The Long, Haunted History of New York's Shanley Hotel

YouTube / YouTube

The world is full of purportedly haunted places, but at the Shanley Hotel in Ulster County, New York, standard practice hints at something a little more serious than vague ghost stories. To stay there, you have to be over 16 years old, and before you spend the night, you reportedly have to sign a waiver.

The building—which looks like a haunted house in a horror movie—was built in 1895 and was purchased by James Louis Shanley in 1906. Shanley and wife, Beatrice, welcomed guests like Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt, but tragedies befell the lodging from the beginning. Beatrice gave birth to three children, all of whom died before the age of one. In 1911, the hotel barber—who lived on-site with his family—lost his younger daughter when she wandered to a nearby farm and fell in a well. A few years after that, Beatrice’s sister Esther died in the hotel from influenza in 1918.

Although terribly sad, all of this might sound like relatively normal turn-of-the-century happenings, though the hotel’s website claims, “There were several other accidental deaths, missing persons and rumors of murder through out [sic] the years.”

Now, the little girl, Esther, James Shanley’s brother Andrew; and many others are said to haunt the Shanley. A quick search pulls up instances of apparitions, cold and hot spots, rocking chairs rocking on their own, the chiming of clocks, the appearance of a ghost cat, footsteps, giggles, the feeling of being touched, the feeling of being watched and/or followed, and instances of objects being moved. In other words, pretty much every paranormal experience you could imagine.

Shanley himself (who died in 1937) is said to be hanging around, too: “Many report hearing sounds such as James Shanley's (deceased former owner) whistling, footsteps in the halls and on the stairs, opening and closing of doors, piano music, voices, or laughter of children,” the website claims.

One of the more haunted parts of the hotel is the bordello, which was fashioned in the 1920s and reportedly sold bootleg liquor during Prohibition. The building changed hands a few times during the 20th century and was purchased by the current owners in 2005. According to, buyer Sal Nicosia didn’t know about the hotel’s haunted reputation when he bought it, but ran the Shanley until his death just last month, on July 5, 2016.

Nicosia's fiancée and son, Sal Jr., will continue to operate the Shanley, offering lodging, ghost tours, and the chance for visitors to get up close and personal with the great beyond. You can see “evidence” of hauntings on the Shanley website (there’s also plenty of amateur ghost hunts), and explore the history of the hotel more in depth on the Yonkers Ghost Investigators Official Website. If the hotel’s fan base and high ratings are any indication, it’s worth the trip. And for those who are easily frightened, fear not: The ghosts have reportedly never been violent.


Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at