The Cavalier Hotel
Overlooking beautiful North Beach in the bustling city of Virginia Beach, Virginia, this elegant hotel features far more than a stunning view and its dramatic chandelier-hung lobby with glossy checkerboard floors and sharply contrasting paneled walls. This, the original Cavalier Hotel, has ghosts. Elevators run when no one is riding in them, toilets flush of their own accord and guests report that their room towels change color from time to time. But these are only little oddities compared to the tragedies that began only two short years after the Cavalier opened on what was then a rather secluded strip of beach.
Many guests have remarked on architectural similarities between the old hotel and the Overlook hotel featured in the movie “The Shining.” Perhaps it is also the creepy feeling of something always lurking that causes visitors to draw such connections. Guests have reported they feel like they are being watched in both the Pocahontas room and the Hunt Room. Perhaps it is the waiter who supposedly walks through the walls of the Pocahontas room or the lady followed by a ghostly dog crossing the hotel lobby, or perhaps it is merely someone who still broods about the misfortunes of their lost life…
Opening in 1927 (after 13 months of steady labor), the Cavalier was once the haunt of the movers and shakers of society, hosting such guests as Adolph Coors (of the famous brewery), author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and actors and actresses including Judy Garland, Will Rogers, Bette Davis, Betty Grable, Mary Pickford, Ginger Rogers and Jean Harlow. For three decades the Cavalier hired a wide variety of big-name bands. Performers included such greats as Tomy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Glen Miller, Lawrence Welk and Bing Crosby. Now guests report that the piano in the ballroom sometimes plays by itself—maybe wishing for the raucous music of the Twenties.
Nicknamed the “Aristocrat of the Virginia Seashore” the Cavalier was the spot to see and be seen, so it’s no wonder some guests are reluctant to depart. Ten US Presidents have also stayed or spoken at the Cavalier, bringing with them the rumors, speculation and debate that guests, both living and dead, seem to feed on.
During the Roaring Twenties, the Cavalier skirted Prohibition by driving well-to-do guests on discreet trips to the local speakeasies. This evading of the law was not enough to keep brewery owner Adolph Coors from a mysterious fall that ended his death on June 5, 1929. Whether suicide because the brewery was forced to make cement and pottery rather than beer during Prohibition, or murder (as some feel Coors was pushed through a closed window on the hotel’s 6th floor), people have reported sensing someone still lingering and cold spots appearing randomly throughout the 6th floor. Many have even reported the sickening sound of flesh slapping concrete—could it be that Adolph Coors relives his tragic plunge on a regular basis?
Local lore claims that the hotel’s first owner shot himself on the premises, but it seems unsubstantiated as a hotel staff member said the initial owners of the hotel were a group of people investing in a business venture and they held it until the Dixon family purchased it. So, although the rumor can’t be attached to a specific person through my research, perhaps it was one of the original owners or one of the Dixon family members who committed suicide on the property. Or, perhaps (as is the case too often), this “fact” is merely a case of rumors evolving and growing.
The hotel’s front desk is occasionally plagued by guests calling to report a cat meowing and scratching at doors in the hotel’s grand hallways, though no living cat has been seen roaming the halls in decades. Rumor has it that a young girl’s pet cat escaped one night and drowned in the swimming pool—the little girl also drowning as she tried to save her precious pet. Though the girl’s ghost has not been sighted and people only occasionally report strange sounds from the pool, perhaps the cat still wanders the halls trying to find his worried young owner.
Visitors report mysterious orbs showing up in their photos and hearing footsteps where no one is seen walking. A popular tale revolves around sightings of an older African American gentleman dressed in the hotel’s old staff uniform. Guests report that he stands on the staircase of the sixth floor and warns people of ghosts ahead. Unfortunately, it seems he himself is a ghost, as there hasn’t been any staff to fit his description working at the hotel in more than a few years.
Today the Cavalier Hotel is truly two distinct hotels—the Cavalier on the Hill (the original and still haunted) and the Cavalier Oceanfront (beautiful and at peace except when tourist season begins).