We asked By The Way readers to send their creepiest and spookiest encounters from the road. What we learned from your submissions was that ghosts are allegedly regulars at hotels (particularly if they were murdered there), and they can vanish as quickly as they appear.
Here are their tales.
These stories have been edited for length and clarity.
‘I started to feel like I was being strangled’
About seven years ago, I was on assignment in the Netherlands.There aren’t a ton of castles in the country, and I was touring the biggest one. I was in the former bedroom of one of the royals who lived there (I forget the name) and started to feel like I was being strangled.
My neck felt tight, and I started to feel panicky. I interrupted the guide who was speaking and asked, “Did someone die in here?” I couldn’t believe I was asking it, but I had this feeling …
The tour guide said yes, the royal died here, and gave me more details. I had to get outside and get some air. Almost immediately, the strangling feeling went away, and I finished the tour without revisiting that room.
— Cindy Augustine, New York
‘She reached out her left hand to me, smiled slightly and was just — gone’
Several years ago, I rented a beach house on St. Simon’s Island, Ga. The bedroom I stayed in was the entire fourth floor of the tall, narrow house. It had recently been renovated, but the owners indicated it was one of the older homes on the beach, and as an homage to the family they’d purchased it from they’d made an effort in their renovations to stay true to the original character.
Near midnight on my second night there, I’d gone out on the small balcony to admire the moon, and when I came back inside the fully lit room, there standing just outside the bathroom door was a very old woman dressed in a long white nightgown, her white hair pinned up neatly and the high collar of the gown buttoned to her throat.
I startled, of course, but immediately made the assumption that she was a resident of a nearby house who, perhaps because of her advanced age, had mistaken my house for her own rental. I took one step toward her, intending to try to help her find her way home, and she reached out her left hand to me, smiled slightly and was just — gone.
She was so absolutely vivid; I can still remember the ropy blue veins in her hand as she reached out, the slight tremble of her fingers, the one lock of hair that had escaped from her updo, the texture of her white nightgown, the eyelids that drooped a bit over her eyes, the wrinkles in her face and the folds of her neck. She was absolutely there, only — she wasn’t.
— Janet Carter, Macon, Ga.
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‘They were actually murdered next door’
The Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz., was built in 1900 and hosted dignitaries such as President Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst. All I knew at the time was that the hotel had a tremendous amount of atmospheric charm. It was a Friday night, and the second floor bar was bustling with tourists and locals alike. Walking through the Zane Grey ballroom with a friend, I stopped dead in my tracks when the apparition of a man appeared at an empty table. My friend glanced back, saw the look of terror on my face and asked what was happening.
“There’s a ghost sitting at that table right there,” I stuttered, pointing. “Do you see him?”
My friend didn’t see anything, but said he could sense something there. The hotel manager saw my distress and rushed over to help. I told him what I had seen in vivid detail. The manager shared a story of how a couple on their honeymoon in the 1930s was murdered at the hotel by a jealous lover.
The manager offered to show me the room where they were killed. He opened the door to Room 54 and then switched on the light. I saw a transparent woman sitting on a bed. She had an otherworldly glow that left me shaken to the core.
“They weren’t killed in this room,” I said, almost as if someone else was speaking the words. “A hundred years ago this room was part of a larger suite. They were actually murdered next door.” It was information I couldn’t have possibly known.
I’ll never forget the look on the manager’s face. He told me I was right, but that it wasn’t public knowledge. By this point my body was trembling uncontrollably, and I really needed to get out of the building quickly.
— Mark Freeman, Scottsdale, Ariz.
‘The woman in green’
I’m the executive director of the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Ill., which has been part of the city’s downtown landscape for over 90 years. During the pandemic, the theater has been offering ghost tours. One story attendees are told during the tour is of the woman in green, an unknown, unnamed female phantom that haunts the balcony seats.
Patrons and performers alike have seen this apparition of a lone woman walking the aisles in her flowing, green dress, holding a long cigarette holder. One such sighting happened after a magic show on a cold January night. As the crew dismantled the set, the magician asked a staff member who had been up in the balcony during the show as he thought the balcony had been closed. He knew that it had been a woman pacing because he could see her dress block the lights each time she crossed the aisle. But he was informed that there was no one in the balcony.
