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I Lived in a Haunted Hotel

I know, this sounds like the title of a low-rent horror novel, but it turns out it’s just my life.

In 1997 I was still kicking around Sonora, California, working for the public works department re-zoning maps, playing in my band with my friend Nick and generally not really going much of anywhere. It would be another six months before I would walk into the recruiter’s office and join the Marines, but that’s another story.

At the time I was actually doing okay financially, at least for Sonora in ’97, but saving a few more bucks never hurt. I heard through a friend that the Fallon House hotel in neighboring Columbia California was looking for a night manager during the off season. Yeah I know, this sounds like the plot to the Shining, but it actually happened.

The Fallon House was technically two hotels in an old preserved mining town, with the main hotel (City Hotel) down the street. The one pictured above was the original, with a theater below it. That’s where I lived.

The original structure was built in 1852, with several additions after that. The hotel has a history of fire and death. Stories include a lady in white walking the balconies of the theater pictured, a woman leaping from the balcony during one fire holding her baby and several other tragedies. The lady in white was reported on several occasions to have “followed” people home. One woman said that during her drive home she looked into her rear view mirror to see a woman in an old time dress sitting in her back seat, which resulted in her driving her car off the road. I won’t go too in-depth into all the lore, as that would be a book in itself.

Long story short, I took the gig. In exchange for responding to any guest problems in the original Fallon Hotel I got free room and board. When I originally applied, the manager made a point of making sure I understood that the hotel was haunted. One of the cleaning staff who showed me around explained that they routinely responded to complaints of strange noises, one room that was always cold even with the thermostat cranked to the max, and furniture being stacked. In at least one case every piece of furniture was stacked into a huge pile in the center of the room. I of course didn’t believe any of this.

My first night I pointed my TV antennae to the only station I could get (KTVU 2) and settled in for the night. I heard occasional footsteps in the hallway outside my door, but assumed it was the one or two off-season guests I was told may be around. This was before everyone had a cell-phone or internet, so there was really no way I would know who was in the hotel.

I went to sleep that night, but awoke around 3 in the morning because I heard foot steps walking around my bed. I swear I am not making this up. At first I thought I was dreaming so I ignored it, but then I realized I was wide awake, and the foot steps were moving in a circle around my bed. My bed was against a wall. Of course I freaked out, sat up and turned on the lights.

Nothing. No one. I did however hear quiet voices outside my door. Again, off-season guests. There was no way I was getting back to sleep, so I woke up and walked into the ice cream parlor across the hall. This is where the refrigerator was and I kept my food and drinks in there.

In the photo above you can see the ice cream parlor, and importantly the large mirrors on the wall. I was standing behind the counter getting a soda out of the refrigerator when I looked up and saw the coat rack next to the front door with an old style top hat perched atop.

The problem was that there was no coat rack next to the door. That’s when I realized there was a man standing behind me, and then his head turned to look at me. Keep in mind I was seeing all of this in the mirror. I turned around and there was nothing there, but I bolted out the front door and into the street. I stood out there in the cold for a good twenty minutes walking around trying to decide what I was going to do. Then I remembered something that the cleaning staff had said to me.

“They make a lot of noise and knock things around, but they aren’t trying to hurt anyone. You’ll get used to it.”

So I walked back inside and slowly walked back through the hotel, finding nothing. The only thing amiss was off-season guests walking around upstairs. So I went back to bed. It took a good hour but I eventually even got back to sleep.

By now you’ve probably figured out that there were no off-season guests in the hotel that night, only me. I found this out the next day.



  • I grew up in Sonora, both my husband and I graduated from SHS in 1998. I remember hearing stories about The Fallon House Hotel and being a little scared as a kid to go into the ice cream parlor, haha. Great read, enjoyed the walk down memory lane, thanks! Incidentally, my husband is a Marine, went through boot camp in 1998.