The 8 Scariest Things That I Experienced In Hotels

Ritz Carlton Philadelphia

I’ve stayed in more than 600 hotels, from 5-star properties and centuries-old castles to hotel pop-ups and bunks on cargo vessels (yes, weird!). The odds of me having strange hotel moments are pretty high, and I’ve definitely experienced some of the weirder side of things, especially in these 8 scariest hotel experiences below.

The reason I decided to write about them: Someone recently asked me what my scariest hotel experience were and I didn’t have one answer. Many, many, many situations came to mind, but some stand out more than others. I decided to write down my favorites, so behold: the strangest, weirdest and scariest things I experienced in hotels!

Wow! Weird!

The strangest, weirdest, not-normal and scariest things I experienced in hotels!

1. Abu Dhabi, UAE. OK, this isn’t a scary hotel experience, per se, but some might find it rather disturbing.

I stayed at a very posh, five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. One night, I heard the sound of the TV in the room above me. It was loud, a lot of grunting. I opened my patio door to discover it was not the TV but in fact a Russian couple upstairs having really loud sex with their patio door open, and the woman orgasmed several times. I remember thinking: this dude must be great in bed.

Sure, not a ghost or a ghoul, but what I thought was a really bad, scary hotel situation turned out to be just really good sex?

2. Bimini, Bahamas. In 2011, I stayed in a hotel in Bimini, Bahamas, where I woke up in the middle of the night because a man was laying in bed with me. It was dark, but I could make out his silhouette. As my eyes focused, I saw he was an older man with a kind face and he sort of smiled at me… until I threw a pillow at him and he disappeared.

Now, in the moment, I was so tired, and I’ve had so many ghost experiences at hotels, that it didn’t really faze me until the morning after. Even still, while this was a scary hotel experience, there was just something peaceful about it. Not all ghosts are bad, but some travelers who see a ghost lying in bed with them might find it frightening.

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3. Amalfi Coast, Italy. I was staying at a very luxurious, five-star hotel in Amalfi Coast, eating at the Michelin restaurant on the outdoor terrace with a handful of other diners when the outdoor jacuzzi on the rooftop above us mysteriously exploded, and the jacuzzi water poured all over us.

Nobody knew what had happened, even the staff, but literally buckets of hot tub water had poured all over really rich diners. In hindsite, it’s more funny, but what makes it scary is that we didn’t know if anything else was going to fall (like the actual hot tub). Also, how does a hot tub even explode??

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4. Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2007, I visited Edinburgh, Scotland, which is home to centuries-old castles, including Melville Castle, the castle hotel I stayed in, which is pretty famous.

The first night in, I had trouble sleeping because I heard talking, assuming it was guests in the next room (the castle dates back to the 1700s, so the walls are thin). When I finally got to the point of sleep, I felt a strange presence, like when you know someone is watching you. I opened my eyes, freaking out when I saw a Tartan robe in front of me, then relaxed because it must have been hanging on the back of the door. I went to use the bathroom, came back to bed and basically died right on the spot: The robe was gone.

I later found out from hotel staff a woman in a Tartan dress haunts the place, so I must have seen her ghost. This was a scary hotel experience for sure, especially since the vibe was like a horror movie. I actually slept in the lobby the second night because I didn’t want to have that experience again. The scary thing is that the front desk person said I wasn’t the first!

5. Atacama Desert, Chile. I was at a new boutique hotel that had just opened in San Pedro de Atacama, a gorgeous desert destination known to have the clearest skies in the world. About an hour after checking in, I suddenly got very, very, very tired. This was around 5 pm. It wasn’t jet lag as there was no time zone difference from NYC, where I flew from, and I had been in Chile already for a few days. This sudden tiredness just came out of nowhere, almost like I was fainting, and I lied on my bed. It was the first time I had every gotten “sleep paralysis.” I was conscious, but I literally could not move, as if I was a magnet to the bed or a pinned-down bug in a science project.

