It’s that time of year – the nights are getting longer, the mornings darker; trees are being stained wild shades of orange and red, their leaves scattering across the streets…and Starbucks is selling pumpkin spice lattes again. Yes, Halloween is nearly upon us once more, and what better way to celebrate than to get some good ghost stories going?
There are hotels and inns across the world that come with more than you’ll ever bargain for, and no matter how innocent they may look, there’s something (or someone) very insidious waiting inside. Whether it’s murder, suicide or even torture, these hotels each have a fascinating story to tell – one that won’t make for a good night’s sleep! If you’re looking to have a Halloween that’s a little out of the ordinary or need some inspiration, then read on at your own risk…
Langham Hotel – London, UK
You may be surprised to see such a reputable hotel on this list, but there’s good reason behind it. Built between 1863 and 1865 and opened by the Prince of Wales, the Langham Hotel was intended to be the most luxurious hotel in London, bigger and better than anything before it. Over the years some massive names have paid a visit to the hotel, such as the likes of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, George Orwell and even Charles De Gaulle – but some guests never left. The hotel is reputedly haunted by several ghosts, including big man Napoleon III who stayed at the Langham during his time spent in exile, a restless butler, a man with gorged-out face and a hapless German emperor who threw himself out of a window on the fourth floor. They all have their own patches of the hotel they like to visit (Napoleon apparently likes the basement and the butler is often found in the corridors), but all of this paranormal activity is concentrated in one room in particular – Room 333. Tell the porters that you’ve reserved that room in particular and you’ll more than likely be met with anxious glances.
If you think this all sounds like a load of nonsense, hear me out for just a bit. This hotel was once used by the BBC as accommodation for journalists after the end of World War II. One unlucky journalist was put up in Room 333. During the night he awoke to see a ball of light transforming into a human at the end of his bed. He asked the spectre who it was, but it only started to walk towards him with its arms stretched out. The journalist legged it out of the room and told a superior – he wasn’t believed, but other journalists reported similar encounters during their stay there. Hardly a coincidence right? And what’s more, the English cricket team stayed here in 2014, only for Stuart Broad to be so creeped out he had to change rooms! Other cricketers felt the same and some of the WAGs refused to even set foot in the hotel. The Langham may be classy, but the elegant appearances can be deceptive…Do you dare book Room 333?
Karosta Prison – Liepāja, Latvia
This place isn’t your conventional hotel, as you can probably guess by the name! This menacing building was originally built in 1900 and intended as an infirmary, but during World War II the building was re-purposed and used as a prison by both the Nazis and the Soviets, mainly for punishing breaches of military discipline and later revolutionaries, dissenters and those opposed to the Soviet regime. Many prisoners here by the Nazis were sentenced to death. Some tried to escape, but unfortunately most met an early end at the hands of a firing squad. The conditions here were squalid and terrible. Across the entire prison you can see graffiti from the prisoners etched onto the walls, and the most recent signatures only date back to 1997 when Karosta Prison was finally decommissioned.
Considering the terrible atrocities that were committed here it’s no surprise that this prison is also meant to be seriously haunted. There are reports of lightbulbs unscrewing themselves, sounds of footsteps coming from nowhere, sealed doors opening inexplicably – as if the prison wasn’t creepy enough! What’s more, you can actually stay here! That’s right, this prison doubles up as a museum and a hotel (in the loosest sense of the word). During the day prison guards will show you around the buildings, cells and chambers, and those who are feeling brave enough to stay the night can sign a waiver which lets the guards boss you about and make your stay as uncomfortable as possible! It may sound like a crazy idea, but it’s got great reviews on TripAdvisor. There’s also an escape room if you want to add a bit of action and excitement to the mix! An idea for your next trip to the Baltics, maybe?
Stanley Hotel – Colorado, USA
No list of creepy hotels is complete without this one – after all, this is the place that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining! You’ll notice some parallels between the Stanley and the one in the one in the film, such as the remote location up in the mountains, the long corridors…and there’s even a hedge maze that opened up in June this year. There are several ghosts that supposedly haunt this place, which ghost sightings dating back to 1970. For example room 217, the room where Stephen King stayed, is said to be a centre of paranormal activity. In 1911 a terrible accident took place in this very room – a housekeeper named Elizabeth Wilson almost died in a gas explosion, and following her death in 1950 all sorts of curious goings-on have been reported in this room. Lights apparently turn themselves on and off and doors seem to open and close all by themselves.
