Haunted DeSoto House Hotel, Galena IL

You picture Abraham Lincoln descending the sweeping curved staircase, stovepipe hat in hand, following his speech orated from the hotel balcony in 1856.  Or perhaps you imagine General Ulysses S. Grant being greeted by townspeople attending his welcome home reception following the Civil War.   The DeSoto House Hotel in Galena, Illinois, was truly a grand establishment in the mid-1800s, the five story hotel the center of both social and political events.  Then with a fire and a boiler explosion ten years apart and an economic decline when railroads replaced steamboats, the DeSoto House fell into disrepair.  Fast forward to today, the hotel is fully restored, the top two floors removed years ago and private baths added to all rooms, but reminders of the hotel’s glory days remain, like the sweeping lobby staircase and some of the guests who apparently never completely left.

Staircase at DeSoto House HotelI stayed in the DeSoto House for two nights, and I admit I never saw an apparition, but I stayed on the second floor.  I understand it’s the third floor that experiences most of the hauntings.  The desk clerk I spoke with said she never believed in the paranormal until her experiences at the DeSoto House.  First was a cold chill followed by a bright ball of light that zoomed past her as she worked on the third floor late at night, with no explanation as to where the light could have come from.  Then there were the reports from several guests that they felt someone sit on the edge of the bed.  The reports were always from guests staying in the same room.

DeSoto House Hotel

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Although most of the hauntings are on the third floor, the lower level dining area has its own ghost.  For years employees reported the sighting of a lady in black period dress walking down the stairs and disappearing into a wall.  In 2011 Galena experienced a flood that destroyed the drywall in the hotel’s lower level.  When they removed the drywall, they found a brick wall with a doorway opening in the very place that the Lady in Black was said to disappear.  Instead of putting drywall back over that area, they covered it with plexiglass and added a sign above it noting the story of the Lady in Black.

Lady in Black SignHole in brick wallStaying in a hotel in which important historical figures stayed can give you a sense of awe.  But knowing some of the guests from over a hundred years ago may still be lurking in the hotel, you feel a totally different emotion.  Fear?  Angst?  Excitement?  It depends.  How adventurous are you, and how much do you believe in the paranormal?

If you stay at the DeSoto House Hotel

The DeSoto House Hotel is located at 230 S Main Street, Galena, Illinois.
Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

Have you ever stayed in a haunted hotel?  Tell about it in Comments below.

Disclosures: My visit to Galena was hosted by VisitGalena, and my stay at the DeSoto House Hotel was complimentary. However, all opinions are my own.
This article contains an affiliate link, which means I will receive a small commission if you book a room using this link.

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22 thoughts on “Haunted DeSoto House Hotel, Galena IL

  • October 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm
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    I always think of Galena and wine & shopping, not ghosts! Looks like a great hotel though….hope to make it to Galena sometime soon myself.

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    • October 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm
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      I always thought the same about Galena: wine, shopping and Grant’s home. I didn’t know about the DeSoto House ghosts until we had the hotel reservation. I suppose all of the history rich river towns have their share of ghosts, some more than others. I think it adds an element of excitement, although I may change my mind if I ever do see a ghost.

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  • October 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm
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    I’ve wanted to visit Galena, IL since reading about it many years ago in a Midwest travel magazine. Like Adam, I’d always heard about the shopping and wine there, but I hadn’t heard about this haunted hotel. Putting it on my mental Midwest bucket list 🙂
    I’ve stayed in, and written about, a couple of similarly supposedly haunted places…although I haven’t spotted any ghosts in my travels to date. The Lodge at Punderson State Park in Ohio is particularly known for its ghosts, and I stayed there a few times for writers’ conferences. One of our group reported feeling someone/thing sit on the edge of her bed in the middle of the night…and she -was- staying in the older, supposedly haunted wing of the place.

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    • November 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm
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      I thought I’d be scared staying in a haunted hotel, but I wasn’t. That is, until I got up in the wee hours. I couldn’t step into an area of the room that was still in the dark.

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  • April 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm
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    My husband and I stayed at the Desoto House 2012 and I can tell you that I did think someone sat on the bed next to me. I was so surprised to see no one was there when I looked up from my phone. I called out to my husband and he was in the bathroom at the time. There was definitely someone with me but I couldn’t see or hear anyone. Creepy feeling.
    Later that same night when we were getting into bed I reached out to shut off the lamp and before my hand got near the lamp the light went out. That did it for me. I knew someone was in our room with us. Our room was on the second floor. We never heard a sound or voices but that was enough for me to be sure there was someone with us that night.

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    • April 5, 2014 at 3:44 am
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      Wow, creepy. And here I thought I was “safe” on the second floor. I will say I felt a little creeped out at night with the possibility. I usually get up in the wee hours and start working, with just a little light on my computer so I don’t wake my husband up. But the chair I would have sat in was in the total dark, and I couldn’t bring myself to sit there.

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  • December 23, 2015 at 7:16 pm
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    My husband and I stayed here in January about 5 years ago. I can’t remember if we stayed on the second or third floor. We too had a couple of strange things happen. The first night I turned the TV off manually and it came back on– twice!! The second night I woke up and saw this strange light slowly moving around the coffered ceiling! It wasn’t a ball of light, more like wave of light. I must not have been too scared though cause I went back to sleep!

