The Hotel Del Ghost checked into room 302 on Thanksgiving Day in 1892. In life, she was alone and distraught. The Beautiful Stranger, as she came to be known, killed herself with a handgun five days later. Ultimately identified as Kate Morgan, many believe she never checked out. As the resident Hotel Del Ghost, they say she interferes with electronics, murmurs ominously and moves objects. Others have felt cold breezes and felt drops in temperature even during heat waves. Doors open and close randomly. Some have heard footsteps. Others have seen her pacing through the famed seaside corridors.
According to Christine Donovan the hotel’s historian and author of Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado, most of the friendly hauntings by the Hotel Del Ghost have occurred in or near her original room, now numbered 3312.
“There have also been Kate sightings in hotel hallways and along the seashore. Another very “active” area is the resort’s gift shop, Est. 1888, where visitors and employees routinely witness haunted happenings and giftware mysteriously flying off shelves, oftentimes falling upright and always unbroken.”
Who Was The Hotel Del Ghost?
Newspapers across the United States reported on the dramatic suicide for weeks. The elaborate Victorian beachfront Hotel Del Coronado (The Del) opened in 1888 in the city of Coronado, California. Sitting across the bay from San Diego, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. By early 1900, people came from across country to summer at the hotel or its elaborate Tent City. The mysterious story of the “beautiful stranger” captured the heart and imagination of all who heard it.
Given that she had multiple bios, it’s no surprise that competing theories have developed over time. She registered as Mrs. Lottie A Bernard, from Detroit. It was an alias. It was taboo for a woman to eat in a restaurant without a male escort, let alone travel solo. Just two years before, Nellie Bly made headlines for traveling around the world alone. Like Bly, the beautiful stranger registered with only one handbag of essentials. She told hotel employees that her brother would soon arrive with her luggage. Newspapers initially called her by the name under which she registered.
On November 30, 1892 the San Diego Union wrote:
“Night before last an attractive, prepossessing and highly-educated young woman came down from her room at Hotel del Coronado, and between 9 and 10 o’clock stepped out upon the veranda facing the ocean, which was roaring at her very feet, lashed by the tempest that is sweeping over the whole coast. The lady was quietly and elegantly dressed in black, and wore only a lace shawl over her head. Nothing more was seen of her until at 8:20 yesterday morning, when the assistant electrician of the hotel, passing by the shell walk at the end of western terrace, saw the lady lying on the steps leading to the beach. She was dead, and an American bull-dog revolver was lying within two inches of her outstretched right hand.”
Hotel employees said that Lottie, who was later identified as Kate Morgan, was reserved and ladylike. She kept her room most of the time but was visited often by the housekeeper who said the guest was despondent.
According to Donovan, once it became apparent that the deceased used an alias, the search was on to discover the true identity of the Hotel Del ghost. Newspapers published a sketch made from the body.
The Lost Angeles Herald included this description:
“Height, 51/2 feet, complexion, fair but sallow; medium length of black hair, two small moles on the left cheek; broad features, high cheek bones; brown eyes; weight, 150 pounds; age, about 26; good teeth; plain gold ring on third finger of left hand; ring of pure gold, with four pearls and a blue stone in center; black corsets; large black hat.”
The Beautiful Stranger Sparked Theories And Rumors
It is likely that Morgan spent five days at the Del, waiting for her lover. When he did not arrive she killed herself. But many theories continue to swirl. Some people conjecture that Morgan was murdered. Another theory is that her death was accidental. Based on a marriage certificate, it is likely that she was married to Thomas E. Morgan. Some say he was a con-artist and gambler who used Kate to attract his targets. The couple might have argued, triggering Tom to abandon her, possibly near Los Angeles. Others say she was pregnant and possibly ready to file for divorce
Richard Deuel, founder of San Diego Ghost Tech, presents a very different scenario.
“On November 23rd, 1892, Katie Logan, a domestic servant for the Grant family of No. 917 South Hill Street in Los Angeles, left for San Diego to get some papers signed. She left in good spirits and promised her employer that she would return in time to cook Thanksgiving dinner. When she failed to return as promised, contractor L.A. Grant contacted the police to report her missing. “
Deuel writes that on December 8th the police opened her personal trunk left behind at the Grant residence. Names and addresses had been removed from photographs and papers. Detectives did find a marriage certificate from Hamburg, Iowa, dated 1885. It named Thomas E. Morgan and Kate E. Farmer.
“…it was quickly determined that Ms. Katie Logan fit the description of a mysterious suicide that had just occurred at the Hotel del Coronado. The Los Angeles chief of police notified San Diego’s chief of police of the connection.”
