Vacation – Day 2

I’m so enamored by the history of New Hampshire’s Grand Hotels.

And so I’m really enjoying digging into the history of the Sunset Hill House which used to be a much larger resort around the turn of the last century. Luckily for us, not only are there old photographs and relics from the Inn’s past on display in the lobby, parlor, and tavern, but it’s also quite easy to find out more from other establishments in the area {the Sampler, other museums, and the historical society}. Plus, we had a really great chat with Karen, the front desk supervisor, about the history of the Inn and – you’ll love this – its ghost stories!

Now before I get into the spooky tales that I’ve heard rumor of, I’ll start with fact. What is now the Sunset Hill House (a “Grand Inn”) was once a Grand Hotel Resort. It was established in 1880, and originally much more expansive including many structures and annexes, the main building of which was much larger than the Inn that presently stands. During the time of railroads and horse drawn carriages, a lot of well-to-do city dwellers wanted a way to escape and find some fresh air {the beginning of the tourism industry which still provides so much of our income well over 100 years later}, so they’d come to stay in one of the White Mountains’ Grand Hotels for weeks or months at a time – so fascinating. I always sort of picture the Grand Hotel culture of that time to be kind of like Titanic, but with more outdoor activity and much less disaster. This morning we read up a bit about the history in a summary available at the front desk, then took a walk over to the Sampler and into Sugar Hill village for more details.

The Sugar Hill Sampler, by the way, was fantastic. They have the typical little souvenir shop that one can come to expect every few miles in this area of the world, but on top of that they have an incredibly extensive family history section that is actually quite intriguing. The family who owns and runs the place has lived there since they came upon the land by ox cart in 1790 as the first permanent settlers of Sugar Hill. Over the years they have saved some truly interesting heirlooms which are now on display with sentimental captions and memories. But, more than just family heirlooms, these pieces are representative of life in New England and how it has evolved over time – right along side the Sunset Hill House. In fact, they have more than just a family history present, but many original items from the Inn and other historical artifacts important to the town’s history. And, in the basement – this is the best part – are vintage and antique pieces {some mid-century modern – my weakness!} in great condition and for sale at very reasonable prices, so make sure you don’t miss that!

Right, now on to the ghost stories; On Friday afternoon Ryan + I were sitting in the parlor. He was playing piano and I was trying my best to finish my book. In front of me, but perhaps twelve feet away {I was seated with my feet up in front of the fireplace} a door in the corner of the room that connects the parlor to a long hallway began to slowly creak open. Ryan turned his head slowly toward the door and halted his playing. We looked at each other warily as it finished opening itself up, then Ryan jokingly began to play a spooky tune. I’m sure that the air pressure of the old building changed just enough to open this unlatched door, or that a wind came down the hallway from an open door at the end, but nonetheless, the event was slightly unnerving.

This afternoon we found ourselves with Karen in the same parlor, and casually mentioned the door experience. She told me that she wasn’t surprised at all since she’d had several very similar experiences herself. She has only worked here for just over a year, but at one end of that same hallway she once witnessed a bathroom door open itself inward, then close again. The closing part isn’t strange at all since the door is very heavy and does weigh enough to close after being opened, but no one was near there at the time and there was no way the door could have possibly swung open on its own {we tested it ourselves}. This happened during the winter when the Inn was rather deserted. Karen said there were only two pairs of guests, both in their rooms at the time, and she was alone for staff on duty then, too. All of the doors and windows of the building were secured due to the New Hampshire cold.

In the same long hallway, there is a phone booth. Karen told me that on many occasions guests have reported having “weird feelings” about the phone booth and that a guest had even seen this lovely glass door open itself. The fireplace I previously mentioned sometimes happens to light itself, and up on the third floor {where we’re staying} there have been many reports of children running loudly during the night, but on every occasion that there has been a complaint, there were no kids checked into the Inn. In fact, children rarely stay here seeing as it is mostly a romantic getaway for couples on anniversaries, honeymoons, and vacations. The strangest thing that she has witnessed, though, was again this winter during a violent snowstorm when a couple and their young son entered the Inn. Karen was in the middle of speaking with another guest, so she leaned over the counter, smiled at the small family, and announced that she would be right with them in a moment. They replied and waited patiently by the banister for her attention. When Karen finished up with her first guests, she then shifted her attention back to the couple at the bottom of the stairs and asked where their young son had gone. They looked at her curiously stating that they didn’t have a son and it was just the two of them looking to come in from the storm. Karen had seen him clearly and was even able to report to us in detail exactly what he looked like and was wearing – he was very young, 5 or 6, had short dark hair {she outlined her face with her fingers to show us just how it fell} and was wearing a brown and yellow checkered coat with a peter pan collar. There was no child there when she had looked back, just a very eerie feeling and two confused guests.

We’ll keep our eyes and ears out for sure tonight!


P.s. Karen also told us that Nancy {the owner} was once playing in the snow with her daughters when she saw boot prints approaching her…without a body to make them. She did tell me that this was just a rumor she had heard and not confirmed, so I’m excited to see Nancy again and get her side of the story!

2 thoughts on “Vacation – Day 2

  1. Carl V. says:

    Ghost stories are the best, especially if they are about the place where you are staying. I’m glad you guys are having some fun, creepy experiences. That just makes it all the more memorable. I think I’d be tempted to track down a book of ghost stories to start reading just to really get myself in that mood.

    How cool that the house has that extensive of a family history. That just doesn’t happen enough, too often things get sold out of a family and that history is just lost.

    Sleep well tonight!!!

    • Jeeze, Julia! says:

      After I wrote this post last night and thought all about these stories, I was definitely a little freaked out! I may or may not have been Ryan’s shadow for the rest of the night, haha. Reading a book of ghost stories probably would have put me hiding under the covers for the rest of the evening!


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