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    • December 23, 2015 at 10:18 pm
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      Wow. Kind of funny how when it happens, it sometimes isn’t that scary. At another haunted property I stayed at, I swear someone touched my arm at 5 a.m. and shook me gently, like they were trying to wake me up. Of course, I was woken up from a sound sleep, so I couldn’t tell if it was real or a dream. But it sure as heck felt real. The funny thing was, it didn’t freak me out. Now if I would have seen someone or heard a voice, I’m sure that would be a different story.

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  • February 1, 2016 at 8:18 pm
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    My husband and I stayed at the De:Soto House Hotel this past summer of 2015 and we had some strange experiences. We stayed on the second floor and it was very quiet because it was a few days before the 4th of July weekend. When I started to doze off, I heard what I thought was a train in the distance. Also, in the middle of the night I heard loud voices in the hallway. It was around 3 or 4 a.m. It sounded like a man and woman talking very loudly. I justified it in my mind that they were checking out. I also smelled a faint odor of cigar smoke and my husband thought some extra pillows tossed in the room had moved. The strangest part though was that we both had vivid dreams. I dreamt a little girl kept calling me to come with her and my husband dreamt that I was murdered by a bank robber! In his dream we were not married and I was a bank employee ; he was a customer. Very strange from a guy who never remembers dreams. Can’t say exactly what was going on but it was bizarre! On the plus side, the food at the General’s Restaurant is delicious, rooms are very clean, and the staff is friendly and polite .

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    • February 1, 2016 at 8:28 pm
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      Correction ..we stayed on the third floor in the Schuyler Colfax room.

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      • February 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm
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        From my understanding, the third floor is where most of the paranormal experiences occur.

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    • February 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm
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      Wow, what an experience. It would be interesting to find out if there had been a violent bank robbery in the past. Others have mentioned smelling cigar smoke, too.

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  • February 22, 2016 at 9:33 am
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    We stayed nearby over this past weekend, but stopped in the Green Street Tavern for lunch. I hadn’t read about any of the haunting stories or anything in advance. As we were waiting for our lunch, something distinctly brushed my cheek. I was astonished that there wasn’t something actually touching my face. I thought it must be a few long hairs grazing me (my hair is very short), and even wondered if the woman behind me had swept her hair back off her shoulders inadvertently brushing my cheek, but my significant other said nothing/nobody had come near me. Just a moment later, as I was still trying to figure it out, the same sensation occurred near my collarbone on my chest. I was startled and kind of unsettled, but it made me laugh almost uncontrollably – very out of character for me to begin such a giggling jag.

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    • February 22, 2016 at 3:11 pm
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      Spooky…

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  • June 30, 2016 at 5:32 pm
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    I stayed there with my husband about a year ago. In the middle of the night I was woken up by the feeling of my husband getting into bed on the right side of the bed, laying down next to me, and putting his arm around me. i bought it was a little strange since he always sleeps on the left side of the bed and isn’t much of a cuddled when he sleeps. But I didn’t think too much of it and drifted back to sleep for a bit. I woke up a little while later and was surprised to see my husband back on “his” side of the bed. In the morning I asked if he had gotten up during the night at all and switched sides of the bed and he said he didn’t. He isn’t prone to sleepwalking. It was very strange. Definitely could have been a dream on my part but it was so vivid!

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    • June 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm
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      Wow…eerie.

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  • October 25, 2016 at 5:20 pm
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    My husband, young daughter and I stayed at the De Soto a couple of years ago. I can’t remember which floor or the room number – but there was a picture of a doctor in his civil war uniform on the wall. The 3 of us slept in the bed together with me closest to the wall – with a gap to walk between the wall and bed. In the middle of the night, as I slept with my back to that wall and facing my daughter – with my husband on the other side of the bed, I was awakened by several sharp nudges to my back. I immediately sat up because it was so hard. I thought it was my husband but there was no way he could have reached all the way over our daughter to my back that was facing the other direction. I put the covers over my head and right after that I felt someone sit down on the bed next to me. I knew it was a ghost but just couldn’t yell out or get myself to try and wake my husband up. It was really a strange feeling. The next day we took pictures in the room and there are definitely “orbs” in all of the pictures. I could feel the nudge – or like a finger poking me – for days after that. Really creepy.

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    • October 25, 2016 at 6:52 pm
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      Wow, Jill, that really is creepy. I’ve never experienced anything that strong. The closest I’ve come (at a different hotel) was waking up to the feeling that someone was gently shaking my arm, like they were trying to wake me up. The funny thing is I didn’t feel creeped out. I don’t know if it was real or a dream, but it sure felt real. I can’t imagine still feeling nudges after I’m fully awake. I think that would scare me to death.

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  • October 29, 2016 at 11:01 pm
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    My husband and I visited the hotel while walking around Galena. I was taking pictures of the presidents who spoke off of the balcony of the hotel when I captured this image behind me. I didn’t realize what I caught in the picture until after we returned home. I then emailed the picture to Amelia of Amelia’s Haunted Ghost Tours which she thanked me for the image. I wish there were a way for me to share on here!

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    • October 31, 2016 at 6:07 am
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      Hi Tasha. I’d love to see the picture. If you post it on Facebook and tag @MidwestWanderer, I can share on social media. Or if you want to send it to info@midwestwanderer.com, I can share, if you would allow me to.

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  • November 21, 2016 at 2:50 am
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    My wife and I stayed on the 3rd floor and she claims that it felt like someone sat on the bed during the night. I on the other hand slept very well and had no events happen.

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    • November 21, 2016 at 6:18 am
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      I’m hearing more and more stories of events like that at the DeSoto House, Aaron. Scary…

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