October is upon us and so is the quest to explore the spectral world. This past week I received an e-mail from a writer for the Discovery TV series Ghost Adventures asking about “non earthly” happenings at the Breakers Hotel.
I did include a chapter on the Breakers in my Haunted Long Beach book, the story of which has been picked up by many other writers in internet postings, and a YouTube video sponsored by the Long Beach Post in 2018. It certainly is a building with a long history. It was built on the site of the 1906 Majestic Skating Rink which later became a dance hall. Twenty years later the Breakers Hotel opened. Over the years it took on other names, but to everyone in Long Beach it remained the Breakers.
Famous people such Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart are known to have been guests. Some say Elizabeth Taylor spent the early days of her honeymoon with Nicky Hilton there, which was something I checked out. I wrote her and received a response saying she just couldn’t remember!
From 1991 to 2015, the Breakers was a senior retirement center, which I visited frequently to chat with retired Long Beach Public Library friends, who lived there. In doing research for Haunted Long Beach I talked with a maintenance man who admitted hearing weird sounds in the hotel’s basement. He claimed he could catch people laughing, and hear sounds of splashing water coming from the area of the then empty swimming pool. There were also reports of unusual happenings on the second floor, most notably the elevator. When I asked the residents, they just shrugged it off as mechanical problems. Many were upset because they were forced to use stairs, which was difficult for most.
There were several tragic deaths at the Breakers, apart from the senior residents who died there. In 1951, Florence Bierce was found dead in her 11th floor room. She had been hit over the head with a glass water pitcher, strangled, and cigarette burns inflicted on her body. In 1953 Navy Commander William Rapp fell twenty-two feet to his death from a ledge outside the hotel. The former Stanford basketball star’s death was ruled accidental. In 1969 Walker Kivienan killed himself by leaping from the 11th floor.
There were many grey-haired folks around during my visits, but perhaps a few of those were specters from days gone by. I remember the old-time dress of some, and men with long beards, which reminded me of those worn by many veterans of the Civil War.
Civil War vets march in Long Beach 1902. Source: Long Beach Public Library
A thousand silver-haired men, all wearing blue suits with a bronze G.A.R. button in their lapels, came back to Long Beach in 1928 after an absence of eleven years. The 61st annual Grand Army of the Republic encampment of Civil War veterans had returned, but these seasoned old soldiers were staying at the Breakers Hotel instead of in the tents of years gone by. Meetings, social events, memorial services and a mammoth parade were on the agenda for these veterans now in their late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Mrs. Anna Glud led the May 8th parade beating the original drum that she had carried through the Civil War. Disguised as a boy, she entered the war at the age of 10 under the name of her dead brother, Tom Hunley. She served three years under General Grant, keeping her identity as a female a secret throughout the war.
There were many painful memories for these veterans who did not want anyone to forget the battles they fought, the hardships they faced, and the comrades they lost. Perhaps some of these soldiers did leave “residual” energy behind which still echoed through the hotel. Their ghosts would have fit in well among the older folk then living at the Breakers, many of whom still remembered wars that came after; wars that spread throughout the world.
The Breakers is again undergoing a renovation and will be known as “Fairmont Breakers Long Beach.” It is scheduled to open in 2024. Perhaps you can visit. If you experience any ethereal vibrations from the past, please let me know.