During this time, I saw native people across the room. One by one, they came to sit next to me, looking at me as if they couldn’t believe what THEY were seeing. When it was over, I felt that hours had passed but it was only 20 minutes. I later discovered, after nagging the hotel manager about this crazy situation, the hotel staff had found graves under the hotel during construction. Definitely one of the scariest hotel experiences I’ve ever had! The first time I ever experienced sleep paralysis – and I continue to to this day.

6. Auckland, New Zealand. Who doesn’t love meeting new people? When I was in Auckland, New Zealand, another travel writer and I were out late and made new friends. Two of them had never seen the hotel I was staying at, so we went up to my room for a nightcap. Little did I know they were prostitutes, and they were actually “working,” assuming they were hired for the job. I kicked them out.

Honestly, it was a scary hotel experience because I was so drunk, they could have robbed me, hurt me, whatever they wanted. I definitely learned my lesson!

Fun note: At the same hotel, I was leaving the gym the next day. When the elevator arrived, a security guard wouldn’t let me inside. I was like WTF when I saw, behind him, Justin Bieber texting on his phone.

7. Marquesa Islands. I was aboard a cargo vessel (yes, a cargo vessel), sleeping in my bunk when I felt a tap on my face. I opened my eyes to this insanely bright white flash that didn’t even last a full second. Toward the end of the trip, I learned a crew member had a tragic and fatal accident months ago, and some people have sworn to have had strange experiences too. I didn’t realize ghosts could actually, physically touch you.

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8. San Ignacio, Belize. I was at a luxury resort in the rain forest of Belize, lying outside to stargaze because the clarity was so good. I was baffled when I saw a very strange, triangular object hovering in the sky. I know it sounds crazy, but it definitely was not a plane or satellite—it was pretty huge. It sort of moved around in unusual motions (far, then close, then far, then close), and there were three lights attached to it.

I know for a fact I saw a UFO (literally: Unidentified Flying Object), and I was not the only one who saw it. The next day, we went to do yoga at a pyramid. The first thing the yoga instructor said to us was: “Did you see that crazy in thing in the sky last night?!” Even later that night, when I was speaking to the hotel staff about dinner, she asked the same question: “Did you see the thing in the sky? We got about ten calls from locals asking us if we were responsible for the thing in the sky.” Probably not a true scary hotel experience, but definitely a fun and bonkers one!

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***BONUS*** While this isn’t one of the scariest hotel experiences, it was certainly interesting. In 2013, AirBnb had collaborated with celebrities to do AirBnb pop-ups throughout Los Angeles. They asked me to stay overnight at The Grove, a high-end shopping center.

The AirBnb pop up was designed by actress Molly Sims, and I interviewed her before I settled in my glass pop-up hotel room, where literally everyone there could just watch me. When the crowds cleared around 10 pm, I had my own security guard just make rounds while I… slept. To this day, I am literally the only person to have slept at The Grove!

I wrote about it for Hollywood Reporter, and you can see a rendering of the pop-up here.

Anyway, I now use a Tibetan singing bowl in my home, just to be safe and bring in good vibes. I didn’t realize they were under 20 bucks.

Have you had any strange hotel experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

2 thoughts on “The 8 Scariest Things That I Experienced In Hotels

  1. I stayed at a hotel in Bentonville AR, I was sleeping soundly when suddenly I felt the bed sink down on the edge by the window. It also creaked as if from the weight of a person. Suddenly someone was laying beside me and pressed hard up against me. By this time I was wide awake and was confused as to how this person had gotten in. In my ear a Male voice whispered, ” I came in through the window and I’m going to rape you!” I felt a fear overtaking me. I could feel the body pressed against me, the arm holding me down, then suddenly just disappeared. The weight lifted, the bed was normal. I sat up and looked around and quickly turned on the light. Nothing there. Still not sure if it was a very real feeling dream or if I was actually visited by a menacing ghost.

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