Here’s What Happens When You Dare to Stay in a Haunted Hotel…

See recent posts by Katherine Alex Beaven

Through the peephole...
Through the peephole...

We here at Oyster.com have regaled our readers with countless stories on the paranormal, including the world's most haunted hotels, the best spots to meet famous ghosts, and spooky bars frequented by the undead -- basically, if it’s haunted, we’ve probably covered it. We've even shared one reader's first-hand experience at a haunted hotel -- but now it's our turn. We decided we needed an Oyster hotel expert to stay overnight in NYC's famous (and infamously haunted) Algonquin Hotel to go on a ghost hunt of our own. And I was the lucky (or foolish) volunteer that did it. I may be foolish, but I don't have a death wish -- so I brought along backup, and I'm sure glad I did. My fellow ghost-hunting cohort, M, helped me collect the clues and make connections, and was an overall Scully to my Mulder. 

Find out what we uncovered, if you dare!

Room 1010, The Noel Coward Suite

Setting up in the sitting room of the Noel Coward Suite

Setting up in the sitting room of the Noel Coward Suite

“In
1903 or 1904, the then-owner Frank Case’s first wife died during childbirth,
and that mostly likely would have happened in [The Noel Coward] suite.”

We don’t know the history of the 10th floor
when we are given the keys to room 1010, but as we’re staying overnight for a
ghost hunt, we find mocking irony in our room’s name, The Noel Coward Suite. Once
inside, and after a quick once-over of the rooms, it seems innocuous enough, free
of creepy vibes and hidden ghosts. 

Deciding to get the ball rolling by snapping a few photos of the outside door, I grab my camera. The battery is dead. But that’s impossible…I double-checked it before we left and both times it was at full
charge. I shrug it off.

Some spine-chilling novels

Some spine-chilling novels

An hour or so later, after I had fashioned a (useless) homemade Ouija board, and while M was downloading the best free ghost hunting apps he could find, I notice something peculiar about the vast collection of old hardcover books lining the shelves in the sitting room; a large number of the spines boast titles referencing murder or death. Tomorrow morning, we will be told the book titles were a coincidence, but also learn that our room had most likely once been the bedroom quarters of the hotel’s original owner, Frank Case and his first wife, whose apartment spread out over the whole floor. Nicholas, the hotel’s PR manager, also mentioned that, according to one of Case’s books, his first wife had died during childbirth, adding, “that most likely would have happened in that suite.”

For now, the spines are spooky enough, so I take a picture and pull one last sip off my coffee cup before heading down to speak with the night manager. 

Hallway on the 10th floor

Hallway on the 10th floor

“One time I said, ‘Please do not make yourself visible because I
will die here!’”

Edwin has been working nights at the Algonquin for about
a decade. He’s seen the hotel go through a few renovations, most recently in
2012 when the hotel did a major update that closed the hotel for
the first time in over 100 years. If anyone knows anything about what goes
crack and bump in the night here, it’s him. And lucky for us, he’s happy to
share. He’s even got a story of his own.

“Before the renovation, the location of the bathroom on
the second floor was a little different than it is now,” he says. “…I used to
change after my shift in there. Several times, I walked into the bathroom and
the lights turned off, and I could hear the water running from the faucet. And
nobody was there. Some other times, I was in there and the lights were on and
off, on and off, on and off, and [still] nobody was there.”  Edwin claims he wasn’t so freaked out in the beginning, but
it began to happen frequently enough that it started to feel creepy. “One time
I said, ‘Please do not make yourself visible because I will die here!’” He
laughs and tells us more tales.

There’s one about a guest a few years back that fled the
hotel in the middle of the night, terrified, “saying that she couldn’t stay in
the room because there was a lot of activity, and she saw a ghost”; one about a
woman dressed in ’20s attire hovering around a spot in the lobby where an old
piano used to be, sometimes trying to play the missing instrument; and one more about numerous staff members reporting the elevator constantly just stopping at the 10th floor even though no one was there
when the doors opened. 

