Haunted Stays XV: Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, California

Colorful sunset afterglow at the historic Hotel del Coronado

As the 19th century came to a close, prominent hoteliers ES Babcock and HL Story looked out over the scenic cliffs of Coronado, California. When they arrived in this southern California hamlet, they saw unlimited potential in its pristine shoreline. To them, this was the perfect place to build a grand hotel catering to the rich and famous. After a considerable amount of planning, Hotel Del Coronado jumped from the drawing board to reality.

After opening in 1888, Hotel Del Coronado enjoyed unimaginable success and was a favorite destination for Californians who could afford to stay. Nevertheless, that good fortune came to a halt in 1892 when scandal rocked the hotel to its very foundations. A lovely young woman named Kate Morgan checked into the hotel and never checked out. And if the stories are to be believed, she still remains in the hotel long after her death.

Those who were there in 1892 recalled a woman arriving at the hotel in a state of extreme distress. “The beautiful stranger,” as people called her, arrived with no luggage and no personal belongings. All she had were the clothes on her back and piercing blue eyes welled up with tears. A small number of guests managed to engage the young woman; the story she told them appeared to be a bit contrived. According to her, she was waiting for her brother who was due to arrive at any moment. No brother, or anyone for that matter, ever arrived.

The mystery of Kate Morgan came to a tragic end when her lifeless body was found in a disused staircase. When the police inspected the body, they discovered what killed her: a single gunshot wound to her head. When the police interviewed staff and guests, they were informed she arrived at the hotel clearly distraught. With everything they were told and saw, police determined Kate Morgan had committed suicide. As far as the police were concerned, the case was closed. 

Or was it?

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A few police officers who were part of the investigation didn’t agree with their colleague’s final assessment due to one glaring inconsistency: no gun was ever found. Typically in a suicide, a gun is found either near the body or in the victim’s hand. This fact alone convinced them the beautiful stranger was in fact the victim of murder. All they had to do was prove their suspicion and their determination would soon pay off.

After putting up flyers all over town with Kate’s face on them, and interviewing several people, a break in the case presented itself. Investigators discovered that Kate was not alone but was rather traveling with her husband by train. Apparently, tempers flared, and a violent fight broke out between Kate and her husband. When the fight became out of hand, Mr. Morgan was kicked off the train in San Diego. Kate remained on the train sobbing inconsolably until it rolled into Coronado. The officers theorized, Kate’s husband caught up with her, cornered her where no one would see or hear and shot her dead. If he did kill his wife, Mr. Morgan was never questioned or arrested. The police stuck by their story that Kate Morgan died by her own hand. As for Mr. Morgan, he disappeared into history.

A long-standing belief in parapsychology states that sudden, or violent death, could result in a haunting. If there is any truth to this, the haunting of Hotel Del Coronado most certainly lives up to that criteria.

Not long after Kate Morgan departed this mortal world, guests and employees reported dramatic encounters with the beautiful stranger. While walking on the beach, the image of a weeping woman appears, forlornly staring out at the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Samaritans who are concerned for her safety approach to ask if she needs help. Before saying a word, the woman simply vanishes leaving a sense of despair in her place.

The third-floor guest room where Kate spent her final moments is known to have some inexplicable activity. A cold breeze blows through the room as the hushed voice of a woman can be heard. If this is Kate Morgan, she appears to be fascinated by electricity. The lights flicker on and off and the tv channels rapidly change even as someone is watching it.

Sightings of Kate Morgan are regularly reported around the hotel, but it’s the gift shop that really draws her attention. Customers have watched in awe as items lift off shelves and fly around the room as if guided by an unseen hand. The items then fall to the floor remaining perfectly intact. And her apparition, dressed as she was when she arrived, has also been seen entering and exiting the gift shop.

Whether or not her untimely demise was by her own hand, or out of revenge by an angry husband, the beautiful stranger will forever be a part of the Hotel Del Coronado.

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About Rick Hale 106 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.

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