Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ghosts of the Hotel Prichard

Prichard, 1950s
In my humble opinion, and I may be a bit biased, but it seems like Huntington, WV is one of the most haunted cities in all of West Virginia, and even in the tri-state area.  Ghost stories are associated with nearly every one of its vast number of historic buildings, and the Prichard Hotel is no exception.  Unfortunately, this is one of those buildings where the ghost stories were unclear and undefined...with just a simple "its haunted," taking place over any specific incidents.  Until now that is!  I've finally stumbled upon some concrete stories, and while I'm still doing some additional research on the history of this building, I wanted to go ahead and share a little about this location in hopes that someone out there will come forth with his/her own personal experiences!  Anyway...

The Hotel Prichard was built on the corner of 9th Street and 6th avenue in 1926 by Frederick C. Prichard.  It was designed by the architect Henry Ziegler Dietz and boasted 13 floors (a bad omen?) containing 300 guest rooms, all with private baths, a ballroom, and several public AND private dining rooms.  Prichard, who had made his fortune in the coalfields of Fayette County, built this building, but is also famous for the Robson-Prichard Building, now known as the Guaranty Bank building; at the time, these were two of the tallest buildings in the city.

However, the good times would soon come to an end for Prichard and he lost his fortune during the Great Depression, only a few years after his lavish hotel was built.  He was forced to sell his Huntington properties, but instead of giving up completely, relocated to Texas.  He never lived in West Virginia again, but did visit from time to time, up until his death in 1960.

Over the years, the hotel hosted a number of very interesting guests!  In 1949, Gene Autry stayed there while performing in Huntington.  In 1956, the staff of NBC's Today Show stayed at the Prichard...including the famous chimpanzee host, J. Fred Muggs!  He was the first (and presumably only) chimpanzee to stay at the hotel during its glory days.  Even John F. Kennedy and his staff stayed at the hotel during the 1960 presidential campaign!

It seems like symbolically, the year 1960 was the start of the hotel's decline.  That was the year when Prichard himself passed away...and the year when Kennedy was elected, only to be assassinated three years later.  It lasted another 10 years as a hotel, but it was never the same as it was in its glory days.  Then, in 1970, the hotel was purchased by Polan Realty and converted into an apartment complex, with businesses renting space on the ground floor.  Today, Shane Polan is the owner of the building, which is still being used as an apartment.

It was in one of these apartments that a young tenant reported a year of living hell...not from a nightmarish roommate or an inconsiderate landlord....but from a constant barrage of paranormal activity!

The account, which occurred on the 10th floor in room 1003, was submitted to the Ghosts of America site, and contains the whole gamut of hauntings.  A man was seen wearing turn of the century clothing, drinking glasses shattered one at a time over a period of several weeks until the renter was left without any, and an incessant ringing of the doorbell was heard on a regular basis.  The ringing would stop when the renter would get within a few feet of the door...and of course, there was never anyone there when the door was answered.  Even the renter's cat was terrified of the apartment, refusing to come out from under the bed.  When removed from the situation, the cat blossomed into an outgoing, friendly animal.

During the course of my very brief look into the history of this location, I've already found a ton of deaths associated with the hotel, leading up to present day as its use as an apartment.  The Prichard has also, in recent years, suffered with a run of bad luck in regards to illegal drug activity, petty crime, and a disproportional number of fires.  The building has stood strong, though, and the current owner, Shane Polan, is working hard to clean up the magnificent old building and restore her grandeur.  However, its because of this checkered past that its anyone's guess as to who or what might be haunting this Huntington landmark.  Again, I'll be looking into the history a bit more, especially about what was on the site before the hotel was built, but I'd love to hear from you readers!  Do you have a ghost story or any additional historic information?  Do you have a wonderful memory of staying here, eating here, or even attending prom in the ballroom?  Please submit anything you'd like to share in the comments below, or reach me at theresarhps@yahoo.com.  Thanks, and happy haunting!

Photo and historical info from:
Jean Tarbett Hardiman, Herald-Dispatch

6 comments:

  1. I'm thinking that's the same building, had some offices in part of it at one time? If it is I started to take the elevator with a few other people years back. The elevator started going crazy, stopping in the middle of floors. with the door opening. Finally, when it did open on a floor at the right time...I got off. Realizing the office wasn't there any more, I took the stairs. All the way down I could feel a lot of unseen energy, almost a feeling like tons of arms reaching out for me.

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    1. Wow, that sounds pretty creepy! Thank you for sharing your story!

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  2. There was a suicide a man jumped from the 7th floor and landed on the concrete below the giant structure

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    1. Thanks for that information! Do you happen to know approximately when that happened?

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  3. The gut jumped in 2003 and it was the 11th floor

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  4. The gut jumped in 2003 and it was the 11th floor

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