Monday, May 15, 2017

A Haunting in Idaho 6: No Vacancy at the Hotel Rogers

As I went to do a little research on The Rogers Hotel in order to write up this blog post, I had no idea of the building’s already infamous reputation in the community for being haunted. And I certainly wasn’t aware of it when I got hired to work for a company that was using the haunted hotel as an office space at the time.

I did a little googling on the building to see what background information I could find on the place and was surprised—but not really—to see a few websites where the haunted building is mentioned. There has even been a paranormal investigation done in the place.

Some videos have been posted by the group that did the investigation on YouTube:

The Rogers was built in 1937 by Bronson Marshall “Brunt” Rogers, one of Idaho Falls’s first millionaires, for the cost of $300,000. Upon its completion, the hotel boasted 100 beautifully furnished rooms with attached baths that went for $2 and up. The hotel enjoyed celebrity guests over the years such as: Herbert Hoover, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers.

My own experience with The Rogers takes place in 2001 when I took a job as a graphic designer for a publishing company that had just moved into the building. The antique structure is comprised of three stories in which all the rooms have been converted into offices; my office was on the second floor, if my memory serves me correctly.

I was excited about this new job—I had my own office for cryin’ out loud, with a window and everything! And I loved the building, located in the historic section of Downtown, Idaho Falls on the corner of B Street and Park Ave. To this day, the old sign still remains on the side of the red-brick building. Painted in fading lead-based paint, it reads:

One of America’s better places … to eat and sleep.

As I said before, this building was not only new to me, but new to my coworkers too, as they had just recently moved in. Well, it didn’t take long before a coworker shared a ghost story with me, and my new workplace began to take on a whole new meaning.

Apparently, two guys stayed after hours one evening to put together a few modular desks. They were on the top floor—what turned out to be the hotspot of paranormal activity—with the parts and pieces of a new desk spread out in front of them on the floor. They were kneeling side by side, hunched over the instruction sheet, trying to make sense of the instructions—you know how those things go. Anyway, as they were kneeling there, they both suddenly felt a hand clap them each on the back of the neck. They both turned in surprise, having thought they were the only ones in the building at the time. They expected maybe to see a coworker, perhaps even the boss standing over them. But, there was nobody there!

In wide-eyed astonishment they looked at each other, and without a word, jumped to their feet and got the heck out of there, the skin on their necks still prickling with the sensation of a hand being laid there. They returned the next day and were forced to confess their story to their coworkers and explain why they had left a desk in a state of complete disassembly for everyone else to find in the morning.

A saleslady, who’s office was located on the third floor, told me of a time when she was working. It was midday and everyone on her floor had gone to lunch, leaving her alone as she worked to finish up a rush job that day. As she concentrated on the work in front of her, she caught a quick glimpse of a man walking by her door. She didn’t see much, except to note that he seemed to be wearing a pair of overalls and a checkered flannel shirt. She found it very odd, as this was definitely not company dress code.

She got up from her desk thinking that perhaps the boss had come in from a day off and was heading to his office, just a couple of doors down. Maybe he’d just come back from camping or something, she figured; he maybe just needed to grab something real quick. Although, it was strange that he just walked past her door without saying anything. She went to the door and called out his name. There was no response. She stepped out into the hallway. It was completely empty; all the doors were closed and there was no place the man in overalls could have gone! A chill spilled down her spine as a very uneasy feeling creeped through her body. She decided the rush job could wait and left until some other workers could return with her to the third floor.

There were other incidents: doors opening and closing by themselves, lights flickering, footsteps, a disembodied voice, etc. A few more employees thought they too had seen the man in the overalls and some had actually given the wandering specter a nickname. I can’t recall what the nickname was. Something like Bill, I think.

Things apparently got bad enough that someone reached out and contacted some people who had worked for the company that had previously occupied The Rogers. These contacts all enthusiastically corroborated our suspicions that the old hotel was haunted, saying that their employees had also experienced similar incidents while working in the building. I don’t know if there’s any proof to the rumor, but we were told that the man in the overalls was probably the ghost of the hotel’s maintenance man who had worked in the building for years, until he was discovered deceased in one of the rooms one day. Dare I speculate he was probably found in a room on the top floor?

Naturally, these stories and incidents served to incite my imagination quite a bit. I would make excuses to walk the halls of the old building, looking for perhaps a shadowy figure lurking in a corner, the ominous creak of a door slowly opening by itself, or even Bill’s ghost gliding down the hall.

One evening, I found myself working late on a project that had to be done by morning. After a while, I decided to get up and walk around a little to stretch my legs and give my eyes a break from staring too long at a computer screen. As I walked around, I soon realized that I had the entire building all to myself. All three floors. Gulp!

