The Skeptical Folklorist: Spending a Week in a Haunted Hotel

I don’t believe that ghosts exist and am fascination by the psychology behind alleged ghost sightings. And while I don’t believe that ghosts exist, I absolutely love ghost stories and folklore and am always ripe for the opportunity to be proved wrong. So I was very excited when I learned that we would be staying for a week at the Horton Grand Hotel in San Diego. Andy had a business conference there and I decided to come down with him while the kids stayed with my parents. So, after spending a week at the Horton did I have an experience that caused me to re-evaluate my stance on ghost hauntings?

First some background. The Horton Grand Hotel is the restoration of two San Diego hotels, the Grand Horton and the Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery. After being saved from demolition they were restored and rebuilt in San Diego’s Gaslamp District in 1986. It is allegedly haunted by two ghosts. One ghost, Roger Whittaker, supposedly haunts room 309 and the surrounding hallway. Ida Bailey also supposedly welcomes guests and can be seen on the staircase.

Being fearless, I was really hoping we’d get booked in room 309. Alas, we did manage to get on the third floor, but not 309. I did check out room 309 at night, and hung around the hallway for a bit. Nothing happened, but here’s a picture to prove I was there.

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Andy and I tend to be stair takers, so after six days of trudging up and down the staircase I can report that we never saw another soul on that staircase, living or dead. Alas, Madam Ida Bailey never bothered to greet us, and all of the other living people took the elevator.

Night time did get a bit interesting. The Horton Grand is right beside a nightclub called the Fluxx. The first night we were there things got so rowdy at the Fluxx that the police were called. This kept Andy awake. I was so tired from having to wake up at 5AM to catch the plane that I slept right through it.

The next night I did wake up because I thought I heard ghostly screaming. Andy was snoring rather loudly, so I wasn’t sure what I heard. I stopped hearing whatever it was and went back to sleep. The next night I was awoken again and realized it was the drunken, rowdy crowd from the Fluxx, not an otherwordly moan. In fact, pretty much every disturbance we encountered there was a result of the drunken crowd at the Fluxx.

And so as I wait for the plane to take me back to Texas, after spending six nights at the Horton Grand Hotel, I have to conclude that no ghost haunts the hotel, but a rowdy night club next door can create some eerie sounds in the dead of night that wake sleepy people, and those sleepy people may think they are hearing something creepy and otherwordly. I would also like to give a breathalyzer test to those who claim to see a ghost on the stairs or whatever. Keep in mind people traveling tend to be dealing with jet lag and other sleep disturbances, which can cause even someone who is sober to see strange things.

I talked to some of the hotel workers, who were mostly agreed that they had never seen anything supernatural. They report that plenty of people have stayed at room 309 without complaint, but those who go in knowing the reports that the hotel is haunted tend to see what they want to see. Essentially, if you want to see a haunted hotel room, then you will see a haunted hotel room. But people who don’t know about the rumors never suspect a thing. That in and of itself is telling.

In conclusion, the Horton Grand Hotel is lovely and beautiful and within walking distance of the Pacific and many nice touristy places and we enjoyed our stay. And while staying there, you may be disturbed by nightly visitors. But those visitors are very much alive and thriving at the Fluxx. They are not ghosts.

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