By: Darren Frei
Some of humanity’s most riveting (and, yes, repulsive) real-life dramas have played out behind the ornate facades of some of the world’s great hotels. If a brush with infamy, mystery, or even murder is what you seek this Halloween, book an inn-famous stay at one of our favorite properties: We’ve even divulged some of the fabled room numbers and noted what you can expect from these storied hotels, should you plan on making some history of your own.
Adlon Kempinski Hotel
Then: Famously eccentric guest Michael Jackson dangled his baby from the balcony of the presidential suite in 2002.
Now: Adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate, this storied Berlin hotel is courting spa-goers following the debut of its three-story Adlon Day Spa in late 2007 – book the two-night “Time to Spa” package for perks like gourmet breakfasts, a 90-minute spa treatment, mani or pedi, and more.
Then: In 1895, Victorian society gasped when Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was arrested in Room 118 for “indecent acts.” Another room, the Edward VII Suite, was renamed to memorialize the future King of England’s frequent dalliances with the actress Lillie Langtry.
Now: This stately West End London hotel, done up in decadent Edwardian style, continues to exercise supreme discretion when it comes to its guests’ indiscretions. Peek through the curtains of your room for views of leafy Cadogan Gardens and chic Sloane Street.
Then: Opened as an opulent apartment complex in 1930, this Mediterranean-revival landmark was bought by Gianni Versace in 1992 and served as the Italian designer’s private pleasure palace until he was shot to death outside its ornate front gate in 1997.
Now: Versace’s extravagant embellishments – including pool, garden, and south wing additions – now entertain those connected enough to get a personal invitation to this 10-suite, members-only social club in Miami Beach. Versace’s former bedroom is now the Italian Suite.
Then: In 1978, the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, while living in room No. 100 at Gotham’s infamous bohemian bunkhouse.
Now: This New York grand dame’s dilapidated, non-commercialized charm may fade now that the hotel is under new management and slated for renovation.
Congress Plaza Hotel
Then: Built to accommodate visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, this hotel has since hosted numerous notables, and ghosts of former guests Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Frank Lloyd Wright are rumored to haunt the halls.
Now: Stellar location (adjacent to Grant Park, with views of Lake Michigan from several of its 850 rooms) and moderate prices make up for the fact that its service and amenities can’t compete with swankier Chicago institutions like The Drake.
Then: Surrounded by lush tropical forests, this secluded, 15-acre seaside estate is where Ian Fleming wrote all of his James Bond novels.
Now: Guests can rent the original three-bedroom Fleming house, built on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea in Jamaica. Write home about your own tales of intrigue from the giant wooden desk where he crafted Bond into the world’s foremost fictional super-spy.
Then: In March 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their honeymoon in Room 702, staging their first weeklong “bed-in” for peace.
Now: Get out of bed and take a short walk from this canal-side hotel to Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum or renowned Rijks Museum. In 1990, Room 702 was restored to its 1969 state and outfitted with a giant replica of a Plastic Ono Band album cover on its ceiling.
Hotel Mark Twain
Then: In town to perform a set at Café Society Uptown on Fillmore Street in 1949, blues legend Billie Holiday was busted in room No. 203 for possession of opium.
Now: The lobby of this three-star San Francisco hotel features a plaque, photos, and artwork dedicated to Holiday. It’s located only three blocks from Union Square and the city’s fabled cable cars.
Then: Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining after relocating his family to this imposing Colorado Rockies hotel built in 1909 (and specifically to room No. 217).
Now: About an hour from Denver, the Stanley offers 138 guest rooms (some recently renovated), daily ghost tours, and a full-service spa in a magnificent building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sunset Tower Hotel
Then: Of all the legends associated with this landmark Art Deco hotel’s past tenants – mega-watts like Howard Hughes, Marilyn Monroe, and Liz Taylor – none have been milked as much as the rumor that John Wayne kept a cow on the balcony of his penthouse.
Now: Maintaining the understated glamour of its golden-era heyday, this recently restored jewel box offers fruity cocktails at the poolside Terrace restaurant/bar and panoramic views of Los Angeles from most rooms.