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Monday, October 16, 2017

Haunted City Hotel in Columbia, California

This hotel sits on the site of what was originally a blacksmith’s shop and the Lager Beer Saloon. In 1860 it was converted to a hardware store. 

In 1865, owner George Morgan added a frame structure called Morgan’s City Hotel. He continued to add on and made space for a bar, a music hall and theater, a restaurant, Cheap John Louis’s Auction House, and Shine and Company’s Stage Line. Even when Columbia’s fires damaged his building complex, he patched it up and reopened its doors.

City Hotel dining room today
This complex of businesses was run by George Morgan’s family after his death until 1911 when it was sold. In 1947, the State of California purchased the building to become part of the new state park and the building was renovated. The hotel had no indication of paranormal activity until an ornate antique bed from the 1850-1870’s period was moved into Room #1. 

Many of the furnishings for the City Hotel renovation were originally imported from Europe to fill some of San Francisco's finest mansions. More than a century later they made their way to Columbia. One of the hotel's furniture focal points is the ornately carved bed in Room #1, for in addition to its fine craftsmanship and artistic design, it came with a tragic history. It seems a woman, who hotel guests and staff came to name Elizabeth, actually died in childbirth in the bed.

Ever since the bed was moved into Room #1, doors open and close randomly, and often a perfumed "scent of a woman" will waft through the room with no apparent cause. Lights flicker on and off. On one occasion, a child repeatedly awakened his mother to tell her he was afraid of the woman dressed in white who stood at the foot of the bed.

The staff named the ghost Elizabeth. Later they discovered a woman named Elizabeth had died during childbirth while in that bed. Either, Elisabeth was so attached to the bed, she came with it from San Francisco to Columbia. Or, she has been in the vacant hotel all along, but became active with the arrival of the bed. Several paranormal investigators who visited the hotel came to conclusion there was a some type of tragedy involving a baby, grief and an atmosphere of sadness that can still be felt in Room #1.

City Hotel and What Cheer Saloon
Carol Biederman, a ghost tour guide in Columbia, discovered through intensive research that there had been a brawl in the saloon on the first floor of the building, which was just under Room #1. Guns were drawn, shots were fired, and a stray bullet went through the room’s ceiling into Room #1 on the second floor. The bullet killed a baby in that room, which could account for the aura of sadness.

Reports of paranormal activity in other rooms in the hotel have been made. Some people claim George Morgan, who hanged himself during a period of despondency, still makes the rounds in his hotel to make sure everything is going well.

My one and only ghost story to date takes place in the Leavitt House, a hotel in Bridgeport, California on the other side of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains from Columbia. There is a ghost associated with Room #16 in the Leavitt House, however, no one knows who she is, or what causes her to stay at the hotel. The genesis of the story I wrote was based on the reports of the woman who died in childbrith at the City Hotel in Columbia.

Williams, Nancy K.; Haunted Hotels of the California Gold Country

Here is an Excerpt:

     Hazel knew she had a long day ahead of her the next morning. She decided she might as well put on her nightgown, brush out her hair and prepare for bed. She noticed when she walked toward the opposite side of the room to pick up her valise, the feeling of sadness faded. But, when she walked back toward the dressing table, it increased slightly. Her curiosity aroused, Hazel once again walked toward the side window of the room. The feeling of sorrow again intensified.

     “Go away.”
     Hazel froze in place. Someone was speaking to her. She quickly stepped back until she reached the bottom corner of the bed. The sense of sadness once again diminished. But that did not answer the question now in Hazel’s mind. A tingle of fear coursed through her as she realized she was not alone in the room.
     “Who’s there?”
     “Go away. Leave me alone.”
     Her legs trembling, Hazel clung to the post at the foot of the bed. She had heard the voice twice now. Only, it wasn’t a voice she heard. The words entered her mind as plainly as if someone stood next to her and spoke to her, but they did not come through her ears first. And, in spite of the two lamps casting their soft glow throughout the room, she could not see anyone. 
      “Who are you? I know you’re here, but I can’t see you none.”

