The Haunted Hotel Monteleone
At the intersection of Royal and Iberville Streets in the French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleone is an imposing structure. Dapper doormen stand true and confident at the front entrance, just as others in that position have since the late 19th century. In the large, over-scale windows to the right of the front doors, twinkling yellow lights catch the eyes of pedestrians as they meander past. Those lights belong to the hotel's Carousel Bar & Lounge, in which the floor of the bar circles, and has been rotating since the Carousel Bar & Lounge opened in 1950. The bar's motto: "We've Been Spinning for 65 Years."
From other vantage points in the French Quarter--and even while driving on certain parts of the I-10 highway--Hotel Monteleone is most recognizable by its illuminated sign on top of the hotel. The hotel's name is emblazoned in a vibrant red for all to see and was first erected in the early 1900s. Newer technology no doubt could have replaced this trademark sign, but according to Kent Wasmuth, the hotel's Director of Sales and Marketing, it is a testament to the Hotel Monteleone's historical value as a property that the illuminated sign has remained untouched for over a century. As Wasmuth says, the sign has "remained intact through many storms and bad weather over all the years." To all of the hotel's guests, and even to passerby, he suggests to "check it out on a clear night from a distance and you will see why I like that beacon in the night skies." (Admittedly, it is Wasmuth's favorite part of the hotel). In all ways, the Hotel Monteleone is a landmark of not only passed time, but also of hopes and dreams and dedication.
But while the Hotel Monteleone exudes luxury and timeless elegance, the Beaux-Arts stye building and the play of shadows on the architectural facade during the evening hours display a haunting quality to all who wander past. Within good reason, of course.
Type "haunted hotels in New Orleans" into your Google search bar, and the list you'll find is extensive. After all, New Orleans is reportedly America's Most Haunted City. But no matter how extensively you research, there is no denying that the Hotel Monteleone will always be mentioned near the top of the list and will always be considered to be one of the Crescent City's most haunted hotels.
America in the late 19th century was the land of opportunity. The obscenely rich era of the Gilded Age in the early 1900s had not officially kicked in yet, but undoubtedly people from all over the world had their eye on the United States. Tales of unimaginable wealth and of new beginnings had circulated for decades. For some people who arrived in America, good fortune was in their favor; for others, the impending struggle was a much more tangible reality.
But guts and dedication triumphed for many, and Sicilian born Antonio Monteleone was no exception. He'd heard of the promise of America and decided that he, too, wanted to dip his hand into the pot and try his luck in the land famous for opportunity and personal gain. In 1880, Antonio sold his shoe factory in Sicily and made his way to New Orleans, Louisiana. When he arrived in the bustling Southern city, he purchased a cobbler shop on the ritziest of all the streets in New Orleans during that era: Royal Street. Within a few scant years, the taste of more had sunk in for the Sicilian-born Antonio. So, when a 64-room hotel on Royal Street was offered up for sale in 1886, Antonio snagged the opportunity for what it was: prosperity. Not long after, the Commercial Hotel next door also was placed for sale and Antonio purchased that building, too.
Over the next thirty-some years, Antonio Monteleone would expand his burgeoning hotel empire. In 1903, he added 30 guestrooms; in 1908, during the midst of a national financial depression, Antonio commissioned the architects Albert Toledano and Victor Wogan to flourish the exterior of the hotel with ornate features as well as to add 300 more rooms. He changed the hotel's name from the Commercial Hotel to the now famous Hotel Monteleone. You've got to wonder if Antonio had any idea how wealthy he would become when he left Sicily for an unknown future. Antonio ultimately died in 1913, and his son, Frank Monteleone, inherited the grand hotel. (Though no one has confirmed that Antonio's ghost still haunts the hotel, I'd have to imagine it does. With such a passion for the business he started nearly from scratch, it seems unlikely Antonio would not want to stick around and ensure things were still going accordingly).
