America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Book Review

America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests
By Jaime Davis Whitmer with Robert Whitmer

Ghost stories are a staple of the horror genre, and they always have a little sharper edge when the magic words, “based on a true story” appear under the title. Ghost hunting has taken on its own genre, as either pure entertainment or amateur scientific research, sometimes a combination of both. I readily admit my deep affection for a good haint tale, and this book delivers spooky real-life accounts as well as practical information about haunted tourism. If you’re a writer, having a solid nonfiction reference like this is handy.

Jamie Whitmer is an author, ghost hunter and traveler. Her book Haunted Asylums, Prisons and Sanatoriums was published in 2013, and this could be considered a sequel of sorts. She opens the book with practical information on what it takes to do a full paranormal investigation at sites like old prisons and hospitals. These are expensive and time-consuming since the entire building must be rented to do an investigation.

However, haunted hotels can be investigated for the price of a room, and many offer ghost tours for those who just want to visit. If you’re an avid spirit-seeker without a big budget, this is much more affordable. The Whitmers were able to use the tools of the trade in their room, or within hotel common rooms with permission from the manager. (It never hurts to ask.)

In the introduction, the author shares her experiences with spirits of the dead and her ideas of how and why these hauntings occur. Her husband, Robert, also shares his views. He’s a practical man and says he is “open to the possibility that things exist that I cannot see…I go into this endeavor with an open but cautious mind.”

The author researched the hotels featured in the book. She opens each chapter with the history of the original owner(s), photographs of the hotel, notable events in town, the natural landscape and features, and tales of famous deaths, hauntings and other sightings that gave these hotels their notoriety. Some of those stories are apocryphal and don’t stand up to the author’s historic scrutiny. She and Bob both write separate first-person accounts of what they did—or didn’t—experience during their stay at each place.

Occasionally, the couple is delighted with their stay in the hotel but disappointed that they experienced nothing more than a great night’s sleep. Of course, ghosts aren’t on the payroll and don’t always show up when people want them to! On other stays, Ms. Whitmer writes of doors mysteriously opening, corner-of-the-eye glimpses of people who weren’t there when she turned her head, and an emotional experience that left her shaken.

It’s hard to resist the charm of these old hotels. If you enjoy “ghost tourism” and are looking for a firsthand guide to the top 10 haunted hotels, you should read this first before planning your trip. The people who led their tours were engaging and knowledgeable and clearly enjoyed their jobs. While room and tour prices will change, the authors do their best to help you plan your trip accordingly.

I’m scheduled for a stay on the Queen Mary in a few months, and eager to tour and see the places that the authors described so beautifully. While I doubt I’ll see a ghost, I will know a bit more about the history of this great ship-turned-hotel, and the Whitmer’s account of their stay will have me keeping watch out of the corner of my eye.

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