Exactly halfway between New York City and Chicago, in the sleepy northwestern Pennsylvania town of Linesville, sits a beautifully refurbished and decorated three-story brick landmark, the Knickerbocker Hotel, which happens to be bursting at the seams with spirits. Those spirits — while sometimes moody, mischievous, even cranky — often seem as willing to entertain guests as were the original, living innkeepers during the building’s heyday a century and more ago.
The original proprietors, Milo and Clara Arnold, built the establishment, originally called Arnold House, on land Mrs. Arnold inherited from her second husband (Milo was number three). On January 12, 1882 they held a gala ball to open this hotel, restaurant, entertainment lounge, and family residence. The 20-room building has weathered the winds of change and stands proud and strong on its original foundation, with the past and present, the seen and unseen, inextricably intertwined.
Current owners, Peg and Myrle Knickerbocker, felt a calling to restore and decorate this gem as a tribute to the people, history, and style of its Gilded Age origins and have done so since they assumed full control of the property in 2005. Peg Knickerbocker changes the theme and décor of each room on a regular basis to keep visitors and ghosts on their toes. Every room is a moment caught in time.
Among the most prominent ghosts of the Knickerbocker Hotel are founding matriarch Clara Arnold, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 37 just three years after the Arnold House opened; at least one small child variously seen in the basement and heard with stunning clarity on video; a roaming shadow figure caught on infrared video on the third floor hallway and stairs; and a remarkably tangible former feline, seen, heard, and captured on video in the second floor “Cat Room.”
Countless paranormal teams have reported and documented activity while investigating here, and the Knickerbockers have opened their doors to television shows including A&E’s Paranormal State and Bio’s My Ghost Story. Brian Cano, of Syfy’s Haunted Collector fame, filmed a documentary here with his home team SCARED!
Meticulous research, attention to historic detail, and the general positive vibes of the place make the Knick a must-see for any paranormal enthusiast.
Lorraine Warren – Now You See It, Now You Don’t
An odd sequence of events befell paranormal legend Lorraine Warren of The Conjuring fame during one of her many visits to the Knick, on the occasion of her 81st birthday.
Warren was sitting in the dining area at a small table with her purse at her feet listening to a paranormal lecture. When the speaker concluded, she reached down to retrieve something out of her bag, only to find it missing. Bewildered and upset, Lorraine asked Peg to help her find it.
Peg gave a little smile and helped her search for the purse, knowing it wouldn’t be found through “normal” methods. Peg often refers to the Knickerbocker as if it were a living, breathing entity, with characteristics and quirks like the rest of us. When a purse, phone, pair of earrings, or set of keys seems to vanish into thin air, one must ask the building to “please give it back.”
Dubious, but willing to try, Lorraine stood up and with open arms pleaded, “Building, please return the purse.” The other guests found this amusing, but Peg assured them it would work. After the room was cleared as part of the process, Lorraine quickly returned with Peg, and to her astonishment, found the purse exactly at the spot from where it had gone missing.
Object manipulation of this type is indeed rare, and the ramifications fascinating: where did the purse “go“ in the interim? Was it actually somewhere else or was its presence somehow cloaked? Was this the action of a single spirit or some sort of group effort? The world can be a very strange place.
Theresa had a similar experience in the Angel Room on the third floor, which we will recount later.
The Knickerbocker Hotel – Grand Opening Reenactment
In September, 2011, the Knickerbockers held an event reenacting the original 1882 grand opening of the Arnold House. Using a contemporary newspaper account as their guide, participants relived the day the hotel first threw open its doors, beginning its strange journey through time. The guests all dressed in period attire and each had a part to play. Peg was chef and served a lovely dinner to the guests; Myrle entertained the crowd with piano music popular in the 1880s; and their friend Mark Painter portrayed Milo Arnold, original proprietor of the hotel.
It was a grand party, much like the one held over 130 years ago. Everyone stayed in character throughout the night, enjoying food and music authentic to the era. After serving the guests in the lounge, the “staff” sat down for their meal in the dining room.
Eventually “Milo” stood up and addressed his guests, thanking them for coming to the grand opening celebration. As he spoke, the party guests stared in awe at what was conjuring behind him. “Milo” turned as well, just in time to see a wave-like body, like a heat mirage, emerge from the east wall and sweep across the room to the west.
Before anyone could speak, a man dressed exactly like faux-Milo stepped out of the wall into the room, took a quick look around, then stepped back into the wall and disappeared!
Stunned by what they had seen, the party goers bolted from the lounge to the dining room to report what had just happened. Peg was shocked when she heard their tale, especially since her group, the ones portraying hotel staff, had seen the same man peeking in at them through the door just moments before. It seems as though Milo Arnold crashed his own party.
“I Don’t Want You to Go”
On December 3, 2009 Peg invited a small group of friends over to the hotel for the evening with the hope of introducing them to some of the Knickerbocker’s resident spirits. The group gathered for an EVP session in the Angel Room on the third floor. The session was recorded individually by several of the people present, as well as by the streaming camera’s audio and video.
After a 40-minute period of questions and attempts to communicate met with little concrete activity, Peg figured the spirits might be a bit “camera shy,” hesitant to come out with so many strangers around. She thought if everyone left the room, they could slowly come back in one-by-one, letting the spirits gradually adjust to the presence of the investigators.
On the video you see and hear Peg gently explaining to the spirits what they are doing, and as the group rises and begins to leave, Peg says, “We’re going to each take a turn…”
A pleading child’s voice replies, “I don’t want you to go…”
Some EVPs have an inhuman, even metallic timbre to them, but this voice is so human, so clear and immediate you assume it had to come from one of the group. But it didn’t.
None of the five living participants heard the voice at the time. It was, however, captured on one other video camera, and two of the four audio recorders. The fact that not every recorder picked up this EVP strengthens its validity. If the voice had been a living person, a natural sound in the room, all recording devices would have captured it more or less equally.
It was also a shockingly intelligent and intimate response to what was happening at the moment, and it was directed towards Peg, someone with whom the spirits were very familiar.
According to Peg, this is the clearest EVP ever captured at the Knickerbocker, and it‘s one of the most compelling we‘ve ever heard – the plaintive cry of a lonely ghost child.
(Excerpted from America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places, Berkley, 2014, by Eric Olsen and Theresa Argie)
by Eric Olsen [Berkley]