Sightseeing With Spooks
A writer shares her favorite haunts
Nothing says “pass the Geritol” like this sentence, but I’m headed to the East Coast this month to see the fall foliage anyway. By New England standards, October is a little past the peak of color, but Mr. Roth and I will be right on time for the peak of … the haunting season.
Pick any public place and I can tell you if it’s haunted within a millisecond. I’ve been honing that gift since childhood. My nightly fear – and I do mean nightly – was that a ghost would emerge from my closet and stand next to my bed. The specter only got a night off when, depending on what terror-filled movie I’d seen before bedtime, his role would played by any one of a coven of substitutes in my imagination: a vampire, a wild animal or maybe an escaped convict with an axe to grind, literally.
No amount of reassurance from my mom would comfort me. “There’s no such thing as ghosts,” she would say. She was wrong – our Ouija board confirmed it. They obviously didn’t hover in her closet or lurk under her bed.
Antique stores have always given me the creeps. It’s never my idea to go into one, but whenever I do, I instantly have the sensation that I can’t breathe. I’ll insist that the place is haunted as I make a beeline out the door.
A couple of years ago, I went with two co-workers for a professional conference being held at the Omni Parker House, a “historic” (that should be your first tipoff) hotel in downtown Boston. The moment we walked inside, I clutched my chest like Fred Sanford. I was suffocating. “This place is as haunted as Grandma’s cellar!” I announced.
“What just made you say that? I’m terrified of ghosts!” my co-worker asked.
“You can’t feel that?” I asked her in disbelief. “I’m taking pictures with my phone tonight and I’ll prove it to you. Look at the hair on my arms! We’re in Orb City.”
The hallway that led to our hotel room was stifling. I could feel it closing in on me as we walked to our doom … er, room. “We’re shackin’ up with the Caspers tonight,” I warned her.
After exploring the area and enjoying a lovely dinner, the three of us returned to the hotel lobby just as a Paul Revere character was hosting the Haunted Boston Ghost Tour. Our hotel was a popular stop on the tour, made famous by all the paranormal activity reported by employees and guests. “You’re standing in the most haunted hotel in Boston,” Paul told the group of tourists.
Mmm hmmmm. I knew it. My co-workers gasped as Paul Revere called out the numbers of the most haunted rooms of Boston’s haunted hotel, which turned out to be every room surrounding ours. We were even right next door to the inspiration for a Stephen King short story – room 303 was notorious for a handful of guests who had “checked out” while staying inside it. The entire third floor is said to be “very active,” but we made it through the week with nothing more than a scathing case of the heebie-jeebies.
On many occasions, I’ve felt spirit activity in hotels where I’ve stayed. Without exception, they’ve been older hotels – and I’ve noticed that the cheaper the hotel, the more spooks (in every sense) it has. Usually, I can feel something pinning me down and sucking all the air out of my lungs as I sleep. This is often called “sleep paralysis,” but it has a funny way of occurring only when I’m sleeping in an old hotel that teeters on being a dive. I think I’d get a better night’s sleep if TripAdvisor had a special filter called “sort by hauntedness.”
For the foliage tour, we’ll start in Boston (the epicenter of creepiness) before driving up the New England coast. We’ll stay in the small B&Bs that dot the two-lane highways, and I fully expect that we won’t be alone in any room we book. I’m sure the ghosts, vampires, escaped convicts and wild animals of my childhood will be lurking in every closet.