It all began during a simple hotel tour while Spaceman was at his conference for the day. I took the Waikiki Trolley to the Moana Surfrider Hotel as I did most days of our Hawaii getaway. I loved the vibe of the hotel and the rocking chairs which lined the patios invited guests to sit for a while, so I did — regularly. The hotel reminded me of Raffles Hotel in Singapore where I visited many years earlier (they invented the Singapore Sling cocktail).
This day was our guide’s first tour he had led, ever. An interesting fact, but not enough to keep me from day dreaming. That was until he mentioned their resident ghost, um, what?
Everyone in our group instantly perked up. One woman said she had “felt its presence” — yeah, okay. I was wishing my cousin was with me because she loves herself a good ghost and ghost story. Our guide’s story became even more fascinating as he revealed it involved Leland and Jane Stanford, founders of Stanford University.
As the story goes, Leland and Jane Stanford had only one child, a son, born later in life for the couple. He was named Leland DeWitt Stanford. The couple adored their son and took him with them on their trips abroad. During one such trip, Leland Jr contracted typhoid fever and died. Devastated, his parents looked for ways to honor their son. They traveled the East Coast looking for a university which would allow them to construct a building in their son’s name. Even though they were rich beyond imagine, they were a simple couple in dress and action. They did not flaunt their wealth. This lead the universities to believe they did not have the money to complete such a project and turned them down, one after the other. Upon returning home to California, Leland Sr and Jane decided they could and would fund their own university — welcome the honorable Stanford University.
Almost ten years after losing their son, Leland Sr died. This was devastating to Jane and it also threw Stanford University into a financial mess as the university was being managed as if it was part of the Stanford’s estate. This meant the funds to Jane and the university were frozen in probate. Jane fought to keep the university open through personal income, but the stress was huge. Finally the estate made it out of probate and the funds were released. The university was back on solid financial footing. It was then her staff convinced her to take an extended trip so that she could escape her stress and her depression from the loss of her son and husband (which she never got over). Before leaving on her journey (back then travel took months, even years), Jane let the university know that she had granted control of the university’s endowment and management to the Board of Trustees. However, this would not take effect until after her death. Strangely, soon after this was known, someone attempted to kill Jane by filling her drink with poison. Convinced her staff was behind this, she fired them all except her personal assistant and one security guard.
Soon the trio (and a newly hired personal staff) left for Honolulu on an extended trip. They stayed at what is now The Moana Surfrider Hotel. Her personal assistant was in the room directly next door to hers. Rumor has it that the assistant heard a terrible scream come from Jane’s room. By the time she got there (which, again, was just a door away) Jane was writhing in pain. They (the assistant and hotel staff) called for a doctor, but by the time the doctor got there (which took unusually long), Jane was dead. Two autopsy reports show two very different results. The one done immediately following her death by Hawaiian officials revealed large amounts of strychnine (poison) in her system, while the one performed back in California showed the cause to be inconclusive. If it had been murder as the first autopsy showed, the university would have been cast into chaos and possibly not survive.
It has now been reported that a woman (Jane Stanford) in a white dressing gown with an old-fashioned key (the kind they used in Mrs. Stanford’s day) is seen walking the hallways of the original part of The Moana Surfrider Hotel. The reports go on to say she taps people on the shoulder asking for directions to the front desk, and then, as quickly as she appears, she disappears (oh yeah, this is just up my cousin’s alley!).
I enjoyed the story, but I enjoyed my iced mocha with whipped cream from the coffee shop at the hotel a little more. I guess I am more of an instant gratification type of gal. However, this story does make for fun cocktail party conversation.
Do you have a favorite haunted hotel?