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Hotels with a Macabre Past

Salon.com’s Trazzler presents Hotels with a Macabre Past, a list that covers more than just the usual haunted lodgings. If a hotel has been around long enough, it’s probably safe to say that someone died there at some point — and most don’t make much of a fuss about it. Some places, however, have a way of holding on to their sad stories — and embellish and fictionalize the facts in order to feed our love of all things spooky. These vacation spots are perfect for the morbidly curios, who are looking to experience their very own ghost story.

By night, the Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida turns mysterious. Its dimly lit bar — complete with upholstered armchairs and swanky piano — offers jazz, wine and classic cocktails. When you’ve finished your drink, ask if the famed Al Capone Suite is unoccupied. You just might get escorted to the infamous 13th floor, where the bellhop will show you bullet holes in the coral fireplace. In what was once a prohibition speak-easy popular with the mob, on a fateful night during “an illegal gambling party gone wrong,” the Chicago gangster’s right-hand man, Fats Walsh, was shot down — and the hotel’s already notorious reputation was upgraded to “haunted.” No worries, though. The ghost of Capone’s bodyguard will protect you.

Union soldiers stabled their horses in what is now the Kenmore Inn’s cellar pub, and you can still see evidence of artillery hits in the elegant B&B’s sturdy walls. This is one place where it truly doesn’t seem trite to say, “If only these walls could talk …” Once you get your head around the carnage, ineptitude, valor, futility and despair that occurred here on Dec. 13, 1862, you’ll never look at the streets and storefronts in tiny downtown Fredericksburg the same way again. There are ghosts here, for sure. Take a ghost tour, or go it alone, walking the very cobblestones where 17,000 Americans “fell like autumn leaves” to bayonets and cannonballs in one day’s street fighting.

Complete with dragon heads and spears, bewitching Hotel Dalen of Norway has a ghost: the Grey Lady. Legend has it, a young English aristocrat, Miss Greenfield, spent a summer at Dalen in the 1890s. During her stay, her belly grew and by the time she left, it was flat; no baby was ever seen. Home in England, she was found guilty of murder and executed. Ever since, many have reported seeing a lady in grey in the great hall. Others have heard a baby crying.

With a name like L’Hôtel (and the equally restrained Le Restaurant) you might expect a minimalist four-star reconceptualization of this fin-de-siècle beauty. Nothing could be further from the truth — a reincarnated Marie Antoinette would feel right at home in one of these deliciously decadent rooms where every last inch has been sumptuously upholstered, gilded, mirrored or flanked with marble. Oscar Wilde died between these very walls, drawing his last breaths and racking up a bill that paled in comparison to the one you’ll be picking up at checkout time. You can stay in his room, a shrine to the writer and British luxury.

Unlike many other hotels with a macabre past, the Grand Hyatt Taipei doesn’t play up the morbid angle. Built on the site of a World War II Japanese prison camp where brutal executions and burials took place, you won’t find poltergeists listed among the amenities. After a decade of locals looking at the building askance and complaints of spectral shenanigans (even Jackie Chan reported nocturnal disturbances), the hotel hired feng shui experts to straighten out the problem through better design and blessings — with wind chimes, photos of black and white vases in the rooms, and two impressive Buddhist scrolls on either side of a mirrored door in the five-story gleaming marble lobby. It’s a reassuring shout-out to the spooked and superstitious (and a recognition of Taiwan’s tragic past) that goes right over the head of many Western guests.

For more hotels with a macabre past, read the entire article at Trazzler.