stay at one of Boston's most haunted hotels
The stunning landmark has been a part of Boston’s historic district since 1855. The Omni Parker House is old-world elegance in a city rich in history, and hauntings. Harvey Parker, the founder, and visionary of the Hotel had an eye for detail, a passion for hosting, and great love for his Parker House. It seems that his hospitality has made it difficult for some guests to leave. Who are the phantom figures roaming the halls of the opulent hotel? Will they ever rest in peace?
"Such feasts! The laughs of many a pound hour That hook the mortar from King George’s tower; Such guests! What famous names its record boasts, Whose owners wander in the mob of ghosts! ~ Olive Wendell Holmes, Sr
Ask a Boston local what the most historically significant hotel is in their hometown and without missing a beat, “Omni Parker House” is their answer. Ask the same local what the most haunted hotel in Boston is and you’ll get the same answer, “Omni Parker House,” with an emphatic oomph!
Named for its founder, Harvey Parker (1805-1884), the Omni Parker House has an impressive repertoire of who’s who that have been guests over the many decades of the Hotel’s operation. It would seem that many loved the Hotel so much they returned, and have never checked out.
We’ve heard a few stories about the hauntings on the 10th floor of the Omni Parker House, making it hard to doubt the ghost rumors. “I first heard about the ghost of Harvey Parker when I began Working here in 1941,” John Brehm, longtime bellman for the Omni Parker House. The rumors, or rather, the warnings, rang true for Mr. Brehm.
The ghost of Mr. Parker didn’t deter Mr. Brehm from working at the Omni Parker House, and he willingly shared his experience at the Omni Parker House with the Boston Globe in 1992. In the interview, Mr. Brehm spoke to the stories and lore:
They used to say he roamed the halls on the tenth-floor annex. There were many stories, but one in particular happened around 1950. An elderly woman guest insisted she saw an apparition outside room 1078. At first it was a misty apparition in the air, then it turned toward her. She said it was a heavy set older man with a black mustache. He just looked at her, then faded away. She came downstairs, a bit jittery, and security went up to the tenth floor. They checked it out, but reported they could find nothing.
Harvey Parker was known as an impeccable host, but it seems he may now be crossing some boundaries. A mother and daughter were staying the night in room 1012 when the daughter awoke as the sun was rising. As she glanced around her room in the glow of the morning sun she saw a gentleman standing at the foot of her bed. He was dressed in a suit reminiscent of the 1800s and wearing a large grin. The girl smiled back to the gentleman, not feeling threatened by his presence, and just then, he vanished into the thin air.
As the mother and daughter made their way to the dining room for breakfast, the daughter could still feel his presence. They passed a portrait on the wall when the daughter gasped. The man in the portrait was the same man that had shown himself to her in the early hours of the morning and was none other than Harvey Parker.
Other guests on the 10th floor have claimed to hear the sound of a rocking chair, so loud it kept them up all night. The hotel doesn’t have any rocking chairs, on any floors. Room 1040 has had quite a few noise complaints on multiple occasions, but when security shows up to the room, the room is empty. Bellmen have reported “orbs” floating about the tenth- floor corridor and then disappearing into the nothingness. Are these all the doings of an anxious Harvey Parker?
Harvey Parker and the 10th floor are not the only stories of the Omni Parker House. Guests have claimed that on two consecutive mornings and at the exact same time, people were whispering outside their doorway. But each time they checked, there was nobody outside of their door-or in the hallway. Oddly, the guests claimed that the voices they heard were “friendly” sounding as if they were in a good mood.
Charles Dickens had spent some time on the 3rd floor during his visits to the Omni Parker House and some speculate he liked it so much he continues to return. Elevators are routinely called to the 3rd floor without the button being pushed on the inside or anyone waiting for it on the 3rd floor. Some guests have complained of the smell of whiskey and cigars in room 303, even after it had been cleaned. Too bad the ghost didn’t love fresh cut roses and lavender.
One of the oldest sections of the hotel is called the Bosworth section. A security officer was making his rounds one evening when he saw the shadow of a man coming down the corridor in the Bosworth section. He cordially stepped aside to allow the man to pass, when suddenly, the man was gone. Shaken and confused, he later realized that the phantom was wearing a stovepipe hat. Mr. Parker? Maybe.
"This is an immense hotel, With all manner of white marble public Passages and public rooms. I live in a corner, high up, and have a hot and cold bath in the bedroom (connecting with the sitting room) and comforts not in existence when I was here before. The cost of living is enormous, but happily we can afford it. ~ Charles Dickens
The rich and diverse history of Boston is reflected in the intriguing history of the Omni Parker House. Located on the Freedom Trail and at the foot of Boston’s famous Beacon Hill, Boston Common, Quincy Market, and Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Omni Parker House is in the heart of Boston and, like its hometown, has transcended the test of time.
