Friday, December 4, 2009

Shanley Hotel

The Shanley Hotel

The Shanley Hotel is a turn of the century Classic Dutch Colonial in Napanonch, New York, built in 1845. It burned to the ground in 1895, was rebuilt the same year over the old foundations, and that's the structure that stands today. The hotel boasts of 35 rooms, hidden basements, and secret stairs throughout the building. Hey, it even has an old bordello.

Over the years, it acquired quite a history. While generally operated as a first class hotel - FDR and Eleanor stayed there, as well as Thomas Edison - there were also times when it was a honky-tonk house, featuring painted women, dancing, gambling, and the inevitable police raids.

It's had over twenty owners during the years, but the one we're most interested in is James Louis Shanley, who purchased his namesake hotel in 1906. He drew the public to his inn with card tournaments, social gatherings, high teas, a bowling alley and a billiards parlor. While it was a big hit with the locals and clientele who regarded the family warmly, there were several tragedies that struck the Shanleys.

James' wife Beatrice gave birth to three children; none survived long enough to reach their first birthday. Her sister Esther died in childbirth at the hotel. James himself met his Maker after a heart attack at his inn.

The place is spook central. Oh, a lot of the phenomena is paranormal child's play: doors open & shut, footsteps are heard at all hours, people chat in an empty bar area, rocking chairs are seen swaying on their own, unseen clocks chime, cold and hot spots are all about, the scent of perfume wafts by, the sounds of children laughing are reported, ragtime music is pounded from an unattended piano, ladies' jewelry gets tugged on by invisible hands, the smells of breakfast come from a deserted kitchen, orbs abound, a sense of being watched is felt, an occasional moan fills the know, the usual stuff. It's a 24/7 ghost playground.

And that's just the opening act. The Shanley is supposedly home to 33 different resident apparitions, totaled up by the owners and the small army of ghost hunters that have swept the hotel halls.

Some sightings are attributed to the Shanleys. James is said to wander around the hotel in the form of a misty apparition, often whistling. A woman can be heard mourning; it's supposed that she's Beatrice, bemoaning the loss of her three children and sister.

Another story involving the Shanleys is the Al Hazen tale. Beatrice sold the hotel to him after James died. He had the same birthday as James (Halloween!), and eventually died on the same date, too, although different years. Probably just eerie coincidence that their signs lined up, hey?

The Shanley spooks aren't alone by a long shot. It's believed that many of the spirits that haunt the hotel are trying to share their tale with the living and receive a little justice, even if it's in the afterlife. Rumors teem that murders were committed and covered up there, along with the tragic deaths and fatal accidents sadly commonplace in an old hotel.

Some of the spirits interact with the guests, making physical contact with a poke or push, getting captured on film, or filling tape recorders with their EVP responses. Others just go about their daily haunts, happy to hang out in a place that's familiar to them instead of heading to the light and the unknown, like an ethereal lemming.

The ghosts cover the whole time span of the hotel, well over 150 years. A woman in a beautiful Victorian style dress can be observed on occasion. Men dressed in Roarin' Twenties outfits have been reported, as have girls in hippy uniforms from the sixties.

A spirit named Claire, a young woman who was said to have hung herself, haunts the third floor. She told psychics that she was murdered and isn't leaving until her true fate is revealed.

An 11 year old named Jonathan happily plays with toys left in his room to amuse ghost hunters; his rolling of a ball on request is featured on a You Tube clip.

Joe, a self-employed hit-man in life, also haunts the hotel. Unlike his earthly persona, he doesn’t seem to be a threatening presence at the Shanley, just another murderous boarder who is sometimes a bit surly.

In the old bordello, a photo was taken of a working girl gazing towards the Shawanugunk Mountains from her window. A penny for her thoughts! The room is supposed to be the most actively haunted in the hotel, and has a physical effect on its visitors.

People have reported feeling light-headed, suffering shortness of breath, a physical heaviness, and an overwhelming feeling of either euphoria or depression when they enter the Bordello Room.

Not that any of this bothers the owners, Sal and Cindy Nicosia. They embrace the spooky. Heck, their web site claims the Shanley is ghost-investigator friendly, has a blog roll of paranormal groups, hosts spook-hunting tours and ghost pajama parties, and offers a brief recap of the haunted history of the hotel.

They back up their tales, too, saying the reports "Have been documented with EVP's, photos, well-known psychics, paranormal investigators, news articles, eye-witness's (sic), and guests who have visited the hotel..."

They've earned a spot in Linda Zimmerman's Ghost Investigator series. Book #7 is called Psychic Impressions, and has a chapter on the Shanley Hotel along with other Hudson Valley haunts.

So if you want to break into ghost-hunting, head up to Napanonch and the Shanley Hotel. Hey, you don't need experience and don't even have to bring anything more than a camera and tape recorder; the spooks are eagerly awaiting your visit and more than willing to strut their netherworld stuff.


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