“I can’t find the key,” I told Jerry and dumped the contents of my purse on the Victorian carpet of the hotel’s hallway. My wallet, driver’s license, lip gloss, Tic Tac mints, and receipts hit the floor. Jerry stood silently as I searched for our room key, the only one issued to us. Jerry held a luggage bag strapped to his shoulder and a suitcase propped beside him.
“I’ll tell the lady at the front desk,” I said as Jerry continued to stand silently in front of our locked room, number 26. He had a long-suffering, trying-to-understand-how-this-happened expression.
At the front desk I said to our hostess, “I can’t find my room key. Do you have another one so we can get into our room? I’m sure I’ll find the other key.”
Our hostess, who had greeted us an hour earlier with warm goodwill and smiles, shook her head in exasperation. The cheerful manner she displayed when we checked-in had vanished. She seemed angry.
“That’s our only key!” she said.
“Don’t you have a master?”
She continued to shake her head and seemed to sigh heavily.
Not knowing what to do, and realizing our hostess was clearly upset with me, I said, “I’ll keep looking for the key.”
I found Jerry still standing in the hallway, still holding his luggage bag, still wearing the long-suffering expression.
“That’s the only key, Jerry. Can you believe that!”
“You’re kidding. What hotel has only one room key?”
I rummaged through my purse again. Suddenly I heard laughter rolling down the hallway like someone riding a slow-moving roller coaster, ho, ho, ho, ho, heeeeeee, heeeeee.
Our hostess headed toward us. Her poufy blond hair bounced with her laughter. “I would never lock you out,” she said with a wide smile and opened the door to our room. She handed a second room key to Jerry. Apparently she no longer trusted me with the hotel keys.
You mean she was pranking me? She had another key all along?
Once inside, Jerry suggested we methodically go through my purse and pockets once again. “Here it is,” I said. “It was in my cosmetic bag.” Odd, I didn’t see it the first time I looked.
At the time, I didn’t connect the strange occurrence with ghostly shenanigans.
We had checked in at the Hotel Vendome for the adventure of a bygone era. Built in 1917, the two-story, red-brick hotel sits in the heart of Prescott, Arizona and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has earned a notoriety for being haunted by ghosts, especially by a female ghost named Abby, a former guest who died in room 16 in the 1920s.
I chose the hotel for its historic charm. I wanted the 1917 experience. “Think of this, Jerry,” I said as we unpacked, “This hotel opened almost a decade before our parents were born.”
With the exception of a flat screen TV and a telephone, the room kept much of its 1917 character, creaky wood floors and doors.
We left for dinner and when we returned, Jerry said, “The room is stuffy and we don’t have an air conditioner.” He opened the window for air. Part of the 1917 experience is fresh air from an open window.
“I can’t sleep with all that noise,” Jerry said, referring to the live band with heavy rhythmic beats coming from a saloon a block away and wafting into our room. BOOMA-BOOMA-BOOMDY-BOOM-BOOM. Jerry slammed the window shut, sucking the fresh air out of the room.
In the bathroom I noticed an empty birdcage hanging from the shower. How often do you see that? What happened to the bird? Did it die from lack of oxygen?
I couldn’t get the water in the shower to maintain an even temperature. The shower head blasted arctic-ice cold or scalding-boil hot. Freeze or boil? Yiiiiiikes. I got out before hypothermia or third degree burns did me in.
Because the shower failed to see my demise, the toilet decided to give a try. The unbolted seat caught me off-guard and jerked me to the left, like a fast-moving bobsled on the Disney Matterhorn ride jumping the track. I’m sure the herky-jerky toilet seat had the hope of hurling me straight out the window two-stories down. Fortunately for me, I outsmarted the toilet and had the window closed.
I hesitated getting in the bed. Would it smother me with its blankets in the middle of the night? Thankfully, my eyes opened the next morning to see another day. My hair, however, suffered a trauma while I slept. It stood straight up like an electrified explosion.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but do they do hair while you sleep? The strange occurrence had me wondering.
At the front desk, and with my hair semi-combed, I asked our hostess Barbie (I learned her name) if by chance we had stayed in the haunted room.
She smiled and said, “There are four ghosts here, but not in your room. However they do wander at night. That’s why I always leave at 9 p.m. and after that, good luck!”
She continued, “We get the paranormal people who want to stay in rooms 15 and 16. They’re haunted rooms. And see that tree across the street? It’s The Hanging Tree. Cowboys were hung on that tree back in the 1800s. You know, cowboys were no more than five feet tall, so it didn’t take much to hang them. We’ve had the Ghost Hunters here and we’ve had many write-ups on Abby and other ghosts haunting the hotel.”
All I can say is ghosts may or may not exist. What I know for sure is this: the homicidal toilet is real and I’m warning you now.
PS Thank you to Barbie at the Hotel Vendome who made our stay delightful, once I realized she really wasn’t mad at me. She entertained us with many stories of the hotel’s history and her fun manner made our visit memorable.