“Real-life ghost stories?” OK, allow us to clarify. Ghosts may, in fact, not be real. Having said that, the following videos comprise some of the most convincing evidence, possibly proving that the spirit world occasionally intermingles with our own. These famous or infamous ghostly encounters include hauntings of famous places, ghosts photographed in creepy haunted houses or cemeteries, curses and folklore, and more.
The fear of ghosts – usually classified as undead souls or spirits who can appear or engage with living people – has been a part of human culture since the beginning, particularly evident in early religious practices, and the notion of “ancestor worship” was popular among a number of pre-literate human tribes. It’s an appealing notion, the idea that death may in fact not be the end of life, and that some shadow or essence of a person is left behind when they die.
Our contemporary idea of a “ghost story” comes largely from the Victorian period in England, when a number of classic authors in the popular tradition of “gothic fiction” wrote stories that informed the way we currently view the afterlife. (This includes Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, particularly in its depiction of the tormented Jacob Marley, forced to wander the Earth in chains as penance for a life of greed and avarice, as well as Henry James’ Turn of the Screw, where a governess discovers that her two young charges may be possessed by an evil spirit.)
Are ghosts real? The following anecdotes and videos purport to reveal contemporary ghosts currently haunting a variety of locations. When possible, I will include information about the debunking of these stories – or at least the skeptical view of what might be actually happening. So read on, if you dare…
Tsunami Ghosts in Japanese Cabs
After the devastating tsunami in 2011, college student Yuka Kudo traveled to Ishinomaki – a town where 6,000 people died – and asked cab drivers if they had had any unusual experiences after the disaster. Most ignored her, but seven cab drivers talked of picking up ghost passengers, and their accounts where eerily similar. According to the drivers, the ghosts (who looked like normal people) would get into their cabs and give their destination, only to disappear without paying the fare.
The Bell Witch of Tennessee
The story of the Bell Witch of Tennessee is one of the more famous true ghost stories in American history. The story inspired several documentaries and a major motion picture, 2005’s An American Haunting. It’s one of the most well-documented “true” ghost stories ever.
The story of the Bell Witch first surfaced in the early 1800s, after farmer John Bell and his family moved from North Carolina to the community of Red River, Tennessee, which later became the town of Adams. As Bell amassed more and more land in the area – eventually up to 328 acres – the family started to report a variety of strange encounters. These included finding an animal that appeared to be a hybrid between a dog and a rabbit, a series of apparent hallucinations that included night terrors about rats gnawing away at the family’s beds, and eventually a series of faint whispering voices that sounded almost like old women softly singing hymns.
According to historians, family members later found a vial of an unknown liquid in the house. They gave a dose of the liquid to their cat, who immediately died.
According to the stories, following the Battle of New Orleans, f*ture president Andrew Jackson came to the Bell Farm to investigate the stories of a haunting, and it was he who dubbed the entity “The Bell Witch.”
By 1820, John Bell had grown ill, and more convinced then ever that the presence in his house wished him ill. It’s said that, after Bell’s funeral, the ghost could be heard singing and laughing loudly in the graveyard. After Bell’s death, save for a few reported encounters during which the entity bid the family “farewell” (what a polite spirit!), the presence seemed to largely disappear from the home.
Boring Rational Explanation: It was rumored that the ghost had promised to return to Bell’s direct descendent in 107 years, which would have been 1935. Though the descendent in question – Dr. Charles Bailey Bell – wrote a book about the “Bell Witch” legend, he never mentioned having an encounter of his own.
A book called “Our Family Trouble” also exists which was reportedly written by Richard Williams Bell – the second-youngest child of John Bell – in 1846, and includes the only known “eyewitness” account of the Bell Witch. It can currently be found in M.V. Ingram’s “Authenticated History of the Bell Witch,” though the book provides few sources or citations for any of its information, and thus is not terribly useful as a research tool.
200 years after the Bell family was terrorized by the sinister Bell Witch, researchers continue to study the story, each offering different theories about the entity. (In the film’s fictionalized retelling, “An American Haunting,” the ghost is ‘explained’ by arguing that Bell sexually abused his daughter, and her repressed memories of the abuse gave rise to the titular witch.)
