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.
I 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.
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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.
Staying 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.
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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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