Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghosts at the Claremont Resort (my own experience)

I'm in Berkely, California for a women's conference.  My 16 year old daughter came with me and we're staying at a lovely, 85-year old hotel overlooking San Francisco Bay.  We got here about a week ago and definitely had an interesting first 24 hours. 

The Claremont Resort
(Click on the name above to see a pic of the hotel.  We were staying on the far left end.)

Beautiful hotel lobby:

We've since changed rooms, but our original room was on the 4th floor, at the very far end of the hotel, Room 416.

Long hallways.  Eerily quiet at that end of the hallway where our room was located. Room was smallish, but cozy enough with a view. But something just didn't feel right. Did not sleep well at all. Neither did my daughter.  (I usually don't have any problem sleeping in hotels.) We kept hearing noises from the people in the room above and next door, and doors slamming shut.

In the morning, my daughter said, "Mom, I don't like this room." She had done a google search and found out that the 4th floor has had reported hauntings, one room in particular (not ours). I said it'd be alright, but in the back of my mind I was already thinking that I didn't want to spend another night on that floor.

In the evening we went downstairs and chatted with the bellman about good places for dinner. He said that since things were slow, he'd be happy to give us a tour after we had dinner. Said he'd take us to the 4th floor, there's "lots of trippy things there." We said, "We're staying on the 4th floor..." He asked which room and we told him. He didn't say anything, just that he'd be happy to give us a tour of the rest of the hotel later.

At dinner, my daughter said she really, really didn't want to stay in that room. So when we got back from dinner, we asked the desk clerk if we could change rooms. He smiled and asked if we'd been talking to the bellman. We said we hadn't heard his stories yet, but we'd maybe like to hear them after we changed rooms. We said we just didn't feel comfortable where we were and we'd really like to change rooms and move to another floor. Then the desk clerk said, "Don't worry, we'll get you out of there." Now THAT confirmed to me that something was not right on that floor.

Moved to another floor, and we immediately felt better. There was just something really unsettling about the 4th floor.

Talked to the bellman later. First of all, there is no floor above our old room. So there were no people above us making those noises. And there was no one in the room next door, either. Also, the bellman said the room next door supposedly has a lady in white who passes through that room. My daughter said that during the night she stretched out and her hand touched the wall (of the adjoining room) and it felt hot and "weird." She pulled her hand back and couldn't sleep.

There are stories about a young girl who reportedly haunts the 4th floor, playing with guests and the hotel staff. And the bellman told us a story about one guest who came down to the lobby in the morning, pale and shaking.  The guest said there were "people coming out of the walls" of his room on the 4th floor.  The bellman told us about another couple who pushed the record button on their phone as they were walking up to the hotel. They weren't talking to each other, but as they played it back, there were voices, one of a young girl saying "Mama." When I heard that story, it reminded me of something I heard when I used my cell phone and called my husband earlier in the day (while we were still in the old room). I called his cell but it didn't ring right away. So I called again, this time, before he answered, I distinctly heard a young girl's voice saying "Mama" just before my husband said hello. I remember thinking, "How did a child get on the line?" Really weird.

The bellman (who's been here 9 years and has seen and heard a lot) said that a ghost hunters team did come here to investigate a couple of years ago. He said it was a big team and they came in disguise so as not to alarm the guests. They kept interviewing him about things that went on. He didn't say if the story every aired.

My sister called and she googled and found more stories from guests. Similar stories to ours about noises and hearing a little girl saying "Mama."

Funny thing is that my daughter and I both watch "ghost hunters" on TV, but to find ourselves in the middle of a real-life adventure is a whole 'nother thing. My daughter had wanted to go on a ghost tour while we're here, but we've nixed that idea. We're not going to Alcatraz either, we figure we've had our fill of creepy stuff.

