By Kieran O’Connor
The Omni Parker House in Boston spooks guests with tales of ghostly encounters
Celebrated as America’s oldest operating hotel, the Omni Parker House first opened its doors in 1855 and has a long history as a historic landmark. At the hotel, John F. Kennedy famously proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier, Martin Luther King JR delivered a speech in 1965, and Malcolm X worked there as a busboy.
The hotel is also somewhat of a literacy heaven. One writer who lived in the hotel for more than two years was Charles Dickens. The Englishman was said to have used a mirror in the hotel to help him practice telling his stories. Local folklore states, Dickens would stand in front of the mirror for hours, reciting his work.
According to paranormal investigator Genevieve Lopez, it is not uncommon for ghosts to return to a place they spent a lot of time at when living. “Although Hollywood movies will have you believe that cemeteries are the most haunted places, we have found that buildings with deep history are,” she said.
Julie Fagan, director of sales and marketing at the hotel said, “The same mirror that Dickens talked into day after day is still in our hotel and guests have reported to have seen his reflection looking back at them.”
“Elevators are always called to the third floor (the floor Charles Dickens occupied) without a button being pushed or a guest waiting for the elevator,” said Fagan.
Dickens is not the only ghost that has been reported by guests to have returned from beyond the grave. “We keep track of all reported hauntings and have a sheet that we hand out to any interested guests or visitors. Another ghost that has been reported by guests is Harvey Parker,” said Fagan.
Harvey Parker built the Omni Parker House and was reported to be a hands-on, perfectionist when it came to running the hotel before he died in 1884. According to the Omni Parker’s records, it was a mother and daughter who reported the sighting after spending a night in room 1012.
The report writes, “The daughter awoke around daybreak to find a gentleman dressed in period garments of the latter 1800s standing at the eye of her bed. The gentleman sported a large grin as if he were asking, “Are you enjoying your stay?” When she smiled back the gentleman disappeared. The woman was amazed to find the portrait of her nightly visitor hanging in the dining room when she sat down to breakfast. It was the portrait of Harvey Parker.”
“Guests aren’t the only ones to report hauntings, Omni Parker House staff have reported witnessing supernatural events. A bellman reported seeing bright orbs of light floating down the corridors on the 10th floor, then disappearing”, said Fagan.
Another sighting according to their hotels’ records was by a security officer. The record states, “Late one evening he saw the shadow of a man on the wall in the Bosworth section of the hotel (oldest section of the hotel). When he stepped aside to let the man pass there was nobody there. One thing he later realized was that the shadow was wearing a stovepipe hat.”
Irvin Willison, an employee of the Omni Parker House said, “I have been working at the hotel for 33 years and I haven’t seen anything.” Originally from Jamaica, Willison began working at the Omni Parker House in 1989.
“I haven’t seen any ghosts because I cannot see them. Back at home, my brother would be able to see spirits, but I wasn’t blessed with that gift. But I have a strong sense when spirits are around,” said Wilison.
“I see people every day walk into the lobby to try and feel or sense the spirits, so there must be some truth to the stories. You have to trust people, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean that people are telling lies,” said Wilison.
“My favourite story is about room 303”, said Willison. Room 303 was said to have been occupied by a long-time resident. The man was known for drinking large amounts of whiskey and smoking cigars. Guests have repeatedly reported the smell of whiskey and cigars even after the room has been cleaned.
To the sceptics and nonbelievers of spirits, stories like the ones told by the Hotel are seen as merely marketing tactics. Bill Wilkinson, a tourist visiting the Omni Parker House said, “I have heard the stories before coming here but I don’t believe any of them.”
“Me and my wife booked the hotel because of its great reputation not because we wanted to see any ghosts in our room. I think that the stories help with business, and it is a good tactic because nobody can disprove them,” said Wilkinson.
“I can’t tell you that all the stories are true, but they are all stories that guests or staff have reported over the years. People don’t just come to the hotel for ghosts they come because we are a good hotel,” said Fagan.
“From a marketing perspective, we use the stories more around Halloween. The stories are fun, and they don’t dramatically increase business,” said Fagan.