Hotel Utica History
For fans of mysteriously unconfirmed haunts — the kind that invite you in to investigate for yourself — New York’s Hotel Utica is the cream of the crop. With a history steeped in wealth and fame, this functioning hotel is a quintessential haunt, where moving objects, creepy midnight hall-wanderers, and forbidden floors have guests new and old looking over their shoulders.
The hotel opened in 1912 as one of the first luxury hotels between the cities of New York and Buffalo. With ten new floors added in the 1920s, the elegant accommodation became a favorite of the likes of President Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt. Amelia Earhart was celebrated at a star-studded dinner in the dining hall and Judy Garland’s voice rang out from the mezzanine in the hotel’s first heyday.
Until the 1970s, the hotel hosted the rich and famous, which is why it became a designated National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotel of America in 2001. But for about 30 years beginning in the late 1970s, the hotel’s financial woes landed it in a carousel of purposes with a range of residents. It was an adult care facility, then vacant, then significantly remodeled — the type of history that makes for the spookiest haunted locations.
Ghosts of Hotel Utica
When it comes to haunting, Hotel Utica has it all — moving objects, staticky phone calls, and unexplained figures seen in the night. Today, it’s decorated to the nines with both the original decor and replicas of the originals that were lost in its 1970s life as a living facility.
Let’s begin with the lobby, where the hotel staff have been subject to unexplained movements for years. At the front desk, hospitality staff have been known to receive phone calls from empty rooms. When they pick up the phone, they hear perhaps the creepiest sound of all: empty static. Fearless staff who have called the rooms back don’t get an endless ring, though — someone or something answers the phone, but static is all they hear. If that isn’t enough to spook the poor hotel staff, they’ll sometimes be walking through the lobby when the chandelier turns off inexplicably.
Over in the kitchen, dishes have moved all on their own, with unexplained figures seen while no staff is in the kitchen. If these ghosts are hungry, it must be for a midnight snack — guests have sighted an old woman dressed in housekeeping clothes wandering the halls in the middle of the night. The hotel has confirmed that no housekeeping staff is on duty at 2 a.m., ticking off yet another box on the paranormal activity checklist. The hotel’s pub is supposedly home to the “tuxedo man” as he’s known to hotel staff, who is one of the hotel’s only ghosts with decidedly negative energy. Bar staff and guests have found broken glasses and plates, all attributed to the unhappy tuxedo man.
On the mezzanine, a beautiful woman clad in a white, 1900s-style ball gown has been sighted during large events hosted at the hotel, but she’s elusive and has been known to disappear after being seen.
When Ghost Hunters host Kris Williams explored the hotel on Halloween in 2015, it wasn’t for naught — she gained access to the hotel’s forbidden floors to investigate. She heard voices and saw a floating face on the thirteenth floor, right in line with employees’ reports of hearing parties in empty ballrooms, conversations in unoccupied hotel rooms, and knocking on doors.
On the fourth floor of the hotel, guests often hear noises from above and ask reception if there’s a party or large group in the rooms above. Of course, there is not — unsettling to the fourth-floor guests who will open their knocking doors to a completely empty hallway. This is the floor where cleaning staff often report items moving while they’re completing their duties as if cleaning a hotel room isn’t unsettling enough on its own.
Get Haunted at Hotel Utica
Lucky for paranormal junkies, there is not a single room in Hotel Utica that’s off-limits to guests. You can rent any of the rooms on the hotel’s first 12 floors, with Room 410 considered the most haunted. In this fourth-floor room, the hotel staff has found the shower running after receiving calls from the room — all while unoccupied, at least by an earthly being. Rooms 408 and 409 are also considered by the staff as ripe for hauntings, so make sure you book around this area of the hotel if you want to get up close and personal with the ghosts.
Although members of the public and hotel guests are forbidden from accessing the hotel’s abandoned top floors, there’s plenty of spook to go around on the mezzanine, in the lobby, and at the pub. If you haven’t booked a room at the hotel, you can still stop into the Lamplighter Pub for a drink and a chance at seeing the tuxedo man.
Now a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, this accommodation is luxurious and classy, including a gym and proximity to all that downtown Utica has to offer. Even if you don’t see a ghost, you won’t be disappointed with a night or two at this high-class hotel situated conveniently in town. Rooms at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Utica range from $124–185, ranging from queen rooms to king suites with fitness rooms or panoramic views of the city below.
The best part? Hotel Utica is located near some of Utica’s other most haunted locations! Take a ghost tour at the Stanley Theatre, a “movie palace” built in 1928. Just a ten-minute walk from Hotel Utica, the functioning theater hosts concerts and theatrical events in its beautiful, 1920s-style walls. Take a one-hour tour ($5) through the theater or jump in with a three-hour ghost hunt ($15), where staff will take you to the spookiest locations known for unexplained footsteps, echoes of giggles, and full-on ghosts.
A few minutes’ walk from the Stanley Theatre, the functioning Union Station is home to several ghosts that speak to the railway’s tragic history. Accidents on the railroad have left apparitions like train conductors, phantom train lights, and old-timey passengers. Take a guided ghost hunt by appointment at this 1914 train station, where you just may hear the screams of the station’s less fortunate passengers.
At the Shoppes at the Finish Line closeby, ghost investigations by appointment will take you on a journey through this 1800s wool mill. Although today it’s home to souvenir and gift shops worth checking out, the building has a long history dotted with the paranormal. Lucky visitors might see the old man known to protrude a warning presence keeping shoppers from checking out the third floor. The old mill was destroyed by a fire in 1871 and has lived many lives since, making it the ideal location for a ghost hunt.
Zoë Hannah is a travel journalist, editor, and professional TripAdvisor scourer. She loves finding nitty gritty details about off-the-track locations and then discovering them for herself.