Weekend Wanderer: I’m Staying at a Haunted Hotel


I was all in when I committed to staying in the haunted hotel.

Now, not so much.

In a parenting triumph I’m sure would impress Dr. Spock, I have raised one of my children to be every inch the horror aficionado I am.

Great. Awesome. I have a partner for every horror movie that hits the celluloid. And doing ghost tours with someone who actually believes in the ghosts on the tour is a nice change from my epically practical husband and son.

They are, well, nonbelievers. There’s nothing after death. The signs and symptoms of a haunting are faulty electrical work at best, charlatans looking to make a buck at worst.

Where is the fun in that?

Period intended. It belies my disgust at their lack of imagination.

So when my kid pleaded for a night at the haunted Shanley Hotel in New York, I suggested we make it a birthday gift. October was an impossibly long way off. And every believer of ghost stories knows distance equals safety.

But now it’s almost here and I’m getting scared and wondering if I’m allowed to bring cookies and a few Cobra Kai downloads to comfort me.

And this isn’t like staying in a working hotel that’s rumored to be haunted. Oh no. Not at all. I don’t do things by halves, you know. This is a hotel whose sole purpose is to experience the haunt. It’s a one-night booking. There’s a séance. You can borrow ghost hunting equipment.

Or, you know, bring your own.

“That’s when the ghost follows you home!” my best friend gasped. I laughed, because she said it in April when October was still oh-so-far away. But I knew she was right.

“Be careful what you bring home,” my other good friend said. “Close anything you open.” And that seemed a little more real because it was a few weeks ago.

And then I saw this piece from National Geographic, which calls the Shanley Hotel an Amityville Horror doppelgänger. That’s stuck in my gut because Amityville is my kryptonite.

I don’t even want to meet James Brolin. That’s how much it scares me.

Yeah, yeah. I know it’s fake. Everyone knows it’s fake.


I saw a documentary called My Amityville Horror, so named because it’s about one of the actual kids in The Amityville Horror book. And to my absolute horror, he didn’t dispel the story. At all. He backed it. Expanded upon it.

OK. And probably embellished it. But still. You buy a house and find out the devil is squatting in your basement? That’s why I live in a house that doesn’t have a basement.

Paranormal Activity is why I live in a house that doesn’t have an attic.

We have a crawl space. But I don’t go in there because of John Wayne Gacy.

Well, snakes and spiders and a touch of claustrophobia, too.

Yes. I know I have many fears. But let’s be real here. Fearing John Wayne Gacy is totally legitimate. Fearing serial killers is probably lifesaving.

Even the dead ones. Do you know what I’ve never found in my crawl space? Dead bodies left behind by my home’s previous owner. Do you know why? Because I don’t go in the crawl space.

So now my Shanley Hotel problem is even worse. It looks like the Amityville Horror house and my friends think a ghost will follow me home. This is just great.

And, of course, I get no sympathy from my pragmatic husband, who sleeps with the closet door open like nothing lurks in there, waiting for you to shuffle past in the dark and do whatever it is the thing in the closet does.

He’s distracted anyway. He’s preparing to hunt bears, which isn’t all that different from hunting ghosts so you’d think he’d have some sympathy.

I mean, there’s no guarantee you’ll see a ghost – only 20 percent of people can report an actual encounter. Same goes for bear hunting. You can hang out in the woods all day and never see a bear.

And speaking of hanging out in the woods, you have to get there early for bear. As in when it’s still dark. The same is true for ghosts because nobody ever sees a ghost walking down a crowded beach on the Fourth of July.

Ghosts come out in the dark. Everyone knows that. That’s why ghost tours are always at night.

And why you have to sleep at the haunted hotel.

And why 11 percent of adults are afraid of the dark. And why 89 percent of adults are lying about being afraid of the dark.

There’s also preparation that goes into both bear hunting and ghost hunting. You can’t just stumble into any old place thinking it’s haunted, and you can’t just stumble into any old place and think you’ll get a bear.

Where will you find ghosts? Well, you’ll find them at the Shanley Hotel until mid-October.

Then they’ll be at my house.

That’s just great.

Where will you find bears? I don’t know. It’s kind of my personal policy to not go looking for bears. I mean, it’s not like I get sudden cravings for bear burgers. I’m not Laura Ingalls living in my tiny prairie house.

As I write this, the bear trip might be off anyway. It’s a 20-hour commute to hunt bear.

I mean, the grocery store is right across the street, but OK. You do what you feel like you have to do to bring home the bacon.

The bear bacon?

Part of that 20-hour ride includes an eight-hour ferry. Ferries equal water, and this week water equals Hurricane Fiona.

So he might not be going bear hunting at all.

But the ghost hunt is still on.

And I’m still scared.

Hold me.

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