; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, August 24, 2015

Two Strange Nights in Galena

I received the following correspondence in June 2011 from a St.Louis, Missouri woman who was in Galena, Illinois on business:

Sir - I traveled to Galena, Illinois on business in early May 2011. My employer booked me into the DeSoto House Hotel which is a beautifully restored 19th century building with, what I found out later, a lot of history.

The day I arrived, I checked in and decided to spend the rest of the evening in my room. I was very tired after the long drive from St.Louis. I ordered room service, ate, watched some TV then went to bed.

A few hours into my sleep I was startled by what sounded like an argument in the hallway. It last a few minutes then eventually stopped. I quickly went back to sleep. Not long after I was again startled by loud talking from the hallway. I looked at the clock - it was 2:10 am. I didn't want to get involved but I needed to sleep so I called the front desk and reported the noise. The rest of the night was uneventful and quiet.

In the morning I went to the front desk and inquired about the ruckus in the hallway and if someone had checked it out. The lady at the desk checked but there was no note of me calling. I didn't think anything of it because the noise had stopped and I did sleep well afterwards.

After a long day (that's another story) I returned to the hotel and decided to stay in my room that evening. I had a long drive home the next day and needed plenty of rest. I was laying in the bed watching TV when I started to smell something burning. I was the distinct odor of cigars and it was very strong. Tobacco smoke really bothers me and this smell was overpowering though I didn't see any smoke. I called the front desk and complained that someone was smoking in one of the rooms. The clerk assured me that someone would check it out.

After awhile the odor started to dissipate but I felt sick to my stomach because of it. Since I wasn't going to be able to sleep while nauseous I decided to do some paper work before I laid down for the night. As I sat on the bed reading a report I noticed the sound of heavy footsteps that seemed to go back and forth in the room. I also heard what sounded like men talking and laughing. I was definitely spooked by this time. I had never experienced anything like this. I tried to ignore it but it would get quiet then suddenly start back up again.

Eventually the noises stopped so I decided it was time to go to sleep. I dozed off very quickly and was sound asleep - that was until I heard what I thought was a door slamming shut. I almost jumped out of my skin - it was deafening. I sat up in the bed dazed and confused - as well as half asleep. I looked around the room - then I noticed something very odd. In front of the window there was a tall dark shadow in the shape of a large man with a large brimmed hat that was rocking back and forth. There was also a red glow that looked like it was puffing on a cigar. The strong smell of cigar smoke started to fill the room and I felt like I was going to choke. I was mortified by this phantom but I tried to keep as calm as possible. After a minute or so the shadow and the smell simply faded off. The rest of the night was very quiet.

I left the next morning without telling anyone in the hotel of the experience though I did find out later that the hotel does have a history of paranormal activity. I had never really had an inclination for the paranormal but I'll make sure that any future reservations are made at spook-free accommodations. Meryl W.


Guests report ‘friendly’ ghost encounters at The DeSoto House, Illinois’ oldest hotel

They must have enjoyed their stay at the venerable DeSoto House Hotel in downtown Galena, Ill., because they keep coming back. “They” are the ethereal spirits of by-gone guests, occasionally seen by today’s guests.

“None of our staff has seen ghosts,” said Scott Wolfe, hotel historian and front desk clerk. “But every now and then, guests report seeing translucent forms dressed in old-fashioned clothes, drifting across the rooms and passing through walls. When we check the rooms, invariably we discover the walls in question once had doorways.”

This isn’t the stuff of scary movies. Nobody’s scared. In fact, some say the spirits smile and nod. Plus, today’s DeSoto House continues to encounter repeat guests of the real kind.

“This is the oldest operating hotel in Illinois,” explained Wolfe. “It first opened in 1855 with 150 rooms, and was touted as the largest hotel west of New York City. In 1986, after an $8 million restoration, it re-opened with 55 rooms. Today’s rooms are larger. In many cases, walls and doorways were removed or relocated. That may explain why the ghosts pass through walls.”

The DeSoto House has had its share of famous guests. Abraham Lincoln spoke from the balcony in 1856, as did Stephen A. Douglas in 1857 and 1858. Galena’s favorite son, Ulysses S. Grant, used the hotel as his presidential campaign headquarters in 1868, and received guests there with his wife, Julia Dent Grant, on several occasions between 1865 and 1883. Tom Thumb and his diminutive wife slept there twice, in 1869 and 1877. William Jennings Bryan, perhaps best known for his role as the prosecutor in the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, stayed at the hotel in 1905 and 1909. Cast and crew enjoyed the hotel’s hospitality during the filming of “Gaily, Gaily” in 1968 and “Field of Dreams” in 1988. Hundreds of brides and grooms have had their pictures snapped on the lobby’s grand staircase. The hotel is full of happy memories.

So it’s no surprise that the ghosts who haunt The DeSoto House are friendly. - The DeSoto House Ghosts

NOTE: has anybody else heard of or experienced something strange at the DeSoto House Hotel? Lon

Haunted Illinois: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Prairie State (Haunted Series)

The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations

Haunting Illinois: A Tourist's Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State

Ghosthunting Illinois (America's Haunted Road Trip)

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