As the colonies grew, many traditional concepts evolved to meet the needs of the New World. Travel was increasing and the standard of staying in a local tavern was no longer adequate. Women were not permitted in taverns and they normally consisted of a few rooms with a few beds, where strangers would share space after a night of beer and political debates. Not exactly a “civilized” option. By the 19th century, these simple taprooms evolved into “houses,” a precursor to the modern-day hotel.
In 1825, a twenty-year-old farm boy made his way to the big city, Boston, from Maine, in desperate need of a job. Harvey Parker procured a position as a caretaker for a horse and a cow, earning him $8.00 a month, and took on additional work as a coachman for a wealthy woman. The coachman position would not only raise his income and status but open doors for him to manifest his vision.
When a cellar cafe that twenty-seven-year-old Parker had frequented was offered for sale, Parker purchased it for $432.00. He grew the clientele over the next few years with excellent food and outstanding service. Lawyers, newspapermen, and Boston professionals alike made Parker’s cafe a regular destination for meals and meetings. By 1854, Parker was ready to embark on the next phase of his grand vision.
On April 22, 1854, Parker purchased the former Mico Mansion and in its place, built an ornate, five-story, Italianate-style stone and brick hotel. The first and second floors featured arched windows and the foyer was marble. It was a sophisticated elegance. Above the front door, “PARKER’S.”
The Parker House continued to lead the way in fine dining and luxury lodgings. Parker hired the best chefs and spared no expense on the guest experience. European chefs Sanzian and Bonello created menus that inspired the culinary world. But Parker didn’t stop at elevated cuisines, he also presented enticing cocktails and courageous concoctions like, the Sherry Cobbler, Mint Julep, Gin Sling, and the Timber Doodle. It’s no wonder why so many fascinating historical characters found themselves lingering at the Parker House.
Poets, philosophers, politicians, and performers were drawn to Harvey Parker’s House. Known as the Saturday Club, the illustrious group called the Parker House home. Notable members of the Saturday Club were Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dr. Oliver Windell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The Saturday Club’s meetings were afternoons of poetry readings, heated debates, and book discussions. It was here that Charles Dickens gave his first American reading of “A Christmas Carol.” There was constant intellectual stimulation, respectful camaraderie, multi-course meals, and copious amounts of spirits shared.
One of the performers that frequented the Parker House was Edwin Booth, older brother of John Wilkes Booth. During the 1860s, as the Civil War was desecrating the United States, Edwin proudly supported the Union cause and cast his vote for Abraham Lincoln in the mid-war elections of 1863. His brother, John Wilkes, was a Southern supporter and sternly disagreed with Edwin’s Union support.
John Wilkes Booth stayed at the Parker House on April 5th and 6th, 1865. It was reported in the Boston Evening Transcript of April 15, that he practiced his aim: “Borland saw Booth at Edward’s shooting gallery [near Parker’s], where Booth practiced pistol firing in various difficult ways such as between his legs, over his shoulder, and under his arms.” On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C.
Politics continued to play a role in the life of the Parker House. Boston’s City Hall was built facing the Parker House in 1865, making it on the line between City Hall and the State House. Generations of politicians assembled meetings and conferences at the Parker House, including Ulysses S. Grant, James Michael Curley, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Colin Powell, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, William Jefferson Clinton, and Deval Patrick. And the first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln stayed at the Parker House during her 1862 visit to Boston.
The list of famous guests that have graced the Omni Parker House Hotel is long and covers multiple centuries. The influential guests and their experiences inside the Hotel has made the Omni Parker House more than just a luxury hotel, it is a culturally significant museum of Boston and American history.
A compelling, contemporary, and proud part of Boston’s charm, the Omni Parker House Hotel exudes history and sophistication. The crystal chandeliers, dark wood, and impeccably polished fixtures are elegant features of the Hotel’s rich history and fascinating past. Weddings, receptions, balls, and weekend gatherings are all welcome to become a part of the Omni Parker House Hotel’s story.
No visit to Boston would be complete without a visit, much less a stay, at the Omni Parker House Hotel. The vibrant landmark is alive with the spirits of all those who found the Parker House so lovely that they just couldn’t stay away. It’s no wonder this Grand Dame of Boston hotels is still standing in all the glory of yesterday and today. Do yourself a favor, if you find yourself in Boston, book a room at the Omni Parker House Hotel, maybe on the tenth floor. Let Harvey Parker know his legacy continues to inspire and delight all those who have the honor of checking-in, so much so, some never check-out.