Edwin’s in good spirits as he recalls all of
these stories, making me think the ghosts at the Algonquin may be closer to
myth than madness. I don’t have much faith in finding
anything, especially since Edwin insists that the odd feelings of being watched
in the lobby, the flickering lights, the running faucets, the woman and the
piano — all that stopped after the 2012 renovation. But do ghosts disappear
when remodeling? Do ghosts exist at all?

A shot of M's screen at the start of our hunt!

A shot of M’s screen at the start of our hunt!

Back in our room, we make a plan to do a quick sweep of the 10th floor before taking the stairs up two flights to the 12th floor in search for the supposedly hidden 13th floor. But really, it’s all just preparation for our visit to the second floor and Blue Bar, where we are hoping to uncover the highlights of our hunt.

Leaving the alleged safety of the Noel Coward Suite, we arm ourselves with a faux-sonar phone app and EVP meter in M’s palm, plus a word-communicating app in mine. Before the door even has time to close behind us, my phone flashes the word GOOD, while M’s phone says KEPLER and DREW, two words that mean nothing to us — for now.

The Second Floor

“The second floor is pretty much the only one we hear [about]…and
the guest that left terrified was staying in room 215.”

The first half of our exploration has been fairly tame, with no
real readings from our phones. (Though
we did find the oft-missing hotel floor, number 13. It wasn’t hidden, but rather
easily visible at the top of a short stairwell. It’s home to housekeeping. Not so scary.) The
night is looking long as we load into the elevator (so far the creepiest part
of the hotel) and head to the second floor.

As soon as we step out of the elevators, the meters on my EVP app rise and fall rapidly, warming from green
to yellow to orange and beeping incessantly. But, as we step into the main room, just as soon as
it all started, it stops. Silence. At first glance, I’m surprised by the second
floor’s residential vibe. This area of the Algonquin doesn’t feel so much like
a hotel, but rather the gallery of an affluent home with its dark carpet,
eggnog-colored walls, high ceilings, decorative columns, and antique, dark wood
furniture. (Later we’ll learn this actually was a residential area, with apartments housing several famous folks whose pictures now hang on the far wall.)

After we find the doors immediately to our left and right both locked,
we walk further into the space, and its residential vibe fades as the space
reveals two public restrooms, two small computer stations, and a keycard access-only
gym. I don’t know why, but I beeline for the gym. As I fumble for my
keycard to unlock the door, my phone lights up. The EVP beeps return
full-force, two blobs show up on M’s sonar screen, and the equalizer bars on my
phone, now red, pump high above the threshold line. This is the highest they’ve
stretched and I find myself inhaling sharply. When we open the gym doors,
lights flood the dark room, and our phones go quiet; the equalizer stabilizes, the
blips on M’s radar disappear, and the beeping stops. The trail’s gone cold.
There’s nothing here but a room full of new gym equipment and a large
flat-screen TV blaring the SyFy channel’s Halloween promos for shows about
ghost hunters and other paranormal investigations. Like the name of our suite,
this mocking discovery makes us chuckle, and we decide to leave.

Outside the gym, less than a second after we hear the click of the gym door
closing, our phones start freaking out again. The blobs on M’s radar reappear
while blood-red bars bounce high on my screen, but this time they are accompanied
by a word. It reads: BARRY.

I’ve all but dismissed the reading when, a few sidesteps later, I look
up to find myself standing in front of one of the many black-and-white
portraits hanging on the wall. This one’s of a woman, sitting in a
carved wooden chair, drowning in thick fur, a black dress, and a huge hat. I
check the mounted metal placard below; it’s Ethel Barrymore. Barrymore. Ok, that’s eerie (and I don’t even remember that “Drew” showed up on M’s phone earlier). I decide to pay more attention to the words popping up on my phone
screen rather than laughing them off. 
I’m finding it a creepy coincidence that I’m standing in front of a picture of someone whose last name contains part of the word that just appeared on my phone…

The next word appears on the app: PUSHED.

