Whatever your ghoulish pleasure, it’s the time of year when ghost stories and tales of the unknown cast their spells upon us. Plan a trip to these coastal haunts and you may be treated to frightful delights: floating apparitions, ghastly stories, and supernatural phenomena, all explained on lantern-lit tours. And don’t worry about that bump in the night—it was probably just the wind.
ORCAS ISLAND, WASHINGTON
Arrive by seaplane or ferry to this isolated location and you’ll find yourself ensconced in nature, with 360-degree views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound—each room has a water view. The 1909 mansion contains a spa, a restaurant and lounge, and a museum full of paintings and photographs from the early 1900s. On the second floor, watch out for the specter of a woman in a red dress and heels atop a Harley—that’s Alice Rheem, audacious wife during the 1930s of the mansion’s second owner. Guests report hearing her stilettos echoing in the hallways and seeing darting shadows in brightly lit areas. Rates start at $109; 360/376-2152 or rosarioresort.com.
Set on sparkling Passamaquoddy Bay, the 122-year-old Tudor-style “castle-by-the-sea” has modern touches that allow you to enjoy its historical charm in comfort. At check-in, you’ll see a 1900s photo of the hotel, showing a headless bride in the window; she is said to have died of a broken heart after being jilted at the altar. If you dare, stay in room 473, where guests claim to have witnessed the floating, wedding gown–clad apparition and heard weeping at night. For more spirited tales, request an evening by the outdoor fire pit with one of the Algonquin storytellers, and order some hot chocolate to soothe your goose bumps; 866/540-4403 or fairmont.com/algonquin.
This four-diamond B&B has 17 elegant guest rooms with working fireplaces, personalized menus, and complimentary nighttime cordials and sweets. You may even receive special turndown service—rumor has it that certain rooms get mysteriously delivered weather-report cards and scrumptious praline cookies, which the bellman or house-keeping discover when they arrive for the day. Casper the friendly concierge?; 800/322-6603 or gastonian.com.
Tucked in a tropical garden one block from bustling Duval Street, this Victorian mansion was built in 1889 by cigar producer Francisco Marrero, who wanted to entice his new bride, Enriquetta, to settle on the island. After he died (from mysterious causes), his previous wife arrived in Key West and promptly evicted Enriquetta and her children. As Enriquetta was escorted from the property, she vowed to the gathered crowd that she would never leave. In spirit, she may not have. After her death, guests have reported the sounds of crying children—odd indeed, because the B&B doesn’t allow children today. Repeat guests are not surprised when they think they see Enriquetta’s shadow passing through walls. The only sight that might cause a start these days is the clothing-optional pool area; 800/459-6212 or marreros.com.
Relax on the veranda of this B&B and let the click-clack of horse-drawn carriages set the pace in what is actually the oldest city in the United States. Request a second floor suite with views of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. If you’re awakened by footsteps overhead, it’s likely the ghost of the Lady with the Lantern. As proprietor of the inn during Prohibition, this young widow arranged a profitable—and romantic—partnership with a seafaring rumrunner. If the Feds were close, she would climb to the roof, lantern in hand, to warn her lover and his crew. Recently, tenants of adjacent properties have complained of a bright light shining at night; no identifiable source has been discovered. Passersby along the shore have claimed to see her silhouette; 800/826-2626 or casablancainn.com.
Behind the Omni’s French Quarter facade of wrought iron lace, each room boasts luxurious marble baths and grand 19th-century-inspired decor—some have private balconies overlooking NOLA nightlife. Perhaps the view is what draws dozens of specters that are said to hang out here. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself on the wrong side of a jammed lock in a certain room (the suite number is kept secret)—if it doesn’t unlock after a few minutes, call the front desk or slip out via the connecting suite; 888/444-6664 or omnihotels.com.
This landmark boutique hotel, with its calming decor, is steps from the shore in quaint downtown La Jolla, and is the perfect spot to rub elbows with the stars—or at least their spirits. Visitors in Hollywood’s heyday included Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Groucho Marx—all of whom enjoyed this establishment’s discreet entrance. Some of these stars may have loved the luxury hotel so much that they’ve returned after their deaths to enjoy it. The partying here is so popular among the ethereal-and-famous set that the hotel instituted a ghost diary to document eyewitness accounts from staffers who’ve watched pans move across the kitchen and chased the sound of running footsteps only to find themselves in an empty room; 888/828-5498 or thegrandecolonial.com.
Follow the cobblestone walkways to the Sydenham District and discover this historic 21-room, French-influenced mansion. The decorative brick exterior and towering central turret creates a majestic facade; inside, the sweet, sleepy rooms contain antiques and fireplaces. Surrounded by so much history in Kingston, you might not blink an eye if you notice the woman dressed in black Victorian garb stiffly perched in the inn’s large bay window. You’d probably think she’s just another storyteller in period dress from the popular ghost tour—until she fades before your eyes. She and her dark, shadowy children also roam the grounds; 877/933-9433 or hochelagainn.com.
Celebrating 100 years of glamour, historic Hotel Galvez welcomes guests with towering palms and a grand lobby with twinkling chandeliers, high archways, and plush seating. If you’re staying on the fifth floor, you might encounter Audra, whose spirit remains at the hotel to search for her fiancé, who was thought to be lost at sea. Audra stayed often and would climb the ladder to a hotel turret to gaze over the water and wait for his return to the Port of Galveston. After a particularly severe storm, she received word that his ship, and its entire crew, were lost. For weeks, she continued to visit the turret. When her prayers went unanswered, she hanged herself. Tragically, the groom-to-be arrived at the hotel a few days later, ready for his wedding; 409/765-7721 or wyndham.com.
On Jackson Street in Cape May, America’s first seaside resort, the restored 1879 Virginia Hotel combines nostalgia with modern amenities: nightly turndown, room service, and beach cabana rentals. Each of the hotel’s 24 rooms and five cottages is outfitted in soothing coastal colors and plush Belgian and Italian linens. The Virginia has a serene, adults-only vibe—except for the fact that no one can quiet the whispering heard from certain empty rooms ever since two large oil portraits (rumored to be depictions of the original owners) were hung in the lobby; 800/732-4236 or virginiahotel.com.