The Paranormal Hotel, described. (Part One)

Those of you have who have been with me for a while know that I sometimes work at a flophouse hotel that I fondly refer to as the #paranormalhotel. This is not because the place is particularly haunted (though it can be pretty creepy in the wee hours, and I have had one semi-mysterious thing happen to me there.) Instead, I consider it “paranormal” because its environment is anything but normal — at least to most of us who are accustomed to staying in mid-priced, business-class or resort-style hotels.

bell by Witt Istanbul Suites


The paranormal hotel is neither of those things. It’s generally clean, but the furnishings are dated and worn. The televisions are thick, heavy boxes balanced atop rickety entertainment stands which have three drawers. These drawers are either ill-fitting or broken or both. Most of the lamps have finicky switches, and people steal the light bulbs from them all the time. The bathrooms are dimly lit by flickering tube-style florescents. The bathtubs are shallow and their finish is wearing thin. Heavy gold drapes, often missing at least a couple of drapery hooks, hide each room’s window. The beds are dressed in slippery, shiny spreads that are quilted with plastic thread. Most of the pillows are lumpy. Many of the towels are ragged at the edges. (But never stained — management is strict about providing spotlessly white linens.)

The owners work incredibly hard, for endless hours, to keep up, but staying on top of maintenance for an aging five-story building is an interminable job. The building’s roof is flat, so every spring there is a battle against leaks when the snow melts and pools. The elevator is cranky. The stairwells are dingy. The vending machine accepts quarters exclusively, and then only grudgingly gives up its treats.

Because the paranormal hotel is located at the northern edge of St. Paul, and because it’s relatively cheap, it mostly attracts a rough clientele.  These are people who yank out a lot of phone cords, clog a lot of drains, stain (or burn holes in) a lot of carpet, upholstery and bedding, and break a lot of furniture.


The short-term guests who cause the most damage are generally under the influence … common intoxicants include: alcohol, pot, meth, heroin, oxy, lust, love, rage, fear, grief, and/or rock and roll. Of course, many (most?) of the folks who come in without a reservation are under the influence of something … this is a merely a matter of degree, and potential mayhem seems to be heavily dependent on what happened to the guest just before they decided to stay at the #paranormalhotel.

The most destructive guests tend to arrive just after:

  1. going to a concert … but damage is most likely if they are drunk/stoned and/or middle-aged
  2. being recently slapped with a restraining order
  3. being suddenly evicted from an apartment … damage is especially likely if there are multiple neglected-looking children in tow
  4. being locked out by a fed-up parent or boyfriend / girlfriend
  5. fleeing a violent conflict … but this only gets bad when the guest  then TELLS the abuser where they are
  6. scoring a drunken one-night-stand … destruction and drama is most likely if the female pays for the room but the male registers and takes the key
  7. being brought in by the cops, because the guest hasn’t done anything VERY illegal, and has no where else to go

Not all of the one- or two-night guests are bent on destroying the property. In fact, some are very conscientious (or, maybe, afraid of being charged for any damage wrought.) Our best short-term guests tend to fall into one these categories:

  1. vacationing retirees who find us thanks to our good standing with AAA
  2. patients from a nearby hospital or the VA whose treatment doesn’t include an overnight stay, but probably should
  3. traveling groups of “kids” (in their very early 20s or late teens) who come into town from out-state Minnesota to have an adventure in The Cities
  4. regulars, who register two vehicles and wear wedding rings that obviously don’t match and who check out after a couple of hours
  5. regulars, who may or may not be prostitutes and/or pimps and/or drug dealers

These are the folks who put the wet towels in the tub, gather their garbage into tied-off trash bags, and make the bed before checking out. Sometimes, they even tip the housekeepers.

We keep all of these types isolated from one another by assigning a particular floor to a guest based on what we can glean from characteristics like age, appearance, length of stay, smoking preference, method of payment, and brief conversations about what brings them to the hotel.

Guests with AAA and AARP cards are ALWAYS given a room on the first or second floor which is the cleanest, most well kept part of the building. (Unless they request a smoking room. The we give them on of the nicer rooms on three.) Folks who come in smelling of pot or booze or trouble go directly to the fourth floor.