Another story from the bellman I forgot to mention. Two women were in a room and they heard a knock on the door. They answered it and no one was there. Another knock, they unlocked the door and again, no one was there. Then, as they're in bed, the SAW the deadbolt turning and the chain lock being undone!!! If that happens, I'm sleeping in the lobby.....

Also, there's a story that a lady died in a fire in room 417--the room directly next to ours. Maybe that would explain why my daughter said the wall felt "hot" when she touched it.

None of the spirits here are reported as being harmful, just playful. The maids and other guests have reported lights flickering, televisions going on while you're in the shower, and drawers opening by themselves. Nevertheless, there's a distinctly eerie feeling when you go to the 4th floor. We didn't even know any of the stories when we got here, yet we could feel something strange as soon as we stepped off the elevator.  I just attributed it to being an old hotel.

This is a pic of the 4th floor hallway with our original room on the left.  (We walked down 3 hallways like this to get to our room at the end of the hotel.)  Our room is the next to the last door. At the end you can see a firedoor which leads to a stairwell (used for emergencies only).  There are no rooms across from ours, only windows. 

During the night, I kept hearing what I thought was the stairwell door slamming or the next-door room door slamming shut. Every time I'd open our door to look out, I never saw anyone. Yesterday I asked the desk clerk if anyone was staying in the end room the same night we were. He said no one was in that room. And I asked him if the security guards or anyone uses the end doorway. He said no, no one uses those doors. My daughter and I both heard noises in the room (and from the non-existent room above us), so I know I wasn't imagining things.

Since we've changed rooms, nothing out of the ordinary has happened.  Tonight is Halloween, but I'm not planning to do any ghost-hunting.

Other than the strange experiences, I've found the hotel to be quite charming!

UPDATE:  We're back home, safe and sound.  During the last couple of days of my stay, almost every staff member I spoke to had a story or experience to relate.  Here's one more from a lady in the gift shop.  She said that when the hotel was undergoing a renovation, she and another staff member visited Room 422 (or maybe it was 423, she couldn't remember).  They walked into the room and looked around.  They looked into the bathroom, but neither of them could go in.  She said it was as if both of them got a message saying, "Don't come in."  They looked at each other and knew they weren't going in.  She said it was the weirdest feeling.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's all in your perspective

Last night I was editing some images to give them an "old Hollywood glamour" type of feel.  When I asked my 16-year old daughter what she thought of the "old" look, she said "Oh--the 1970s!!" 

Big pause.   I told her this was supposed to reflect the '30's and 40's.  She looked at me and said, "Mom, I was born in 1993.  EVERYTHING is old to me!"

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's not what you have, but what you do with what you have

Last night I went to a photographer's meetup in Ewa Beach. We were meeting to practice our skills at shooting the full moon. While we were waiting, I decided to take some shots, but the scene wasn't very pretty or very colorful. It was hazy out, there was a light mist in the air, and only the faintist hint of color in the sunset. It was pretty enough, so I took some shots and figured I'd see what I could bring out in post-processing.

Here's the same pic after I did a little processing to it. As you can see, there really was a lot of color behind all the blandness. And that got me thinking about how often we only see the surface, when all the beauty is really there just waiting for someone to notice. We just need to take the time to develop it a little more fully. Think about it. What's there for you to bring out of yourself--or what can you help to bring out in someone else?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't sit in the dark

After I dropped my daughter off for school this morning, I decided to get a bite to eat and have some coffee from a favorite family restaurant. The waiter started to lead me to a dark, quiet table at the back of the restaurant. But I spied a nice booth next to a window where the sunlight was streaming in. I asked for that table. He looked at me and said, "Oh, I didn't think you'd want to be in the sun."

The spot was bright, cheery and filled with sunlight. I had a nice breakfast, sipped my coffee and made notes on some new and exciting things I plan to do. Sitting in the warm sunshine set my mood for the whole day.

Thank goodness I didn't let him put me in the dark corner.

Are YOU letting anyone put you in a dark corner? Take action and move to a different table!