Few recent mysteries have inspired more debate than the bizarre 2013 death of Elisa Lam, who was filmed acting strangely by surveillance footage in an elevator at Los Angeles’s Cecil Hotel before her nude body was found inside a water tank on the hotel’s roof. The exact circumstances surrounding Lam’s death remain unknown, but it’s far from the only strange mystery to take place at a hotel or motel. No matter how luxurious they may be, hotels can still be ominous places, and they have been home to their fair share of unsolved murders, mysterious disappearances, and unexplained paranormal events.
10 The Murder Of Corporal Maoma Ridings
From 1927–31, Maoma Ridings worked as a physical therapist at the Warm Springs Infantile Paralysis Foundation in Georgia. During that time, one of her patients was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was seeking treatment for polio and reportedly considered Ridings to be his favorite nurse. Over a decade later, President Roosevelt was leading the country through World War II and Ridings was serving as a corporal in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). On August 29, 1943, the 32-year-old Ridings was stationed at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Indiana. She went on leave that afternoon and traveled to Indianapolis to check into the Claypool Hotel, where she reportedly had a date scheduled.
At approximately 8:00 PM that evening, a housekeeper entered Ridings’s hotel room and was shocked to find the corporal’s half-nude body on the bed. Ridings had been beaten and mutilated with a broken whiskey bottle. Since only 46 cents were found in the room, which wouldn’t have covered Ridings’s hotel bill, robbery was the presumed motive.
The case took a strange turn when a bellboy reported delivering ice to Ridings’s room three hours before she was found. He claimed to have seen a dark-haired woman dressed entirely in black sitting on the bed when Ridings answered the door. Even though the Army worked in conjunction with the Indianapolis police on the case, the mysterious woman in black could not be identified, and the notorious “WAC murder” was never solved.
9 The Disappearance Of Claudia Kirschhoch
In May 2000, Claudia Kirschhoch worked as an assistant editor for Frommer’s Travel Guides in New York. She was scheduled to participate in a travel junket in Cuba and flew to Jamaica for the first part of the trip. However, the junket soon learned that they would be denied entry into Cuba, and since all flights back to New York were booked for the next several days, Kirschhoch and another writer were rerouted to stay at the Beaches Resort in Negril.
The other writer managed to book herself onto a flight back home on May 27, but Kirschhoch decided to stay behind a little while longer. The last confirmed sighting of Kirschhoch was by a lifeguard, who saw her walking along the beach with a portable radio later that day.
When Kirschhoch didn’t return home the following week, her parents became concerned and contacted the resort. The staff checked her room and found most of her possessions still inside, including her passport. The only unaccounted-for possessions were her portable radio and the clothes she was seen wearing on the beach.
During her time at the resort, Kirschhoch had become friendly with a bartender named Anthony Grant. He wound up calling in sick the day after Kirschhoch disappeared and did not return to work for four days. Authorities investigated Grant and found a strand of Kirschhoch’s hair in the back of his car, and a search dog also detected her scent from his trunk. In spite of this seemingly incriminating evidence, authorities claim they do not actually consider Grant a suspect in Kirschhoch’s disappearance, and she has still never been found.
8 The Biltmore Hotel Hauntings
During the 1920s, Thomas “Fatty” Walsh was a notable underworld figure from New York who ran most of his operations out of Florida. He was a frequent guest at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and often ran a speakeasy and casino out of his 13th-floor suite.
On March 4, 1929, Fatty got into a fight with the hotel manager, Eddie Wilson, who pulled out a gun and shot Fatty to death in the middle of the casino. Wilson was never charged with the murder, and corrupt law enforcement officials allegedly helped him escape to Cuba. The Biltmore Hotel still exists in Coral Gables today and is recognized as a historic landmark. However, perhaps because his murder went unpunished, the ghost of Fatty Walsh is believed to haunt the establishment.
Over the years, there have been numerous incidents where the hotel’s elevator has taken guests to the 13th floor for unexplained reasons. Since Fatty Walsh was known as a ladies man, his ghost apparently loves to target attractive women. On one occasion, a couple was attempting to ride the elevator to the fourth floor but were taken against their will to the 13th instead. When the woman stepped out, the door slammed shut and the elevator took her male companion back down to the lobby. The woman would report hearing unexplained sounds and smelling cigar smoke in a supposedly empty suite.
Believe it or not, Fatty’s spirit is even believed to have targeted President Bill Clinton! During one of his trips, the president was staying in a 13th-floor suite and was planning to watch a football game. However, his television kept malfunctioning, and even though the staff could not find anything wrong with the TV, it just kept turning on and off by itself.
7 The Murder Of Effie MacDonald
One of the most infamous serial killers of all time is the Boston Strangler, who murdered at least 13 women in the Boston area during the 1960s. Officially, the final Boston Strangler murder took place in January 1964, as he was eventually identified as Albert DeSalvo and captured in October of that year.
