December 08, 2013

The Haunted Mt. Washington Hotel

Have you ever seen The Shining or the read the book? When I was young I thought the haunted Overlook Hotel was based on the Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire.

I was wrong. The Overlook Hotel was actually based on a hotel in Colorado where Stephen King worked when he was young, but sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Even though the Mt. Washington Hotel doesn't have a connection to The Shining, it does have a resident ghost.

Moonrise over the Mt. Washington Hotel.


Here's the story. Construction on the Mt. Washington Hotel was started in 1900 and completed in 1902. The largest wooden building in New England, the hotel was the brainchild of Joseph Stickney, a wealthy industrialist. Unfortunately Mr. Stickney didn't get to enjoy his hotel very long, dying only one year after it opened to the public.

Carolyn Stickney
You might think the ghost that haunts the Mt. Washington is poor Joseph Stickney's, but apparently it is his wife's. Carolyn Stickney remarried a European prince shortly after Joseph's death and enjoyed spending her summers at the hotel. She built a private dining room for her and her friends, and also had a special balcony constructed that overlooked the hotel's main dining room. This allowed her to see what other guests were wearing and change her clothes to ensure she was the best dressed woman in the room.

Carolyn Stickney's private dining room is now a bar.
After Carolyn died in 1936 the staff at the hotel started to report strange things. During the empty winter months caretakers claimed they saw an elegant woman walking into the dining room and that lights would turn themselves on and off. When a posed photo of the summer staff was developed a shadowy woman could be seen looking at them through a window, but no one had been at the window when the photo was taken. Creepy!

That's a big empty lobby!
Interestingly, the architects who designed the hotel incorporated what they considered an anti-ghost measure. The hotel has several towers, and the number of stairs leading up to each tower is different. This is supposed to confuse ghosts and encourage them to leave, but I suppose since Carolyn Stickney was so intimately involved with the hotel her spirit is not fazed by oddly numbered steps.

Stay here if you dare!
Luckily for hotel guests Carolyn's ghost is harmless. As a former hotelier she's not going to do anything to hurt business! Still, the unprepared might find themselves frightened, particularly if they stay in room 314. This elegant room used to be Carolyn Stickney's private apartment and it still contains the giant four-poster bed she slept in.


Guests staying there often report uncanny incidents. For example, according to this review on Trip Advisor, one family staying there experienced a flickering lamp, the fireplace turning itself off and then back on again, and a child's toy disappearing and then reappearing. The management's response on Trip Advisor? "Thank you for sharing your experience from your recent stay with us at the hotel. We are very pleased that we were able to meet your expectations..."

Fireplace in the main lobby.
The hotel's management doesn't make any secret of the ghost, and actually recount the ghost legend on their website. A clever marketing ploy? Perhaps, or maybe they're just notifying guests of what they might experience. When Tony and I were staying at the Mt. Washington in November we had dinner with some family who live in the area, and conversation turned to the hotel's ghost. One family member had attended a conference at the Mt. Washington where supplies kept strangely vanishing, and she also had a friend who had stayed in Room 314. The friend had indeed witnessed flickering lights and the shower turning itself on and off when no one was using the bathroom. Again, creepy!

If you want the full haunted hotel experience I recommend visiting in early November like Tony and I did. It's between foliage and ski season, and the hotel when we were there was pleasantly quiet despite the presence of three small conferences. It's a really big hotel! If you tire of ghost hunting the Mt. Washington has a spa, activities like horse back riding, and miles of trails. I hiked into the woods for three hours and didn't see a single other person. I did see an otter and pileated woodpecker. Not as exciting as a ghost but still pretty cool.

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Anonymous said...

The Shining location: the ‘Overlook Hotel’: Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, Oregon

Anonymous said...

I stayed in room 324 this last weekend. I had not heard the Hotel was haunted before I checked in but became convinced it is. There was a tapping sound coming from my walls and all the lights turned on by themselves at #AM in the morning waking me up. I was the only one staying in the room and had turned off all the lights when I went to bed

Anonymous said...

Kubrick filmed exterior shots there. Not King's inspiration.

Shaun Marcus said...

I'm glad I didn't read this until today. My fiance and I just stayed in 324 and minus the lights had the same experience. Waking up nightly from nightmares to hear the noises you described. We loved our stay overall but can't deny the terrifying nights.