With the chill of fall on our doorstep and Halloween approaching, everyone is cozying up (or dressing up) to enjoy the autumn weather and festivities, especially in New England. In the spirit of the season, you may not be too surprised to discover that some of the most haunted brick-and-mortar structures in our area are hospitality establishments! The irony is uncanny when tragedy and terror befall guests who seek the opposite in the walls of these institutions. It makes for fabulous folklore and spooks for spots on our list of the top five haunted places in New England.
The Sterling Opera House
According to the city, the Sterling Opera House, an icon of luxury and entertainment, opened in 1889 and played a major role in influencing our popular culture. Some notable figures in American history graced the stage, including featured composer John Philip Sousa, dancer Donald O’Connor, master illusionist Harry Houdini, American theatre legend Lionel Barrymore, boxing champ John L. Sullivan, and aviator Amelia Earhart, to name a few. Despite its reputation for top acts and an acoustic-enhancing design that rivals that of the Met in New York, the opera house is no longer open to the public.
One paranormal investigative team reported that it is known for ghostly encounters with child-like spirits. Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recorded what sounds like a child singing, and Rich DiCarlo, chairman of the Derby Cultural Commission, even claimed to have had a number of strange things happen around the building, including finding children’s handprints on the dusty backs of chairs. There’s no one-ghost story to dub this hotel, but the creepiness factor is off the charts, especially since its closing in the 1960s.
The Fairfield Inn
From the end of a hallway, Captain Fairfield’s infamous painting hangs in what is now a chic, modern boutique luxury hotel in Kennebunkport, Maine. A small fishing village, also known to be a summer vacation destination for the wealthy, became home to Captain James Fairfield and his good friend Joseph Lord in 1816. Both were ship captains and active mariners, so it helped to settle their two families under one roof, since wives were also close friends.
Unfortunately, neither James or Joseph were destined to live there long. Joseph’s ship was lost at sea while a cotton export was in freight to Europe. And Captain James succumbed to a sudden illness in 1820. The legend has it that his spirit occupies the inn. Guests and workers report apparitions of him enjoying his beautiful home, since he wasn’t able to do so in his years on earth.
The Lizzie Borden House
Fall River, Massachusetts
The poem goes:
“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”
The house in Fall River that now serves as a bed and breakfast was the scene of a gruesome murder. Lizzie Borden is the primary suspect in the slaying of her step mother and father, Abby and Andrew Borden, on August 4, 1892. Due to the horrific nature of the murders, her story received national coverage, and poetic limericks, that would carry on for more than a century to come.
Lizzie, her sister, maid, father, and step mother resided in the home and there was typical family drama affecting all the family members’ relationships. On that fateful morning, Abby Borden was discovered on the floor of a bedroom upstairs, having been bludgeoned to death by a hatchet with 17 unique wounds on her head. Lizzie’s father was discovered shortly after, apparently killed while sleeping, with 11 hatchet wounds to his face and head. Despite the evidence against Lizzie, she was acquitted of her crime. And is said that she and her victims haunt the house to this day. Guests of the bed and breakfast report hearing strange noises, seeing apparitions, and even waking up with unusual cuts on their bodies.
The Mount Washington Hotel
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
The beautiful Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire was the brainchild of famed industrialist Joseph Stickney. He and his wife, Carolyn, lived in the grand establishment which was also the largest wooden construction in New England. Unfortunately, Stickney died only a year after the last brick was set, but his wife was quick to marry a European prince not long after.
Surprisingly, it’s not Joseph’s ghost that haunts the hotel. It’s Carolyn’s. Her room is 314, known as the Princess suite. It has been noted by guests that there's a translucent, elegant woman in the common areas and seen through windows and mirrors. Perhaps her spirit still lingers because she never stopped loving Joseph. Carolyn and Joseph were reinterred in 1938 after the Stickney mausoleum was built per Carolyn's will.
The Biltmore Hotel
Providence, Rhode Island
The Biltmore Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island is one of many Biltmores in the franchise, but this particular location holds something unique. For starters, the person who originally funded the building project in 1922 was a proud Satanist by the name of Johan Leisse Weisskopf, who was eager to spread the teachings of his religion to New Englanders. The Biltmore was a party place during prohibition, and it attracted government and religious officials--as well as prostitutes and criminals.
Bizarre happenings were common on the premises. Chicken coops were installed for sacrificial ceremonies, orgies and murders took place, and even suicides. According to historians and hotel workers, there are many ghosts on the property. One popular spirit is that of a financier who lost everything in the Great Depression and threw himself from the 14th floor. He doesn’t necessarily haunt the room he occupied, but rather taunts the guests of every floor he passed on his fall. They report seeing a flash of a body falling outside their window, but no one on the ground.
What happens inside the walls of hospitality establishments can be life-changing, and even afterlife-changing. But the truth is, it takes a lot of character and grit to work in this exciting industry full of mysterious, unrevealed possibility.
Looking to make your mark in the hospitality industry? Start by creating your talent profile on Grit today!