Nestled in the heart of Berkeley, the 276-room hotel is a mere 20 minutes from San Francisco’s downtown. The Claremont Hotel & Spa provides its guests with breathtaking views, landscaped gardens, and heated pools. Guests can also relax at the spa, spend time on the tennis courts, or enjoy the state-of-the-art fitness center. Guests might also find themselves experiencing some paranormal activity reported throughout the hotel in its more than 100-year history.
History of Claremont Hotel & Spa
Long before the Claremont Hotel became the Claremont Club & Spa, it was a family home. It was not just any home. Bill Thornburg, a Kansas farmer, moved to California with his wife and daughter. He was one of the fortunate few who made a fortune during the California Gold Rush. He spent part of his fortune acquiring 13,000 acres. With the acquisition, he had a beautiful English Castle, along with multiple stables, built to make one of his wife’s dreams a reality. The Thornburg’s lived happily in the castle a few years until their daughter moved away, following her marriage, and his wife passed away.
After purchasing the home from Thornburg, the Ballard family moved into one of the most haunted hotels in California. The Ballard family enjoyed their new home until a tragic day in July of 1901. On that day, the family was away from the house, and a fire destroyed the castle. All that remained of the once breathtaking Claremont castle was the barn, stables, and a few pieces of the home’s furnishings.
Once again, what remained of the castle and the property changed hands. Frank Havens is believed to have won the property and the future Claremont Hotel in a poker game. The new hotel building began in 1905 courtesy of Havens, his partner Frank “Borax” Smith, and the “Claremont Hotel Company.” After delays in construction due to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907 and the purchase of additional land, the Claremont Hotel opened its doors in 1915.
During the history of the hotel, the Claremont Hotel was involved in a unique legal battle. Due to the hotel’s proximity to the University of California’s Berkeley campus, alcohol was not permitted for sale in the hotel. After years of debates, it came to pass that the Claremont Hotel’s actual distance to the Berkeley campus was over a mile. The hotel went on to build a bar on the premises. According to legend, the student who reportedly determined the distance between the two properties was far enough to legally sell alcohol received drinks for life.
Although the Claremont Hotel has remained in use for most of its 100 plus years of existence, it has changed hands multiple times for assorted reasons, most typically for financial reasons. During the 1930s, Claude Gillum purchased the hotel and remodeled the impressive hotel from the ground up. The current owners purchased the hotel in 2014, and it became one of the luxury hotels associated with the Fairmont Hotel chain.
Ghosts of Claremont Hotel
The Claremont Hotel has more than just a history of providing its original owners and guests with a luxurious place to stay and get pampered; it is also a haunted hotel. Along with breathtaking views and incredible service, people visiting the hotel over the years have also been exposed to the Claremont Hotel ghosts and paranormal activity.
Some believe the fire that burned the original structure to the ground is the cause of some activity. There have been numerous guests over the years that have made claims of smelling smoke. This might not sound odd, as some hotels allow smoking in certain rooms or outside on the property. In the case of the people who have smelled smoke in their rooms, these were designated smoke-free rooms. To further add to the belief the smoky smell is a paranormal occurrence, the windows were closed, and the smell of smoke left as quickly as it appeared.
Celebrities and sports figures who have stayed at the Claremont have also found it one of the most haunted hotels in California. It is on record that a couple of athletes were staying at the hotel. According to their story, when an attempt was made to use the key in the door, it would not work. Multiple attempts were made to gain entry, but the key refused to work. If that was not odd enough, the two men could hear the sound inside the room from outside the room. They both believed someone had gained entry into the room. To make the experience even creepier, both men heard the distinct sound of a baby inside the room. The baby was not crying per se; it was making other sounds babies typically make. The guest booked for that room was moved into another area in the hotel where no ghostly or paranormal activity occurred.
Based on all of the reports of ghosts and paranormal activity over the years, one fact remains undeniable. The fourth floor is said to be the most haunted place in the entirety of the hotel. The room that appears to be the subject of most hauntings on that floor is room 422. Some people experience unusual noises that have no simple explanation. One couple stayed in the hotel and said they heard what they thought was construction sounds from their room. When this was brought up to the staff, they were informed that not only was there no construction going on, but the rooms on either side of the couple’s room were empty while they were there.
The most famous of all the ghosts that haunt the Claremont Hotel is that of a six-year-old little girl. Some people say she died in the original fire, whereas others claim she died in the hotel during its history. The little girl is not mean, nor is she hateful to anyone she encounters. She likes to sit next to people on their beds and make contact with them. People have also said they have heard the sound of a little girl giggling in the hallway at all hours of the night. It is not uncommon for people to experience extreme temperature changes in rooms or walk into a room that has cold spots.
One mother who stayed at the hotel with her son stated that she experienced some unusual activity. She stated that the room felt like there was an oppressive force in the room. She also said it was sweltering. Before she and her son left the room, they turned the air conditioner on so it would be cool when they returned. They came back to find that the room was, in fact, not cooler; it was much hotter. They had to have someone come and check the air conditioner, locked in the hot position. Once fixed, the maintenance worker left only to be needed back in the room because the air conditioner once again returned to the heat setting on its own. The son was also unable to use the remote for the television as well. Nothing would get it to work until the mother acknowledged a definite paranormal presence in the room. As soon as she did that, the TV changed channels.
Additional guests have seen ghostly shadows in the windows of different rooms in the haunted hotel when looking at it from the exterior. Further still, some guests have had what can be considered dangerous or frightening encounters. One guest claimed that while asleep, she was woken to the sensation of someone pulling the sheet up over her head. The person then put their hands on her neck and shoulders as if they were trying to suffocate her by pressing her into the pillow. She screamed, and the weight and sensation were gone. After turning on the lights and checking the room, she discovered she was alone, and the door was still locked and chained as she left it before retiring for the night.
A male guest experienced a ghost that took a keen interest in his pants. The guest stated that the ghostly figure tugged on his pants until they were removed. Other guests have encountered problems with the elevator where it will go to floors not requested or simply not work until an unseen force allows it to go. Some people have felt that they are being either watched or followed when they are walking around the hallways of the hotel as well. There is no doubt that the Claremont Hotel is one of California’s haunted hotels.