In the northwest corner of Oregon, a queen reigns. Not just any queen, but a hotel so opulent, it was nicknamed the “Queen of the Mines” upon its opening during the height of the gold rush in Baker City, OR. A striking silhouette on the skyline, the Geiser Grand Hotel has been a fixture in the community since it opened over 130 years ago. Some in the city claim, however, that some of the guests at the hotel decided to stick around permanently in the afterlife. With dozens of reports of ghostly activity, some say the Geiser may be one of the most haunted locations in Oregon. Today, we’re exploring the history and haunts of this extraordinary hotel in the middle of a gold rush town.
The Geiser Grand was first opened in 1889 as one of the pioneers in wild west hospitality. Originally, it was known as the Hotel Warshauer, named for the hotel proprietor at the time. When it was purchased in 1900, the name change was the first thing the new owner instated. It was said it offered the most luxurious accommodations between Portland and Salt Lake City for weary travelers and high-class tourists alike. It was even the third hotel west of the Mississippi to have an elevator installed, making it state-of-the-art for the time period. Mahogany columns, stained glass windows, and victorian-style chandeliers decorated the interior of the hotel, while the outside boasted a striking four-story clock tower on one corner of the building.
The hotel was a magnet for the newly-rich and old money alike, with no expense spared in its design or decor. Oil barons, rich ranchers and the recently endowed gold miners flocked to the hotel to spend their money and the hotel was more than happy to take care of its guests in more ways than one. Dining halls were extravagantly decorated, and the company of ladies of the evening was considered an amenity. On the third floor, elegant ladies were said to spend the night with any gentlemen who paid well enough. The practice continued in the Geiser Grand until prohibition, with some saying the brothel continued to operate well into the 1940s before being shut down officially by the town authorities. Before this, the hotel also offered high-roller gambling, plenty of booze and wine, and the party atmosphere only a wild west hotel could offer. Even after mining in the region died down in the 1910s, the hotel was kept going by wealthy travelers and tourists in eastern Oregon.
During WWII, the hotel was converted temporarily into a military hospital for soldiers injured overseas, something many grand hotels did in wartime to serve the country as best they could. Gone were the gamblers, replaced with those who had survived the most harrowing gamble of all and those who needed treatment after their tour of duty. After being reopened post WWII, the hotel had lost some of its luster, now being considered outdated and in disrepair. It continued to operate with multiple hats as Baker City grew over the years. In 1959, A pair of robbers attempted to steal from the hotel safe at gunpoint, but were thwarted by a clerk in the hotel that complained of arthritis to get the pair to tie her restraints more loosely. They obliged, and the woman was able to slip out and call the authorities, helping apprehend the thieves.
By 1968, the hotel had fallen into disrepair and was all but abandoned. The windows were boarded up and parts of the building began to crumble away. Residents of the town called it an eyesore and wished for it to be demolished for something more useful, like a parking lot. No one was prepared to spend the money for the demolition, however, so the abandoned building became the only of several barn owls, a fox or two, and potentially, a few ghosts left over from its heyday back in the 1920s. For nearly 25 years, that was the state of the once-grand hotel, seemingly crumbling away as the community grew around it. For a brief time, the hotel was even used as an animal shelter, despite the roof nearly on the verge of collapse.
Finally, in the 1990s, a couple with a love for historic buildings raised the money for its renovation and reopening. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Sidway saved the hotel from the wrecking ball and used their extensive knowledge of historical preservation to breathe new life into the old hotel. It took 4 years and 7 million dollars, but by 1998 the Grand Geiser was once again a grand hotel and open for business as a piece of history in the town of Baker City. New travelers visited the hotel, reveling in the restoration to its former glory with a rebuilt clocktower, restored stained glass windows, and the return of the famous crystal chandeliers.
The stories of the hauntings of the hotel were also revived with the new construction. A few of those working on the rebuilding of the hotel even reported the ghostly appearance of a cowboy from time to time, disappearing around the corner when the workers tried to question the man about being in the middle of a construction site. The ghostly cowboy was never caught, and his appearances continue into the modern day. Still more spirits inhabit the hotel, including a woman assumed to have been a working woman in the brothel, dressed in 1890s attire complete with a laced up corset. Some guests have reported seeing the woman leaning over the second-story railings, as if to tempt potential customers to visit her on the third floor.
During the renovation, the Sidways spent an odd night or two staying in the hotel alone. One of their own experiences includes being woken in the middle of the night to the sound of a raucous party happening in the dining hall. The sounds of clinking glasses, laughter and music wafted up to their room, but when they went to investigate, the hotel was just as empty as they’d left it before drifting off to sleep. It’s unlikely they got any more sleep after that experience. A bartender working in the hotel after it’s reopening asked the new owners if they’d “heard them yet?” He revealed that the ghosts of the hotel like to party at night, adding more credence to the Sidways’ experience with the ghostly revelry happening around them.
The spirit of a young girl has also been reported, appearing to guests either in the basement or the third floor. She is said to giggle once seen and then run away. Guests who followed her noted that she seemingly turned the corner into nowhere and was never seen again. The cowboy that construction workers reported seeing has also been spotted, his spurs jingling on the hotel staircases and causing guests to double-take as they head to their rooms up the stairs. Another common apparition is that of a former chef from the Geiser’s glory days, having died in a terrible and preventable accident when a dumbwaiter came down upon his head and decapitated him. Those who experience the chef’s otherworldly appearance, including many living chefs working in the kitchen, say that he appears as a ghostly apparition, completely missing his head.
The most famous of the ghosts of the Geiser, is known as the Lady in Blue. If you stay in her room, 302, you may see the ghost affectionately known by employees as “Annabelle.” She was described as a matriarch of the Geiser family after their purchase of the hotel in 1900. Annabelle lived in an opulent suite of the hotel, complete with high ceilings and chandeliers and a beautiful view out the window of the growing town of Baker City. A great-granddaughter of the woman known as Annabelle, who may have gone by the name of Birdie in life, claims that her relative definitely haunts the grand hotel, even after nearly 130 years. She is said to appear to guests as a stately woman dressed in a light blue dress of the Edwardian style. Witnesses have said to see the woman, elegantly gliding up or down the grand staircase, surveying her family’s hotel and the guests who visited it. They say she always disappears before they reaches the top of the stairs. Birdie was said to have moved from the hotel to Portland shortly before her death in 1939, but her favorite place in life was still the Geiser Grand Hotel.
Dozens of other encounters have been reported in the hotel, not just the ghostly spirit of Annabelle “Birdy” Geiser. From a woman dressed as a flapper dancing in the old bar, to a ghost particularly fond of drinking Budweiser and leaving the tap on in an empty bar, the spirits are certainly more active now that the hotel welcomes visitors once again. Another family entity, Maybelle Geiser, was said to have her favorite chair in the stately bar, and anyone sitting in it was liable to get a swift pinch to their shoulder with no earthly explanation. They say Maybelle is just trying to regain her favorite seat. With a hotel as filled to the brim with ghostly guests, it’s no wonder many call the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Oregon the most haunted hotel in the west.
Whether you experience the sounds of a ghostly party in the middle of the night, meet Birdie on the staircase, or see one of the spirits said to people watch from the balcony, you’re sure to find something exciting during a stay at the luxurious hotel. Maybe you’ll have a drink with a ghost or hear ghostly piano music from and empty bar. Either way, the Grand Geiser stands ready for you to check in, even if some guests never checked out.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
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.