Haunted History of Douglas’ Gadsden Hotel

The historic Gadsden Hotel has long been the site of countless paranormal activities. Opened in 1907, the 160-room hotel was built as a lodge for cattlemen and ranchers working in Gadsden Purchase. The Gadsden Purchase is a 29,670-square-mile region (in present-day Arizona) that was purchased from Mexico under the Treaty of Mesilla in 1854. The deal, which was brokered by James Gadsden, costed United States $10 million, the equivalent of $332 million in today’s dollar.

Just 20 years into its opening, a massive fire on February 7th, 1928, destroyed nearly all of Gadsden hotel. Fortunately, funds was raised and the hotel was rebuilt on the very same same spot. The opulent hotel reopened to the public two years later in 1929.

The brand new Gadsden Hotel soon attracted a crowd of fans. The hotel is well known for its 42 feet long Tiffany & Co. stained glass murals and a solid white Italian marble staircase in the lobby’s centre. A chip in the staircase was reportedly caused by Pancho Villa who rode his horse up the stairs for a tour of the hotel.

Gadsden Hotel | Image credits: Glen Cunningham

Over the years, the hotel was frequented by several notable guests who have fell in love with the hotel’s elegance and exquisite service. It includes:

  • Francisco “Pancho” Villa, General of the Mexican revolution and Governor of Chihuahua
  • Anna Eleanor Roosevelt: American diplomat, activist, and first lady of the United States
  • Effie Anderson Smith: Renown landscape painter and pioneer settler of Arizona
  • Thornton Wilder: American playwright and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes

Yet, for a long time, the hotel suffered from a lack of repair and low occupancy. In 1988, wheat farmers Doris and Hartman Brekhus breathe life into the city’s historic landmark once again when they acquired ageing hotel. After a round of minor renovations, Gadsden Hotel reopened to the public under the management of the Brekhus family.

On August 26, 2013, the hotel was featured Hotel Impossible, a reality television series that seeks out and revitalize struggling hotels with an extensive makeover. In the same year, Gadsden Hotel renovated its lobby and first floor as part of a two-year renovation project. The hotel’s second-floor guest rooms separately received undergone a round of renovation in March of 2014. Rooms on the third floor, on the other hand, underwent a minor remodelling and are now marketed as “Historic Rooms”.

Gadsden Hotel | Image credits: AmericanExpeditioners @ Tripadvisor

In 2016, the historic hotel was purchased by Anel Florencio Lopez who bought over the building after the passing of former owner Hartman Brekhus. At present, Gadsden Hotel, a listee on the National Register of Historic Places, continues to serve tourists and locals visiting the city of Douglas.

Hauntings at Gadsden Hotel

According to patrons and staffs of the hotel, Gadsden Hotel is haunted by former guests who have enjoyed their time so much that they have decided to stay on after their death.

In 1991, hotel manager Robin Brekhus was at the hotel’s basement when she encountered the apparition of a faceless man floating down the hallway. Many attribute the hauntings in the basement to Pancho Villa, whose head is believed to have been cut off by his beloved followers and buried under Gadsden Hotel. In a separate incident, restaurant supervisor Brenda Maley experienced the “harassment” of a ghostly figure as it pinned on her in room 114.

Former hotel manager Robin Brekhus opening Room 333 | Image credits: Reuters

“He just kind of floated down the hallway. It just looked like fog to me, but it was the shape of a person.”

– Hotel Manager Robin Brekhus during her encounter with an apparition in the basement in 1991

Room 333 is said to be Gadsden Hotel’s most haunted room, although there have been no records of deaths or incident in the room. The legend speaks of a young family who spent the night in room 333. In a freak accident, the family’s young son fell to his death from the window. Some of the paranormal activities reported by guests include unexplainable knocks from the radiators, TVs turning on and off at will, and whispers. In one account, a couple staying in Room 333 heard the sounds of a key turning the room’s lock. Before they could react, the door flung open but no one was to be seen. Horrified, the two ran off to the hotel’s counter in their nightwear; the staffs promptly acceded to their request for a change of rooms.

Over the years, the countless reported hauntings have attracted hordes of paranormal investigators and amateur ghost hunters, all looking for a chance encounter with the paranormal. Numerous guests of the hotel have also written their haunted experiences in a book that is now kept behind the front desk.

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