The 18 Most Infamous Hotels in America

Most hotels guard their secrets like the keys to their VIP guest rooms. But some accommodations have stories so spooky or scandalous that they've burst out of their walls, spilled over the years by former staff members or guests. Scroll through this list of the most notorious hotels in America, then consider booking a stay so you can explore their hair-raising pasts for yourself.

  1. Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California

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    Once the largest resort in the world, Hotel del Coronado has a storied history, which stretches back to its founding in 1888. Highfliers like Marilyn Monroe, Thomas Edison, Barack Obama, Madonna, Babe Ruth, and Charlie Chaplin have stayed at the National Historic Landmark—but the hotel’s most talked-about guest may never have left. According to San Diego Magazine, Kate Morgan checked in on November 24, 1892, and was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head five days later. Since no one claimed her, she was dubbed "the Beautiful Stranger" and is rumored to haunt guests in her old room.

    Related: Step Inside 12 Hotels That Take You Back in Time

  2. The Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois

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    Wikimedia Commons via Teemu008

    If you notice a woman in a scarlet dress skulking along the 10th floor of this swanky 525-room hotel, you may well have seen a ghost. "The Woman in Red," as she's known, attended a lavish hotel soiree in 1920, according to Chicago Magazine . When she spied her fiancé in the arms of another, she is believed to have taken the elevator to the 10th floor, and was never again seen—at least, not in the flesh. Nonetheless, the Chicago landmark’s spooky history hasn’t stopped countless heads of state and celebrities from enjoying its luxurious rooms, seven restaurants, two ballrooms, and a members-only club.

    Related: The Best Small-Town Inns in All 50 States

  3. The Plaza in New York City

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    Reasonable rents are hard to find in the Big Apple—unless you're Fannie Lowenstein. According to VICE, the notoriously grouchy guest occupied a rent-controlled three-room suite at The Plaza for 35 years at a rate of only $500 per month. Staff swear she still haunts the hotel's Palm Court, and they've been known to yell "Fannie!" when they notice anything amiss. All spookiness aside, the Plaza is one of the most recognized (and expensive!) hotels in New York City, and it will be forever remembered as home to the mischievous, extremely privileged Eloise in the beloved children's books written by Kay Thompson in the 1950s.

    Related: Tour the 14 Most Expensive Airbnbs in the World

  4. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

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    The sinister Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's novel "The Shining" was inspired by this hauntingly beautiful Colonial Revival-inspired accommodation. Although visitors don’t have to contend with the creepy caretaker Jack Torrance, they could still have a brush with the paranormal: Several locations within the hotel are said to be haunted, such as room 217 (where King spent the night) and the concert hall.


    Related: America’s 50 Most Infamous Homes

  5. Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles, California

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    From James Dean jumping through a window to John Bonham driving a motorcycle through the lobby, there is no shortage of madcap tales about the Chateau Marmont. But perhaps the most notorious episode of its 89-year history is the death of comedian John Belushi in 1982, who spent his final hours at the hotel after a night out in Tinseltown.


    Related: 18 Small Towns with Strange Claims to Fame

  6. Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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    During the infamous 1972 break-in at the Watergate complex, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt were ensconced in room 214 of the Watergate Hotel. There, they maintained radio contact with the burglars next door, monitoring their progress. In honor of the 45th anniversary of the incident, room 214 has been specially redecorated in keeping with the era— complete with vintage-style furniture, a period-appropriate typewriter, and old newspaper clippings.


    Related: Check In: 10 Offbeat Hotels Worth a Special Trip

  7. Omni Parker House in Boston, Massachusetts

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    tripadvisor.com

    Historians have placed Abraham Lincoln's assassin at this hotel just nine days before the murder, according to the Boston Globe. But that wasn't John Wilkes Booth's first visit to the 41,400-acre property; Booth and a group of co-conspirators had convened at the hotel nine months earlier to devise a plot to kidnap Lincoln.


    Related: 15 Classic Roadside Motels You Can Visit Along America's Highways

  8. Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami, Florida

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    The glitzy and glamorous Fontainebleau made a cameo in the fourth season of the mob TV hit "The Sopranos”—but ironically, the 1,504-room oceanfront hotel had previously served as a hub for real-life mobsters. According to The Daily Beast, undercover FBI agents used to be stationed at the hotel to track the comings and goings of the Mafia. Nowadays, the Fontainebleau is known for both its architectural style and luxurious accommodations, which make it a landmark on Miami Beach.


    Related: The 20 Best (and Most Unusual) B&Bs in America

  9. The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California

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    The 105-year-old Beverly Hills Hotel is perhaps the most infamous lodging on the left coast, with 208 guest rooms and 23 bungalows that have seen their fair share of drama over the years. The hotel was a hangout for Hollywood film stars like Fred Astaire in the 1930s and gained a reputation for glamour in the 1950s that attracted prominent visitors from across the globe. Elizabeth Taylor spent many honeymoons at the iconic pink-and-green building, while Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin often drank in the Polo Lounge.