After Antonio's death, the hotel passed through to his son, Frank, and then on to his grandson, Bill. It is said that by 1926, the hotel had installed radios and whirling ceiling fans in each of its guestrooms--quite a technological feat so early on! Further additions to the hotel were completed in 1928, one year before another heavy economic crisis, in which the Hotel Monteleone was the only establishment of its kind in New Orleans to remain open and functioning throughout the stock market crash. By 1954, however, the beautiful Hotel Monteleone began showing signs of wear and tear, age no doubt creeping up on the early twentieth-century building to tap it on the shoulder, a reminder of marked time despite enormous success. The original building was then demolished to make way for a new foundation and structure that reflected its initial Beaux-Arts flare and appeal. More guest suites were built, as well as ballrooms, dining rooms and two cocktail lounges. Bill Monteleone even added more floors, guestrooms and a sky terrace, which was even equipped with swimming pools.
The Hotel Monteleone may be haunted and over a century old, but it certainly can never be considered bland.
Just as famous for its ghosts, the Hotel Monteleone is also very well known for the number of literary greats who have considered the hotel "home" during their stays in New Orleans. Authors such as Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway were all frequent guests of the hotel and even incorporated elements of the property into their literary works. Hemingway briefly mentioned the Hotel Monteleone in his short story, "Night before the Battle," while Southern writer Faulkner not only stayed at the hotel during his honeymoon, but he also wrote his novel The Sound and the Fury during one of his stays. Tennessee Williams, too, was staying at the hotel when he wrote The Rose Tattoo.
The literary giants of the Hotel Monteleone aren't limited to the early twentieth century, though. Even the American novelist Truman Capote couldn't get enough of the Hotel Monteleone. Rumor has it that he used to sit downstairs in the Carousel Bar & Lounge, sip his cocktails--the bar is most known for its Sazarac and Ramos Gin Fizz, by the way--while informing anyone who would listen that he had, in fact, been born in the Hotel Monteleone.
He wasn't born there, but only because his mother hailed a taxi just as she was about to go into labor. She birthed Truman Capote in Touro hospital like many other New Orleanians then and since then, but no doubt as a storyteller, Capote sought fit to add a little something extra--lagniappe, the New Orleanians would say--to his story. (He also decided to mention it on air while completing a segment on The Tonight Show.)
The literary greats of the Hotel Monteleone did not end with Truman Capote. Since then, witch and vampire authoress Anne Rice has stayed at the hotel, as well as Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham. In 1998, the Friends of Library Association decided to make the Hotel Monteleone a literary landmark, making it one of only three hotels in the United States to hold such a title.
Hey, Antonio Monteleone clearly knew what he was doing when he first purchased that unknown 64-room hotel back in 1880.
Little did he know that his beloved hotel--famous for its beauty, high-class style and literary guests--would also become known for its apparitions and paranormal activity.
For generations, near on a century, guests of the Hotel Monteleone have reported spotting ghosts or experiencing strange things during their stay at the hotel. And it's no wonder, right? The hotel is over a hundred years old, and with 600 guestrooms, the number of people coming and going is tremendously high. It would be even stranger if a hotel that old didn't have any ghosts still lingering around.
According to the employees of the hotel, however, none of the ghosts who still inhabit the property are aggressive or angry. Having spoken at length with paranormal investigators who have completed overnight stays at the hotel, Kent Wasmuth feels secure in the fact that any ghosts still residing at the hotel are friendly in nature. Thankfully, he adds, "there are not any aggressive or mysterious happenings that would want to cause any harm." Which is sort of a nice change of pace in a world where people staying in haunted buildings are sometimes pushed down stairs or experience other aggressive energy directed toward them.
(I don't know about you, but I like the idea of some friendly, welcoming spirits. After all, a hotel is meant to be your home away from home during vacation. Fortunately, the ghosts of the Hotel Monteleone are more likely to greet you with an incorporeal hug than anything else).
In 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research ventured into the Hotel Monteleone for an overnight investigation. They'd previously heard of the hotel's paranormal acclaim and Dr. Larry Montz, the lead paranormal investigator, was interested in discovering just how haunted the Haunted Hotel Monteleone was in reality.