If the front desk staff has segregated people properly all day, the security check that must be done sometime around three o’clock in the morning will go like this:

  • 1st floor — All quiet. The air smells of Lysol and fresh laundry. (The laundry room is on the main floor.)
  • 2nd floor — Also likely quiet. It may be possible to hear a TV playing and microwaved popcorn may scent the hall.
  • 3rd floor — There may be a couple of competing televisions blaring. There may be bursts of laughter.  The smells of cigarette smoke, burnt popcorn, pizza, broasted chicken, and Chinese take-out exude from the rooms.
  • 4th floor — Almost certainly noisy. There will be raised voices … sometimes merry, and sometimes angry. There will likely be a thin haze of smoke, much of it far more pungent than tobacco. (I’ve gotten contact highs in that hallway.) There may be one or more people in the hallway. Here, folks go to each other’s room to socialize or to complain or to argue. There may be someone begging to be let back into the room. There may be someone wandering the hall with an ice bucket because he or she can’t quite remember which room to return to. There may be someone slumped against the wall, because he or she has given up on gaining admittance or finding the correct room.
  • 5th floor — we haven’t talked about the 5th floor yet, have we?  Nor the Long-Timers. Well, it’s late and I’m tired. I guess we’ll just have to go with:


And that’s life at:


photo credit: Witt Istanbul Suites Licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic)
It has been cropped to square.
NOTE: This post may have been re-titled and edited from its original form,
for inclusion on The Paranormal Hotel homepage.


12 Comments on “The Paranormal Hotel, described. (Part One)”

  1. If any article sparks the imagination with stories, fact and fiction, this one does. So many sad stories behind each door, plus a few maybe not so sad.

    Renae this should be on the “freshly pressed” list or picked up by one of the big “news” web sites (like slate or huffington or others that post interesting stories like this.)

    • I’m working on a story (tentatively) called Bugaboo Road right now, but writing this made me want to go back and pick up the hotel / vampire story. (It’s resting, so I can be ruthless when I tackle the next draft.)

      Thank you for your kind words. Eventually I might try to pull something together that I could send out. I’m pretty sure, though, a paranormal blog will never be Freshly Pressed. Sigh.

  2. zipcoffelt says:

    What a great description. It does speak to the stories you could write. I imagine a collection of short stories entitled Creatures of the Paranormal Hotel … or something like that. Can’t wait for the next episode.

    • Ooh. I like it. When I was a girl I planned to write a family memoir-type thing that was to be called Heartbeat 100. It would have been a collection of 100 very short vignettes, obviously. Maybe I could do something like that with the #paranormalhotel.

  3. Fascinating! Who knew this sort of thing went on in hotels? Looking forward to Part Deux.

    • Given a few minutes to consider the reasons we ourselves have gone to hotels, I think we all know that hotels are perfect shenanigan-nests, but the in-your-face nature of it all when you’re part of the staff is extreme.

      The thing I did not know before working at this particular place is that some people live in hotels for far lengthier times than I would have guessed. But that’s for the next installment. 🙂

  4. NetherRealm says:

    Love it! Haha! I haven’t been back to the Twin Cities since I moved fourteen years ago, but now I know where to stop in when I do come back.
    Looking forward to part 2.

    • I wonder how many places like this exist. I mean, I know that the typical chain-style Holiday Inn attracts a different kind of crowd, which sort of leaves out the less affluent. Does every town have a fleabag hotel or motel that shelters the rowdier folks.

      I didn’t realize you had any MN history. Born here? If you do come back for any reason, I can probably hook you up with a discount … or at least give you the best rate available. Just promise you won’t trash the room 😉

      • NetherRealm says:

        I’m a California native, but lived a few years in MN for a work opportunity. I miss the farmer’s market, and really want to see the aquaponic system that’s inside the old brewery building. I missed a lot of history because I worked so much while living there.
        I don’t trash hotel rooms. I’m one of those who needs to wear flip flops in a hotel shower. 😉

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