Living

Rooms with a Boo

Don't care to sleep alone? Check into one of these rooms in the Carolinas that some say are the haunts of benign and impish spirits.

THE BLUE ROOM

Litchfield Plantation, Kings River Road, Pawleys Island

This is one of the most venerable estates in the Carolinas, a rice plantation established in 1740; the Tucker family, originally from Bermuda, owned it for about a century. It passed out of their hands in 1897. Some, though, say the spirit of Dr. Henry Tucker, the last of the family to reside there, never left.

The mansion operates as a four-room inn these days - with the Red Room, Blue Room, Gun Room Suite and Ball Room Suite. Dr. Tucker's friendly presence has been noticed by guests throughout the antiques-filled house. Especially as of late.

"There's been a change in management here," says inn manager Terry Belanger, who has worked there almost 12 years. "The grounds have been cleared of shrubbery and a new patio has been built. I don't know if that has a thing to do with it, but between mid-July and the end of August, more guests have noticed him."

Two reported seeing someone on a sofa by the fireplace in the middle of the night. A guest climbing the stairs to the second floor felt a hand placed on her shoulder. A lodger in the Gun Room Suite saw a light in the canopy of the four-poster bed - though no light is mounted there.

After some unexplained incidents, guests have asked Belanger, sheepishly, if the place has ghosts.

The spirit, Belanger notes, is warm and welcoming: "There are no tragedies; no horror stories."

But there may be more ghosts.

In the back is a stairway perhaps three feet wide, and looking up from the ground floor, people have seen a figure at the top of the stairs, Belanger says. "It's supposedly a maid walking the stairs and counting her linens."

Belanger has never personally encountered the presence of Dr. Tucker. She's hoping that may come to pass.

The Blue Room is a likely spot: Back in the day, it was his room. It holds a four-poster bed carved with depictions of rice plants; from the window is a gorgeous view of about 200 acres of lawns and rice fields.

Rates: Rooms start at $220 as of next Sunday, with suites starting at $380. Rates drop Dec. 1-Feb. 28.

Details: 800-869-1410; www.litchfieldplantation.com.

ROOMS 107, 303 & CHRYSANTHEMUM ROOM

Meeting Street Inn, 173 Meeting St., Charleston; Jasmine House, 64 Hasell St., Charleston

The building at 173 Meeting Street has had several incarnations since it was built in 1874: a saloon, a brewery, a restaurant/nightclub, a succession of stores selling everything from auto parts to dental supplies - and for the last 28 years, an inn.

And somewhere along the line, it is said, a spirit came to roost there - make that "half" of one, according to Brien Limehouse, whose family has owned and operated Meeting Street Inn since the early 1990s. A guest called one evening from Room 107 to report a specter, a waist-up vision of a woman, at the foot of the bed.

The ghost opened the door and floated away before Limehouse got there, but the innkeeper does report having a paranormal experience in Room 303. Once, shortly after midnight, its keyholder reported being locked out. Limehouse went to the chamber and found 303 deadbolted shut - from the inside. When he got that taken care of, the proprietor still couldn't open the door - as though someone was pushing it closed from within the room.

Once finally inside, neither the proprietor nor the guest found anyone present.

The lodger was offered a different room, but preferred to stay in 303: He was amenable to sharing space with an invisible roommate good at keeping doors securely closed.

Limehouse says there have been other occurrences in other of Meeting Street Inn's 56 rooms, particularly in its older section.

Less than five blocks north on Meeting, and a block east on Hasel, there was a spirit encounter at another family property - the Jasmine House B&B. A guest in the Chrysanthemum Room awoke to find the shade of a woman near his bed - one who didn't want him to leave. The guest told Limehouse that it was the ghost who tore up his entire newspaper into the small pieces littering the floor.

Note: The Meeting House Inn and Jasmine House both feature private courtyards - great places to read your complementary newspaper without being disturbed.

Meeting Street Inn rates: $159-$250 per room and up depending on season, room and availability. Special rates often available online (current offer: $129 per night, Sunday-Thursday).

Details: 800-842-8022; www.meetingstreetinn.com.

Jasmine House rates: $199-$229 per room, through mid-November; lower in winter.

Details: 800-845-7639; www.jasminehouseinn.com.

ROOM 545, ROOM 320

Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, 290 Macon Ave., Asheville.

The story of the 1920s is often one of Jazz Age flappers who recklessly pursued pleasure - and eventually took the plunge.

That's the story that comes with Room 545. On a cool November night in the 1920s, it is said, a woman dressed in pink went to the atrium balcony outside her door and fell or leaped to the courtyard two stories below.

Hotel records from that time no longer exist, and newspapers mention no such event.

Was it hushed? Or is this the stuff of legend?

For years there have been occasional sightings by staffers and guests of the "Pink Lady" in and near Room 545. Paranormal researchers say they have detected a "presence" there. The Grove Park is well aware of the Pink Lady tales, but has no official policy about a spirit being one of their permanent guests.

The room today is suited in Arts & Crafts-style furnishings, a style appropriate to the Roaring '20s. Its exterior window overlooks the main entrance.

A writer stayed in Room 545 back in 2003; in her story, she noted she saw no spirit dressed in pink and passed the night uneventfully. The next morning, however, while peering over the waist-high atrium balcony, she felt "a great whooshing sensation" that seemed to suck the life from her.

