Think blood-stained carpets and spectral little girls roaming hotel corridors can only be found in Stephen King novels? Maybe you haven’t heard the stories circulating at D.C.’s own haunted hotel, the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park.
Built in 1930, the Omni Shoreham’s art deco halls and stately rooms have held maybe as many ghosts as high profile guests over the years... at least according to legend, and the hotel's Director of Sales Handan Bas-Bailey.
After the hotel's construction, a minority shareholder and wealthy businessman, Henry Doherty, moved with his family to an exquisite eighth floor apartment with the executive housekeeper of the hotel, Juliette Brown.
Brown woke up ill one morning and reached for the phone to dial a doctor, Bas-Bailey told us. A few hours later, an engineer noticed a phoneline was off the hook, and he discovered her dead, with a phone hanging just inches from her hand.
The coroner reported she died of natural causes, but later, the Doherty family's daughter also died in the suite, leading to rumors of suicide or a drug overdose.
The family left the suite in 1973, after four decades of residence, and for a number of years, the suite remained empty and shut off from the rest of the hotel.
Despite this, the hallway around the suite had a number of minor disturbances, like moving carts and unexplained breezes, said Bas-Bailey.
Noise complaints consistently came in from other guests on the floor according to Chief engineer of the hotel Steven Polli. Director of Security Ralphaello McKeython remembered a particularly strange complaint involving loud piano playing on the floor.
The guests didn’t know the history, but every complaint was logged to hotel staff who knew the truth -- the suite where the sounds were coming from had been empty for years, and besides that, there was no piano on the 8th floor.
In 1997, the hotel decided to renovate the suite. During renovations, a worker fell to his death from the balcony, according to Dollie Robinson who cleaned the suite for almost five years.
Some of the more superstitious staff members refuse to even go up there alone, and complaints from neighbors still come in frequently.
“We’ve had several cases where guests... called in some sound complaints on the floor,” said Bas-Bailey, who's only worked at the Omni Shoreham for about five months.
Robinson never witnessed anything out of the ordinary while managing the room. She did mention, however, that some cleaners had an experience with flickering lights and sounds that scared them so much, they refused to come back.
Polli had one of the most dramatic experiences in the renovated suite when he brought some people to look at it.
"All the dresser drawers were pulled out and the cabinets were opened,” Polli said.
He ran into the head housekeeper of the floor after locking the door and asked about the strange setup, wondering if it was undergoing a new type of cleaning. The housekeeper denied and when they walked back into the suite after talking, the drawers had all been shut again.
“All I can say is I know what happened to me that day with the people I was showing,” Polli said. “There’s not an explanation. Things happen that you can’t explain.”
McKeython mentioned that many times guests claimed a little girl was running around the halls and an older woman in a long, old-fashioned dress roamed the halls.
He said he's seen the older woman multiple times.
“You always think it is just a guest,” McKeython said. “You see the long dress going on to the elevator. You can actually catch the same elevator she gets on, and there’s no one there... When people from all over the world are seeing and hearing the same things, there must be something to it."
In another complex of the hotel called Parkview, staff have had even stranger experiences.
Maintenance worker Art Perry was a fixing a carpet in one of the rooms in Parkview. As he was bending over, he felt someone flicking the antenna of his walkie-talkie onto his back.
“I thought it was a homeless man who’d somehow gotten in and was playing a trick on me or something,” he said.
When Perry turned around, there was no one directly behind him but he saw a person peering from around a door. He ran to the doorway and followed footsteps down to the elevator, but there was no one there when he turned the corner.
When he returned to the suite, he made an ominous discovery. “There was a big stain on the floor. It looked like blood,” Perry said.
He called one of the higher-ups about it that day. When someone was sent to clean it, there was no sign of any stain on the carpet.
“He swears to this day he saw a man [in that Parkview room] and the blood on the carpet,” Polli said. Polli and McKeython both mentioned that Perry refuses to go back to the room at night.
People come and go in hotels, but McKeython admitted that sometimes people never check out. Hotels have more than their share of suicides.
McKeython mentioned a fairly recent suicide occurred in Room 667. Hotel management had to bring in a priest to bless the room before the cleaning staff would work in there.
Is the Omni Shoreham Hotel haunted? Maybe you can spend a night there and decide for yourself. Standard room rates apply -- but the Ghost Suite can only be booked if the hotel is sold out or if you request an upgrade when you've checked into the hotel.