But that’s not the creepiest room in the hotel though. Staff claim that room 418 is even worse, haunted by the ghosts of several children who can be heard playing at night time. One couple who were staying in that room even checked out early, complaining that they were kept up all night by children playing outside their room along the corridor – but there were no children staying at the hotel at the time! Creepy, right? The hotel organises ghost tours which gives guests access to the deepest and darkest parts of the property which are otherwise out of bounds. Not one for the faint of heart!
Chillingham Castle – Northumberland, UK
This castle which is over 800 years old is said to be one of the most haunted places in Britain. Why? The reason is simple – this castle was dedicated to torture and execution. Back in the 12th century Chillingham Castle was a central line of border defence against the Scots, lead by none other than William Wallace. It was presided over by King Edward I, known as the Hammer of Scots. For those unlucky enough to be captured and imprisoned here the only thing that awaited them was a long, agonising death spent in the extensive dungeons and torture chambers. They’re open to the public, so you can get up close to the terrifying iron maiden, thumb screws, racks, branding irons, tools to gouge eyes out…the list goes on! You can even see how the floor is sloped so that the blood could drain away more effectively. There’s a trap door you can look down where you can see the bones of a child trapped in the chamber below.
But things get even darker. At the top of the castle is the Edward Room, also known as the ‘Killing Room’, where children of the condemned prisoners were slaughtered here by the executioner, John Sage – the axe that he used can still be seen on the stairs. The Pink Room is the site of hauntings by the famous Blue Boy, who would appear as a blue halo of light. Lo and behold, his bones and patches of blue clothing where actually found in the walls of the room in 1920. There’s countless other stories of skeletons and preserved corpses found in seal chambers as excavation work was being carried out, either sealed in there by the lords or trapped as they tried to escape the conflict going on around them. It’s crazy that this pretty little castle has such a morbid and terrible history! You can rent private self-catering apartments on the castle grounds, but you’d have to be pretty brave to do that!
Paris Catacombs – France
I’ve saved the best until last! The Paris Catacombs are probably the most infamous and the creepiest landmark in Paris. As the city was growing, cemeteries were becoming overfilled and the decomposing bodies were starting to pose a public health risk to the increasing population. So, in the 18th century a gargantuan effort was started to move the remains of 6 million people underground. Bodies were cremated and their bones were carefully arranged along the tunnels and chambers, creating what was effectively known as l’empire de la mort – The Empire of the Dead. The catacombs connect to disused limestone mines as well, so the network of tunnels and chambers is far more extensive than most people ever imagine. In fact it’s so easy to get lost that entrance to the catacombs is restricted – although of course that doesn’t deter some. So-called cataphiles make it their mission to explore the uncharted tunnels. A camera which belonged to a man who was lost in the catacombs was found by urban explorers, and the footage shows him running away from something. He dropped the camera and never came back for it…and I’m not sure I want to know why!
So I was amazed when I saw that Airbnb have rented out a space in the depths of the catacombs and have created a morbid little place to spend the Halloween weekend away from the crowds. It looks like something straight out of a Gothic horror novel – skulls are arranged all across the walls of the chamber, candles have been lit and the furnishings suitably dark and baroque. A storyteller will come down to pay you a visit before bed to tell you about the stories and secrets of these blighted tunnels, before leaving you to enjoy the eerie, total silence. Airbnb is offering the stay for free – all you need to do is enter the draw to have a chance of winning. I don’t know about you but I honestly don’t think I’d be able to cope with spending a night down there, it looks way too creepy, especially after people report feeling a strong presence of the dead down there. Those skulls don’t help either…
Crazy, right? I’ve think I’ve given myself the heebie-jeebies just by looking at these, but you have to admit the stories behind these hauntings are really interesting! Maybe one day I’ll be able to pluck up the courage to spend a night in one of these properties and see if I can encounter a few ghosts for myself. If you were looking to do Halloween a little differently this year then hopefully this article has maybe given you a bit of inspiration in insight into the kinds of crazy places and creepy stories await. If you’ve stayed at a haunted hotel or had a fright while on holiday let me know! I’d love to be able to share your experiences, especially with Halloween round the corner!