Haunted DeSoto House Hotel: Reader Experiences

Six years ago we wrote about the haunted DeSoto House Hotel in Galena, Illinois. Guests feel someone sit on the bed at night. Others smell cigar smoke where there is none. And then there’s the story of The Lady in Black, who makes an appearance and then disappears through walls.

We’re amazed at the number of people who continue to comment on the article, relating their own paranormal experiences in the hotel. Here are some of them:

DeSoto House Hotel

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

Mary P:

“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.”


“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!”

Haunted Hotels in America: Your Guide to the Nation’s Spookiest Stays
  • Do you believe in ghosts? In his years of travel writing and research, Dr
  • Robin Mead has found that people are almost equally divided between believers in ghosts and those who think ghost stories are just that–entertaining stories
  • In Haunted Hotels in America, you’ll find a state-by-state guide to the lodgings that cheerfully admit to having an intangible guest or two
  • Like the spirits themselves, the stories are extraordinarily varied
  • Some are sad

Teresa E:

“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 .”

“Correction .. we stayed on the third floor in the Schuyler Colfax room.”

Christina K:

“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.”


“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 thought it was a little strange since he always sleeps on the left side of the bed and isn’t much of a cuddler 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!”

Jill P:

“My husband, young daughter and I stayed at the DeSoto 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.”

Tasha D:

“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!”

Aaron D:

“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.”

Mary E:

“First of all i want to say i would never stay at any other hotel in Galena! It`s smack dab in the middle of town so you can literally park your car in the attached parking garage and start having fun. Second I’d like to share a paranormal experience I had on the first floor ladies restroom. I was in the stall and the restroom was empty except for me. Suddenly I was shocked to hear an infant crying since I didn’t hear the door open and anyone enter. Then as the baby continued to cry I heard a woman’s voice hushing the child. I came directly out of the stall, and to my surprise, no one else was in there with me!

I later heard from the desk clerk that what I had experienced was a paranormal happening and others had reported it happening to them also. I feel very happy that I got to experience the phenomenon!”

Sue A:

“I’ve stayed on the 3rd floor twice, in two different rooms. The Bayard Taylor room (326) I believe, gave us a few interesting moments last year. After returning from shopping, the musty smell we had all day was replaced by a heavily flowered perfume in the room. After dinner, the room had the smell of cigar smoke. Kiddingly, we told the spirits that we would stay awake until 3 a.m., when the action happens supposedly. Of course we fell asleep.

“At 3 a.m. I was awakened by my Fitbit lighting up and going crazy with vibrations that occur with texts or phone notifications. So out of it, I took it off and covered it so I could sleep. In the morning, I asked who would have the nerve to call or text at 3 a.m., then realized the time it occurred. I checked my phone, and no notifications came through at 3 a.m.

“Last month we stayed in room 331. No action either night but the morning we were leaving, a light went out on its own. We tried to fix it and couldn’t. Then it went on and off and on and flickered for a minute before staying on. Our friend was in the shower at the time. She came out and told us she felt a presence in there and asked it to turn the lights on and off, or even just flicker them, to let her know someone was there. She was so bummed out nothing responded to her continued requests when she had such a strong feeling. We were SHOCKED when she told us the requests she was asking, while they were actually occurring in the room instead of the shower! CREEPY!”


“My husband and I stayed at the DeSoto this past summer. Cannot remember our room number, but our corner room faced the Main Street. I got up middle of the night to use the bathroom. After returning to bed, I had difficulty falling asleep, feeling like something strange was going on. At first, I didn’t want to open my eyes, but thought, “That’s silly.” I opened my eyes and saw a very thin woman in a black, somewhat sheer dress, walking past the foot of our bed. I actually tried to scream out my husband’s name, but was unable to utter a sound. The woman kept walking towards the street side wall, but glanced at me, just as she disappeared through the wall.

“As a side note, the hotel is beautiful, and dinner at the restaurant was fabulous.”


“I didn’t stay there but did have dinner in their upper restaurant and went to the third floor. I did feel a chill, but when I went ahead of my group, I felt someone walking with me and I looked over and there was no one there. I also visited the room that was a embalment room and it sounded like people were talking, and people bumped into me but no one was near.”

Stacey J:

“Me and my sister-in-law stayed at the De Soto Hotel in the Fall of 2017. We spent one night there before meeting the rest of the family for a girls trip. Once the family came in to town, we moved to a new hotel in Galena. The De Soto was lovely and I didn’t know that it, or Galena was famous for having ghostly experiences.

“We ate at the General’s Lounge that evening; it was delicious. We went back up to our room on the second floor because we were tired from driving all day long from Minnesota. I fell asleep early, but was awakened by a vivid dream and the feeling of something hovering over my bed. It seemed black and frilly-like. In my dream I was running through an old building with tons of doors and I was getting lost and calling out for my sister-in-law. Then as I woke up I felt or saw a black figure hovering over me. I quickly jumped up, went to the rest room, grounded myself, and went back to bed! I was startled for a few moments.

“I didn’t wake my sister-in-law, but the next morning I told her that I had a scary dream about a black ghost. She laughed and said, ‘Oh, so it wasn’t Casper’? I replied, no it was black, and that was one freaky dream!

“I didn’t find out until two nights later that the hotel was famous for ‘The Lady in Black’ ghost. We took a ghost tour and learned about the many ghosts of the Galena hotel, and the infamous Lady in Black. I was pretty freaked out for a for a few days, and I can’t explain it … but I was visited by something that night. I can still see the figure as I awakened from my dream. I could not see a face, but it was over the end of my bed and seemed black and frilly, like a curtain, or dress. An experience that I have never had before, and so very vivid to me.

“I still loved the hotel, and would like to go back someday to see if I am visited again. Now that I am aware of the history, I don’t think I will be as scared.”


“My husband, son and I stayed in a room on the second floor of the DeSoto by the door that goes to the staircase. Two times we smelled a very strong men’s cologne in the hallway by the stairs. It was confined to a space of about four feet and did not seem to dissipate. It was very noticeable, not like a whiff of a passing man and not something any man would wear today!

“On another experience in Galena we went to the old cemetery on a ghost tour. The guide gave us dowsing rods to see if we could communicate with any ghosts. My son and husband had no responses to their questions. But I carried on a long yes and no conversation with someone! I felt a strange electrical buzzing when I had the rods! It was incredibly weird and scary! These experiences happened in January 2019.”

David G:

“Two weekends ago my wife and I stayed in room 301 (Schuyler Colfax room). As I was relaxing on the bed in the evening, I felt a presence on my left side which caused me enough discomfort that I called out to my wife, who was in the bathroom. She sat next to me but did not feel the presence nor the incessant “tingling.” The focus of the tingling shifted to my right side and back. When the feelings began to dissipate after about 10 minutes, my wife got up to return to the bathroom. Almost immediately the presence returned to my left side only much more powerfully, causing me to actually gasp out loud. My wife returned to my side and in short order, the tingling subsided completely.

“Later that night, around 2 a.m., I felt someone sit on the window side of the bed near my waist. It was very pronounced and only lasted a few seconds before the bed returned to normal. It was an unforgettable night which left me with many more questions than answers.”

If you stay at the DeSoto House Hotel

Note: We edited some of the above quotes for punctuation and typos only. We did not alter any of the wording.

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2 thoughts on “Haunted DeSoto House Hotel: Reader Experiences

  • June 25, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    Last weekend we stayed at the hotel. Room 219. In the middle of our second night I had a horrible dream, I tried to scream but the noise that came out was bizarre. Just after my scream my husband heard footsteps. But we were both in bed.


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