Exploring the haunting of Hot Lake Hotel through first hand experiences.

Hot Lake Hotel: A Personal History

Hot Lake lies in Eastern Oregon, outside the small city of La Grande Oregon.

I spent most of my childhood in La Grande and
even from an early age, Hot Lake held in allure. Its very presence is
arresting to anyone just driving by – the large brick plantation style
building, crouched between the barren hill and the steam and ambiance of
the hot springs it is named for. Both the highway and the railroad
tracks run past it, but the place still has feeling of being outside the
traffic and busyness of everyday life. Even on such arterials, it has a
sense of isolation, even now with so much more traffic stopping.  Even
from an early age, I and my friends knew it to be haunted because we
were told “Hot Lake’s Haunted”. I couldn’t even tell you who was the
first to tell me – it wasn’t my parents, they weren’t from La Grande and
didn’t seem particularly convinced ANYTHING could be haunted; and it
wasn’t announced in a classroom or in any kind of initiation to La
Grande – it just was a fact that everyone seemed to “know”. At slumber
parties, tales always came up or someone dug out a library copy of
Oregon’s Ghosts and Monsters by Mike Helm with its reprinted news
article about wheelchairs that wouldn’t stay locked up and rocking
chairs that rocked by themselves.

 

In high school, in a small town with little interest in providing avenues
for its youth to stay entertained or occupied, one of the things
teenagers found for themselves to do was break into the abandoned
building. I will be upfront now, I was never that brave. The idea of a
haunted and decrepit building, combined with my teenage phobia of
getting caught always deterred me when the opportunity arose. However, I
found the stories that came back fascinating. Told around lunch tables
or smoking corners, locker rooms or the library – some had raucous tales
of thrills and chills, while others had anxious not sure if they wanted
to talk about it – there were the obvious false tales made up by those
who didn’t want admit they never got out of their cars and then the tame
tales of “it was just really creepy”.  Much later, after I had long
left La Grande, I caught the ABC Family show Scariest Places on Earth on
accident and was amazed to see Hot Lake briefly highlighted alongside
places like the famous Stanley Hotel from the Shining. Years later when I
read that it was reopening as a Bed and Breakfast, I had to go. And
that is when it started. As soon as people heard that we were going to
stay a weekend out there, they had some little anecdote to share, or
some tale of terror from their youth or more recently, odd things that
happened while they were working to restore it. And they all had the
same advice – don’t hang out on the third floor and don’t let the owners
know you think its haunted. The current owners live on premises and
have to be commended for the amazing amount of willpower it has taken to
take the decrepit heap to be safe for human habitation again. However,
they are passionate in denouncing any kind of haunting and I was told
they would probably throw me off the property if I brought it up. That
may be extreme but I took the message to heart and every time our
gracious hosts checked in on us, smiled and thanked them and never
braved a query. And when another guest, not from Eastern Oregon who had
never heard of the place but was staying for a weekend away from the
hectic Westside asked us if there were stories or anything strange about
the place because QUOTE “things were moving around our room last night
and there were voices that made no sense” – we whispered like naughty
school children “Don’t tell but yes, yes there is something strange
about this place”.

 

So out of my recent experiences, and just how many experiences I ran into
in the short time I brought it up in conversation, the idea was born to
have a place to gather these experiences and stories. Hot Lake has an
amazing history – from its Native American discoverers to its early
pioneer Oregon Trail role as a rest stop (can you imagine how nice a hot
soak must have felt after being on a wagon trail for months) to its
brief fame as a medical facility touting the impressive moniker “the
Mayo Clinic of the West” to an eyesore that terrified the local youth
and now a blooming business and thankfully restored historical icon for
the region. But part of its history are these experiences, these word of
mouth stories and unexplained happenings, I disagree with the current
owners that these cheapen Hot Lake, I think they add more to an already
rich tapestry.

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One response

  1. Scott

    I went to college At EOU in the late 90’s and ventured in this place one late night, seems as though the spirits aren’t fans of flashlights, i too had a similar experience but was not grabbed but bumped, and when i turned around my flashlight was spinning in the air. First and only time I visited that place

    November 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm

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