I took possession of my faculties and decided that if I was ever going to see a real ghost, this was probably my best chance. Don’t ask me why I actually wanted to see a ghost; seems like a foolish thing to wish for now. With all of the courage I could muster, I began to walk the hallways of The Rogers, one deserted floor at a time. “Come on, Bill,” I said, now and then, as I made my way closer to the top floor, “Come on out and show yourself, if you’re really here.”

I know … Dumb!

For whatever reason, Bill chose not to manifest his presence to me that night, and to be honest, as I left the building to go home, I think I was kind of grateful he hadn’t. I refer you to my previous post: Charles

I kind of have this theory that when we’re actually trying to see a ghost or communicate with them, collect evidence, etc, we’re less likely to see something then if we just go about our normal existence. I think that maybe when we are in the act of pursuing an experience with the paranormal, perhaps we aren’t in the right frame of mind, making an occurrence not as likely. Perhaps, when we’re just going about our normal routines and daily lives, we are more relaxed and therefore somehow a bit more susceptible to a glimpse at the other side. Which leads me to what I count as my own experience at The Rogers.

At some point, I kind of forgot about the supposed ghost or haunting of the building as I went about my daily life there. I even began to doubt the stories I had heard from others. Not that I thought people were making up the stories, but I started to assume that people had probably just allowed their imaginations to get the better of them. Saw and heard things that just weren’t really there. Personally, I had just spent too much time there—many times all by myself—and had not witnessed any kind of paranormal activity. Not even an unexplained cold spot.

One day, I approached my boss and told him that my office needed a second chair for clients to be able to use when they came to see me. He told me that I could probably find a decent office chair down in the basement, where they had stored a bunch of office supplies and furniture when the company had moved in. Basement? Up to this point, I had no idea there was a basement in the old place. If I’d been on my guard, maybe the thought of going into the basement of an old hotel, that was alleged to be haunted, would have at least raised some concern. But, I admit on this occasion, I thought nothing of it, as I took the stairs, making my way down there.

The basement, itself, wasn’t particularly creepy as I remember it now, some sixteen or so years later. It was a pretty open space with an uneven cement floor and, indeed, it had a great deal of office furniture that had been stored down there: desks, chairs, filing cabinets, old computers, old fax machines, etc. The lighting wasn’t too bad, I remember. About what you might expect in a space such as that.

I began to rummage through the selection, in search of a decent chair that would fit well in my small office space. Before long, I had selected a good candidate and separated it from the conglomeration of stuff. With my primary task complete, I took a moment to have a look around. Maybe there was something else in the pile that I could use for my office.

And that’s when I took notice of the dark, far corner of the basement.

It was an empty corner that held this aura of being farther away then the rest of the room—detached somehow from the rest of the basement. It seemed a little darker than everywhere else too, as if the already weak light emanating from the lightbulbs down there just couldn’t quite penetrate into that one corner. Feeling somewhat drawn, perhaps like a moth to the flame, I took a few steps in that direction. But only a few steps.

I pulled up short, the dim corner gaping in front of me like the giant maw of some lurking monster that just might snap shut and swallow me whole, if I were to go any nearer. The skin on my arms prickled and I’ll be danged if I didn’t suddenly feel a slight chill in the air as I stood there, unable to go further—unwilling to take even one more step closer to that darker little realm of shadows.

I thought I actually felt a presence down in that corner. An unseen phantom watching me from the darkness, warning me, maybe willing me away from its otherworldly abode. For a long moment, I stood there wrestling with myself, questioning my instincts, trying to rationalize away these odd feelings of foreboding that had suddenly come upon me. In the end I chose to heed that sixth sense that was trying to tell me that something about my surroundings just was not quite right. I left with my chair.

Before heading up to my office, however, I stopped by the office of a coworker named Chris. I felt comfortable enough with Chris to tell him about my experience—I knew he believed in the ghost stories that had been circulating. I was sort of going nuts inside, wondering if I had just imagined those feelings in the basement, so I asked him to make a little trip downstairs, and see if maybe he might experience something similar in the far corner. Chris agreed to humor me and headed down to the basement while I waited in his office.

It didn’t take long for Chris to return. He was smiling, but looked a bit shaken up. I asked him if he had also had the uneasy sensation of being watched from the corner. He said that he had definitely felt uneasy while he was down there … and yes, especially while standing near the far corner.

I don’t think I ever went back down in the basement of The Rogers hotel during my employment in that building. And never again did I walk the halls, during after hours, audaciously calling out the building’s ghosts to make themselves known. To this day, and even immediately after my experience in the basement, I question what really happened down there. Was it just my imagination, after all? Was my mind just playing tricks on me?

I suppose these are questions that most people who experience a ghost sighting or paranormal event probably ask themselves. And to be honest, I don’t have an answer as to the truth of what really happened. But, I do know this: at that moment, as I stood there feeling as if the very walls of the room were yawning after me, my blood suddenly turning to ice water, there was no doubt. No doubt at all.

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