Edwardian child and oh boy have they managed to tap into something extra creepy with this one.

While the Talliston house only dates back to the 1990s and there are no particular ghost stories linked to the site, some guests have reported unexplained smells and sounds. I think I’d be so on edge if I was spending the night here my imagination would be coming up with all sorts of things. So I’ll stick to that day tour idea on this one. Maybe a nice afternoon tea at Talliston House and Gardens. And I’ll leave this stay to braver folks.

Haunted Bedroom, Great Dunmow, UK

The Langham, London, UK

The first purpose-built luxury hotel in London, The Langham opened in 1865 and counts Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its former famous guests.

Then there’s the guests that some believe never left the building, including Napoleon Bonaparte who lived in the hotel during his exile and is said to now haunt the basement.

Other reported ghosts include a German prince, dead butlers and a Victorian-era doctor who killed his wife before killing himself on their honeymoon.

Room 333 is apparently where most of the activity takes place, although the resident ghost of a man in Victorian evening wear only likes to appear in October so if you’re keen to meet him and missed out this year, you’ll need to book ahead for his next time around.

Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg, Scotland

Outside of Edinburgh on the banks of the River Esk, Dalhousie Castle is now a luxury hotel surrounded by wooded parkland where guests can try their hand at falconry, archery and clay pigeon shooting.

The 13th century castle is also believed to be home to a number of ghosts, including Sir Alexander Ramsay who was starved to death in 1342, and the ‘grey lady’ Lady Catherine who is said to have died of a broken heart.

Spare a thought for poor Sir Alexander as you descend an ancient stairway into the barrel-vaulted dungeons for award winning fine dining at The Dungeon Restaurant.

The dungeons are apparently where most of the ghostly activity takes place, though you might also hear phantom footsteps and see strange apparitions in the hallways and the grounds.

Chamber Apartment, York, North Yorkshire, UK

Described as one of themost haunted properties in the UK The Chamber Apartment is apparently so spooky some guests have walked in, taken one look – or rather feel – around and walk straight back out again never to return.

In the cathedral city of York in North Yorkshire, The Chamber Apartment has more than 600 years of history, and the resident ghost is said to be a man with long dark hair who likes to appear over your shoulder.

After walking up a tight spiralling staircase guests will find a four-poster bed and a standalone bathtub in the main bedroom. There’s a Playstation 3 and more old school ways to play with board games and books.

The apartment is described as ‘silent with a small outside yard’. All the better for hearing any creaks on the antique floorboards.

The Chamber Apartment, Haunted holiday home
The Chamber Apartment bedroom, Haunted holiday home

Australia’s Haunted Hotels

Q Station, Manly, Australia

Speaking of trying to get to sleep after a ghost tour…

Ghost hunters and believers say Sydney’s Q Station is one of the most haunted sites in Australia, and a while back I decided it would be really interesting to do one of the ghost tours before spending the night. Alone.

You can read the full story of my sleepless in Manly night here but spoiler alert, I barely slept a wink and even that was with all of the lights on.

That said, I’d jump at the chance to stay there again for a couple of reasons. First, it’s such a beautiful spot in Sydney that feels a million miles away from everything (which rather adds to the whole spooky feel). And second, because I now know no one died in the area that’s been turned into accommodation.

For a haunted hotel in Sydney stay, Q Station Manly offers ghost tours before spending the night.
Q Station Manly early morning

For those who don’t already know, the Q in Q Station stands for Quarantine, and for 150 years this is where immigrants suspected of carrying contagious diseases did just that. More than 500 people died from diseases including the Spanish flu, the bubonic plague and smallpox, and the list of ghost stories is long.

But the piece of info I wish I’d known before I tried to sleep alone in a three-bedroom cottage is that section was for first class passengers, and if anyone got sick they’d be taken to another part of the station before they died.

