Across bay from the Californian city of San Diego, and hard by the white sandy beach, the Hotel Del Coronado is a magnificent statement to grandeur and excess. The huge white building, a mess of verandas, windows and balconies and topped with a wide, pointed tower on one corner, lands somewhere between Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel and Hogwarts.
Opened in 1888 and the largest hotel resort in the world when it was finished, the Coronado was just in time for the Californian property collapse. However there is another story associated with the hotel, a far darker tale of death and a restless spirit.
The older the hotel, the longer its history and the more likely for you to meet ghosts there. Many courageous travelers stay at hotels with a ghostly reputation to get their share of paranormal experiences.
The hotel has played host to royalty and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. But who is the ghost, and why does a “beautiful stranger” haunt the grand hotel?
Who is the Beautiful Stranger?
Kate Morgan haunts Room 3327 of Hotel Del Coronado. Kate, who died in the hotel more than 90 years ago, still appears to some guests and also has been said to make her presence felt.
She checked into the room in Hotel Del Coronado in 1892 and never checked out. Because she was a young and beautiful woman, her ghost has been nicknamed the Beautiful Stranger by the hotel’s staff.
When Kate Morgan checked into the hotel, she was alone and unhappy. It was Thanksgiving, and she said she was waiting for a certain gentleman to join her at the hotel. After five days of waiting for the gentleman, who she had referred to as her brother, she took her own life in a stairwell to the beach, outside the hotel near her hotel room.
After she died, the hotel staff found they could not identify the girl and trace her family origins. Her photo was even telegraphed to different areas of the country to search for her relatives so that she could be given a proper burial by her family.
However, even the police could not find any of the girl’s family after an extensive search. Therefore, the case and the girl herself were referred to as the Beautiful Stranger. The moniker has stuck with the girl’s ghost.
Many years later, the girl’s identity was confirmed, and it was found that she was married but estranged from her husband. After the investigation drew to a close, it was concluded that she had arrived at the hotel to have a rendezvous with her lover.
The Life of Kate Morgan
In her life, Kate was a domestic maid at a wealthy household in Los Angeles. She had travelled to Del Coronado on a train, and when questioned later her fellow passengers had reported that she was with a male companion at the time. It was thought that he had deserted her halfway because of an argument they had on the train.
Without her lover, she arrived at the hotel and waited for him. As days passed, she became sickly and sorrowful. She had even gone to San Diego during her stay and bought a handgun. Later, she shot herself with the same handgun.
The day after, the hotel staff discovered her body on the stairwell leading up to the beach of Del Coronado. Two weeks later, she was buried in the nearby cemetery, the Mt. Hope Cemetery. She was given a burial, but no headstone, as her identity and family was not yet properly known.
While the popular theory is that because of her lover’s desertion and fruitless waiting, she became depressed and committed suicide. However, many researchers who have studied the hotel’s history and Kate Morgan’s case believe that the act could have been a murder.
Many believe that Kate had bought the gun to kill her husband, Tom Morgan, but that when he arrived he shot her instead, before making his escape. This theory also goes on to state that Tom burned all records of Kate to prevent authorities from identifying her.
The coroner at that time had reported that the bullet that took Kate’s life had not passed cleanly through her, but was still lodged inside her head. This means that the shot was more likely to have come from quite a distance and not from a close range, as a self-inflicted gunshot would surely be.
Researchers also believe that the man could have dragged her body to the stairwell from the room, which caused the rusting of the gun when the gun fell into the water, and Tom Morgan retrieved the gun from the water to plant it with the body.
For many years, Kate Morgan’s grave remained unmarked and unidentified, given only a plot number. A researcher of the case, Alan May, later bought a headstone and an angel statue to put on the grave.
The Ghost of Kate Morgan
Ever since the suicide (or yes, possible murder) of the girl, guests and staff have reported some ghostly encounters and strange occurrences. The room where Kate originally lived is believed to be haunted, with flickering lights and sounds coming from the room at night.
The television in the room turns on and off by itself at random times. Guests have also reported the opening and closing of the door all of a sudden and a sudden dip in the room temperature. You could also feel a sudden cold breeze passing through you in the room.
Guests continue to stay in the room on the third floor. Paranormal investigators have visited the famous hotel and recorded footage of some spooky activity in the room and corridor. The apparition of Kate Morgan sometimes appears by the seashore and the hallways too.
However, it seems that for all the spooky appearances, Kate means nobody any harm. The hotel has remained respectful towards its ghostly guests, and they have become an element of appeal for the hotel and its guests.
Top Image: Kate Morgan’s body was found on steps leading down to the beach: she had been shot. Source: SMU Central University Libraries / Public Domain.
By Bipin Dimri