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By Michael Kure, SAP Contributor
Imagine booking a room at a small, charming, off-the-beaten-path hotel on the Hawaiian island of Kauai using a popular mobile travel app, only to discover that the room is… haunted! That’s what happened to my friend Dana. As Dana told it, she went to bed at midnight after a long travel day. But that didn’t go as planned. She struggled to sleep. Then, at 3 A.M., Dana claims she saw a pale, vaporous head of an older fellow floating above her bed, mouthing words she could not hear. (Believe me, Dana’s rather unique customeradventure is worth a blog all its own.)
I haven’t had the chance to travel all that much lately, but when I get back to it, I sure hope I don’t experience what Dana went through. In fact, I’d want to know in advance things about where I am staying that may be a bit off center, like, is the place haunted?
Wouldn’t it be practical, then, if your favorite travel app can not only give a “your hotel may be haunted” notification, but also provide a bit of history behind the why – without you having to hunt for some random Top Ten blog or Tik Tok video that may not even include your particular hotel?
Does such a travel app exist? Nope, not at the moment.
And yet, perhaps there IS a ghost of a chance that this kind of app will be materializing soon.
When that happens, the reveal could be at the SAP Innovation Awards! Even now, an SAP customer or partner could be developing such a tool. If so, I can’t wait for this app to be celebrated at a future Innovation Awards show. Honestly, think of how much fun that would be!
In keeping with the Halloween spirit
This is Halloween after all, so indulge me as I share stories about a couple of my hometown hotels with their own unique haunted histories – information not found on any travel app that I’m aware of.
In San Francisco’s North Beach district, there exists a small, quaint hotel that was built amidst the ruins of the 1906 earthquake by Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini. It’s one that I used to walk past every day when I worked in the area. Today, it’s a popular place to stay for budget-minded travelers who want to enjoy the neighborhood’s Italian restaurants near Fisherman’s Wharf.
But what is not commonly known is that this family-owned hotel once thrived as a busy brothel during the City’s wild Barbary Coast days. Its former madam, famous for her boisterous larger-than-life personality, still roams the halls of her former establishment, knocking on doors with Room 33 being her favorite haunt. But she’s not alone. A sad little ghost girl has occasionally been seen in the hallways — always reaching for the doorknob of one room in particular. Reason? Unknown.
If you’re into classic art deco décor but demand all the comforts of a modern hotel, then there’s a century-old hotel off Union Square that is right for you. But, be warned. Room 207 is where you might encounter one hotel guest who doesn’t want to leave — even though she has long since departed this mortal plain. Reports of doors mysteriously opening and closing, and small objects appearing or disappearing have been ongoing for years. It is thought that the disruptive spirit haunting the room is that of famous playwright Lillian Hellman, who had regular liaisons there in the 1920s with writer Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon. Perhaps the ghost of Miss Hellman is still searching for the elusive jewel-encrusted blackbird, much like Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the fictional femme fatale from the book written by her lover — which, coincidentally, was set in San Francisco.
Across the Fairmont
Arguably, San Francisco’s most famous ghost concerns one Flora Sommerton, a comely 18-year-old debutante who disappeared in 1876. Legend has it that she ran away to escape a pre-arranged marriage to a rich but much older gentleman. So she bailed from her grand engagement party, held at her home across the street from the historic Fairmont Hotel, and was never seen again. That is, until 50 years later. In 1926, the withered body of an old woman was discovered in a cheap hotel room in Butte, Montana — reportedly wearing the same 19th century white ball gown and jewelry that Flora fled in. There were old, brittle newspaper clippings of Flora’s disappearance pinned to the walls of the small, dank flophouse room. It was her. Flora had finally been found. Her body was brought back to San Francisco where she was buried in the family plot. But Flora’s story does not end there. Today, as you approach the Fairmont Hotel on any given sunny afternoon, keep an eye out for what many people have seen throughout the years: the ghostly figure of fair, young Flora, parasol in hand, quickly walking down California Street, then vanishing as she rounds the corner to where her home once stood — and always in that flowing, white, ballroom gown.
There are many more stories to be had about haunted hotels and their spooky history here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And in your city, too, no doubt. But I will have to wait patiently for some future travel app to clue me in on which ones. Maybe I will get my wish at the upcoming 10th Anniversary SAP Innovation Awards 2023, spirits willing.