By Kathy Goodman
West of St. Louis, along I-44, there’s a Holiday Inn where weary travelers are apt to bump into Wiccans, Pagans, and aficionados of various alternate lifestyles, as well as science fiction fans engaging in activities never seen on Star Trek. This Holiday Inn has been the setting for many remarkable gatherings, but the most remarkable thing about it is its permanent inhabitations—its resident ghosts.
Back when the hotel was a Ramada Inn, sensitive hotel guests reported enough weird encounters that management hired a psychic to tour the building, just to see what they were dealing with. Turns out, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, or beyond what is visible to the average traveler.
Among the ghosts residing at this hotel is a little girl who died on the property in the 1880’s. A painting of this child hangs in the lobby. Guests have reported hearing her laughing, or sometimes whispering their name. Another ghost often encountered is “The Lady in White,” a distraught figure, believed to be the mother of the little girl. She is seen rounding the corners of the hotel hallways, vanishing on the other side. Another tragic figure is the spirit of a man who burned to death, trapped in a stairwell between the upstairs and the downstairs portions of the hotel kitchen. After such a dramatic death, he now seems content simply to move small items around, just to let people know that he’s there.
A large black man haunts the far end of the Great Hall, glaring across the room at guests. Although he looks angry, he’s never hurt or even approached anyone. He is believed to be a blacksmith, and may have worked in the carriage house that once stood on the grounds. Guests sometimes still hear the clatter of carriages, or hear horses moving about in the long-gone stables.
A Civil War soldier still patrols the southern part of the hotel grounds, solemnly going about his business. One particularly attuned guest reported the soldier walking behind him on the ground floor. More mischievous are the spirits of two children who play tricks on guests staying in the loft area of a large suite on the top floor of the hotel. In particular, they like to flip the light switch on and off. One of the children may be the little girl in the portrait, who has found a companion in the afterlife; or they may be different children entirely.
The Great Hall, home of the angry blacksmith, has a mirror along one wall. Sensitive guests occasionally catch fleeting glimpses of something in the mirror—often not especially pleasant. Some guests have reported feeling very odd in the stairwells, and in the hotel kitchen as well, perhaps related to the man who burned to death there. Or possibly, whatever makes those areas feel so strange emanates from whatever force might have trapped the man in the stairwell in the first place…but of course no one knows for sure.
The only spot in the hotel that feels absolutely, no foolin’ spiritually dangerous is the pool area. Some people sense something that makes them physically sick. One guest who has stayed at the hotel more than once reports an “oppressive blackness,” and an overwhelming sense of drowning there. No one is known to have ever actually drowned in the pool, but the area is powerfully charged with something described as “malevolent.” Perhaps not the best spot for a leisurely midnight swim.
Since this Holiday Inn is frequently the setting for science fiction conventions (and at least three Magickal Weekends, as well as other pagan gatherings), you have the perfect opportunity to visit this ghostly location with the support of other members of fandom. Just be sure to show the hotel ghosts the proper respect—and you might want to stay out of the pool.