Many people have checked into hotel rooms labeled “No Smoking” only to find a lingering smell of smoke. But few hotels can legitimately give the reason for such an inconvenience as being the result of a haunting. The Claremont Hotel (now the Claremont Resort and Spa) in Berkeley, California can make such a claim. And the smoke from a long ago fire is not the only thing clinging to the Claremont. It is also home to a playful little girl’s spirit.
In the late 1800s, a young Kansas farmer-turned-prospector by the name of Bill Thornburg was dreaming of gold. Heading to California, he became one of the minority and “struck it rich.” Being “new money” he bought 13,000 acres and built his wife’s dream home—a modern castle. He also had several stables, housing hunter and jumper horses and breeding English foxes for his hunting parties to chase and kill. The Thornburgs’ daughter married and moved away and soon after this, her mother passed away. Disheartened, Bill sold his wife’s castle to the Ballard family.
On a dry summer day in 1901, while the Ballards were away, the castle burned to the ground. Only the stables and barn survived the blaze. The result of a lively game of checkers, the property was won by Frank Havens. In 1905 he began construction on a hotel. The earthquake of 1906 dashed his plans. Not one to give up easily, Havens got the hotel built and opened its doors officially in 1915. Since then it’s changed hands several times and millions of dollars have been invested to make it a first class resort and spa.
People have speculated the 1901 fire is the real reason some guests smell smoke at odd moments in otherwise smoke-free rooms. After the fire almost ruined the structure, renovation led the owners to create a hotel. The Claremont Hotel, some say, looks like it should be haunted.
The fourth floor seems to be the area of the most focused activity. Witnesses report strange problems with flickering lights and televisions turning on while 4th floor guests use their bathroom. The mischief-maker seems to be the spirit of a little girl who died there when she was only six. Some say she died in the hotel, some claim it was in the house that caught fire.
Although her name and the story of her death have been lost to history, the traditional explanation has seemed accurate for years now. People occasionally claim to catch a glimpse of her. Her favorite room seems to be room 422, although the nearby rooms also seem to get some ghostly attention. No one seems particularly worried about the little girl ghost acting dangerously—most actually report getting the sense of a nice presence when she’s near. So, although the Claremont may look creepy to some, rest assured the restless spirit of one little girl will do her best to make visitors on the fourth floor have a memorable stay!