“It’s not the first time I slept in a haunted place. But it is the first time we paid to sleep in one; and paid dearly.”
Our experience with the Sheraton Read House Hotel, in room 311, was incredible.
My daughter enjoys history, thanks to an inspiring, middle school history teacher, and also like myself, she likes a good ghost story. So we spent 2009 Spring Break in Chattanooga. Appreciating the rich history there and hoping to see a ghost.
We called ahead to book an appointment at the historic Read House Hotel; Requesting room 311. The booking agent didn’t hesitate, or even snicker when we requested that room, and she would have booked us precisely NOT in room 311, if I hadn’t asked how many beds were in the room. She asked if we needed one or two. “Wait a minute,” I chuckled, “I want room 311, how many beds are in this room?” She could NOT guarantee that room. She could request it, and if available when we arrived, we could get it….”No thanks, we are coming to Chattanooga to stay in room 311.” We decided to take our chances, having read that the hotel doesn’t rent the room except when requested, or when the hotel is full.
When we arrived I was somewhat hesitant to request the room specifically, but after we walked in, and saw the ornate décor, and felt the atmosphere, it seemed natural. The desk clerk was great; he played right into the legend, and even had us speak apart from the children, so they wouldn’t hear the ghost story. (Of course, they already knew.) But from his account, room 311 wasn’t actually the original room. When the hotel was remodeled, they sealed off the actual area where the murder took place, and moved the room number down 1 door. But you could still see the barred window where it happened, since the room is still there, visible from the bedroom window; and also where Al Capone had stayed while awaiting trial. This almost felt like a let down. But if there are ghosts, the passage of time, the destruction of buildings, and even fire won’t change their pattern, so we rented the room. AFTER the desk clerk played a little pricing game with us. Quoting an outrageous fee at first, and then telling us he would speak with the manager to get a discount. Still, while we played along with him, he had a worker give us a tour, and this guy was terrific. He took us through the staff elevators to the Silver Ballroom; (This is a beautiful reception hall where we did have a paranormal experience.) As for room 311, our tour guide wouldn’t go inside the room when he let us preview it.
Back in the lobby, the clerk told us we could have the room for $250/night. We played the game a little longer, having priced the rooms hours earlier when we tried to make reservations. Since we weren’t jumping at his discount, he decided we needed another tour, and he got another man, who looked the part of a haunted doorman, to take us to the kitchen, the basement and throughout. This guy was the best. He had worked there for more than 25 years and he said there were secret corridors he didn’t even know about. We toured the basement, and all the way to the 10th floor. It was worth the trip just to get these two tours, because we never could have accessed some of the places he let us into. He said he had seen and heard things he preferred not to talk about throughout the old hotel.
Finally, we rented the room, for less than $250/night, thankfully, but still more than the booking service online. The kids couldn’t wait to unpack the video camera. My middle schooler took control and went on a 30 minute journey just taking video of our room, the halls and elevators.
After going out into the streets of Chattanooga, we couldn’t wait to get back to room 311. The first mysterious occurrence happened then, as I had deliberately turned on the desk lamp just inside the entry, and staged the desk so that I would know if anything was moved. (Even took a picture.) When we returned, that lamp was off and the light in the kitchenette was on instead. I had to prove to the family with the photo on the camera that someone had messed with the lights after we left.
Then, we checked the room for extra linens as the couch was a foldout bed, (we had one king bed, 4 of us). No extra pillows, sheets or blankets. We tried to call room service, but the phone in the room wouldn’t work. My hubby went down to the lobby and asked for these things and was told it would be brought to the room. While we waited, my husband called out on his cell phone to a friend, and my daughter did the same with her cell phone. Within minutes someone knocked. I went to the door expecting room service, but there was no one there. I looked up and down the hallway, there was no one? That was spooky. And it was about another ten minutes before room service did bring the linens.
The plumbing in this old part of the hotel made a lot of noise, and by the time we actually went to bed, my kids had become rather scared after hearing the noises that I attributed to the plumbing. So they didn’t stay on the sleeper sofa, they came to our bed. This would prove to be a long night. I didn’t sleep well, myself, and though I didn’t see anything in particular, I heard voices (wasn’t too alarmed, we were in a hotel), and noises like a small animal’s toenails catching in the carpet. A few times I “thought” I saw shadowy movements, but when I investigated, there was nothing.
I finally drifted off to sleep, to awaken a few hours later from heat. This is where it gets odd. Yes, there was 4 of us in this bed, and yes, that could have contributed to the heat, but I was drenched in sweat, it literally rolled down my skin, and my husband woke up the same way, within a minute of my discomfort, so he got up to check the air conditioner, and turn it to a cooler setting; he checked the wall thermostat and it read 69 degrees. There was no way it was accurate. He put the setting on 66 and returned to bed. We didn’t even pull the thin sheet over us. It got hotter, and my kids woke up sweating. We actually got up for a little while, to cool down, which was within a few minutes.
(I lived in a haunted house for a few years, that had burned and was built on the same foundation with some of the same bricks, and I know from experience that when a place has burned and is haunted, it can get very “hot” just the same as the “cold” spots that accompany most hauntings.) The Read House had burned before, so I really feel that this was a paranormal phenomenon in itself.
When morning came, I was very grateful to see daylight, and the only thing that we all heard that didn’t have an explanation was the sound similar to a woman moaning, and it seemed to rise right up from the bed.
I have to say, one night in room 311 was all I needed, because I was sleep deprived, so we moved on.
Now to the Silver Ball Room. When we returned home and looked at our pictures on our computer, the hair actually stood up on the back of my neck, and I got chills when I saw the images in the mirrors taken in the Silver Ball Room. Kids have great perception of things that we don’t always understand, and my youngest elementary aged child saw a soldier in that image. It wasn’t as clear to me at first, until I zoomed in on this dark shape, and definitely I could see the outline of a hat, and a very faint beard on the face. We caught some orbs, too, in the motel room and in the kitchen. But nothing excited me like the images in the mirrors.
Amazingly, when we went to the hotel, I knew of the mysterious female ghost that supposedly haunted room 311. I didn’t learn until after our return of the soldier that walked around on the 4th floor.
Note: Just a few hours ago when I was going through the video my daughter took, I was pleasantly surprised to hear an unknown female voice. This was during an excited moment when we first arrived and my daughter wanted to start filming the place. The entire clip is almost 30 minutes long, so I took fragments of the video and used in my youtube slide show. It was during this scene selection that I heard this voice seemingly say “I can’t stay here.”
That was a moving experience for me. It is almost like a hurried whisper, yet so distinct.
I can’t doubt that the Read House has ghosts….From my experience in life, spirits are like humans, they are very unpredictable, and they can’t be forced to make themselves known just because a human wants to see or hear something from their world. But I wasn’t disappointed in the visit.
For more info on the Read House, choose one of these links: