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

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Slammed Doors

Story related to me. A few high school girls had to do a local history
project and they choose to do it on Hot Lake. As part of their project
they wanted to go out and look around, take pictures and generally
explore the then decaying debris of Hot Lake’s former medical glory.
They spent a lot of time one afternoon looking through and taking some
great black and white photos (see the few attached with this post). One
of the girls started messing around a bit more than exploring, wheeling
herself in some of the remaining wheelchairs and being loud and
disrespectful. The girls were on the third floor, going down the hall
and the one was going up to half closed and closed doors and kicking
them open with force. From room to room they traveled in this manner,
joking around, telling the one girl she shouldn’t antagonize the place
but having a relative good time. They reached the door at the top of the
stairs on the third floor (South east corner of that hallway
intersection) and the one girl does her super kick on the door, as she
had a half a dozen previous doors. However, this door wasn’t as
complacent. She kicked it open and before she had her leg back down in
standing position, the door slammed shut in her face with force.
Stunned, the girls stood there looking at the door, then down both
directions of the hallway ALL the doors to the various rooms began
slamming shut in order from both ends – heading to meet where the girls
were standing. Terrified they ran down the main stair and out into the
parking lot and their car. They sat there all excited and couldn’t
believing what they had saw and started to convince themselves to go
back in while there was still daylight. When they began to head back in,
they heard a terrific noise come from multiple points in the building,
like a thousand windows breaking at once – it simply sounded like a
massive glass explosion – but they could see nothing breaking and at
that point, most if not all of the main building’s windows had been
already broken out. Without much discussion, the girls turned around and
left.


Black Mist and Orb

Currently, Hot Lake actually is a really nice place to stay.
A wonderful soak, the quiet atmosphere, tasty dinner, we were relaxed and as
night fell – excited to lurk in the “Guest Library” which used to be the
surgery room. The doctor who made Hot Lake famous supposedly was an early
pioneer in hysterectomies and XRay technology so  there is a lot of equipment around. At one
time, long before being restored, many people said that the floors of some of
the rooms, and the entrance to the now covered basement, were covered in
medical records. Anyway, we hung out in the surgery/library for a couple hours
and not another soul joined us on the third floor. The owners are remodeling an
apartment on the third floor for them to live in but never seem to be finishing
it and stay in some of the hotel rooms on the 2nd floor. It had been a quiet
and non-eventful evening but we had fun thrilling ourselves and taking a
million pictures. At 10 o clock we decided to do one last circuit of the third
floor before heading to our rooms, we were being quiet about doing it as we
didn’t want the owner or any of the staff to come up and ask us what we were
doing. Also, the one set of guests staying on the third floor, from out of
town, had retired to their room at the top of the stairs. We started reading a
lot of history on the walls, the framed articles and historic photos and just
enjoying the atmosphere. I wandered farther down the south  end and was looking down the short hallway to
what they call the “quad rooms” – a couple of bedrooms that share a bathroom.
Now two things to help set the scene here. For not believing in anything
paranormal, the owners do a couple things that I find funny – almost like they
are trying to reassure people without admitting anything. They crank music
through the hallways, even the closets, at all hours of the day. You aren’t
going to hear anything and if you do – easy enough to say it was just the
music. Secondly, they seem to leave an abnormal amount of lights on throughout
the entire building 24/7. When rooms are not being used by guests, they leave
them open so other guests can tour them and usually there are several lights
on. Coming across that end of the hall, darkened and quiet, without either
lights or music caught my attention. But then my companion was startled and
waved at me from near the main stairwell and I turned to see what was happening
and out of the corner of my eye, saw someone or something, step into one of the
rooms. My breath caught and I froze. It just seemed like I wasn’t alone,
someone was right there, just out of sight in the darkened bedroom at the end
of the hall. I wasn’t even thinking “ghost” or anything extraordinary, I was
thinking we were totally caught goofing around the halls. I raised the camera
and took a picture and realized there was no flash so I quickly followed with a
picture with the flash, not watching the screen but watching the room. Nothing
was there, relieved I shook it off and headed back to my companion who had been
startled by a “yell”, which when we got closer to the room and the noise
repeated we realized were the occupants “enjoying” their vacation. Totally
embarrassed and thinking that our brief foray into “ghost bustin” was a total
bust we headed back to our room. We started looking through pictures and
chatting, and playing back the old school tape recorder we had left in the
surgery and made a couple of discoveries that kept me up the rest of the night.
First, randomly on our tape we came across a brief burst of screaming that
neither of us in the room heard, though it sounded like it was happening right
there. You hear us talking and then what sounds like a woman’s frantic
screaming and we don’t seem to react to it. That was creepy and I still need to
find a way to pull it off the tape to share it. So I thumbed through pictures
and had lots of gorgeous pics from an artsy perspective but nothing too
interesting until I came to those hallway pics. Crooked and not framed, you can
tell I was using the camera flash more than “taking a picture” and the first
one with no flash, a shadow darker than the surrounding dark is just there.
There in front of the door jamb and seems so 3D, like a black mist hanging in
the hallway. The second pic immediately following shows a small “orb” as they
are called in the exact same place as the mist. It’s the only time out of 500
pictures that either of these phenomena happened on my nice digital camera. I
don’t even really know what an orb is, but it doesn’t look like it belongs in
this picture.

I didn’t really sleep that night, even if the pictures hadn’t
alarmed me but the place is just restless. All night. Noises and voices and
doors closing. I couldn’t say if they were any otherworldly causes except that
in the place so large it was once used as a hospital, why do a total of six
spread out guests sound like a hundred people wandering around?


Stairwell Attack


How the stairwell looks today

A story relayed to me –

Around the mid 90s, Junior and a couple of his friends decided to go out to Hot Lake at night, look around and just up to general mischief. Then Hot Lake was standing empty, most the windows broken out of it and just standing full of crap – both metaphorically and physically from the birds and rodents that called the place home. After checking out the second floor, the three young guys with flashlights in hand head up the back stairwell towards the third floor. Part of the way up, they see footprints being made as they watched dumbfounded coming DOWN the stairs toward them. Juniors friends run for it, but Junior is absolutely frozen, flashlight in hand, staring at the approaching footsteps when suddenly his arm holding the flashlight is grabbed by nothing he can see and the flashlight goes flying out of his hand. That unfroze Junior and
he beat his friends to the car out front.


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.


Hot Lake Hotel: An Introduction

For those of you not familiar with Hot Lake, this brief summary from Wikipedia is a great overview –

Hot Lake Hotel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hot Lake Hotel is a hotel originally built in 1864 in Hot Lake, Union County, Oregon, United States. The hotel became a popular vacation and resting spot due to its relaxing thermal waters. It was purchased by Dr. W. T. Phy in 1917 who developed state-of-the-art medical facilities including a hospital and surgery room with the most modern X-ray and radiation treatments of the time. It functioned dually as a resort and hospital until 1934, when a fire destroyed the majority of the original building, which contained nearly 300 rooms.

From then on, the remaining brick structure served as a nursing home, asylum, and restaurant before being abandoned and falling into disrepair in 1991. Prior owners included future governor Walter M. Pierce and former state senator Parish L. Willis who were major shareholders of the Hot Lake Sanatorium Company in the 1910s.  In 2007, the property was re-purchased and restored, and as of 2010, functions as a bed and breakfast, museum, and spa.