I love Halloween. After pretending to be someone else for 364 days of the year, it’s nice to be yourself for a change. It’s also the only time when I’m allowed to scare the bejeezus out of people with few social repercussions. On that hair-raising note, here are 12 luxury hotels around the world that not only offer you fancy people a five-star stay, but also – if you believe the online hype and rumours – a fantastically phantasmal experience.
If you have personal experiences at other hotels, tell all in the comments. Sharing is caring.
Happy Halloween, one and all.
Our top five:
The Langham [London, UK]
This hotel opened in 1865 and was the favourite haunt of literary luminaries Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The hotel, with its Florentine palace-inspired facade, is as fascinating as it is stunning, and guests in more recent decades have shared some intriguing stories.
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The Langham is so fancy that even its purported ghosts are top notch. The late BBC reporter Ray Moore observed what was supposed to be the ghost of a German prince who had jumped out of a fourth-floor window. According to Moore, he had “cropped hair, sporting a military-style jacket that buttoned up to the neck”.
England cricket player Stuart Broad even had to move rooms during the Sri Lanka Test in 2014, saying: “It was so hot in the room I just couldn’t sleep. All of a sudden, the taps in the bathroom came on for no reason. I turned the lights on and the taps turned themselves off. Then when I turned the lights off again, the taps came on. It was very weird.”
I highly recommend doing a search for Room 333 and reading the online accounts of what seems to be the most, shall we say, “popular” room of the hotel.
The Fairmont [Banff Springs, Canada]
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The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is everything you want for a romantic getaway – Scottish baronial style castle? Check. Jaw-dropping views of the surrounding forest and springs? Check. Famous ghost bride? Hold on.
A castle isn’t really a castle without a resident ghost or two, and this one is so famous she even has her own Canadian minted coin.
The castle was built in 1886 and the picturesque surroundings make it a popular destination for wellness getaways and weddings today. According to legend, however, one bride seemed to have stayed around well past the honeymoon period.
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Ed Gans, the director of Tauck itineraries, which carries out tours in the area, says there are two otherworldly stories that revolve around the hotel. “The first involves a helpful bellman named Sam who frequently assists guests on the hotel’s ninth floor. When guests try to engage Sam in conversation or offer him a tip, he quickly departs – ‘almost into thin air,’ as one guest reported. Sam is a former hotel employee who passed away decades ago.”
“The second story is a tragic tale of a young bride who, following her wedding ceremony, was descending a marble staircase to the ballroom below. A sudden gust of wind tangled the train of her bridal gown in her feet, and she fell to her death. Today the hotel still reports mysterious chilling breezes on the marble staircase and strange sightings of a beautiful woman in a flowing white dress descending the stairs or dancing in the ballroom.”
Taj Mahal Hotel, [Mumbai, India]
The instantly recognisable palace is known for its grandeur, and ghost lovers after my own heart may have also heard of the untimely demise of W.A. Chambers. The English engineer took over as head architect for the hotel after the main architect Khanderao Vaidya passed away, and reportedly took his own life inside the building.
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The popular – but unsubstantiated – story is that Chambers was so horrified that the building was built facing the wrong direction that he threw himself off one of the structure’s fifth-storey windows. Whether you believe this rather melodramatic tale or not, the rich history and stunning architecture nevertheless make this palace well worth a visit.
The First World Hotel [Genting Highlands, Malaysia]
A perch on top of the Titiwangsa Mountains, 24/7 casinos and a theme park – what more could you ask for? Nightwalkers, it seems. The rather fabulously designed resort is home to fantastical stories about unfortunate high rollers who have bid farewell to the high life after losing everything in the casinos. Possibly overactive imaginations may be responsible for nighttime noises, and even the smell of incense burning.
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There are 6,118 rooms in the gargantuan resort, so booking probably won’t be a problem. Rumours abound, however, about certain rooms that are never rented out for mysterious reasons, and the 21st floor seems to be a particularly hot zone, purportedly skipped by the guest lift.
The best of the rest:
Lawang Sewu [Semarang, Indonesia]
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The stories: Apparently, the Japanese used the venue as their headquarters during the occupation, and within the underground tunnels of Building B were prisons in which inmates were tortured. The hotel was featured in an episode of Indonesian TV Series, I Wouldn’t Go in There, which was unfortunately blocked in the country because it insinuated that the government believed in the paranormal.
In the episode, blogger and “urban explorer” Robert Joe recounts his experience: “Suddenly, I felt something passed by each of the stairs. I noticed there was a lady walking towards me. She must be one of the guests. I talked to myself: Why isn’t a guy leading the guest? I went blank. Suddenly my body felt very cold. I couldn’t think at that time. I could only see a long hair and a face torn, full of blood. She came closer and closer, I looked at the floor and found that her feet weren’t touching the floor. That’s when I realised that this is a ghost. I was very scared. I’m actually not a brave person. I was born in Java, so I understand Javanese culture. And based on Javanese beliefs, there are lots of spirits in Lawang Sewu because of its past.”
Cecil Hotel [Los Angeles, US]
The stories: The hotel’s history actually inspired the 2015 season of American Horror Story. Pauline Otton jumped to her death in 1962, killing George Giannini in the process when she landed on him. Julia Moore also jumped in the same year, and Helen Gurnee did the same thing in 1954. The body of Chinese-Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was also found in the cistern on the hotel’s roof.
Ballygally Castle [Ballyhally, Northern Ireland]
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The stories: I love how this hotel actively advertises that it’s a ghost-friendly hotel, with not one, but three resident paranormal pals. The one that seems to get the most attention is Lady Isabella Shaw, who was locked in a room at the top of the castle by her husband after she gave birth to his heir. When trying to escape to reach her baby, she reportedly fell to her death from the tower window.
According to Ballygally Castle, she now walks the corridors of the building and has been responsible for the strange guests’ experiences in their rooms. Go to the castle’s official website and you’ll see that its management is “very proud of [their] permanent ghost resident” and has dedicated an entire room to her, what they call their Ghost Room, in a turret in the oldest part of the castle.
The stories: TripAdvisor user “onefootforward” says, “[Our] first room had a creepy whalesong song emanating from the room … just couldn’t sleep.”
Jin Jiang Tower [Shanghai, China]
The stories: A guest staying on the 19th floor of this hotel once had problems with the lift, apparently always during the night, during which the lift would always stop on the 16th floor, even though no one was getting on or off.
At one point, when she and her companions got off at the 19th floor as indicated by the lift panel, none of them could open the doors to their rooms. Just as they were planning to complain, they looked up and saw that they were on the 16th floor. Spooky.
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Baiyoke Sky Hotel [Bangkok, Thailand]
The stories: Three workers fell to their deaths in 2012 when the cable supporting their platform broke. TripAdvisor user “Jventures” says: “[On our] first night, we already heard noises from the bath tub and things got worse when we heard noise and footsteps, and a missing room card which was found at a place where we didn’t touch, and our friend felt something cold pass by.”
The Plaza Hotel [Seoul]
The stories: TripAdvisor user “mposzt” had a would-be experience when he stayed. “The funniest thing happened while I was drifting off to sleep. My bed started to shake and I wasn’t even moving! Looked around to make sure nobody else was there with me! This happened numerous times throughout the night. At first I thought it might be an earthquake but then quickly realised, having grown up near some train tracks, that it was indeed a train passing. Even though the tracks are quite a distance from the hotel, you feel the vibration baby! Some say the hotel is haunted. Boo!”
False alarm, it seems! But we live in hope.
Note: This article was updated to reflect changes in buildings.