Ghosts of Hotel Bethlehem

Several ghosts are said to haunt the historic Hotel Bethlehem, many of which are former guests of the hotel who have stayed on after their passing.

The most popular resident ghost is Mary Augusta “May” Yohé, a musical theatre actress born in Eagle Hotel in April 1866. From young, Yohé would entertain guests at the hotel by dancing and singing at the lobby. She went on perform across across the country during the early decades of the 20th century. Yohé went through several marriage including nobleman Lord Francis Hope and Captain Bradlee Strong. Today, guests of Hotel Bethlehem report seeing the apparition of Yohé on the third floor lobby and exercise area. Yohé is also said to be responsible for the mysterious piano sounds being played in the middle of the night.

Another ghost said to haunt Hotel Bethlehem is Francis “Daddy” Thomas, a courier said to have a disregard for danger in order to accomplish his deliveries in time. Thomas came close to death on several occasions. Once, he was thrown off the horse when the animal went berserk. With the growth of Bethlehem, Thomas became a local town guide, giving visitors tours of the city. His candor and spirit of service won the respect of both locals and visitors alike. After his death on April 4th 1822, visitors reported seeing an apparition of Thomas attending to guests at Hotel Bethlehem. The ghost of Thomas was also sighted on numerous occasion in the hotel’s boiler room.

Ghostly shadow of “Man in a Hat” at Pioneer Tap Room | Image credits: patch.com

Last but not least, the ghost couple of Mrs Brong and her husband are believed to haunt the land where Hotel Bethlehem stands now. The couple were former landlords of “The Eagle” hotel but were promptly terminated by the Moravian committee when it was made known that Mr. Brong would often join customers for a drink. On the other hand, Mrs Brong received several complaints from guests of the hotel for walking around the hotel lobby without any shoes or stockings.

In 1833, the committee terminated the Brong couple and repossessed ownership of the hotel barely six months after it was handed to the duo. Staffs of Hotel Bethlehem now says that the ghost of Mrs Brong haunts the hotel’s restaurant as an act of vengeance. The sighting of a woman in period clothing with no shoes was reported on multiple occasions by guests of the hotel.

History of Hotel Bethlehem

Hotel Bethlehem (also known as Historic Hotel Bethlehem) dates back to 1921 when it was commissioned by Bethlehem Hotel Corporation. The hotel is located at 437 Main St., Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and sits on the land where “The Golden Eagle” hotel once stood. In 1823, The Golden Eagle was demolished to make way for the newer “The Eagle” hotel. The site was also formerly the grounds of Moravian missionaries’ famous log house, the First House of Bethlehem.

Drawing of Eagle Hotel at Bethlehem | Image credits: Library of Congress

In 1921, with funding secured from American steel magnate Charles M. Schwab and other investors at Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Corporation demolished the The Eagle and constructed the opulent Hotel Bethlehem which opened for business on May 20, 1922. The state-of-the-art, fireproof hotel featured 200 guests rooms and was one of the finest in Bethlehem.

In 1937, military artist George Gray was commissioned to decorate the Pioneer Tap Room with eight murals that have since become a popular ‘attraction in the hotel.

On the tragic day of January 29th, 1989, a massive fire on the 4th and 5th floor resulted in the death of four hotel guests while over a dozen were inured from smoke inhalation and minor burns. The incident was reportedly triggered by the insertion of the plug of a traveling iron which caused a large flash from the power outlet and sparked off a fire on a nearby chair.

Fire at Hotel Bethlehem in 1989 | Image credits: Morning Call

In the 1990s, the demise of Bethlehem Steel prompted the hotel to cease operations. Years later, a group of local investors banded together and purchased the defunct Hotel Bethlehem, determined to restore the historic property to its former grandeur.

It is presently a member of the Historic Hotels of America. In 2021, the 125-room Hotel Bethlehem won the top spot in USA Today’s 10BEST Readers Choice Awards for “Best Historic Hotel.”

Historic Hotel Bethlehem | Image credits: hotelplanner.com

Famous Guests at the Hotel

Over the years, Hotel Bethlehem have played hosts to several notable figures in the country.

Of all guests who have stayed in the hotel, none was more important than Charles Schwab, who made the construction of Hotel Bethlehem with his investments. The hotel is said to be constructed in its entirety with steel from Bethlehem Steel.

In 1928, Amelia Earhart attended a Bethlehem Rotary Club reception organized at Hotel Bethlehem. She had flown from Rochester, New York to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in just under three hours. In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic ocean.

In 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, made a trip to Bethlehem hotel in an attempt to settle the ongoing strike at Bethlehem Steel. The 116-day long strike, named the “Steel Strike of 1959”, occurred after the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) was forced to give up a contract clause which would give the management more power over the ability to change the number of workers assigned to a task or to introduce new machineries. The strike concluded with the union retaining the clause and gaining a minimal wage increase.

A year later, in 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy (JFK) visited the Lehigh Valley as part of his campaign for the 35th president of the United States. It was said that the hotel was then in such a state of disrepair that hotel general manager Ned Book had to gather furnitures from different rooms on the 8th floor to make Bethlehem Steel suite habitable for JFK and his assistant Pierre Salinger.

In 2008, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was on a six-day visit at Lehigh University. While Gyatso was originally arranged to stay at a monastery in New Jersey, the long distance prompted staffs of the team to transfer him to a hotel in Hotel Bethlehem. The hotel management purportedly cleared out an entire floor to house the Dalai Lama and his team.

14th Dalai Lama | Image credits: BusinessMirror

Other guests who have stayed in Hotel Bethlehem include:

  • Ozzie Nelson and the Ozzie Nelson Band, which included his wife Harriet Hilliard
  • William F. Buckley Jr., American political commentator and founder of the National Review
  • Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Bert Lahr, American comedian and vaudevillian.
  • Henry Kissinger, diplomat and United States Secretary of State.
  • Phyllis Diller, American stand-up comedian and musician.
  • Billy Joel, renown song-writer and composer
  • Shirley Temple, child actress turned singer, diplomat, and Chief of Protocol of the United States
  • Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States
  • Ozzy Osbourne, English singer and former lead vocalist of Black Sabbath
  • Jack Nicklaus, retired professional golfer and one of the greatest of all time.
  • Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
  • Counting Crows, American rock band
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, film actor, former bodybuilder, and governor of California
Winston Churchill in Hotel Bethlehem | Image credits: Morning Call

The Haunted Room 932

Room 932 is said to be the most haunted room in the historic Hotel Bethlehem. Several guests who have spent the night in the room have experienced inexplicable events such as flickering lamps, zooming orbs of lights, and papers flying off the desks. In one incident, a couple reported being awaken by a man in boxers standing in front of the bed and asking “Why are you in my room?”

Room 932 in Hotel Bethlehem | Image credits: Bill Adams

The multiple hauntings have attracted a slew of paranormal investigators to investigate the haunted room 932. Some of the electronic voice phenomena (EVP) caught include “look out of the window”, “What a beautiful bathroom”, and “I’ve locked myself in the closet.”

Over at the bathroom, visitors reported seeing the bizarre reflection of a totally different bathroom in the room’s bathroom mirror. Yet, room 932 continues to be one of the most requested rooms by visitors of Bethlehem hotel. Guests looking to book room 932 are to contact the hotel directly to make a special reservation.

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