The Lizzie Borden House
Fall River, Massachusetts, was the site of a gruesome murder on August 4, 1892. Andrew and Abby Borden, a wealthy married couple, were killed in their own home. Andrew’s body was discovered by his daughter, Lizzie, on the couch in the family’s sitting room, while his wife Abby – Lizzie’s step-mother – was later found in the locked upstairs guest bedroom. Both had apparently been killed with a hatchet, by blows powerful enough to cleanly split Andrew’s left eyeball. Lizzie was arrested in connection with the crime, as a number of circumstantial pieces of evidence pointed to her involvement; though a hatchet was found, no evidence tied it to the actual murders, and no blood evidence was discovered. (It was also said that Lizzie may have attempted to poison the family earlier using prussic acid she had purchased, but this as well could not be proved.)
After a prolonged trial, which became something of a national obsession, Lizzie was acquitted. She and her sister Emma moved to a different home in the same town of Fall River and lived under the name Lizbeth Borden, using much of her inheritance to pay off members of Abby’s family to avoid lawsuits. She died of pneumonia in 1927. Though it is popularly believed to this day that Borden was the killer, some historians have presented alternate theories, including that the maid, Bridget Sullivan, may have been the one responsible as she was upset about having been asked to clean the home’s windows on a hot day.
Today, the Lizzie Borden home is a bed & breakfast and a museum. It’s also thought to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S. Visitors have reported seeing unexplained ghostly apparitions throughout the house.
Boring Rational Explanation: Numerous videos have captured the strange goings-on, along with audio of a mysterious voice that could be Lizzie’s. Much of the supernatural activity is said to center around the room where Abby Borden was slain, with the most common spirit sighting being a woman wearing 19th century clothing who can be seen wandering the halls or even making the beds.
The Haunting of the Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, built in 1909 by Stanley Steamer founder Freelan O. Stanley, is arguably the most famous haunted building in America. While staff and guests at the hotel have reported strange happenings and ghost sightings for decades, the hotel didn’t become truly famous until author Stephen King lived at the hotel for a time and reportedly had his own scary ghostly experience (seeing a mysterious figure on the hotel’s stairs). This encounter is believed to have inspired King’s “The Shining.” (Even today, the hotel runs the film version of “The Shining” on a continuous loop to guest televisions.)
Among the reported ghost sightings:
– Staff have reported hearing the sounds of parties going on in the main ballroom. When they investigate, the rooms are empty.
– Some people claim to have seen ghosts standing at the end of their beds in the middle of the night.
– Patrons claim to have seen the ghost of Freelan Stanley’s wife, a piano player in life, performing on the piano in the lobby.
The claims have been investigated by a variety of paranormal experts and investigators, including the teams from the Syfy television show “Ghost Hunters” and the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures.”
Boring Rational Explanation: There isn’t one solid, reliable rational explanation for all the reported phenomenon at the Stanley (unless you just think everyone – Stephen King included – is simply lying for attention.) During the “Ghost Hunters” taping, the bed was apparently moved and the closet doors unlocked, but no other supernatural phenomenon was witnessed. As well, the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society and the Skeptical Inquirer’s “Naked Skeptic” – Karen Stollznow – have looked into the goings-on and claim that some of the experiences seen on “Ghost Hunters” could be explained by raccoons that move about the property and could be making otherworldly noises. There was no way to rationally explain away all of the observed phenomenon, however. So keep this on in the “maybe” pile.
French Quarter Ghosts of the Hotel Monteleone
If you plan on visiting New Orleans, you should know that it is without question, the most haunted city in America. Ghostly sightings are virtually everywhere throughout the city, particularly in the famed, historic French Quarter. So many hotels claim to be haunted – but one, in particular, boasts a LOT of ghosts: The Hotel Monteleone. Sitting at 214 Royal Street, the hotel is the only high-rise building in the interior of the French Quarter, and has become famous for its rotating carousel bar.
The hotel dates back to the 1880s, when Sicilian immigrant Antonio Monteleone moved to New Orleans and set up shop on the site as a cobbler. He ended up taking over the nearby hotel and expanding his business, and the enterprise has continued to grow ever since.
Reported ghostly sightings at the Monteleone are so common it’s impossible to write about them all. Several guests have claimed to see and hear ghostly children playing in the hotel’s halls (especially on the 14th floor). Additionally, based on the testimony of witnesses, the lobby area is apparently very, very haunted. Like, “Poltergeist” haunted. On many nights, around 8 pm, the doors of the lobby restaurant are said to mysteriously unlock and then close themselves back up. A diverse group of individuals claim to have witnessed this ghostly phenomenon.
