From the Bates Motel to the Overlook Hotel, the existence of haunted hotels has fascinated people for generations, likely because real-life haunted hotels can be found in practically every state. Haunted hotels exist across the United States, where apparitions are known to walk the halls and objects move, float, or break on their own accord. Each encounter is unique and intriguing to those who believe that a ghostly dimension overlaps our own. And the Knickerbocker Hotel haunting comes with the added bonus of being home to the ghosts of some of Hollywood's most recognizable figures.
Originally opened in the late 1920s, the Knickerbocker Hotel experienced its first brush with the occult during a 1936 Halloween seance held by Harry Houdini's widow on its rooftop. Since then, a startling number of famous individuals have met their untimely demise or have gone through life-altering events while under its roof. Today, many people even believe the Knickerbocker Hotel hosts a few spectral guests who never had a chance to check out.
Famed magician Harry Houdini made a pact with his wife, Bess, that they would find a way to continue his research into debunking the paranormal whenever either of them died. He and Bess agreed that the surviving spouse would spend 10 years - no more, no less - attempting to contact the departed partner in the afterlife through seances in an effort to prove (or disprove) the existence of another realm.
Although Bess held up her end of the deal and conducted seances at the Knickerbocker Hotel every year, her tenth and final attempt to contact Houdini at the hotel on October 31, 1936, is remembered as being the most bizarre. Hordes of Houdini fans waited in the lobby while Bess and a few select witnesses on the rooftop watched as Edward Saint attempted to call out to the spirit of her dead husband. Some reported that the skies opened up and a thunderstorm soaked only the Knickerbocker hotel during the seance, but the true outcome of the pact remains known only to Bess - and perhaps Houdini himself.
Irene Lentz - known professionally as just 'Irene' - dressed some of Hollywood's most notable stars in the '30s and '40s in her glamorous designer clothing and costumes. On November 15, 1962, she checked into a room at the Knickerbocker under a fake name before proceeding to get very drunk. Irene's husband had recently suffered a stroke, she had money troubles, and "the death of her unrequited love Gary Cooper" left her in a bad mental state.
Intoxicated, Irene composed suicide notes to several people including hotel guests, that read short and to-the-point: "Sorry I had to drink so much to get the courage to do this." After slitting both of her wrists, she jumped from her room's window and landed on the roof of the hotel lobby.
After his death, many described D.W. Griffith as "almost single-handedly invent[ing] the art of modern cinema." The director of the now-infamous 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, Griffith lived out the last year of his life in the Knickerbocker Hotel after being spurned by the same business he influenced so strongly. On July 23, 1948, Griffith tragically suffered a stroke while residing in the hotel.
Some sources reported his cerebral hemorrhage occurred in his room and that he died shortly after, while others claimed that the fatal stroke took place in the lobby, underneath a very expensive chandelier. Griffith allegedly drank away much of his time at the hotel bar, which likely triggered his death.
Actor William Frawley lived in the Knickerbocker Hotel for a few decades, but reports differ as to whether he still resided there at the time of his death on March 3, 1966. The various accounts of his death remain disputed, sharing only the date and collapse in common.
That day in 1966, Frawley arrived back at the hotel - or perhaps walked out of the Knickerbocker's bar - and collapsed onto the sidewalk before being pulled into the lobby by his nurse. Other sources report, however, that Frawley left a movie with his nurse, crossed the street near the hotel, and died suddenly of a heart attack just outside.