However, a few months after that, another shocking murder took place in the New England region with a similar modus operandi. Effie MacDonald was a 54-year-old chambermaid who lived in Bangor, Maine, and was employed at a hotel called the Bangor House. On the morning of March 18, 1965, MacDonald showed up for work, and the last confirmed sighting of her took place around noon. During the afternoon, MacDonald’s coworkers became concerned when they couldn’t find her anywhere.
Two days later, another chambermaid entered a guest room on the hotel’s third floor and found MacDonald’s nude body. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted before being strangled to death with a nylon stocking. The room had not been rented out for days, which allowed MacDonald’s body to go unnoticed for such a long period of time.
Even though the crime did not take place in Boston, authorities could not ignore the similarities between MacDonald’s murder and the Strangler slayings but ultimately decided that they were not connected. However, years later, one of the detectives on the case announced that he had identified a prime suspect. This man had been a guest at the hotel and was seen going down some back stairs around the time of the murder, but police lacked sufficient evidence to make an arrest. After 50 years, the Bangor House Strangling remains unsolved.
6 The Disappearance Of Jessica Kinsey
On December 26, 1995, 14-year-old Jessica Kinsey was supposed to be spending the day at a friend’s house in her hometown of Union, Missouri. However, Jessica was picked up by 23-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, who paid his friend, Mark Henderson, to secretly drive them to Niagara Falls to get married. Jimmy told Mark that Jessica was pregnant with his child, but Mark noticed that Jessica seemed very quiet and morose during their trip.
That night, they stopped at the Dollar Inn in Cloverdale, Indiana, where Mark and the couple checked into separate rooms. Mark claimed he heard violent noises from next door, but when he went over to investigate, Jimmy told him that he and Jessica were having rough sex together. When Mark woke up the next morning, he was surprised to see that his car was gone, and Jessica and Jimmy had disappeared.
Two weeks later, Mark’s abandoned car turned up in Compton, California. It would be several months before Jimmy resurfaced in Union, but Jessica was not with him. Jimmy had been working at an ice cream parlor near Compton, and witnesses did report seeing him with a girl matching Jessica’s description. When questioned by police, Jimmy gave several conflicting stories about Jessica’s whereabouts and claimed that she had run off with a Mexican man named Capone. He even provided the address of a hotel that they supposedly lived at, but the place did not actually exist.
Even though Jimmy’s story did not hold up and he often taunted Jessica’s family by claiming she was dead, there was never enough evidence to file charges. On April 12, 2008, Jimmy shot his wife to death before turning the gun on himself. He may have taken the truth about Jessica Kinsey’s fate to his grave.
5 The Mysterious Suicide Of ‘Jeffrey Daniel’
On November 10, 1997, a man appearing to be in his late thirties checked into the Super 8 Motel in Aiken, South Carolina. He paid cash to rent the room for three days but did not identify himself, telling the staff he wanted to “leave all that behind.” That night, the man ordered a pizza for his room but did not answer the door. A “Do Not Disturb” sign was seen hanging on the door with a handwritten message: “I’m not responsible for the consequences.”
Three days later, the man was found dead inside his bathroom. He had committed suicide, but his method of death has never been released to the public. No identification could be found at the scene, and two bottles of anti-depressants had their labels torn off, indicating that the mysterious guest wanted to conceal his identity.
The investigation eventually learned that the man had stayed at a pair of local hospitals following a failed suicide attempt. He gave his name as “Jeffrey Daniel,” providing a Social Security number and a New York address. However, the SSN was fake, and the address did not check out. Even though another man named Jeffrey Daniel did actually live at a nearby address, he had no known connection to the victim.
Two weeks before his death, the unidentified guest checked into a different Aiken motel and made another suicide attempt by slashing his wrist and suffocating himself with cellophane wrap. Motel workers managed to save him and rush him to a hospital, but the man was very uncooperative during his stay and refused to share any information about himself before leaving. There are still no answers about why this mysterious man committed suicide or what his true identity might be.
4 The Disappearance Of Cameron Remmer
On September 29, 2011, 29-year-old Cameron Remmer left his home in Encinitas, California, for a business trip to San Francisco and checked into the Fairmont Hotel. He was planning to remain in the city for a month with hopes of expanding his medical marijuana business.
On the evening of October 6, one of Remmer’s friends in Arizona received a strange phone call from him. Remmer asked his friend for money to pay for a room, but even though the friend agreed to the request, Remmer suddenly changed his mind and said he found a place to stay. It turned out that Remmer was drinking heavily at the Fairmont that night, and the hotel had asked him to leave. Before he left, Remmer checked in his bags with the hotel and claimed he would return to pick them up later.
Three days later, Remmer did return to the hotel but was incoherent and appeared to be disoriented. In fact, he was wearing a completely different shoe on each foot. Remmer left again without retrieving his bags, and this would be the last confirmed sighting of him. After Remmer was reported missing, his bags were finally opened to reveal over 60 vials of medical marijuana inside, along with $30,000 in cash. Remmer suffered from bipolar disorder, which he required medication to control, but he did not have this medication on him when he disappeared.