Details from the life of the Hotel Del Ghost are scant. She was born around 1864 in Fremont County, Iowa. After her mother died her father sent her to live with her maternal grandfather, Joe Chandler. Her father was the postmaster of Hamburg, Iowa in 1870. Morgan married Thomas Edwin Morgan in 1885. She had a child who lived only a few days.
What We Know: The Coroner’s Inquest Detailed Her Final Days
The well-attended inquest was open to the public in San Diego on Wednesday, Nov 30, 1892. W. A. Sloane, Esq. Justice of the Peace and Acting Coroner officiated. Following are excerpts from the original transcripts.
David Cone, the hotel’s ground keeper who initially found the body.
Q: State the facts in reference to the discovery of the body?
A: Every morning I commence at seven o’clock to trim the electric lights around the hotel. Yesterday morning at half past seven I was trimming the electric light at the north corner of the hotel, and when I came to the pole I was just going to climb the pole. I saw the body lying on the stone steps right close to the pole.
Q: Where abouts? What portion of the hotel was that?
A: I think it is the north corner. It is the corner of the hotel towards Point Loma.
Q: BY A JUROR: Next to the ocean?
A:Next to the ocean.
The Hotel’s Pharmacist
Q:Where is your place of business, and residence?
A: The Coronado Hotel is my residence, and my place of business is in the hotel drug store.
Q: Do you know any of the circumstances attending the death of the woman?
A: I saw the lady first about Saturday, when she came into the drug store and walked up and down the floor two or three times; she seemed to be suffering. She asked me if I could get her something to relieve her suffering, and I referred her to Mr. Fosdick, the manager of the store, and Mr. Fosdick advised her to see a physician. She said that her brother was a physician, and that she expected him here. That was the last I saw of her until Monday. On Monday afternoon, she came in again, and walked up and down the floor, and looked as though she was still suffering. I said “It seems too bad for you to go over in town and you suffering from Neuralgia, in this stormy weather.” She said “I am compelled to go. I forgot my checks, and I have got to go over and identify my trunks, personally.” She went out, and that was the last I saw of her until I saw her dead, lying on the steps.
Q: Do you know her name?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What is it?
A: L. A. Bernard.
Q: Do you know anything of where she was from?
A: No, sir, she didn’t tell me where she was from. I know nothing more about that than what I saw in the newspaper.
Q:BY ANOTHER JUROR: The only evidence you have of her malady is her statement?
A: That is all, yes, sir.
Hotel Bell Boy
Q: Saw her in her life time, when?
A. In her room, where she was sick.
Q: Where did she room?
A: She roomed at the hotel.
Q: When was that, when did you see her?
A: I seen her all the time, until I seen her the last time I seen her was half past six in the evening, that was night before last.
Q: Sunday evening?
A: Yes, sir, I seen her on the veranda.
Q: Which veranda?
A: Second floor.
Q: Where was her room, what part of the hotel?
A.: North side.
Q: Do you know where she was found dead?
A: Yes sir, I know where she was found dead; I didn’t see her.
Q: Was her room anywhere near there?
A: No, sir, it was on the opposite side.
Q: Do you know her name?
A: No, sir.
Q: Do you know anything about her, any circumstances, or the condition of her health?
A: No, sir, she only told me that she had the neuralgia very bad, she was very sick; she was expecting her brother to come down.
Q: What is your recollection in reference to it, have you been in attendance there as bell boy since that time?
A: Yes, sir, I have been attending her room, ever since she got there.
Q: When was she taken sick?
A: She was sick the first day she was there, right along.
Q: So you attended her, constantly?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you have any conversation with her, in reference to her sickness?
A: No, sir, just that she had the neuralgia, that is all.
Q: Did she send you for any medicines or anything?
A: Not by me. Let’s see, today is the 30th. On the 26th she sent me down to the drug store for an empty pint bottle and a sponge, and that is the only thing she sent me for. She sent me to the bar twice.
Q: What for?
A: Liquors. Sent me once for a glass of wine, and once for a whiskey cocktail. That was day before yesterday.
The Hotel Clerk (A.D. Gomer)
Q: What do you know of her condition and circumstances, during her stay at the hotel?
A: Well, all I know is that the young man spoke to me of her arrival, when I came to the office that evening. Said there was rather a peculiar person came in this afternoon, and I asked him to point her out to me, and along about between seven and eight o’clock she came along, and he pointed her out, and there was nothing said until the next morning, she came to me, asking my advice as to how she could get her baggage, which she claimed had been checked to San Diego, and the checks she said her brother had kept with him, and her brother had been called away from Orange, either to Los Angeles, or Frisco, she in fact did not know where.
Q: From Orange?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did she speak of having come here to this place from Orange?
