California, the Golden State! Awesome natural vistas. A perfect climate in which to enjoy them. Some of the greatest cities in the nation. As the 3rd largest state and arguably the leader in tourism, California has more than its fair share of hotels. From seedy motels to ridiculously luxurious palaces catering to the rich and famous, nobody visits California and wants for a place to stay. If your tastes run a little more towards the unusual, creepy, and bizarre, here are 10 hotels where you just might meet a ghost.
Yes, that’s right. Spirits. Paranormal entities. Who knows why these places attract the unknown? Maybe it’s the high volume of people that pass through them from all walks of life. Maybe they just have the bad luck to be near points of psychic turmoil. Or maybe it’s all just a story to lure in a few more guests.
Regardless, these inns, motels, and bed and breakfasts all carry a history of unexplainable occurrences. Whether you’re a seasoned ghost hunter, just another thrill seeker, or a skeptic who’s only looking for free cable, these establishments are not to be missed.
Just be careful and keep an eye out as you settle in. Or you might not check out.
Table of Contents
- #10 – The Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles
- #9 – Joshua Tree Inn, Joshua Tree
- #8 – Hotel del Coronado, Coronado
- #7 – Welcome to the Hotel California
- #6 – Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
- #5 – Imperial Hotel, Amador City
- #4 – Queen Anne Hotel, San Francisco
- #3 – The Haunted Hotel, San Diego
- #2 – The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose
- #1 – The Queen Mary, Long Beach
#10 – The Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles
In its day in the 1930s, the Cecil Hotel was considered a pretty nice place to stay. Budget rooms, but with a beautiful lobby and convenient access to all the wonders of Los Angeles. Unfortunate coincidences and unruly guests seemed to rule the day at the Cecil, though.
A series of bizarre deaths tarnished the place’s reputation, and its fate was sealed when not one but two serial killers chose to make their home there. The Cecil is considered a locus for paranormal activity, and ghost hunters often gather there to record EVP anomalies and search for other phenomena.
Icing on the cake is American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy’s statement that the hotel was the inspiration for the show’s latest season.
#9 – Joshua Tree Inn, Joshua Tree
Located just five miles from camping mecca Joshua Tree National Park, the Joshua Tree Inn is quaint and elegant. It’s a nice spot to relax and recuperate before a day spent hiking through the rocky terrain of the park, and thousands of people have done just that.
In 1973, singer-songwriter and guitarist Gram Parsons found his final rest there. The “Patron Saint of Alternative County” was a troubled soul, and his spirit apparently has not found peace even amongst the natural splendors of Joshua Tree.
His spirit is said to haunt the Inn to this day, moving small objects and causing other disturbances in the night.
#8 – Hotel del Coronado, Coronado
This swanky So Cal establishment is haunted and proud. The hotel is well-known to be inhabited by the restless spirit of Kate Morgan, the possibly murdered wife of a 1800s card shark.
The “Hotel Del” is happy to capitalize on the paranormal activity, and frequently hosts events or rents out the haunted rooms at a special rate. Guests taking them up on their offer can expect rattling chains, moans, and faucets turning on and off by themselves. Whether it’s real or just the hotel staff making sure the clientele gets their money’s worth is, well, up to the clientele.
#7 – Welcome to the Hotel California
The famous song “Hotel California” by The Eagles has its origins in a real place. It actually is called the Hotel California, and it’s down in Baja California. Multiple rooms in the establishment are thought to be haunted by a variety of ghosts. Most notable is the possibly murdered daughter of the owner, who watches over rooms 5 and 15.
“There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or this could be hell”.
#6 – Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Not all ghosts are out to scare us to death. The Fair sisters, original founders of the Fairmont Hotel, are said to still inhabit the place. They impart a feeling of peace and rest on guests, and are thought to occasionally give them a loving caress in their sleep.
A little creepy, but they mean well.
The Fair sisters were killed in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Souls released in the midst of sudden tragedy often have unfinished business, and it’s not surprising that the sisters are still hanging around.
#5 – Imperial Hotel, Amador City
The scenic and historic Imperial Hotel dates back to 1879. The stone and brick edifice was originally a store, but found its greatest success as a rest stop for Gold Rush prospectors.
The Imperial is still open as a bed and breakfast today, and is thought to be haunted by a number of entities. Ghost hunters have frequently visited the place, and have most often encountered the ghost of a cowboy. Several hunters report also spotting a White Lady, a type of spirit that signals a nearby murder or suicide.
#4 – Queen Anne Hotel, San Francisco
This Victorian Mansion, built in 1890 and a survivor is the San Francisco Earthquake, is a famous haunt for ghosts and spirits. The hotel was featured on an episode of Haunted Hotels.
The building was originally a girl’s boarding school, and it is thought that the former headmistress Mary Lake still roams the halls, especially around her former office in room 410.
The Queen Anne is still open as a boutique hotel, and is beautiful and quite luxurious, as long as you don’t mind a few spectral visitors during the night. The current owners are more than happy to indulge guests who are interested in its supernatural history, and offers ghost tours and lectures to highlight its past.
#3 – The Haunted Hotel, San Diego
Not actually a hotel, The Haunted Hotel is one of America’s most intense and graphic Halloween haunted houses. The venue has been rated as the #2 haunted house in the United States, and is located in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp District.
Up to 24,000 people enter the attraction each year. Very, very few make it through to the end. The Haunted Hotel accepts only two guests at a time, and puts them through incredibly severe horrors.
Blood splatters, physical pushing and grabbing, and graphic scenes of violence and gore are common. Most people don’t even make it past the first few rooms. How far would you go?
#2 – The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose
The building now known as the Winchester Mystery House was formerly the residence of Sarah Winchester. Sarah was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, founder of the famous gun manufacturer.
After William’s death, Sarah moved out west and purchased the San Jose home, and quickly set to work ghost-proofing it. She firmly believed that she was haunted and pursued by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester guns, and she spent the rest of her life defending against their spectral assault.
Her weapon of choice was deception, and the house is riddled with secret passages, doors to nowhere, and other baffling architectural features.
Today, the Winchester Mystery House is renowned by paranormal enthusiasts the world over. Ghost tours and séances are regularly available, and the home is also open as a hotel for exceptionally brave tourists.
#1 – The Queen Mary, Long Beach
The Queen Mary, a 1,019 foot ocean liner, is one of the world’s most well-known haunted landmarks. Permanently docked in Long Beach, the ship is today a hotel and tourist attraction.
After many years in service as a troop transport, refugee carrier, and regular passenger ship, the Queen Mary has picked up a staggering array of paranormal entities. A large number of spirits are thought to inhabit the vessel, focused especially on the engine rooms, the nursery, and several passenger cabins.
Ghost hunting enthusiasts will find much to love aboard the Queen Mary, and the owners for their part are delighted to accommodate them. Aside from regular ghost tours and haunted overnight stays, the Queen Mary hosts a gala Halloween event each year.
California is a wonderful place to visit or to live. For the devotee of the paranormal, it’s entirely possible to take a ghost tour of the state. All of the hotels listed here are open for business.
Despite their dark histories, they all offer comfortable lodgings and easy access to nearby hiking, camping, and other attractions. But just keep an eye out, because you never know what you might see in the night.