Hotel del Hype

Where I grew up, everyone was surrounded by battlefields, colonial homes and historic landmarks. My old friend found a Civil War coin in her creek. Another used to camp out beside the Revolutionary War trench in her backyard. We were surrounded by the romance of history and the possibility of hauntings. I lived just outside of D.C. in Virginia, and every school made the pilgrimage to the reportedly haunted Ford Theatre. Alcohol also feeds the curiosity, and when away at college down South, we crept around abandoned plantations and old corn fields, just to see if we could feel something.

Here in Los Angeles, there isn't much left standing that could spark the spirit of adventure. Mexican battlefronts are now paved strip malls, gone are the crumbling, moss-covered graveyards and nearly all Victorian homes have been razed, eliminating even the appearance of a haunted house. But we do have the Hotel Del Coronado just off the coast of San Diego.

Legend has it, the ghost of Kate Morgan haunts the hotel, and her visage has been seen by staff and guest alike. Kate was a young woman who checked in over Thanksgiving weekend in 1892 under the alias Lottie Bernard. She stayed a few days, and the staff became increasingly concerned about how upset she seemed. After taking a street car into San Diego to buy a gun and ammunition, she killed herself on the steps of the hotel leading to the ocean. Other guests at the time reported that Kate seemed to be watching and waiting constantly, as if expecting someone to meet her at the hotel. No one ever came.

It's not that I'm insensitive to the plight of Abraham Lincoln, slaves and suicidal Victorian brides. My love of history mixed with the fact that I like being scared force me to seek these things out. I can't help myself.

My husband and I flew down the freeway to Coronado Island, just off the coast of San Diego. As we approached the infamous hotel, I was reminded of the repeated images I had seen in many a dragged-out History Channel documentary. You know the kind, with the creepy music and the promise to unfold the mystery right after the 18th commercial break. I wanted it to feel cavernous and lonely inside, like the hotel in The Shining.

It was beautiful. The dark, wood-paneled interiors had vaulted ceilings. The elevator was an iron cage. The darkness was contrasted by the white beaches outside. But I felt nothing. I ignored the signs and trespassed down the hallways, especially by room #3327, where most of the activity is said to take place. Nothing. I stalked the gift shop, where things were reported to have flown off the shelves. I lounged in different lobby enclaves, sinking into overstuffed antique furniture. Still nothing.

But all is not lost. Any East Coast transplant dying to escape the yawn-worthy architecture of Los Angeles should take in the place. Hollywood hails Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall as a masterpiece, but after seeing the Hotel Del Coronado, they'll be astonished to discover they've been brainwashed. Upon returning from the "Hotel Del" as locals call it, Angelenos will realize that Mr. Gehry's creation is but a giant replica of crumpled tin foil.

Besides, what would I get out of seeing a reportedly depressed ghost? Terror and sadness? Why do I seek out such things? I can get terror and sadness locally. Trolling the streets of Watts, I can blast country music, heckle idiot gangsters and they can make a ghost of me.


Lisa Johnson said...

Nice blog post about the hotel del. Would love to have you post it on eCoronado.com if you are interested.

Kimberly said...

Awesome blog. Was just there and I totally agree with you on how beautiful that hotel is. Maybe Kate or Lottie finally found peace or maybe she is waiting for you in Studio City....

Ricky said...
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