A: That is the way her story begun, Orange, she said Orange; her brother was obliged to leave her, to remain there, or go to Frisco, she didn’t know which, and that she came on alone from Orange, and that her brother would be along that afternoon. That was the day after her arrival, and every day she inquired if her brother had arrived. She claimed that her brother was Doctor Anderson, and that the initials were M. C., I am not sure about that.
Q: Did she state anything as to where he was, or as to where he had gone?
A: She didn’t seem to know where he was.
Q: What do you know of her circumstances financially, whether she was under financial embarrassment?
A. After the boy came to the office Monday, and asked for whiskey, I thought it necessary for someone to see her. … I insisted that the housekeeper should persuade her to call the house physician…l; she kept telling the housekeeper that her brother was a physician, and that it was not necessary to call a physician, but after this boy, who just testified, came to the office and asked for whiskey, and said the lady had fell in the tub and wet her hair, I went up to her room myself, and suggested first, that we call the house physician. She was in bed then covered up, and she was totally opposed to calling the physician. It was a very gloomy, dreary sort of a day, and she was on the east side of the house without any fire, and I suggested that she have a fire, and be made comfortable. She said No, she was very comfortable, as good as she could expect. …She further told me that the doctors had given her up, that she had cancer of the stomach, and that her case was hopeless, but she told us in such an off-hand way that it did not appear suspicious to me, and I endeavored to find out something about her identity. On the table in her room were some letters. I could not find out the contents of them without picking them up, and of course that was out of order. The only thing I saw on the table were some envelopes, addressed to herself, … Then I said to her “Wouldn’t it be a good plan to telegraph your brother. She said “I do not know where to find my brother, I do not know whether he is at Los Angeles, or at Orange, or at Frisco. Then I said Is there no one else you could telegraph to for funds, and she suggested the name of G.L. Allen, Hamburg, Iowa, and at her suggestion I wrote a telegram, and sent it to Hamburg, and left her then, in the room, that was about one o’clock, or half past twelve, possibly on Monday.
Acting Coroner, H.J. Stetson
Q: Did you make any examination of the effects in her room?
A: Yes, sir, I found the things that are right there. I found that valice, and on the table I found this envelope she had addressed.
Q: Just read it?
A: Denman Thompson, the Old Homestead. And “Frank” is written here four times, and “Lottie Anderson Bernard”, and “Mrs. Lottie Bernard”, “Lottie Anderson Bernard, Detroit”, and then on this paper I found “I merely heard of that man, I do not know him”. Here is an invitation – here is an invitation to the Hotel del Coronado, signed by Louise Leslie Carter, and Lillian Russell.
Q: What is the name on the handkerchief?
A: L-t-tle, I think it is, I cannot quite make it out, but the last name is Anderson. She had a purse on her person, that contained $16.50, and there was a little ring in the purse, a plain ring, and the key to her valice. (Produces ring and purse.)
Q: Nothing else?
A: Nothing else, just some –
Q: That is the purse, is it?
A: Yes, sir; that is the purse.
Q: What other contents were there?
A: Just some handkerchiefs.
Q: Nothing that would throw any identity upon where she was from?
A: Not a thing. In the grate of the room it looked like as though quite a package of papers had been burned, it was all in ashes, you might say. Whether she made them for a fire or what they might have been you could not tell, but they had all been burned.
Q: Any nightclothes?
A: Just one nightdress was hanging in the closet. The bed had not been touched at night. It was all made up; the hat lay on the mantel, a bottle, and penknife. Yes, there was considerable medicine in there, a bottle of camphor and a bottle of alcohol.
Q: This large bottle here?
A: That is brandy, I think, or alcohol, and some quinine pills. Then there is a little piece of paper. I found a piece of paper that had been wrapped around a bottle of some kind. It says if it does not relieve you, you better send for the doctor. It was just signed “Druggist”. It did not say where it was from.
Visit The Hotel Del Ghost
The Daily Bee of San Diego reported on Morgan’s death November 29, 1892:
BLEW OUT HER BRAINS. SUICIDE OF A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN AT SAN DIEGO
Disappointed Over Not Receiving Money. After Her Death Word Came That She Could Draw All She Desired – She Was Well Dressed and Had a Good Sum in Her Purse
“Between the thunderous surf on the gray sea and the brilliancy and music of a gay throng in the great parlor and long halls of the Hotel del Coronado, a woman stood alone and desperate. From her position on the stone stairs at the west end of the ocean terrace leading to the beach, the surf wrapped and re-wrapped her with its spray, and the pitiless rain fell upon her bared head and young white face.”
The room once occupied by the Beautiful Stranger remains a favorite to this day. If you don’t mind having the Hotel Del Ghost yank covers off of you in the middle of the night, or turn on your television, the former room 302 (now 3312) is worth a visit.
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