Listen up guys and ghouls! Sam Baltrusis, author of the new book “13 Most Haunted Hotels & Inns of New England,” writes about the things that go bump in the night. Here’s an excerpt from his latest book:
Want to see if a “room with a boo” is truly haunted? Work the graveyard shift at an allegedly haunted hotel.
For a few months in 2017, I signed on as a night auditor at two boo-tique inns, including the Hotel 140 in the Back Bay. Right above the front desk is the Lyric Stage Company theater. Multiple times in the wee hours of the night, I encountered a female spirit who’d mysteriously try to lead me upstairs. I’m not sure what her deal was, but she was desperately trying to communicate with me.
One Monday night in May 2017 when I was working the overnight shift at Hotel 140, I met Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s associate production manager, Stephanie Hettrick. We started chatting, and within the first few minutes, she revealed to me that my hunch was true: the former YWCA turned hotel is in fact haunted. “We call her Alice,” Hettrick said, speaking quietly so her friend couldn’t hear her talking about the building’s resident ghost. “She doesn’t like me, but she likes my boss. He was away for a week and caused all sorts of problems. Things would mysteriously move. Lights would turn on and off. We blamed it on Alice.”
When asked if she had any idea about Alice’s backstory, Hettrick said she strongly believed the female spirit was in her early to late twenties. When asked how she knew so many details about the resident spirit, the production manager smiled. “Because I’ve seen her,” she said, pointing to the second-floor mezzanine level of the hotel and the side-stairs area Alice is known to frequent. “She’s wearing white, and sometimes when I’m here late at night in the theater, I will see her out of the corner of my eye.”
Hettrick’s friend, who was in the ladies’ room behind Hotel 140’s front desk, ran out in a tizzy. “Are you talking about ghosts? If you are then I’m going to leave now.” Her friend was joking, but you could see she was obviously creeped out by the hotel’s resident spirit.
Of course, Hotel 140 isn’t the only overnight haunt in the Boston area that’s reported to have supernatural activity. Several of the Hub’s haunted dormitories, including Boston University’s Kilachand Hall (formerly Shelton Hall and my sophomore-year college dorm) and Berklee College of Music’s 150 Massachusetts Ave., had former lives as hotels. The Charlesgate, Emerson College’s “devilish dormitory,” which has been converted into upscale condominiums, was built in 1891 as a fin de siècle hotel and boasted upscale accommodations for Boston’s elite and then deteriorated during the Depression before housing college students.
When it comes to haunted dorms, school spirits reflect school spirit. Based on my experience as a paranormal researcher and as the author of eight historical-based ghost books, I’ve unwittingly become a voice for New England’s spirit squad. We got spirits, yes we do.
While writing 13 Most Haunted Hotels & Inns of New England, I’ve been featured on two national paranormal TV shows, including Destination America’s Haunted Towns, which focused on Salem. I also made a cameo on the Travel Channel recounting my face-to-face encounter with a lady in white in the Witch City’s Old Burying Point on Charter Street. In 2012, I was featured as Boston’s paranormal expert on the Biography Channel’s Haunted Encounters.
How can one person have so many experiences of New England’s ghosts? I’m mysteriously called to these haunted locations. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
Some of my paranormal friends are “ghost magnets.” I don’t necessarily attract or repel things that go bump in the night. My gift is that I intuitively know where the spirits are, and I inexplicably find myself in those places. Usually I end up in locations that aren’t necessarily known to be haunted but turn out to be extremely active from a paranormal perspective.
I guess I have built-in “ghostdar.”
In addition to my part-time gig at Hotel 140, my built-in ghost GPS led me to a hotel that’s close to one of my favorite local haunts, the USS Constitution in the Boston Navy Yard. A stone’s throw from the extremely active “Old Ironsides,” the Constitution Inn had an under-the-radar paranormal reputation of sorts thanks to its close proximity to U.S. Navy’s crown jewel, Charlestown’s iconic wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate.
When I first applied to be the hotel’s part-time night auditor, my future boss nodded when I asked if the Constitution Inn had any resident ghosts. “Talk to the ladies in housekeeping,” my manager said with a sheepish smile. “They swear they’ve seen something downstairs.”
After several overnights working at the Constitution Inn, I invited several friends to investigate with me at the hotel, which included a visit to the supposedly haunted laundry room. It was a spirited night to say the least.