There have since been numerous unconfirmed sightings of a disheveled Remmer wandering around San Francisco, leading to speculation that he suffered a psychotic break and is now a homeless transient. Or could his disappearance be connected to the large quantity of marijuana and cash he had with him? Until Cameron Remmer is found, his disappearance shall remain a mystery.
3 The Hauntings Of La Posada
In 1932, a six-acre estate in Santa Fe was converted into La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, one of the most historic hotels in New Mexico’s state capital. The centerpiece of La Posada is a three-story Victorian mansion known as the Staab House, named after a wealthy family who once owned the property. The mansion was built in 1882 by a prominent resident named Abraham Staab.
Abraham and his wife, Julia, were very popular in Santa Fe social circles, and the couple had seven children. However, when their eighth child died of illness shortly after birth, Julia went into a deep depression. After more unsuccessful pregnancies, Julia became withdrawn and spent the majority of her remaining years in a self-imposed exile in her bedroom, where she passed away on May 14, 1896, at age 52.
When the Staab House was converted into a hotel, Julia’s former bedroom became Room 256, and it is rumored to be haunted by her ghost. The first known sighting occurred in 1979, when an employee cleaning Room 256 saw a vision of a well-dressed woman resembling Julia Staab before she abruptly disappeared. There have been numerous sightings of this woman in Room 256, along with stories of voices being heard from behind the door when the room is empty. Hotel operators have also reported phone calls going through this room, even though the line is disconnected.
The alleged hauntings are not confined to Room 256, as there have been sightings of Julia’s ghost in the dining room, along with reports of glasses being knocked off the shelves and unexplained gusts of wind blowing out the candles. To this day, La Posada is still considered to be one of the most infamous haunted hotels in the United States.
2 The Abduction Of Denise Clinton
In 1965, a couple named Chelcie and Dorothy Reynolds managed the Great Plains Motel in Kansas City, Missouri. On July 7, their two grandchildren, nine-year-old Denise Clinton and her younger sister, traveled from Independence to spend the week with them at the motel. At approximately 2:20 AM the following morning, Dorothy was awoken by the sound of the bell ringing in the front office. She arrived to find a man asking to rent a room until he suddenly pulled out a gun and ordered her to hand over the money in the register. Dorothy gave the robber $246 before she was forced into the back bedroom. Chelcie and Dorothy were both bound and gagged with tape and heard the robber flee the scene. The couple soon managed to wrest themselves free, but were horrified to find that Denise was gone.
Throughout the entire robbery, Denise had remained asleep on a daybed 3 meters (10 ft) from the office until she was abducted by the perpetrator on his way out the door. The authorities were notified, and a massive manhunt was conducted by both the police and FBI for Denise and her abductor. Even though Dorothy looked through numerous mug shots, she could not identify the man who robbed her. The authorities expected a possible ransom call from the kidnapper, but none ever came.
The case remained cold until September 1967, when a set of skeletal remains were found in a forest near Sundance, Wyoming. They were eventually identified as Denise Clinton. To this day, no one knows Denise’s cause of death, how long she was alive following her abduction, or why her remains were found such a long distance away. Sadly, the perpetrator of this senseless crime has never been caught.
1 The Disappearance of Joseph ‘JoeEd’ Edwards
Joseph “JoeEd” Edwards was a 25-year-old African American who worked as a porter at the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia, Louisiana. On July 12, 1965, JoeEd showed up for work at the motel and mysteriously disappeared. That night, the manager of a bowling alley in nearby Ferriday reported seeing an unmarked police car pulling over JoeEd’s Buick.
Days later, the abandoned Buick was found in the bowling alley parking lot. There were bloodstains inside the vehicle, along with a belt which did not belong to JoeEd. A tie was also on the steering wheel in the shape of a noose. JoeEd’s disappearance just happened to take place 10 days after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. Since racial tensions were high in Vidalia, it was theorized that JoeEd became the victim of a vicious hate crime by the Ku Klux Klan.
FBI investigators heard many different stories about why JoeEd was targeted by the KKK. There were unsubstantiated rumors that he might have been pimping out white prostitutes to white customers at the Shamrock. Other rumors held that JoeEd was murdered for dating a white woman, attempting to kiss a white employee, or being caught with a white female guest in one of the rooms. The most harrowing story was that JoeEd was hung up inside a barn, where he was tortured and skinned alive before his body was tossed into a river.
In 2013, the Department of Justice publicly named seven suspects whom they believed were responsible for JoeEd’s murder. All seven men had been members of the Ku Klux Klan, and four of them were local police officers. However, since all the suspects are now deceased, the investigation has officially been closed, and the full truth about JoeEd’s disappearance remains a mystery.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently recently wrote the award-winning script for a short film called Indefinite Late Fee. Feel free to contact him here.