When venturing to South Dakota tourists will find a number of world famous sites to visit. Tourists can venture to Mount Rushmore, Custer, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood, Keystone, Sturgis, and Hill City. All of these places are only minutes from Rapid City and one of South Dakota’s most haunted hotels, the Historic Alex Johnson Hotel. Guests of this hotel get the opportunity to stay at one of the finest hotels the city has to offer.
History of Hotel Alex Johnson
Back in the early 1920s Vice President of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, Alex Johnson, decided to build a grand hotel in South Dakota’s Rapid City. He wanted to build something spectacular as a tribute to the Lakota Sioux Tribes that lived in the area as well as the stunning Black Hills of that area. Construction began in 1927 and the doors to the hotel were opened the following year on July 1, 1928. The resulting building was designed to blend together Germanic Tudor architecture, for the tremendous German presence, and the Plains Indians heritage.
With its glorious location in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Hotel Alex Johnson proved a great place for people to stay who were interested in seeing Mount Rushmore. It is important to note that Alex Johnson broke ground on his hotel only one day before work began on Mount Rushmore. The interior of the hotel boasted brick flooring in the lobby, which remains there today, and a symbol Native Americans adopted centuries ago that means “four sacred corners of the earth,” is seen throughout the hotel to this day. Johnson also had a chandelier placed in the hotel made from war spears. That nod to the Lakota Sioux Tribe has remained in place for the nearly 90 years the hotel has been opened.
The bar off the lobby of the hotel was built and named after the Hotel Alex Johnson’s first official guest, Paddy O’Neill. Over the decades, the Hotel played host to a long line of presidents, dignitaries, celebrities, and ordinary folk. The quaint décor of this hotel has remained intact even after it changed ownership 20 years after its grand opening. At that time the Eppley Hotel Company purchased the hotel. The Alex Johnson would eventually become the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel, when Sheraton Hotels and Resorts purchased the Eppley Hotel Company. In 1965, after nine years under that name, the hotel once again became the Alex Johnson.
An interesting note about the hotel’s history relates to its use as lodging for Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, and Eva Marie Saint when they were filming the 1959 classic North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock even incorporated the name of the hotel into the dialogue of the film. On multiple occasions during the films dialogue the speakers reference the Sheraton-Johnson Hotel. In the hotel’s history people have used the historic building as a place to hold weddings, social events, as well as business gatherings.
Not all of the Hotel Alex Johnson’s history is positive and happy. There have also been a considerable number of tragedies in the hotel. There have been a reported eight deaths at the hotel. Some of those deaths remain unsolved. Some people may attribute these deaths in part, or in total, to the fact the Hotel Alex Johnson is ranked as one of the haunted places in South Dakota.
Hauntings of the Hotel Alex Johnson
When one hears about hauntings at a new location they may be hesitant to believe there is any truth to the stories. There are people who, at one point or another, did not believe in the ghosts at the Hotel Alex Johnson. Others took the stories they heard as an invitation to investigate yet another haunted hotel located in the United States. One of the groups that came to the Hotel Alex Johnson to determine if it was haunted was the Ghost Hunters crew from the SyFy Channel.
When the TAPS crew spent their time at the Hotel Alex Johnson they made multiple attempts to debunk different paranormal claims. In some of the cases, such as a message of “Help Me,” that appeared on a shower window when the room was steamed up, there is a logical explanation. It is quite possible someone left the message before the new guests checked in. In another instance the growling sounds that many people have heard were thought to be heating pipes. That made sense until the thermal camera picked up a figure, not belonging to the TAPS crew, on the other side of the wall.
When Amy from the TAPS crew was in room 304, they captured a deep voice on their recorder. There were squeaking noises, as well as footsteps and a door opening when another crew member was sleeping in room 802. The dog Maddie, that is trained to pick up on paranormal activity and ghostly presences refused to go in a room with high EMF readings. There were also strange knocking sounds, things moving on their own and one crew member felt some had exhaled a breath of air on them, but the other crew members were not close enough to do such things.
When it comes to people actually seeing ghostly figures people have claimed to have seen three different people. One of the people that have supposedly been seen around the hotel is Alex Johnson. Johnson died in the hotel in 1938. Many people believe he remains on the property to ensure it stays operating properly. People have also stated they have witnessed the ghost of a little girl on the eighth floor of the hotel. According to their statements the little girl likes to run up and down the hallway, knock on doors, but vanishes. They also say you can hear her giggling in the hallway as well as running up and down the stairs.
One of the most tragic and controversial ghosts that remains at the Hotel Alex Johnson is a bride who died on her wedding night. People have given her the name the Lady in White because when she is seen it is said she is still in her wedding dress. Although some people claim she committed suicide, friends of the woman claim she was murdered because of a large inheritance she had awaiting her. No evidence was found to confirm murder so it remains a suicide. Some say that the woman haunts room 812, the room from which she fell to her death from the window. She is said to wander the hotel in search of those who may have caused her death. People who have stayed in the room state the drawers are turned upside down in the dresser when they were previously in correctly. It is not uncommon to find the window to room 812 open in the morning after it was left closed during the night. Furthermore, with respect to the young bride who perished, some say they can still hear her crying.
People interested in staying at the Hotel Alex Johnson to see if the ghost stories are real can book a Ghost Adventure Package. These adventurous people will get the opportunity to be checked into rooms where paranormal activity has been reported. Along with the different ghostly figures previously mentioned there is a lot of additional activity and unexplained phenomenon that these ghost hunters should be on the lookout for while staying the night.
Guests to the hotel can anticipate seeing shadows in unusual places, doors opening or closing, and of course unusual knocking and growling sounds. It is also possible to experience what many perceive as a very aggressive entity that lives in the hotel. It is said that this entity likes to shove or bite guests without any type of obviously provocation. To go along with that, there have been reports that chairs have been thrown across rooms by someone not living. Other people state that other chairs are simply pushed from one area on the floor to another.
A former employee of the hotel claims that every morning he was tasked with consoling those guests that claim to have been visited by ghosts during the night. People have run into cold spots throughout the hotel, had the feeling that someone was sitting next to them, while others believe that someone is watching or following them when wandering around the hotel. It is obvious that the ghosts of the Hotel Alex Johnson remain very active. Instead of denying the claims the Alex Johnson is not one of the haunted places in South Dakota, the staff embraces the claims. It is even possible to look at the hotel’s ghost book that is located at the front desk. It is there that people can put what they have personally experienced with regard to paranormal activity.