The Hotel Josephine has a rich history — and a haunted one.

Built in 1890, the Hotel Josephine — which is located at 501 Ohio Ave., just one block off the town square in Holton — is considered the longest consecutive running hotel west of the Mississippi. Manager Tracer Fox — whose family has owned Hotel Josephine for the past year — said the establishment has only ever been closed for one year, 2010, due to tax issues.

In a look back at the beginning, Hotel Josephine was built by A. D. Walker in 1889 and was named after his daughter, Josephine. She was born Sept. 19, 1889 and when the hotel opened she was 4 months old. Josephine attended Holton schools and graduated Kansas University. Her graduation photograph graces wall in the front parlor, above the antique piano — and according to Fox, her spirit is just one that is wandering the hotel.

Fox said the hotel has brought in several famous guests — the most famous being President Grover Cleveland, who stayed there in between his two terms as president. Other notable guests whose names appear on the more than century-old guest logs displayed in the lobby include Carrie Nation, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Curtis, Kirstie Alley, John Sullivan, Sam Rayburn and Harry Langdon.

With a history as rich as the Hotel Josephine, it’s no wonder that there are a few spirits lingering. Fox said they are considered the “Most Haunted Hotel” in Kansas and have been featured on several paranormal television shows including Ghost Tours of Kansas and Road Trip and Haunted Rooms America.

Hotel Josephine hosts several paranormal and “haunted” events every year and many paranormal investigators find their way to Holton to check out the more than century-old hotel.

In a recent tour of the hotel, Fox pointed out several of the haunted rooms.

“We consider the Buffalo Room the most haunted, but there are several spirits here,” Fox said, pointing out the mirrors on the walls in the stairway to the second floor. He said shadows are often seen — and photographed — in the mirrors.

Fox told a story of his first night at the hotel when he woke up at 3:30 a.m. and his bed was moving. He eventually fell back asleep and the next morning thought it was possibly from an earthquake that hit Northeast Kansas. But nothing on the news confirmed this. The next night, his mother was sleeping in a room across the hallway and experienced the same thing with no explanation.

From then on, they were believers, Fox said. Shadows, strange sounds, laughter, footsteps and stories from guests who experience paranormal activity while staying just made their beliefs stronger. At first, the most recent previous owners did not confirm the presence of spirits in the hotel. However, Fox said they have been gathering more information on the history and the presence of spirits there.

Fox said that while they consider the Buffalo Room the most haunted — where ghost hunters have captured images on camera and a bell hanging in the closet just rings on its own for no reason — there are spirits on every floor.

“We know that Josephine wanders the hotel, there is a grouchy old guy in the John Wayne room and some children in the basement,” he said.

Although Fox is getting used to the paranormal activity around the hotel, even he gets unnerved by the Carrie Nation room. According to historical documents, a woman hanged herself in the bathroom of that room. Fox said that according to their investigations into stories of spiritual activity in the hotel, they have found instances where guests have come out of that room clutching their necks and having a hard time breathing.

Some guests have decided to depart at 2:30 a.m. without any explanation except a message in the guest log book that they couldn’t stay in that room any longer.

Ghost hunting is growing ever popular and Fox said as word has spread through the paranormal world, the popularity of Hotel Josephine is ever growing. While many guests are just looking for a place to rest their weary heads, others are interested in the history and stories of the spirits inhabiting the hotel.

Down in the basement, Fox tells the stories of the young spirits who seem to be wandering there. Decades ago, there were separate entrances to the basement, which housed shops. During the transition of ownership, Fox said they found very old dolls in storage in the basement and they keep them out as “peace offerings” for the young spiritual inhabitants there.

During the month of October, Hotel Josephine offers a variety of other activities including a spooky wine pairing event in the hotel restaurant Oak Roots, a Witches Tea Party, a Halloween-themed cooking class, haunted houses (in the basement) every Friday and Saturday and a ghost hunt with author Beth Hooper, of Fort Myers, Fla., and author of “Ghosts of Kansas” and “Wichita Haunts.”

The PBS television show “Plain Spirits” was based on Hooper’s books and on Sept. 25 featured Hotel Josephine as part of the world’s largest ghost hunt around the world that included the Conjuring house and Dracula’s Castle.

To find out more about Hotel Josephine, it’s history and hauntings and the events planned for this month go to or find it on Facebook.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.