Now I’m not saying ghosts won’t go for a wander, but apparently most of the spooky activity takes place in the other part of Q Station, so if you are going to stay and want the full experience make sure you also book on one of the ghost tours. And bring a friend.

Hotel Kurrajong, Canberra, Australia

Today Canberra’s Hotel Kurrajong is an elegant art deco hotel a short walk from Parliament House, but if these walls (or ghosts) could talk they’d have some tales to tell.

When the Kurrajong opened in 1926 it was known as Hostel No. 2 and was a sort of up market boarding house, where politicians and members of the press stayed for the opening of Parliament House in 1927.

The building became a home for members of Parliament, public servants and their families, and Prime Minister Ben Chifley liked it so much he chose to live there rather than in the Australian PM’s official residence, The Lodge.

And there are those who believe that even after death, he never left.

Read: Seven great Aussie road trips

Chifley suffered a heart attack in his room at the Kurrajong on the 13th of June 1951 and died in hospital later that night. In recent years some hotel staff and visitors have claimed to see Chifley’s ghost, describing him as a grey-suited man pointing towards Old Parliament House.

The building went on to be used as government offices and a hotel management school, but after a full restoration, it opened in 2015 as part of the TFE Hotels family, the Hotel Kurrajong.

Ben Chifley walking to Parliament from Kurrajong 1945
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra is believed to be haunted by the ghost of former Prime Minister Ben Chifley

While the renovations have changed the room numberings, if you book to stay in room 205 you’ll be sleeping where Ben Chifley lived. And if you do happen to see his ghost, maybe don’t bring him up to speed on what’s been happening in politics.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, Australia

From 1839 to 1869, Cockatoo Island was Australia’s own Alcatraz. A brutal colonial prison where many died in custody while others died trying to get away.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Image Mark Merton
Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Image Mark Merton

More lives were lost in gruesome industrial accidents when Cockatoo Island became a shipbuilding yard and naval dockyard, but the darkest and most twisted chapter dates back to when the island was used as a brutal reformatory school, where young girls were beaten and forced to sleep on cold hard floors with no bedding. 

It’s believed the horrors experienced by the young girls have created the island’s most unsettling paranormal experiences, with visions of girls in white dresses and the sounds of girls crying being reported by visitors.

These days Cockatoo Island is operated by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and is one of my favourite Sydney music and arts venues. It’s also where you can go glamping in the middle of Sydney Harbour or stay in Cockatoo Island’s old fire station.

And while you might end up losing some sleep, you can also organise a Haunted History Tour to learn a whole lot more about what happened on the island, and what to watch out for at night.

Cockatoo Island Fire Station Studio

Russell Hotel, The Rocks, Sydney

Today The Russell Hotel is a boutique hotel in The Rocks where you can step out your front door and find yourself right there at Circular Quay.

Back in 1788 this spot was where the first Convict’s Hospital stood, so by the time the foundations were laid for the Russell Hotel in 1887 the space had already seen more than its fair share of deaths. But that’s not how the hotel got its most famous long term guest.

Room number 8 is the said to be the most haunted room in the Russell Hotel, and it’s believed the ghost is an unnamed sailor who was murdered by a sex worker in the room.

The Russell Hotel's room 8 is one of the most haunted in Sydney

Just to be extra creepy, the sailor’s ghost apparently only appears when women are sleeping in the room alone and stands at the end of their bed.

There have also been some spooky goings on in room 20 and 24, and the ghost of a woman in period clothing has been seen walking around downstairs making her way through the kitchen and bar area. 

The Russell Hotel is a popular spot on ghost tours of The Rocks, and if you’re not brave enough to spend the night you can always go enjoy a few spirits in the bar.

When it comes to Haunted hotels in Sydney the Russell Hotel is high on the list.

So how about you? Have you had any spooky moments in haunted hotels? And would you even think twice before staying somewhere if you’d heard rumours of strange things going bump in the night?

This post contains some affiliate links, so if you click on a link and book something I will earn a commission, but don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you.

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