Turns out: it was pretty haunted.
Montz and his other investigators unearthed over a dozen entities during their stay. Some spirits, they discovered, were previous employees of the hotel. Men like William "Red" Wildemere, who died of natural causes within the hotel, had never left. Downstairs in the lobby, the restaurant door was always reported by guests and employees alike of opening and shutting on its own volition. The investigators realized quickly that the door actually remained locked and it was operated by a push-button off to the side. Without AC blowing--and without someone actually pressing the button to release the catch--the restaurant door ought to have remained shut. Ought to, being the key words. With the use of various ghost hunting equipment, the investigators were able to uncover that the moving door was on account of two ghosts of previous employees, one who had been a chef and the other who had been a buss-boy or waiter. Apparently, one of the spirits prefers to have the door open, which results in an ongoing, paranormal feud of door open/door shut politics.
But Montz and his investigators were more concerned with the ghost of a little boy named Maurice Begere, who still likes to play pranks on the 14th floor. In the late 1800s, it seems that Maurice's parents, Josephine and Jacques, were frequent guests of the Hotel Monteleone. They were even more frequent guests of the French Opera House on Bourbon Street. But the opera was certainly no place for three-year-old Maurice, and so he was routinely left at the hotel with a nanny as his parents went to enjoy the nightlife of the French Quarter. One night when his parents were out, Maurice fell gravely ill. His temperature spiked, his little body convulsing with sickness. Though his nanny tried to tend to him as much as she could, the fever was much too high and Maurice passed away that night. When the Begeres returned from the opera, they were horrified to find that their son was dead. Josephine was so distraught that she demanded her husband bring her back to the Hotel Monteleone every year so that she could hopefully come in contact with her dead son's spirit. Some years later, she apparently did. The ghost of Maurice appeared to her in the dead of night. Tears stained Josephine's cheeks as she allegedly gripped her son's apparition in a tight embrace. Leaning back, Maurice's spirit assured her, "Mommy, don't cry. I'm fine."
No doubt Maurice is just "fine," but his spirit continues to wander the hotel on the 14th floor where he perished. Numerous guests on that particular floor have reported waking up in the dead of night only to hear child-like laughter, and then see the apparition of a toddler totter past them as though playing or perhaps seeking his now long dead parents.
The ghost of Maurice Begere has not been the only sighting on the 14th floor of the Hotel Monteleone.
One night a couple entered the elevator on the lobby of the hotel. They pressed the number for their appropriate floor and found themselves in a tight embrace. (In an attempt to keep this article PG-Rated, "found themselves" sounds like the best way to phrase it). They were so otherwise preoccupied that they didn't realize the elevator had stopped on the wrong floor, the 14th floor. The door pinged open, and the couple stepped out, eager to head back to their hotel suite. But the moment that the elevator door closed behind them, the air around them grew cold, the skin on their arms prickling as an inkling of awareness edged out the passion. Holding hands, they slowly made their way down the hallway; with each foot planted on the ground, the already cool air grew that much colder and a chill shuddered down their spines. They rounded the bend in the corridor, and nearly released a scream at the ghostly scene before them.
Although the couple hightailed it back to the elevator with record speed, what they saw was imprinted in their memory. Apparitions of children playing in the middle of the hall; children not wearing present-day clothing, but clothing of a bygone era. Of child-like giggles. Then, one by one, each child's apparition stopped to stare at the couple, before vanishing from sight.
Who these ghostly children might have been in a previous era is a mystery. Various other paranormal investigators over the years have come in contact with a 10-year-old boy, who also likes to frequently visit the 14th floor. Though the spirit informed the investigators through EVP sessions that he died at a later age, he apparently likes to return to the Hotel Monteleone as a young boy so he can play with the other spirits of children who remain at the hotel.
In reality, the haunted 14th floor of the Hotel Monteleone is not really the 14th floor. Instead, the 14th is actually the 13th, though no where does it say "13th" because the 13th floor does not actually exist.
