I Booked a Haunted Hotel Room by Accident—Here's What Happened Next

Young man walking with rolling suitcase thru a creepy corridor
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It was 2 a.m., and I woke up to my fiancé, awake and very agitated, rustling around in our queen-sized Philadelphia hotel room. Moments later, he turned on the light.

I turned to face him. "Is everything OK?"

"Did you ... try to get my attention just now? Were you tapping me on the shoulder?" He looked completely spooked.

"No, I didn't." We peered intensively into each other's eyes, trying to communicate non-verbally. We recently learned that one of our friends grew up in a haunted house. As she recounted her experience, she told us that her family was not to talk about the spirits while at home. Whenever they did, something bad would happen.

We were staying in the Motto by Hilton Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square, the city's first micro-hotel, which reopened in May 2021 after operating as the Pod Philly for six months. On the surface, it looked far from haunted: Decked out in blush pinks and soft golds, the lobby had a chic, millennial-friendly vibe going for it, purposefully designed for socializing as opposed to passing through. Our room, 312, featured a minimalist aesthetic and smart technology—a far cry from the peeling wallpaper and wooden rocking chairs I typically associate with haunted spaces.

My fiancé stood up and came to my side of the bed, where the room phone was. He picked it up and held it to his ear for a second before putting it down. He went back to his side of the bed and sat back down.

"What was that about?" I asked.

"Nothing." The tapping, he explained after a few minutes' pause, was on his right side. I was lying on his left side, with my back to him, when the tapping began. It just didn't make sense.

I paused, thinking of ways to get through the night with even an ounce of sleep. What if we kept the lights on? Would turning on the TV help? (I firmly believe that a good ol' laugh track can help soothe the soul and calm the nerves.) However, my partner worried that whatever spirit was trying to get his attention would turn it back off (in spite? in playful jest?). In situations like this, it's best to "keep your mind occupied," Matt James, the blogger behind Visitingly.com, told TripSavvy. "If you're feeling scared, try to watch TV, read a book, or listen to music. If you can take your mind off of the feeling, it will be easier to deal with."

We both agreed that sleep wasn't going to happen in that room. My fiancé explained that he had picked up the phone earlier to see if someone was working the front desk. There was, and after minutes of deliberating, we decided to see if we could switch rooms. He picked the phone back up.

Luckily, our hotel had two other rooms available—on a different floor and a different wing of the building—and they were willing to let us switch without question. "I'll explain why downstairs," I heard my fiancé say on the phone.

So, at 2:30 a.m., we began packing up all our things, bleary-eyed and with racing hearts. "I didn't want to say this until I knew we could get another room, but something else happened. I'll tell you in the hallway," my partner said as I was picking up the dress I had worn earlier that day.

As we rolled our suitcases down the hall, hearing the door give a definitive click behind us, my fiancé explained that the thing that had woken him up wasn't the persistent tapping on his shoulder—it was the blinds, which were moving (seemingly inexplicably) up and down. On their own.

Of course, neither our room nor the hotel itself may be haunted. "If you're staying in a hotel and you feel like your room is haunted, there are a few things you can do to ease your fears," said James. "First, try to rationalize what could be causing the feeling. Maybe the room is just old and creaky, or maybe you're feeling a little homesick."

We had gone to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site earlier that day, and stories of personal demons, bodies buried beneath floorboards, and a foreboding raven shrieking "Nevermore" very easily could have played with my partner's imagination well into the wee hours of the morning.

Philadelphia Rittenhouse

Courtesy of Motto

Still. Despite knowing that there could be alternative explanations as to what was making the curtains move (perhaps an aggressive AC system?), our feelings of fear at the time were genuine. (To quote Michael Scott, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little 'stitious.")

When we reached the front desk, we explained to the man working reception why we needed to switch rooms. "Has something like this ever happened here before?" we asked.

"No, this would be the first," the man responded stoically. "If you write a review—"

"Don't worry," my partner cut him off. "We won't say anything."

"No, it's fine if you do. Some people are into that kind of thing."

As I said, the Motto may not actually be haunted. After checking out, I Googled the keywords "Motto by Hilton Philadelphia haunted" and combed reviews of the hotel and its predecessor to see if I could find any comments about unusual experiences or paranormal activity. I searched the web to see if I could find anything about the history of the site that the Motto sits on. All my efforts came up empty.

However, for travelers who accidentally find themself in a hotel room—confirmed or otherwise—it's best to inform an employee at the hotel. Lifestyle writer Chad Barnsdale, who spent a summer working at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel at the check-in desk, agreed. "The best thing to do in this situation is to speak with the hotel staff. They may be able to switch your room or provide you with another solution," he told TripSavvy.

While we were fortunate enough to be able to switch rooms, there are instances where doing so is impossible, as in cases where the hotel is completely booked. If this happens to you, you could try contacting the hotel directly for assistance or try toughing it out. "If you don't want to connect with the spirits, there are a few things you can do to avoid it. You can try to keep your energy level up, use protection methods, and ask the spirits to leave you alone," explained Race Across USA Founder Emily Cauldwell, who previously worked in a haunted hotel.

Barnsdale adds that travelers could bring or purchase protection items like sage.

If you still can't sleep, you likely have no choice but to book a new hotel. (While trying—and failing—to fall asleep in our second, not-haunted room, I was thinking of Hopper's new "Leave for Any Reason" feature, which would have been really nice to have for this trip.)

And if you do want to connect with any potential spirits? "One of the best things you can do is to try and talk to them," Wesley McDermott, owner of Haunted Rooms, told TripSavvy. "Disembodied voices usually occur on a lower frequency than human ears can detect. The best way to do this is through electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recorders. Having an EVP recorder allows you to quickly rewind and replay your recordings so you can ascertain whether or not you have received answers to your questions in real-time."

"In the end, if you're staying at a hotel and believe that your room is haunted, the best thing you can do is to try to remain calm and rational," said James. "Remember, most hauntings are harmless, and you should be able to make it through your stay without any major issues."