Boring Rational Explanation: According to the hotel’s own website, in 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research investigated and made contact with a man named William Wildemere who had died in the hotel (of natural causes, oddly enough) years before. The team also believed it had made contact with a ghost that enjoyed returning to the hotel regularly in the form of a small boy to meet up with another friend (who of course, was also a ghost.) Their favorite hide-and-seek spot? You guessed it, the 14th floor.
The mere fact that the hotel itself seems to advertise as “haunted” would give any even mildly skeptical person pause. If unpredictable, wily undead spirits really were roaming the halls, that seems like the sort of thing management would want to keep under wraps. More than likely, this is just another gimmick to appeal to the NOLA tourist crowd, who love a good gothic southern yarn.
Chloe and the Myrtles Plantation
Remaining in Louisiana, we now focus our attention on the 215-year-old Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville. The site was commissioned in 1796 by General David Bradford, nicknamed “Whiskey Dave” because of his participation in the Whiskey Rebellion. You kids remember the Whiskey Rebellion from high school history class, right? RIGHT? Anyway, after Whiskey Dave’s passing, the plantation was left to his daughter Sara and her husband, Clark Woodruff, who had been one of his law students.
Perhaps the most infamous Myrtles ghost is Chloe, said to have been a slave working at the plantation when it was owned by Sara and Clark Woodruff. Depending on the version of the legend, Chloe was either raped or punished for some offense by Clark, resulting in the loss of her ear (where she would from then on cover up with a green wrap or turban.) Chloe then apparently used oleander leaves growing on the plantation to bake a poison cake for Clark, but instead, Sara and both of her daughters ate it and were killed. Chloe, distraught and fearing punishment, then drowned herself in the Mississippi River. [Other versions of the story say that the other slaves hung or drowned Chloe as retribution.] Today, it is said that a woman in a green turban haunts the grounds.
It was also customary at the time in the South to cover all the mirrors in a home after the people who lived there die. But this was not done to one mirror in particular in the plantation, and now it is believed the souls of Sara and her daughters are trapped inside. (Some have claimed to see handprints on the mirror where the spirits have tried to escape.)
According to local legend, the plantation is home to a total of 12 ghosts. Though it’s also been said that over 10 murders have happened on the site, the only one that has been verified in the historical record is the death of William Winter. He was shot and killed there in 1871, after being interrupted from teaching a group of children a Sunday school lesson. (His killer went unidentified and unpunished.) According to the legends, after being lured outside and shot by a mysterious rider, Winter then re-entered the house, looking for his wife, and began climbing the central staircase to reach her, making it only to the 17th step before dying. Today, they say, you can still hear his footsteps echoing through the hallway, trying desperately to reach his beloved but never quite making it to her.
Other rumors point to the plantation as having been built on an Indian burial ground (again, reminiscent of the film “Poltergeist”) carrying with it a terrible curse.
Boring Rational Explanation: First off, the historical record does not support any part of the “Chloe” legend. In fact, it does not appear that the Woodruffs even owned or used slaves while living at the plantation. Additionally, it seems that Sara and some of her children may have died of the yellow fever, as opposed to poisoning, though it’s thought that at least one of the Woodruff’s children – Mary Octavia – survived to adulthood.
In the 1950s, a resident of the house named Marjorie Munson started theorizing that it may be haunted, and her decidedly non-scientific “investigation” is suspected of being the origin of the “Chloe” myth. In that era, the original “spirit” Chloe was thought to be an old woman wearing a green bonnet, not a young slave in a turban. As the years went on, the story grew in the telling, giving rise to the added complications of the poisoning plot and the severed ear.
The rest of the stories are a bit tougher to discount, particularly the Winter legend, as the man really did die in the house. He almost assuredly died on the spot he was shot, on the porch, rather than making it to the inside staircase. During the Civil War, Union Soldiers who were occupying the house claimed to have found a human-shaped blood stain near the front door that would not come off, regardless of how much you scrubbed. So there’s that.
On the basis of there being so many different accounts of supernatural or strange activity at the Myrtles Plantation, it may be the most likely spot in America for a haunting, should one ever actually occur.
Parma, Ohio’s Gas Station Ghost
This surveillance video from a Parma, Ohio, gas station shows a strange, other-wordly “blue fog” that appears to be hovering amongst the gas pumps. Perhaps most disturbing about the “ghost” is the way that it appears to remain dormant for a while before suddenly flying off in random directions. What could it be doing there? Most of the obvious theories – that it was some sort of chemical or residue in the air that was catching the light and appearing on video, that it was a bag or some other real-world material that just looks fuzzy on camera, and so forth – seemed to be contradicted. No official explanation was ever offered for the Gas Station Ghost, and after a few minutes of being caught on surveillance footage, it disappeared.
