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It's story Time: Ghostly Guests
By Steve Cokkinias
Most people I know don't believe in ghosts. And even fewer believe in haunted houses. I for one, believe in "haunted hotels", and I will tell you three stories why.
The first story has to do with a hotel in Pasadena, California, in which I worked in year 2002. Originally called the Huntington hotel, this massive semi-castle which was originally built in 1906, and had all the trappings of a haunted mansion, inside and out. Long, ominous corridors, ancient, turn-of-century chandeliers, and some truly eerie artwork.
The most famous painting in the hotel was a portrait of the original owner, Henry Huntington, who died in 1927, just before the great depression. The large, 2 meter by 1 meter portrait hangs at the end of the corridor that leads to the hotel gardens, and has, over time, faded into muted colors of red, brown and black. Except for the eyes. The eyes of the painting, after more than 100 years, still blazed ice white, and in the evenings as guests and employees alike would pass the painting, the eyes of Mr. Huntington would come alive and follow the passers-by from left to right as they braved the long hallway. Having seen this myself, I can attest that it was downright creepy, and without question the spirit of Henry Huntington still roams the halls of this landmark California building.
The second example of a haunted hotel comes from stories I have heard about the hotel where I worked in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It seems there is a room on the seventh floor that none of the Housekeeping Room Attendants will enter by themselves, and although I won't mention the exact room number, I was told that there is a long-haired white-robed spirit living inside the room. And I was told that the spirit makes appearances in the main kitchen on the first floor after midnight, and also early in the morning at the hotel's Business Center. Apparently, even ghosts need a place to sleep, a bite to eat, and to check a few e-mails. Real or not, the overnight shift in the culinary department is not always the most popular...but I never saw that particular ghost myself.
However the most prolific ghost story that I have ever experienced personally has to be that of the ghost of Annie Palmer, the "White Witch of Rose Hall" Jamaica. When I arrived to Montego Bay in May 2000 the stories were aplenty, and our hotel that was being built often had strange power outages, or chandeliers that would sway in the lobby despite no wind. My team would say that it was the murderous Annie, who was eventually killed out of fear by her own slaves in 1831, checking out the new hotel in town.
Annie didn't need to haunt our hotel full-time however, as she had her own house, still known today as the "Rose Hall Great House", on Rose Hall Plantation. The Rose Hall Great House is located at the base of the mountain on which the hotel golf course, named in honor of the White Witch herself, was built. I am often asked if I ever saw the ghost of Annie Palmer. And the answer is: yes I did.
I remember the night very clearly, and even the date. It was February 3, 2002, the night that the New England Patriots won their first ever "Super Bowl" football championship. Some friends were having a party at their house, which was located less than 500 meters behind the Rose Hall Great House, and after the game ended at about 11pm, I crawled into my 1971 Silver Volkswagen Beetle and began the drive home on the long, darkened gravel road that led past the side of the Rose Hall Great House and its lengthy estate lawn. And on that night, as I looked out at the Great House on my left as I drove past, I saw her. Or rather, she saw me.
Floating out from the front of the Great House emerged the silvery white ghost of Annie Palmer, and she glided silently and swiftly down the lawn parallel to my car, in a diagonal path, coming down the grassy hill closer and closer to my speeding VW. As I passed a set of trees that lined the edge of the road, Annie's ghost darted in front of one tree, slipped behind another, and then paused and slowly peered out from behind the final tree directly into the side window of my car just as I whizzed by. Clearly it was the face of a woman, glowing in a bluish-white hue, her large hollow black eyes staring into mine with curiosity as I whizzed along the un-paved road, tires spinning. She was probably surprised to see a sliver '71 Beetle rattling past her house at that hour; I'm convinced that the noise of the engine woke her up.
But as I passed that set of trees I looked back, and she was gone. Suddenly I was at the main gate, on the main road, and safely on the way home. But the encounter is as clear to me as if it happened yesterday. So if you ask me if I believe in ghosts, the answer is "yes I do"... and long before I decided to spend 9 years in the spirit-riddled region of SouthEast Asia. But my many other supernatural Asian stories will have to wait.
About the author
Steve Cokkinias is the Founder & CEO of InnSense Leadership (www.innsense.com)which he established in 2012 after a successful 17-year career in the hospitality industry that included senior positions with Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and Sheraton in the U.S.A, Caribbean, and Asia. An inspiring and sought-after speaker and executive coach, Steve has delivered energizing programs on service, leadership, and talent management to a wide range of international companies. During his 9 years as General Manager in Kuala Lumpur, his hotel was named "Best Employer in Malaysia" 4 times consecutively by Hewitt & Associates, earning him a place on Human Capital Asia's "Hot 40 - Asia's H.R. Superstars". In 2010, Steve was named Malaysia's "General Manager of the Year" by the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards. His new book, "InnSanity - Leadership Lessons from a Lifetime in Luxury Lodging", is due for release in early 2013. Steve can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow Steve on Twitter: @stevecokkinias.
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