David and Shanna May stayed at the Grove Park Inn early this month, but in Room 320. The honeymooners from Troy, Ala., enjoyed Asheville's sites and the inn before retiring for the night.

About 10:45 p.m., "We heard what sounded like a door jiggling, like someone was trying to get in," David May says. "I just laid there in bed for a minute. And in the room, we heard what sounded like kids walking on carpeting."

He checked the room and the doors. Nobody inside; no sign of lodgers in the hall outside.

The second evening, he heard Shanna get up in the middle of the night and head into the bathroom. Then he heard a racket - like someone in the bathroom kicking a metal wastebasket on the tiled bathroom floor.

"Through the closed bathroom door, my wife hollered, 'Baby? You OK? What are you doing out there?' Shanna, you see, thought I was making the noise, though I was in bed.

"I checked all the doors after she was back under the covers, and that was that for the night. Until - by itself - the open bathroom door slammed shut with the force of three grown men."

His wife insisted that they leave the inn the next morning - and wouldn't return to Room 320 after breakfast. David had to go back for their luggage. A bellman accompanied him.

"I told him the story of what happened to us, and he asked, 'What room are you in?' I told him, and he said, 'I don't think we've ever had anything happen there, but Room 545 is a whole different story. You don't know about the Pink Lady? She likes to play with people like that.'"

David then heard the Pink Lady legend - how a woman plunged from outside Room 545 and landed in the third-floor courtyard - not far down the hall from where the Alabama honeymooners stayed.

Rates: Rooms start at $279 in October; $189 in November.

Details: 800-438-5800; www.groveparkinn.com.

Special event: Friday through Nov. 2, Grove Park Inn is staging a Halloween Weekend; events include a jack-o'-lantern competition, craft-making, face-painting, story time, history tours, treat hunt and more.

ROOM 205

Balsam Mountain Inn, 68 Seven Springs Drive, Balsam, N.C.

You'll find Balsam off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Jackson-Hayward county line and just off U.S. 23/74. Balsam, population perhaps 50, was once a stop for railroad passengers who would stay up the hill at the Balsam Mountain Inn to enjoy tranquil Western North Carolina mountain vistas.

The hotel/resort was built in the early 1900s when the tracks were laid; its fortunes declined when the depot closed. In 1990, the historic property was restored as a drive-to getaway, its 107 original rooms consolidated into 50.

The three-story inn makes the most of its turn-of-the-century charm, the freight train still comes through the mountain pass twice a day, and Henry the ghost is still thought to be occupying Room 205.

Kim and Sharon Shailer bought the inn five years ago; a Travel Channel crew was there at the time the deal was closing - filming a segment on the inn's supernatural resident. Ghost hunters still come by now and again to measure paranormal traffic in Room 205.

"They say there's all kinds of activity - nothing specific - but I haven't had any paranormal experiences," Sharon says.

At least one guest may have, though. "This lady had a bad back and was always asking her husband to rub it," Sharon recalls. "The night she was sleeping in that room, she woke up and thought her husband was giving her a nice back rub. She turned around to give him a kiss and thank him - and saw he was sound asleep."

There's no record of any second-floor guest who met his end rubbing the wrong woman's back.

"I always tell guests that if they want a good back rub, that's the room where they should stay," Sharon says.

Rates: $145-$229 per room.

Details: 800-224-9498; www.balsammountaininn.com.

ROOM 252

The Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, N.C.

A 1959 photo of William Jacocks shows him with four other 1904 University of North Carolina grads who returned to teach at Chapel Hill. A serious-looking group, to a man.

You'd never guess that Jacocks, a physician and UNC professor, was actually a kindly gent who was fond of riddles and jokes. And who would've known his attachment to his alma mater might prove so ... enduring?

The Carolina Inn was built next to campus in 1924 to house visitors to the university, and Jacocks occupied quarters on the second floor from 1948 to 1965. Some who later spent the night in Room 252, an attractive, two-room suite, say his spirit never left.

Jacocks died in 1965 in Burke County, not at the inn. But old-school ties can be strong.

Guests and staff have since reported inexplicable music and murmuring in his rooms, and that objects have somehow been moved about. There have been reports of mysterious knockings on the walls. At least one over-nighter said the bed shook.

Various researchers of the paranormal say their sensors detected a "presence" in and around the professor's old chambers - enough to place the inn on the America's Top 10 Haunted Hotels list at about.com.

The most common occurrence involves doors that close on their own - or, once shut, refuse to open. The spirit's favorite trick, it is said, is to lock people out of Room 252. That's lock, as in resisting keys and (since the inn's 1990 renovation) electronic entry cards. On at least one occasion, staffers had to haul a ladder to the inn's exterior and enter 252 through a window. Another time the door so resisted opening that it had to be taken off its hinges.

Rates: Rooms start at $179 (suites at $259), based on availability.

Details: 800-962-8519; www.carolinainn.com.

Special event: Saturday, "An Evening with Dr. William Jacocks" features one night's lodging, dinner, presentation, tour and breakfast the next morning ($169/single; $110/double). Call, or book online (promo code "BOO"). Also Saturday, "Dinner with Dr. William Jacocks" features dinner, presentation and tour ($59 per person). Call for reservations.

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