A Room With a “Boo” at Lawrence’s Eldridge Hotel

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By: Ashley Thompson

We blogged about friendly little Lawrence, Kansas, earlier this year, but it seems the “Liberal Oasis” of the Midwest has a few spooky skeletons in its closet. Room 506 of the historic downtown Eldridge Hotel is purportedly haunted by the ghost of Colonel Shalor Eldridge, one of the state’s most celebrated Civil War figures.

Colonel Eldridge built the eponymous hotel in 1857, a year after a pro-slavery sheriff from neighboring Missouri burned down what had been the Free State Hotel, standing on the same historic corner of Seventh and Massachusetts streets. In August 1863, during the bloodiest event in Kansas history, the hotel and most of Lawrence was burned down by William Quantrill’s Raiders. The Colonel, who had always held the Eldridge near and dear to his heart, triumphantly rebuilt it in 1865. To honor the Eldridge’s historic importance, it was rebuilt in 1925 due to deterioration concerns. Today, it’s the city’s leading hotel.

It’s also the city’s leading haunted attraction. Ryan Kehr, room divisions manager, says the story is that the Colonel’s attachment to the Eldridge is what keeps his supposed spirit lurking. “It’s not proven that he died or was killed here, but the family did live in the hotel at the time of his death in 1899,” Kehr added. “He was always very sentimental about his hotel.”

It seems the Colonel is a friendly ghost, as no scary spooks have been reported. Instead, audible voices and the sensing of a presence are often documented by guests who stay in room 506. Some are aware of the haunted accounts; others report strange occurrences or sensation without knowing the history behind the room.

“One guest came down one morning asking if anyone could have gotten into her room during the night while she was sleeping,” Kehr recalls. “We told her, ‘No, no way.’ We asked why, and she said she felt like someone was in there and the floor creaked a lot. Well, it’s impossible for the floor to creak. They’re made completely of concrete.

“She asked, ‘Well then, is this place haunted?’ And we told her the story of room 506.”

Room 506 holds one of the building’s original cornerstones, which supposedly act as the portal to the “other side” – where the ghost can travel between two worlds. In the weeks leading up to Halloween this year,  two groups have requested to stay the night in the room to document any ghostly findings. Pictures of orbs and videos with unexplained voices are supposed to be sent to the Eldridge soon. And tonight, one lucky guest will spend this Halloween in room 506, perhaps with Colonel Eldridge himself. The room has been booked for tonight since December 2007.

Photo: Eldridge Hotel via kawwsu29‘s Flickr