— Alex Nerad, Dekalb, Ill.
‘He turned back to me and said he used to live there’
I was on a trip to San Francisco for the weekend with my then-husband to visit friends and do some sightseeing. We had booked a room downtown at the White Swan Inn, a family-owned bed-and-breakfast that was once a boarding house.
Shortly after I fell asleep, I was awakened. There was a man in the room. He looked like Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend,” a little rough and disheveled. He wore a hat, a trench coat and a suit.
The man was at the doorway of the room, and yet I could see the door through him. He was looking around, a bit perplexed, then examined the corner sink that had a mirror above it. The man turned back to me and said he used to live there, walked farther into the room, then disappeared. I told my husband in the morning, but he thought I dreamed the whole thing.
When we returned to Portland and went to bed, I felt the end of the bed depress, like someone was sitting on the edge. When I opened my eyes, there was the man. I asked him what he was doing there. He replied, “You saw where I lived. I wanted to see where you live.” I told him that he had to go back to where he came from. I felt the end of the bed lift like someone had gotten up from where they sat, and he was gone.
— Ann Dudley, Portland, Ore.
‘Something yelled at me from across the bed’
My husband Bruce and I experienced a haunting at the George and Pilgrims Hotel in Glastonbury, England. The George and Pilgrims, built in the late 15th century to accommodate visitors to nearby Glastonbury Abbey, is said to be the oldest inn in continual use in Britain — and one with a number of ghost stories.
Our visit was in the early 1990s, when we decided to take a “haunted tour” of Britain on our own. While we might have become jaded after days of uneventful haunted travel, the George and Pilgrims delivered.
Our room was small with white plastered walls, pictures of saints and a small window overlooking the tile roof. The “closet” was a repurposed confessional with an arched entry and a single clothes rod.
We had spent two uneventful nights; just down the hall was the room where the last abbot of Glastonbury had been imprisoned before his brutal execution. On the morning of our departure, I decided to take a few photos of the room. I put on a wide-angle lens and moved the bed slightly away from the window so I could get a shot that included the confessional/closet. As I was snapping my shot, something yelled at me from across the bed. Yelled! As loud as a parent screeching to a child to stay out of the road! I couldn’t understand the words, but I was stunned. Bruce called from the bath to see if I was okay. I ran into the hall to see if someone was out there — no one. Around the corner — no one.
— Laura Wright, Austi
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‘When I turned to apologize, the man was nowhere to be seen’
In the mid eighties, I was visiting the historic City of St Augustine with my parents and now ex-husband and our infant daughter. We were walking with my parents and daughter ahead of my husband and me through the Old Gate to the City. As we passed through the gate, a man in full Conquistador armor stepped into our path as if he intended to block our entry. My husband cursed at him and pushed him aside. I was mortified that he would start a fight with a guy just doing his job to entertain tourists. When I turned to apologize, the man was nowhere to be seen. I remember thinking it was odd.
Fast forward to 2004, when I take my two daughters, now a teenager and an adult, back to St. Augustine, and we go on the Ghost Tour. One of the common ghost encounters they describe is a Conquistador in full regalia who guards the Old City Gate and appears to block the entry.
— Kim Rose, St. Petersburg, Fla.
‘Maybe the family doesn’t want us here’
In 2010, my best friend and I went on a cross-country road trip to meet her cousins and see the family’s historic homestead. We did all the usual stops along the way — Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, etc. We had no issues with either of our cameras on the trip, until we reached the homestead, rich in history from the Civil War to the present.
When we got to the family cemetery, my friend’s camera stopped working. We shrugged it off, and I continued taking the photos. All of a sudden my camera went kind of crazy. Every picture I took had a foggy, pinkish tint and was out of focus. My friend said, “Maybe the family doesn’t want us here.” The air seemed heavy, and there was no breeze. No bird sounds — nothing.
I had an idea. It seemed kind of silly, but I shrugged my shoulders and took a deep breath. “Hello (family name) family. We mean no disrespect coming here … we are all sorry if we’ve disturbed you.” We all stood motionless for a few moments, and then laughed at the thought of the dead relatives cursing our cameras. My friend’s cousin suggested I test the cameras. Every single picture was clear and perfect from then on.
— Diana Trupiano, Bothell, Wash.