One of the guests, Cynthia Olson Mattison, had a weird communication during the investigation led by the S.P.I.R.I.T.S. of New England team at the Constitution Inn. Someone or something typed “hi” on her phone when she left it on the table. It was very strange and the beginning of communications with two possible spirits at the inn.
“We know for a fact there are other buildings within the Navy Yard that have activity,” explained Jack Kenna, investigator with S.P.I.R.I.T.S. of New England. “Back in July of 2010 when we investigated the Constitution, some of the ship’s officers told us about several other locations in the shipyard they had experiences in and believed were haunted,” Kenna continued. “There’s a lot of history in Charlestown and, of course, the entire Boston area. Some of that history goes all the way back to the 1600s. I do believe that this part of Boston could very well hold some of the most interesting and intense paranormal activity in the Boston area.”
Kenna and Ellen MacNeil gave a spine-tingling lecture about their investigation on board the USS Constitution. During their discussion at the Constitution Inn, the door leading into the conference room mysteriously swung open and then closed.
Was it a spirit? Perhaps. I do know that somewhere deep in our subconscious, ghost stories satiate a primitive desire to know that life exists after death. Based on my experience working overnights at two potentially haunted hotels, I do believe that inns have a proclivity for hauntings based purely on the numbers of people who pass through them. Extreme emotions leave a psychic imprint. An intense moment―like a murder, suicide or even a wedding―could leave an indelible mark.
As far as my personal experiences writing 13 Most Haunted Hotels and Inns of New England, my abilities as an empath gradually heightened over the two-year period I spent visiting these extremely haunted hotels. When I first started, I felt like John Cusack’s character Mike Enslin in the movie 1408. I was still somewhat of a skeptic. However, I had several life-changing experiences with the paranormal along the way.
When I visited Fall River’s iconic murder house, the Lizzie Borden B&B, I was expecting to be underwhelmed. I wasn’t. In fact, within the first few minutes, I spotted a shadow figure dart by, and I connected deeply with Lizzie Borden’s stepmother, Abby, in the John Morse room. I was in tears when I walked over to the scene of the crime.
Sue Vickery, a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden B&B, said my sensitivities were spot on. “Yes, it’s a very common experience,” she told me. “I’ve also been overcome with sadness on occasion in that room. I’ve had guests walk through that doorway and break out in tears.”
Vickery, who was recently featured on TLC’s Kindred Spirits with Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, said the hauntings at the Lizzie Borden B&B live up to the building’s national reputation. “The Bordens are very much still a presence here,” she said. “I’ve spoken with Andrew, Abby, Lizzie and occasionally Emma through the spirit box. I’ve witnessed black mist and white mist. I’ve had voices speak when no one is in the house. Footsteps are common. Doors open and close. I’ve been touched on numerous occasions as well.”
In addition to my visit to the Lizzie Borden B&B, my most profound personal experience was during an overnight stay at Captain Grant’s Inn in Preston, Connecticut. I somehow channeled the spirit of the inn’s resident gay ghost, Liam. I first connected with him during an impromptu interview with the innkeeper, Carol Matsumoto, in the kitchen. During our chat, it felt as if someone hugged me from behind. Matsumoto jokingly said, “oh, that’s just Liam,” and I mused that Liam needed to learn a thing or two about boundaries.
I immediately felt connected with him as he led me to an open field behind the historic structure. During my trek out to the cemetery hidden behind the inn, I touched a tree, and it felt as if I was being transported back in time. Based on my vision, Liam loved to fish, and he was attacked by the locals for being different. He desperately wanted to tell me his story. I was standing in the middle of the field, shivering in the beauty and the madness of the moment.
After connecting with Liam, I headed inside and immediately passed out. It was a deep sleep in which I experienced full-blown spirit communication with the inn’s resident ghosts. In the dream, I was hanging out with Liam, and he was wearing an outfit that appeared to be from the eighteenth century.
The following morning during breakfast, Carol asked me if I was out fishing in the brook behind the cemetery. I was shocked. Fishing? “Yes, we thought we saw you out there with a fishing pole.” I’m not into fishing, but Liam definitely was. I held my breath.
Sam Baltrusis, author of 13 Most Haunted Hotels & Inns of New England, was featured on Destination America’s Haunted Towns and the Travel Channel. Visit 13MostHaunted.com for more information.
Lizzie Borden B&B photo by Frank C. Grace, Trig Photography.