Boring Rational Explanation: According to the website Skeptical Analysis, the blue fog ghost of Parma is actually… a bug that crawled on the actual camera lens. Re-watching the video, this does seem to make some measure of sense. It would explain the erratic movements, and why the bug looks fuzzy while the rest of the image remains distinct. Skeptical Analysis considers this “case closed” on the Parma ghost.
And the following video at least appears to bear our their claims:
This is a separate bit of surveillance footage, featuring a San Antonio man who has accidentally caught fire at a gas station. Look at around 20 seconds in (caution: the video itself is a bit disturbing) and you’ll once again see what looks like a blue fog ghost dancing around the frame. Either the Parma Ghost has traveled a good distance to get in on some of the exciting gas station action in Texas… or this really is just a case of bugs landing on gas station surveillance camera lenses and freaking people out.
Honest, Undead Abe
There are a number of strange, eerie circumstances surrounding the Lincoln assassination. In particular, the president seemed to have a premonition about his own death in a dream. He told friend Ward Hill Lamon about a strange dream in which he wandered unknowingly into a funeral being held in the White House’s East Room. Unable to make out the face of the corpse, he asks a nearby guard who has died:
“‘Who is dead in the White House’ say I. ‘The President,’ is his answer, ‘he was killed by an assassin.'”
Only a few days after, Lincoln himself was dead, felled by an assassin’s bullet. His funeral was, in fact, held in the East Room of the White House. It’s said that Mary Todd Lincoln’s first audible words following the assassination were amazement at how the President had foreseen what would happen.
In the years after 1865, numerous witnesses – including several future presidents – have claimed to see or interact with Lincoln’s ghost, who apparently has set up permanent residence in the White House. They include:
– Eleanor Roosevelt, who kept her study in Lincoln’s former bedroom. Roosevelt said that, though she never actually SAW Lincoln’s ghost, she felt his presence many times and believed him to be occasionally in the room with her.
– During the Roosevelt presidency, a number of other sightings occurred. A young clerk claimed to have seen Lincoln sitting on a bed removing a pair of boots. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was spending the night in the White House and claimed Lincoln woke her up by knocking at her door.
– First lady Grace Goodhue (wife of Calvin Coolidge) reportedly saw Lincoln standing with his arms clasped behind his back, lost in thought and staring at the Potomac.
– Winston Churchill and Lyndon Johnson both joked about having had conversations with the undead Lincoln, though both also had outsized personalities and were prone to such flights of fancy.
– A number of other presidents – including Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman – have reported spooky or inexplicable goings-on within the White House, claiming they were the work of Lincoln. It’s unclear, however, whether any of the men actually saw Lincoln’s spirit with their own eyes.
No Lincoln’s ghost sightings have been reported from the White House since the Truman administration. (Hillary Clinton, however, told Rosie O’Donnell that she sometimes felt creeped out in the White House: “It’s neat. It can be a little creepy. You know, they think there’s a ghost there. It is a big old house, and when the lights are out it is dark and quiet and any movement at all catches your attention.”)
Post-Truman, there were also numerous renovations being made to the property. Perhaps Lincoln finally moved on? He has, however, also been spotted in Ford’s Theater, where he was shot, and in the burial ground in Illinois that houses his remains.
Boring Rational Explanation: It’s not Abe Lincoln, it’s just a bug! No, kidding. This one seems fairly open and shut. People aren’t REALLY seeing Lincoln. It’s just an old house that makes lots of weird noises, and it’s sort of fun to imagine that it’s a beloved dead president wandering the halls at night, still thinking about the Civil War and reworking all of the mistakes of his era in his head. (Calvin Coolidge’s wife says this explicitly, that she thinks he was gazing at the Potomac and considering the carnage that played out there during the Civil War.)
If people kept seeing a lame, forgettable president, that might be more believable than Lincoln. But I haven’t heard about any Chester A. Arthur sightings recently.
The Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House, a popular tourist attraction, is a mansion in San Jose, California, located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. It once was the home of Sarah Winchester, the window of WIlliam Wirt Winchester and heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. Work began on the house under Sarah’s direct supervision in 1884 and continued until her death in 1922. Because work on the home was constantly ongoing, the result is a chaotic building with no master floor plan, and a number of eccentric touches. (This includes stairways that don’t lead anywhere, and doors with no rooms behind them.)
