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San Diego Comic Con and the Haunted Hotel


That headline almost felt like an Indiana Jones title! Hey, everyone: as we gear up for San Diego Comic Con next week (!!!), I wanted to create a series of blog posts about the show, my favorite things to do in the Gaslamp district, and how to survive what usually adds up to five days on non-stop fandom. But first, an ode to my favorite hotel in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter: The Horton Grand.

While spots like the Hilton Bayfront, Hard Rock, and any nearby Marriott tend to be what attendees dive for first, the Horton Grand is a long-time staple of the Gaslamp that is absolutely worth a visit during your time at Comic-Con — if you manage to find a second away from the Hall H line or any of the offsites, of course.

the lobby, via tripadvisor

The Horton Grand is located on Island Avenue, between 3rd and 4th ave, right next to Fluxx,which is set to be a pretty active location for after-parties this year with parties from Geek & Sundry and Nerdist. The Horton Grand  was once two separate hotels — the Grand, later renamed the Horton, and the Brooklyn — and were merged together in 1970 after being saved from demolition by. The hotel often has fan events going on during the day, but even walking in to admire the gigantic glass windows and classic 19th-20th century architecture. The staff is friendly, the courtyard offers a wonderful place to rest, and the classic bar makes you feel like you’re grabbing a quick drink in another era entirely.

via California Through My Lens

The real reasons to stay, though, are the ghost stories. The rooms are nice, but half of the experience of staying at the big HG is the fact that — even as you’re riding the elevator up to your room — one feels a sense that something supernatural is afoot. As you pass each level, a vintage display appears in front, like a time capsule from years long gone. Old books, typewriters and dresses are arranged carefully within each display, as if they were once part of a young debutante’s glamorous wardrobe closet.

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The ghosts themselves — so legends say — are mostly friendly. Still, haunted or not, the ghostly charm of this hotel is all in the look. Take the staircase down to the bar to come face to face with a portrait of a woman whose visage makes you wonder if she might be the esteemed Ida Bailey, who ran a brothel nearby and once owned most of the land that the hotel sits on today.

Bailey herself is said to be one of the ghosts within the walls of the Horton Grad, and if that’s so, it makes sense: for a place that practically screams “I am Totally Haunted,” the atmosphere is as friendly as Disney’s very own Haunted Mansion. This may be because of the ex-landlady herself: some guests have recalled encountering Ida’s spirit, and came away feeling a “warm and welcoming” presence.

Another popular tale is that of Room 309, where a ghost believed to be a guest by the name of Roger Whitaker allegedly takes up residence. Activity in 309 is said to be high and frequent, with “strange occurrences” reported as recently as this past May. Over on Yelp, a guest named Jimmy C reported that his stay in Room 309 was more than he expected. Jimmy writes: “I know it sounds like I’m making this up but I have 2 guys who witnessed all this with me. One was when trying to get back into our room it was locked with the door chain from the inside. I checked it 3 times and saw the chain locking our door. The 4th time I closed the door, and opened it again, and sure enough the chain was off.”

There are two versions of Whitaker’s story told today, though the latter is more widely believed.  The first is that Whitaker was killed decades before anything had been built where the hotel stands today, and was buried there. The second told the story of a young gambler with a knack for cheating who ran out of luck: after swindling the wrong guys, Whitaker ran for his room – 309 – and hid in the armoire, only to meet an unfortunate end when his attackers found him and shot him to death inside of it. Yikes.


While I can’t fully say that I believe in ghosts, the spooky-scary is always a fun and exciting topic at face value. If you’ve got the chance, stop by the Horton Grand, grab a drink, and keep an eye out so that Roger doesn’t try to snag your glass.

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