Strangely enough, for a period in history, hotel architects and other property were so superstitious that they decided that it was best not to have a 13th floor. The number 13 has always been linked with superstition, and many building owners opted to avoid having a 13th floor to avoid any bad karma or omens that might be attributed to the number. Some owners did so in the hope that their hotel or business would flourish, while others decided against a 13th floor on the chance that their tenants on that floor or employees were themselves superstitious and would not to visit or work for the company.
Otis Elevators even released a survey claiming that approximately 85% of the buildings that contain their elevators do not have a 13th floor.
Whether the 13th floor legend has been rooted in fact or fiction, it is obvious that someone in the Monteleone line either was personally superstitious or worried that the hotel's guests might be so, and decided that creating a 14th floor instead was the better way to go about it. Is it just a strange coincidence, then, that the 14th floor of the hotel is also allegedly the most haunted?
The passionate couple are not the only one's to have experienced weird things with the elevator on this floor. A family staying on the 15th floor always chose to use the elevator during their stay. But, creepily enough, no matter if they were riding up or down, the elevator always stopped on the 14th floor. The two daughters, both of whom were under the age of seven, were understandably frightened and told their mother they wanted to take the stairs instead. The mother decided to conduct her own paranormal investigation: leaving her daughters in their hotel room, she rode the elevator alone. Twice. The elevator did not stop on the 14th floor, and she figured it was just a mishap. She assured her young girls that there was nothing to be worried about-- "I rode it myself," she said confidently-- but when the three took the elevator down to the lobby, it again stopped on the 14th floor.
Needless to say the young girls probably never wanted to ride the elevator again.
But as to why the elevator itself seems to be haunted? It seems less likely that the elevator is haunted, and more likely that the ghosts of the 14th floor are manipulating it to suit their own desires.
Is it the ghosts of the children that the couple stumbled across? Are they looking for someone to play with? (This is when I like to remind myself that the Hotel Monteleone's employees and management stress that the ghosts of the hotel are friendly and playful, not angry or naughty).
Whether you come to stay the night at the Hotel Monteleone because of its ghosts and hauntings or because it is such a part of New Orleans' history, and one of the only surviving family-owned hotels in the country, there is no doubt that the Hotel Monteleone offers some of the best hotel experiences in the French Quarter. Just recently, the hotel was nominated by the City Business Magazine as one of the Best Places to Work award. As Kent Wasmuth, the Hotel Monteleone's Director of Sales and Marketing, explained to me, the hotel stands apart, not only because of its historic value within New Orleans, but also because of the longevity and experience of its staff. "We [the hotel] have 404 full time employees and the tenure along with that total years of service to the hotel represents 2,657 years," he says. (I immediately imagining lining each person up as a pseudo-timeline and realized that the extent of the staff's experience would place us in the time of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt). Staying the night at the Hotel Monteleone is synonymous with meeting and talking with some of the best staff that the hospitality industry has to offer.
So, if you're in search for rooftop views of the New Orleans' skyline, a visit to a spa or having a cocktail at the world renown Carousel Bar & Lounge, look no further than the Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is not only pet friendly (for those traveling with their four-legged companions) but with other amenities like a fitness center, a swimming pool and on-site valet parking (because we all know parking in the French Quarter is a pain), the Hotel Monteleone seeks to make your experience in the Crescent City the best you've ever had. Seated directly in the French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleone is amidst all the bustle and excitement of the city's oldest neighborhood. But more importantly, Kent Wasmuth says, "the Hotel Monteleone is a real reflection of the city and our employees embody the culture of the area."
Step back in time where Antonio Monteleone first started his legendary hotel, where literary greats have dined and drank, and where movies like Double Jeopardy and The Last Time have been filmed. And if you're feeling brave, book yourself a room on the haunted 14th floor and listen carefully. Do you hear the ghostly chatter of children, or the haunting sounds of the elevator beeping its arrival only to hear the doors clank shut moments later?
If you're looking for the perfect way to learn more about haunted New Orleans, check out one of our New Orleans Ghost Tours. We look forward to showing you around our beautifully haunted city.