Sarah’s life was interrupted by two tragedies from which she never really recovered. The first was the loss of her daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, when the child was only a few weeks old, from the disease marasmus. The second was the death of her husband William 15 years later of tuberculosis. This left Sarah a broken woman, but also fantastically rich, inheriting an income of $1000 each day (Equivalent to about $22,000 per day today).
According to the most popular retellings, following her husband’s death, Sarah feared that she and the Winchester family were cursed. She consulted a psychic either in Boston or near her home in New Haven, Connecticut, who told her to move West and build a home for herself that would also house the spirits of those who had been killed with Winchester rifles. The medium is alleged to have also told Sarah that if construction on the house ever stopped, the spirits would grow restless and kill her.
Thus, for 38 years, Sarah lived in the home and ensured that construction continued constantly, even attempting to have work done on the house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She also integrated the number 13 into the home whenever possible – there are 13 bathrooms, each window has 13 panes, the house has a total of 13 chandeliers, and so forth. Following the 1906 earthquake, she refused to have damaged portions of the home fixed up, assuming the damage was the work of angry spirits who might be further enraged by repairs.
Ghostly sightings are quite common in the Winchester Mystery House. In addition to the spirits of those killed by Winchesters – whom Sarah believed lived there – some have sighted spirits they believe were staff who once worked in the home. Still others report seeing a woman fitting Sarah Winchester’s description, dressed in Victorian garb, wandering the stairs and hanging out in the kitchen.
Boring Rational Explanation: Sarah Winchester made no mention of the house in her will, and it was eventually sold for $135,000 to a local investor, who opened it up to the public. Harry Houdini is said to have toured the mansion and gave it the name “Mystery House.” Today, the 160-room Winchester Mystery House has become a popular tourist destination in San Jose. (It also hosts special events each year on Friday the 13th.) If there really are any spirits there, they’re obviously not camera shy. (It stands to reason as well that, with all those people walking through the house all day, any lingering undead would have been discovered and caught on tape by now.)
The official website also includes testimonials from visitors who have felt a ghostly presence, but unless you know “papa smurf ;)” and find him particularly trustworthy, there’s no reason to think any of these are genuine reports.
Asheville High School Ghost
Asheville High in Asheville, North Carolina, is one of those schools with motion-activated surveillance cameras. On Friday, August 1, at 2:51 am, the cameras turned on in time to catch a shadowy blob appears in front of an elevator and then darts around a bit before ending up in the hallway.
Some teachers from the school and paranormal enthusiasts from around Ashevile were quick to label the inexplicable apparition a ghost. Teacher Martha Geitner offered this theory to the local CBS affiliate: “It’s a ghost. Of course it’s a ghost. It’s the ghost of some former student who is really angry with his teacher and has come back to get back with the teacher, and he’s just making himself known at this time.”
She seems to have a lot of information about this angry dead student… Did Asheville PD ever look into this further?
Other more skeptical local residents have done their best to debunk the ghost theory, without great success. What’s clear is (1) SOMETHING must have been there to set off the motion detector, and (2) that thing appears to be able to change its shape. Most eerily, if it’s a shadow being cast by something not seen on the video, how is it so rapidly changing shape, at one point morphing into what almost looks like the form of a small child.
Boring Rational Explanation: What if it’s another bug! An big enough insect (maybe a moth?) could theoretically have set off the motion sensor, and as we’ve seen in the Ohio gas station example, sometimes a bug on the lens of a camera can sort of look like an insane revenge-crazed demon from Hell to the untrained eye. Anyway, Asheville… think about it… and check out Martha Geitner. She seems to have a dirty little secret of some kind.
Ghosts of Alcatraz
Alcatraz Island was first used as a military prison in the late 1850s, and later served as a federal prison until 1963. It’s probably the most famous prison in the United States. The prison claimed that, despite 36 prisoners making a total of 14 escape attempts, no prisoner had ever successfully made it off the island. (The most violent escape attempt was made in 1946, when six prisoners attempted to flee the island, resulting eventually in the deaths of three inmates and two guards.)
Famous convicts held in Alcatraz included Al Capone, “Machine Gun” Kelly, James “Whitey” Bulger, Mickey Cohen, and Bumpy Johnson. [While incarcerated in Alcatraz, Capone took to playing the banjo. Years after Capone’s death and long after Alcatraz officially shut down, visitors and workers report hearing banjo music in the old shower rooms and in Capone’s former cell.]