    Related: 15 Tiny Beach Bungalows for Your Next Vacation

  10. Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

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    flickr.com via Jack Gray

    What do Michael the stonemason, Theodora the patient, and Morris the cat have in common? They're all rumored to have perished at this mountaintop getaway. In fact, their rumored continued presence at the grand Victorian hotel has contributed to its reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in the country.


    Related: 20 Must-Visit Mountain Towns Across America

  11. The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas

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    Wikimedia Commons via Kenneth C. Zirkel

    In 1934, Lady Bird Karnack met her future husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, in the dining hall of this historic hotel in Austin. But not all guests enjoyed such a happily-ever-after ending. Legend holds that two brides on two separate occasions met their end in—and continue to haunt—Room 525.  One of the most famous hotels in Texas, the 1886 building is also admired for its Romanesque-style architecture.


    Related: Winter Retreats of Presidents Past and Present

  12. Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan

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    Situated on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, the Grand Hotel consistently garners acclaim from both travel publications and guests—including the five presidents who have stayed there. But the hotel’s history isn't all glamour: The Studebaker carriage housed in the stables was once at the center of a kidnapping plot that rocked the island town. According to the Mackinac Island Town Crier, Edward Cudahy, son of a prominent meatpacking magnate, was stolen off the street in "the Ransom Buggy," as the carriage came to be known. He was subsequently returned safely to his family when his father met the kidnapper's ransom demand of $25,000. Not without a sense of humor, Edward's kidnapper is rumored to have sent him a birthday card every year after with the greeting, “Happy Birthday from your kidnapper.”


    Related: Pedestrians Only: 20 Car-Free Places in America

  13. Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada

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    Plenty of high rollers have struck it rich—or lost it all trying to—at the craps tables in this ritzy resort. Yet no gambler has attained the notoriety of the thief who brazenly walked into the hotel in 2010 and drove out on a motorcycle with $1.5 million worth of casino chips, according to CBS News. Alas, the 29-year-old's lucky streak didn't last long. He was caught weeks later when he attempted to sell his chips to an undercover cop.


    Related: 15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once

  14. The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

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    From flickering lights to mysterious laughter, the spooky events on this retired ocean liner fuel rumors that it's haunted. According to KTRK-TV Houston, the 1,019-foot-long ship recently embraced its eerie past by making its most haunted room, Stateroom B340, available to guests. Inside, you’ll find paranormal paraphernalia ranging from a Ouija board to a crystal ball.


    Related: 16 Weirdly Awesome Summer Vacation Rentals on Airbnb

  15. Waldorf Astoria in New York City

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    Wikimedia Commons via Lamberto Zannotti

    The Waldorf Astoria is a Big Apple icon with a lengthy pedigree. The original 1893 structures were razed in 1929 to make room for the Empire State Building. Distinguished by its classic Art Deco exterior, the hotel now sits on Park Avenue, where it has welcomed the famous—and infamous. As legend goes, no one batted an eye when Charles Ross rented Room 39C at the Waldorf Astoria for $800 per month. But according to Biography.com, the man behind the alias was none other than Charles "Lucky" Luciano, the mob kingpin credited with setting up the "Five Families," a New York City crime syndicate. He was eventually caught in the hotel’s lobby, thanks to a tip from an alert clerk.

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  16. Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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    Prominent statesman John Hay and historian Henry Adams lived in Washington, D.C., in a pair of neighboring houses that the friends had constructed in 1885. In 1927, their homes were demolished to make room for the Hay-Adams Hotel. The Italian Renaissance-style building, which has seen its share of political scandal and drama, is now one of over 260 accommodations that make up the Historic Hotels of America.


    Related: 13 Homes from the Original Colonies That Still Stand Today

  17. Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana

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    tripadvisor.com

    The short life of young Maurice Begere, the young son of guests at this New Orleans accommodation, ended with a bout of yellow fever in the late 1800s, yet he seems to be enjoying an active afterlife. Maurice's mother is said to have been the first of many visitors who have encountered his friendly ghost on the 14th floor—the same floor that the International Society for Paranormal Research cited for its high levels of paranormal activity. Hotel Monteleone is also known for its rotating Carousel Bar & Lounge and Beaux-Arts architectural style.


    Related: 10 U.S. Towns That Are Older Than America

  18. Palmer House in Chicago, Illinois

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    The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the Palmer House a mere 13 days after it opened for business. Rebuilt in 1873, it is among the longest continuously operating hotels in North America—and the first in Chicago to embrace elevators and electric light bulbs. Many famous guests, including Charles Dickens, Ulysses S.Grant, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain, have slept within its historic walls.


    Related: 25 Tiny Towns to Visit for a Glimpse at How We Used to Live

  19. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!