“Pushed!” I say to M as I look at him with big eyes. I’m also aware that I’ve subconsciously stepped back from the photograph we’re facing. I have an idea, and head straight for the nearest computer’s keyboard and immediately do a search for Ethel Barrymore’s cause of death. The results page pops up for a sliver of a second before disappearing. The screen flickers, goes black, and begins shutting down. I look down at my phone to see the word CAUSE, followed a few seconds later by FAN and then MATTRESS. Flashes of someone being murdered by a fan on a mattress race through my head, and I know this is all ridiculous and I’m being ridiculous, but it’s also fun so I just go with it. Besides, ridiculous or real, we can’t deny some of the coincidences so far are a little spooky.

And then the thing with the bathroom happens… The thing where we heard the elevator open when we were at the computer, and then heard someone using the bathroom. But now, the sound stops. We wait and no one exits either bathroom on the floor. I decide to casually walk into a bathroom, expecting to find someone in the stall or at the mirror, but when we open the door, there are no stalls, and definitely no one in the bathroom. We try the other bathroom. Also empty. We look at each other skeptically, and go over the story again — elevator, noise, nobody leaving, empty bathroom. 

I step back inside the bathroom on the right. My meter maxes out, turning bright red, bumping the equalizer all the way to its limit. It’s beeping uncontrollably — and strangely enough, M’s radar blips are back. This is when it dawns on me that our phones tend to flip out at the same time. How? Why? Our apps are unrelated — from different companies, on different devices. He brushes it off, but I’m starting to feel a bit squeamish.

I decide it’s time to go to the Blue Bar. I need a drink.

Blue Bar

“However, there’s bad activity, very bad energy in the Blue Bar…” 

On our way to Blue Bar, I bring up the odd coincidence of our phones’ coinciding reactions again. M says he wants to download the same EVP
app that I have to see if it reacts the same way, at the same time. In the end we
decide against it; I don’t want to spoil the fun, and besides, when I look down
at my phone, the words read, DON’T DON’T DON’T.

We slide into a back booth at Blue Bar, right against the
wall of hanging electric blue LED lights. Edwin had told us that a medium
declared the Blue Bar was full of “bad activity, very bad energy,” but it feels
just fine to us. We order some prohibition-style cocktails and munch on
popcorn, discussing the events so far in an attempt to connect dots. A few minutes pass before I look down at
my phone; I see a familiar word: BARRY. 

This time, thanks to something I’d read or heard, I can make the
connection. I tell M how John Barrymore
is the reason the bar is blue. He convinced the owner, Frank Case, that everyone looked better in blue lighting. Case took this to heart and had all the lights covered with blue gels. 

At breakfast the next morning, Nicholas says he “wouldn’t be surprised if [John Barrymore] was still around” thanks to his great relationship with the general manager. But for now, as we try to piece together all of our clues of the
night, my phone occasionally communicates words, mostly mocking us — a running theme for the night. I ask
for a sign, specific to the room and it responds with ROOM. We debate ordering
food and it says, FEED THEM. I can’t help wonder if it’s the Round Table’s witty Vicious Circle messing with us from beyond.

M does an internet search for Algonquion with the word “Kepler” that had appeared on his screen at the start of the night — and it’s here that I make the connection between “Barry” and “Drew,” though I’m thinking Drew Barrymore not John Drew Barrymore, who, oddly enough, as we will learn, used to live in an apartment in this area of the hotel. Strangely, there are actually
a few connections, including a woman with the last name Kepler who lives in
Algonquin, Illinois — and even more bizarre (yet still benign), considering
the hotel’s place in literary history, two connections dealing with books and a
bookstore.   

Maybe it’s the Peach Mojito, but I’m fixated on the Barry and Kepler connections. We decide to call it a night, but not before two completely failed after-midnight Ouija board attempts in our room. M passes out, while I fall asleep to some TV show called America’s Most Haunted Places. The Algonquin doesn’t make the list…

So did we encounter the paranormal? It’s unclear — I was a little spooked but certainly didn’t have any ghostly encounters. Have you had a haunted stay? Let us know in the comments section!

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