Because of the celebrity outlaws who have been held there, as well as the relative isolation of “The Rock” from the rest of society, it naturally lent itself to a number of rumors, urban legends, and modern myths about what actually happened there.
Cell 14D, an isolation cell, is also believed to be haunted by a ghostly figure. It’s been said that, in the 1940s, a prisoner locked in 14D screamed to guards that he was being attacked by a creature with glowing eyes – and that this prisoner was found dead in his cell the next morning.
Perhaps most compelling, however, is the testimony of Alcatraz guards, many of whom claim to have experienced unexplainable things while working on The Rock. Many reports of guards investigating the sounds of sobbing or moaning, only to find no one there, were filed. Even a noted skeptic, Warden Johnston, noted that he once believed he heard sobbing from within the building’s walls.
Additionally, many have claimed to have stumbled upon inexplicable smells on the island, or certain spots that are notably colder than their surroundings. Visitors and currently employees at Alcatraz have also reported hearing strange noises or voices and feeling cold rushes of air, particularly in Cell Block C, the site of that deadly standoff between several prisoners and guards.
Boring Rational Explanation: Over the years, a number of ghost hunters, authors, curiosity-seekers and others have come to the island, hoping to gather evidence of the spirits. No compelling evidence of a spirit has yet been produced. The majority of park rangers and other staff working the site – though many claim to have experienced something odd in their time on the island – claim not to believe that it’s actually haunted.
Michael Jackson’s Ghost?
In July of 2009, a potentially very famous ghost made an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” In the immediate aftermath of R&B superstar Michael Jackson’s death, King was at Neverland Ranch interviewing Jackson’s brother, Jermaine. During a cut-away shot, showing a long corridor in Jackson’s home, a shadowy figure appears to walk across the background. Thousands of people watching the footage live, and millions later catching the clip on YouTube, swore it was the ghost of the King of Pop, wandering the hallways of his old home, and maybe looking for one more chance to pose for the cameras before fully shuffling off this mortal coil. (Hey, he warned you about being Dangerous… but did anyone listen?)
Boring Rational Explanation: OK, this one maybe is a bit too easy to debunk. There were a variety of professional lights pouring all over Jackson’s Neverland Ranch home at this point, several days into the ongoing media circus that surrounded his passing (and that continued all the way through the Dr. Conrad Murray trial!) So this was most likely a case of a crew member walking in front of one of the lights, casting a shadow on the wall in the background.
The Strange Case of Kate Morgan
The Hotel del Coronado opened in 1888 in the city of Coronado, California, just across the bay from San Diego. It was the largest resort hotel in the world upon first opening, and the first resort to use electrical lighting. It’s also a rare surviving example of an all-wooden Victorian-style beach resort.
On November 24, 1892, a woman named Kate Morgan (using the alias Lottie Bernard) checked in to the hotel, in room 304. (The same room is still available today, though now it’s numbered 3327.) She claimed she was there to meet with her brother, a doctor, who was treating her for stomach cancer. Five days after checking in, Morgan was found dead on the steps of the hotel leading down to the beach, of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. It appears the story she told the clerks when checking in – about her doctor brother and her illness – was also untrue.
Instead, she was married to a mail carrier from Nebraska named Tom Morgan, and was believed to be in San Diego to meet up with a brother who was a professional gambler. (It has often been suggested that the couple was, in fact, con artists, or that Kate had checked into the hotel planning to have an abortion performed.)
The case has remained a subject of fascination and conjecture ever since. In the 1980s, lawyer Alan May speculated that Morgan may have been murdered, claiming that the coroner found a bullet in her head that did not match the gun she owned. The case was never reopened, however, and remains officially a suicide.
Morgan’s ghost is thought to continue to haunt the Del Coronado to this very day, typically via strange goings-on in room 3327, where she stayed. (Strange presences have also been felt in rooms 3502 and 3312 over the years.) The hotel’s official website even makes passing mention of the ghost, and the hotel’s Heritage Department at one time released a full book and investigation on the case: The Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado. The book has since been removed from circulation.
Boring Rational Explanation: No investigation has ever resulted in concrete evidence that Kate Morgan was murdered, nor with insight into whether or not her disembodied spirit continues to haunt the halls of the hotel. There definitely have been enough complaints about differences in temperature in these rooms, and peculiar quirks with the electricity, to give any skeptic momentary pause.