In the 6 years that I’ve been investigating reportedly haunted locations throughout northern Utah, one of the places that people always want to tell me about is the Ben Lomond Hotel in Ogden. Ogden has always been one of my favorite cities to investigate in because it has a very wild past, most of which is focused on or near a 3 block area known as Ogden’s Historic 25th. The Ben Lomond sits at the Eastern end of 25th Street, on the other end of 25th sits another favorite spot of mine, the Union Station.
The Ben Lomond Hotel has a few ghost stories floating around the internet. As with other locations I’ve researched, the truth behind the Ben Lomond’s past was far more interesting and tragic than I could have imagined. Before starting my research, I tried to find as many stories of the hotel’s ghosts as I could, just to see if maybe some of these stories had a basis in fact. The most popular tale involves a bride who came to the hotel on her honeymoon and tragically drowned in the bathtub of room 1102. Shortly after her death, it’s said that her son arrives at the hotel to gather her personal belongings and he was so distraught over her death that he commits suicide in the adjoining room, room 1101. Oddly enough no mention is ever made about her groom!
It seems the 11th floor is the focus of most of the stories. In addition to the bride, it’s also said that a woman came to live at the Ben Lomond during WWII to await her son’s return as he was serving in the war. It is said she died in room 1106 either passing from natural causes not knowing that her son had died tragically or hearing of her son’s death and dying from a broken heart. Other suggestions about who may be haunting the hotel are Mrs. Eccles, wife of a former owner, and a hotel clerk that was murdered in the lobby. The activity that has been reported is phone calls from unoccupied rooms on the 11th floor, elevators randomly stopping on various floors, the scent of old-fashioned perfume, cold spots, disembodied voices, doors slamming, and even full-bodied apparitions.
The Reed Hotel
The Ben Lomond is considered one of Utah’s three grand hotels, and the only one of those three that is still in operation as a hotel. Since its construction in 1927, it has held the title of the largest hotel in Ogden, and also the tallest building in the city, with 13 floors. Although a hotel has stood on this corner since July of 1891, the Ben Lomond is not the original hotel. The original hotel was called the Reed Hotel, and it was open from 1891 until 1926. The Reed was 5 stories tall and had 140 rooms, as well as a restaurant on the 5th floor that gave diners a great view of the nearby mountains.
The Reed Hotel recorded its first death on the 28th of June 1891. Mr. William B Steele was found dead in bed around 10 pm, finally succumbing to the effects of tuberculosis. Mr. Steele was the brother-in-law of one of the hotel’s proprietors and had recently moved to Utah in order thinking the drier air would help with his condition. Maybe this was a foreshadowing of things to come because from 1891 until the Reed was remodeled into the Bigelow eight more deaths occurred at the hotel.
Most of the recorded deaths were due to old age or other natural causes. However, a few were really tragic deaths. The first was a suicide that occurred on the 8th of September, 1902. A couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Van Alen had recently moved into one of the hotel’s apartments. Mrs. Tide Helen Van Alen was reported to have suffered from various ailments and one morning after her husband had left the hotel to go to his office down the street, Mrs. Van Alen shot herself in the head. When Mr. Van Alen came home at lunch to check on her, he along with the bell boy found her lying dead in bed. Mrs. Van Alen was only 38 years old. The Van Alen’s occupied two rooms on the 3rd floor of the Reed Hotel facing 25th Street.
The first accidental death came a few years before the Reed Hotel was demolished. On the 26th of September, 1921 a newly hired cook by the name of Asugi Nakano fell 3 stories down the elevator shaft to his death. No one saw the accident, but witnesses thought he mistakenly assumed the freight elevator was waiting on the third floor. The doors opened, he stepped inside and fell to his death.
The Bigelow Hotel
In 1926, the Reed Hotel was almost completely demolished, and on its foundation, the new Bigelow Hotel was built. The Bigelow opened on June 3rd, 1927 and boasted 350 guest rooms, each with a private bath. There were also 11 dining rooms, including a coffee shop. The Bigelow’s dining rooms each had their own theme ranging from an Arabian styled coffee shop, a Florentine palace ballroom, and an Old Spanish business meeting room, two English themed rooms, and a Japanese-themed tea room. When it opened, it was by far the nicest hotel Ogden had ever seen and was a great place for travelers getting off the train at the Union Station to relax.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the next death to occur, except this time it was a murder. On March 9th, 1929, the Utah Canners Association hosted their annual convention at the Bigelow Hotel. Dan Rowland, who was attending the convention, had invited a few friends up to his room on the 12th floor to have some drinks before heading back down to the ballroom for more dancing. One of the people invited up was a man by the name of Edward Spelman. He happened to be staying at the hotel and somehow was introduced to Dan and his group of friends. While in the room, the wife of one of the friends had too much to drink and decided to lie down for a while as the rest of the friends went downstairs to dance. Spelman left with the others, and then at some point came back to the room and was later caught by Rowland “attacking” the unconscious woman in bed. Rowland was trying to get the attacker down into the lobby of the hotel and while walking towards the elevator, Spelman raised his hand to strike Dan and missed. Dan Rowland immediately swung back, hitting Mr. Spelman on the chin. It was a lucky strike because Spelman went down, hitting his head on the wall, killing him almost instantly. It was later discovered he died from a ruptured artery. Dan Rowland was later charged and acquitted of Edward Spelman’s murder.
The name of the hotel was changed to Ben Lomond after it was purchased by Marriner S Eccles in 1933. For a few years, everything was quiet at the hotel. That changed in 1939 when two young men got out of a cab in front of the hotel, had some type of argument with a bell boy outside and headed straight for the elevator. They asked the elevator operator to take them to the top floor. She later said that she felt like something was strange with the men and took them back down to the lobby to see if she could get some help. No one was in the lobby to help her and before she could stop them the men got back into the elevator and took it to the top floor. The men made their way to the window at the end of the hallway on the south end of the building and one after another leaped to their deaths.
From 1939 until 1950 there are no recorded deaths at the hotel. The last recorded suicide took place on July 16th, 1951. A local teacher by the name of Donna Anderson jumped from a 9th-floor window on the north side of the hotel. She landed on top of the roof below. I found at least two more deaths between 1951 and 1974, both occurred at the hotel and both were due to natural causes.
And then in 1976, the most horrific and most recent murder in the history of the hotel took place. On Sunday, October 24th shortly before 2 am the body of hotel clerk Henry Topping, Jr was found on the floor of the lobby. He had been brutally murdered, stabbed to death, 44 times. The police later captured and convicted a 15-year-old boy for his murder.
Is it possible that I missed something? Sure, but the chances of an unnatural death (i.e. murder or suicide) not being mentioned in the paper are slim. I have searched every local paper from the period of 1930 – present. I also searched all the Weber County death certificates from 1904 until 1961. I didn’t find any evidence of a bride dying in a bathtub on her wedding night or the subsequent suicide of her son. There was also no mention of a woman dying at the hotel during WWII.
As you can tell, often times the truth of a location’s history is a lot more interesting than its legend. Every building, if it’s old enough has a story to tell, you just have to go look for it. The Ben Lomond is a great old hotel. The architectural detail is amazing, it’s one of those things you just don’t find in the modern hotels. While the hotel staff continues to report paranormal activity, it’s never been described as threatening or dark. If you want to stay at a possibly haunted hotel, I strongly recommend you make a reservation!