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By Pamela Miller
Nothing ramps up the enjoyment of a vacation so much as the knowledge that you’re not wanted. This can be achieved two ways. First, you can purposely abuse the hospitality of a near stranger. Eventually, you will be kicked out, but it’s fun while it lasts. The second way is to invade the space of a few recently departed souls. Some call this haunting; I call it a failure of the imagination. Without concrete knowledge of other worlds, I’m fairly certain that the Long Beach Holiday Inn is not a place I’d bother setting up permanent after-life residence. It doesn’t matter if the spirit stays or goes, but if there is a ghost, there does need to be some proof beyond the cold shiver/goose bumps/odd feeling that is so popular in the spirit hunting world. Something has to go bump in the night. The ghostly encounter eventually becomes a battle of the wills, and the one with the living body usually wins.
So how to find a haunted hotel? That’s the easy part. They are everywhere. It’s only the clever innkeeper who takes the time to market the unfortunate occurrence in Room 106. It doesn’t even have to be Room 106. Rename a nearby suite for the poor unfortunate who sucked down a lethal dose of nitrous, and the thrill seekers will find you. Death is never whimsical, and the tortured soul is often tragic, desperate or lonely, but that doesn’t mean the ghost isn’t up for some spectral shenanigans. And it’s usually considerably more money for the full-scare package, complete with Bloody Mary, peeled grapes, and handkerchief doused with the favorite perfume of the long dead spirit.
The best ghosts have the saddest stories of failed love, revenge, and sorrow. The Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, AZ, has three resident ghosts. The first, Julia Lowell, was a prostitute who fell in love with one of her customers. She revealed her feelings to the John, he saw this a violation of the prostitute code, and he rejected her. Her suite is mighty pricey, but then you are in for some quality haunting. There are reports she dances by the bed, whispers in your ear, and tickles the feet of male guests. The two male ghosts, one a gentleman and one a boy, are just there for tricks and cheap thrills. The boy opens the shower door for you and giggles as he runs down the corridor; the gentleman dresses very well and smokes a cigar. (Apparently you don’t have to worry about lung cancer if you’re already dead.) They have a weekly ghost tour on Thursday. Should you show up on Wednesday, you’ll just have to walk around on your own, hoping for something to happen. Then you can share your experience in the Ghost Journal in the lobby.
The skeptics are certain to debunk everything. Not to go all Scully on the experience, but the only thing concrete was the suggestion of paranormal activity. That allowed the mind to play tricks and to associate the merely annoying with the actually frightening.
Then I looked over at another guest and saw that it worked. Damn. Instead of checking for mildew, the shower curtain was pulled back to check for the dead. Photographs were taken to look for anomalies, not for memories. Even the poached eggs were inspected to make certain it was only yolk coming out of the center. (A syringe and some red food coloring could have made breakfast more interesting.)
One odd thing did happen. The TV turned off after the second episode of the show Property Virgins. The remote wasn’t touched. No one in the room was near the TV. The lamps in the room stayed on. It was decided that the ghost couldn’t take one more second of the whiny woman complaining to her realtor about closet space. It was late and maybe the ghost just wanted some peace and quiet.
Nothing floated or moved or creaked. No messages were scrawled on the bathroom mirror with lipstick. The bed was comfortable and the heater worked like a charm. The manager encouraged staying in the Julia Lowell Suite next time, if only to be assured a more unsettling evening.
There is one experience that will continue to haunt me: All my hotel choices will be thoroughly checked in the future. Also, I lost the privilege to select restaurants, travel routes and the music played in the car. Springing that we’d be going to a haunted hotel at the last minute apparently wasn’t cricket.
And to that I say, “Boo.”
Copyright © 2010 by Pamela Miller
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Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Miller