If you’ve traveled through Rapid City, either on a motorcycle on the way to Sturgis, or just on an excursion on the way to Mt. Rushmore, chances are you’ve seen the Alex Johnson Hotel. It stands higher above the rest of the South Dakota city’s skyline, looming with red neon letters proclaiming its name. The hotel is a landmark, but not just that– it’s also known as a hotbed of paranormal activity.
The Alex Johnson opened in Rapid City in 1928, Built by the railroad magnate Alex Carlton Johnson. Johnson was an admirer of the Black Hills and the local Lakota tribe that called them home. He spoke often of his plan to build a “Showplace of the West,” which would eventually become the famed Alex Johnson Hotel. It opened just days before construction on Mount Rushmore began nearby in Hill City, SD. The design of the inside of the hotel reflects its founder’s great appreciation for indigenous communities nearby, as well as architecture inspired by German Tudor designs.
The first guests stepped across the threshold one year after construction, with historical artifacts and native american design adorning the inside of the imposing building. Today, original parts of the design remain, including original bricks with Lakota symbols embedded in the stone. Dozens of famous guests have laid their heads down at the Alex Johnsons, including presidents, celebrities, and dignitaries.
But the largest claim to fame the Alex Johnson holds is more otherworldly. Even on their official website, the hotel is proud of its haunted status; even keeping a paranormal log for guests to record their spooky experiences while staying in the hotel. And experiences there are many.
The most famous of the ghosts that haunt the halls of this historic hotel is that of the Lady in White. A bit of a trope, this woman is said to have It’s said that in the 1970’s, a young bride committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window of room 812. Her family cried that there must have been foul play, as she was happy with her upcoming nuptials. An investigation never found a culprit aside from the young lady herself. Ever since, a lonely woman in white wanders the halls, looking for her fiance or murderer in vain. Guest report seeing the woman in an elegant wedding dress wandering the 8th floor as if looking for something. She always disappears when one turns their back.
As well as the Lady in White, there are a half dozen other ghosts that make their presence known. Even the founder of the hotel himself, the eponymous Alex Johnson, is said to show up from time to time, overseeing the employees and the happiness of the guests. One terrified guest recalls a man in 1920s attire asking if their stay was comfortable, only for the man to disappear before they could answer. The answer would have been yes, by the way, as the Alex Johnson goes out of its way to make guests feel right at home, even if that home is haunted.
Another mischievous spirit is that of a young girl in period attire. It’s been reported by guests that she will knock on their door, only to disappear as she ran away from the ding-dong ditch she’d committed. A playful spirit is said to sometimes tug on the arm sleeves of some guests, only to be gone when they turn their head to look.
If you want a ghostly experience at the Alex Johnson, the staff (both living and dead) can help make that happen. The hotel offers a special “Ghost Adventure,” package with ghost hunting equipment, access to the sky bar, and a $25 dining credit. Just be sure to ask when you check in if they can get you into room 812 or another haunted room. The Alex Johnson stands tall as a landmark in Rapid City, but it also stands as a reminder of the town’s inception and those who never crossed over after their death.
Be sure to stay at the Alex Johnson if you get a chance and maybe you’ll be the next one writing in the log of haunted experiences.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.