Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Hilltop House Hotel
However, this location still remains one of my favorite Harper's Ferry area haunts! The hotel was built in 1888 by Mr. Thomas S. Lovett, a local man of African American descent, who dreamed of managing a hotel overlooking John Brown's historic act. This first hotel burned in 1912, and its replacement burned again in 1917 or 1918. Still, Lovett and his wife Lavonia perservered, and the Hilltop House Hotel became host to such notable figures as Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, and Bill Clinton.
It has also hosted a myriad of ghost sightings and paranormal experiences, witnessed by both visitors and staff alike. Among various apparitions, it is said that between 2 and 3am, noises such as pots banging, laughing, and voices can be heard coming from an empty kitchen. Furniture has been known to move on its own, and although it wasn't built until after the Civil War, there's allegedly sightings of soldiers, including a whole regiment that makes its way up and down the road.
Room #66 was one spot in particular that was said to be haunted by the ghost of a small boy. The boy, who died in the c. 1917 fire, is heard crying in that room, and allegedly a portrait of a young boy gracing the walls of #66 was said to cry real tears.
Many readers will be too young to remember that this location was also the starting point for a popular Harper's Ferry ghost tour led by Shirley Dougherty. I had the pleasure of attending one of Shirley's last tours, and exploring the hotel and Harper's Ferry park grounds. Before the tour started, we were walking into the town when we were met head-on with a pack of weary soldiers heading in the opposite direction. Not one of these people looked at us, or acknowledged our presence in any way. At the time, I thought they were some really dedicated reenactors heading home after a day of work...but now that I've learned all these stories about the phantom regiment...I'm not so sure!
UPDATE: In April 2012 I was at the library looking through newspaper archives for an obituary. I ran across an article on this location, dated from March 2010. It appears that the hotel, closed due to structural problems, suffered a partial collapse. Although the company that bought the hotel had plans on tearing the structure down anyway to make room for a new, historically sensitive design based on the original, the loss of this historic icon was still a blow to the small community of Harper's Ferry.
Brochure with tons of historic photos