      “Leave my room. Go away.”

      Leave her room? Hazel had heard the Leavitt’s talking about this room belonging to a Sarah. But, they said she wasn’t there. Or, was she?
      Hazel swallowed in an attempt to keep her throat from closing with fear. “Are-are you Sarah?”
     “I’m Sarah. How do you know of me?”
     “Right pleased to meet you, Sarah. Mr. Leavitt done told me about you, and he said you like stayin’ in this room, but he said he ain’t seen you for a spell.”
      “I’m here. Leave me.”
      “I don’t mean you no harm, Sarah. I done told Mr. Leavitt I didn’t want to put you out none, but he said it ain’t no problem seein’ as how there ain’t no other room I can stay in and I don’t want to share a room with Mr. Sweeney.”
      Hazel waited, but heard no response. “I can tell you’re here, Sarah, and you seem powerful sad, but I can’t see you none. Are-are you under the bed, or hidin’ in a closet?”
      Hazel gasped for breath and gripped the bedpost until her fingers ached as she witnessed what took place before her eyes. Where before there was a carpet with a red, blue and cream design next to the bed between the side window and a table at the head of the bed, she now watched as a mound of white materialized on top. A dark spot in the center which Hazel soon realized it was hair flowing down the back of a head to someone’s shoulders lifted. A face appeared beneath it. The face belonged to an attractive young woman perhaps only a few years older than she was. Hazel had no idea how the woman accomplished it, but the woman rose to her feet as if pulled up by a puppeteer’s string until she stood at her full height. The two studied each other. Hazel’s eyes never left Sarah’s face, yet with her peripheral vision Hazel could not help but notice the beautiful design of the white gown worn by the woman before her.
      Gradually, the fear Hazel felt faded. The person before her radiated sorrow, but nothing Hazel considered threatening. She began to suspect what she was seeing, but wanted to confirm it.
      “You’re a haint, ain’t you?”

You may read more about Haunted by Love by Zina Abbott by CLICKING HERE on the purchase link. The book is available for Kindle on Amazon. You may also read it with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. 


  1. Ghost stories, especially those in old buildings are the best. It makes me want to find out what the truth might be.

    Thanks for the story and history. Doris

  2. Even though I don't believe in ghosts, I love a good ghost story. Old buildings and cemeteries are like the favorite places for these occurrences. Loved all the photographs.
    I wish you great success with your book, HAUNTED LOVE.

  3. I'm the opposite of Sarah. I do believe in ghosts. I've seen several. Cemeteries are among my favorite places to visit for the haunting and spirit-return possibilities. I really enjoyed your article (sorry about being so late to the party, though) *wink*

  4. I am a descendant of George Morgan of this hotel -- he is my 3 times great grandfather. My husband and I stayed a night in the hotel about 6 years ago (before we were married). It was the strangest night -- we were the only ones staying in the hotel, and the people at the front desk left for the night. It was off-season and the whole town of Columbia was quiet. We stayed in room # 2. I knew about the ghosts ahead of time, including the story of George Morgan taking his own life in the hotel/bar. That night, I swear I heard the sound of boots (like cowboy boots) walking on the wood floor outside the door to our room, and the floorboards were creaking. Strangely, I wasn't scared at all as I KNEW it had to be my great grandfather! (I later scared my boyfriend, telling him my great grandfather was not happy as we were not married at the time!) :-) The next day, I was let into a parlor room off of the dining room where a huge painting of George Morgan adorned a wall -- it was really neat! To this day, I am 100% sure that the ghost of George Morgan--my ancestor--visited us that night/ :-)

  5. I'm reading this a week after booking a visit to the city hotel in Columbia California, IN ROOM ONE! I don't beleive in ghosts and know this is just a story, but what a way to terrify the heck out of me for a simple and fun trip.