‘Her screams can sometimes still be heard’
When King Henry VIII of England was having his young fifth wife arrested for treason and adultery at Hampton Court Palace, she escaped briefly from her captors and fled screaming down the upper gallery, trying to reach him so she could plead for her life. She failed and was beheaded.
The legend is that her ghost haunts the upper gallery and that her screams can sometimes still be heard. I am a hardheaded realist, and I do not believe at all in ghosts or the supernatural. However, when I was visiting Hampton Court, I became separated from my party and wound up alone in a hall just off the upper gallery. I heard screaming coming from the upper gallery and quickly stepped into it, expecting to see kids acting up or tourists having fun acting out the legend. The scream had died away just before I entered the gallery. There was no one there or anywhere nearby, and I looked for an explanation for the sounds including asking the guards, but could not find one.
— Sheilah McAdams, Toledo
‘We think it might be a serial killer’
In the days before cellphones, I was driving straight through from Denver to Lancaster, Pa., to visit a friend. On I-70, west of Hays, Kan., I pulled into an empty rest stop around 2 a.m. to wash my face.
I was just rinsing the cleanser from my face when I heard an 18-wheeler pull in. The wheezy rattling of the truck engine covered the sound of footsteps, but I felt someone was watching me. I jammed my toiletries into my travel bag, and as I turned to leave, a man stepped into the restroom.
His eyes were lidless. The skin of his face, patched and mottled, stretched over the bones and across where his nose should have been.
“You shouldn’t be here alone this time of night, lady. You could run into bad people.” He smiled.
I said, “I’m not alone.” I darted around him and raced to my car. It wasn’t long before I saw truck headlights in my rearview mirror.
When my nearly empty tank forced me to stop for gas, a lime-green 18-wheeler pulled over and waited until I finished filling the tank, then followed me back to the highway.
He toyed with me for the next 50 miles. He would ride my bumper, fall back, ride my bumper, pass me, slip in front of me, then slow to a crawl. If I passed him, he would come roaring up behind me.
He was ahead of me when my engine died. I pulled over, sweaty with terror. A flash crossed my rearview mirror. I jumped out of the car, scrambled around in my trunk for the tire iron and got back in, locking the door.
The lights pulled up behind me. It was the state patrol. The patrolman said he would give me a ride into Hays.
He said, “You’re really lucky it was me who stopped. A couple of women have been murdered at rest stops along this stretch of I-70 over. We think it might be a serial killer. There was one woman who managed to get away, though. She said the guy’s face is disfigured, looked like a burn victim.”
— Heather Durham, Denver
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‘There was a man in the corner in a blue hat staring at me last night’
I was staying at Marquette House in New Orleans’ Garden District with my mother and my three sons. After the first night there, my youngest son told us: “There was a man in the corner in a blue hat staring at me last night.” I initially thought maybe his older brothers tried to play a trick on him, but neither of the kids had a blue hat. He kept insisting that a man in a blue hat was standing in the room staring at him. I mentioned it to one of the Marquette House employees, and he told me that the building we were in was a Union hospital during the Civil War. Now, there was no way my son, who was a little kid, would have known about that beforehand, so we chalked it up to a ghostly encounter.
— Sylvia Rowe, Jackson, Tenn.
‘She was gone; I never saw her leave’
A friend and I were visiting Estes Park and were excited to stay at the Stanley Hotel, which served as the inspiration for the hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining.” We are architecture buffs, and neither one of us had seen the movie. The foyer is very large, and we were lucky to get seats in front of a fireplace where there were four leather chairs. There was a young man sitting there, so we sat down. He didn’t acknowledge us; he was just staring at the fire.
I was glancing through an old book on watchmakers when I looked up and saw there was a young woman seated across from me, just staring right at me. It was absolutely unnerving, so I looked back at my book. Normally, I would have said hello. After a little bit, I looked up, and she was gone. We never saw her leave. The man was gone; we never saw him leave.
Upon leaving to go back to our room, I asked my friend if she had seen the young woman, and she had. Did you see her sit down? She did not. I asked ‘Did you see her leave?’ She said no. As we were walking to the hotel to get back to our rooms, there’s the young man, alone, just sitting on a bench in the hall.
— Susan Swann, Chicago