Georgia ghost story of a Hollywood screenwriter’s frightening stay in a haunted Atlanta hotel.
Jack’s friends always told him he had the ultimate job. For fifteen years, he had been working as one of Hollywood’s most trusted location scouts. Now, in movie lingo, a location scout is someone hired by a producer to find locations where a movie can be shot. Jack was a seasoned pro who could find even the most obscure locations anywhere in the world.
One spring day in 1998, Jack received a script from a major Hollywood studio that sounded like an easy job. The film took place in the 1940s, and many scenes occurred in a ritzy downtown hotel. Since the script also called for scenes in a cypress swamp, Jack decided to take a journey through the American South to see what he could find. Jack had never been to the Deep South before. Since he had plenty of time and was on the studio’s payroll, he took a leisurely train ride through the area to absorb this new world.
After several weeks of searching, Jack boarded a train for Atlanta. He had found plenty of swampy locations in Louisiana and Mississippi, but still hadn’t found the right hotel. Certainly in the so-called “capital of the New South,” he could find what he was looking for. The studio made reservations for him at the Barrow Hotel; a historic downtown building that Jack had researched on the Internet, and figured might work for the film.
Jack’s train arrived in Atlanta that night in a pounding thunderstorm. Thick sheets of rainwater obscured his view of the city, and power had been knocked out on the streets. Jack waited in the empty depot for his driver, but no one arrived. The only car sitting outside was a restored, 1940s-era taxi with the name “Hotel Scofield” painted on the side. Sick of waiting, Jack marched up to the taxi and tapped on the window. The window rolled down, and Jack was surprised to find that the young driver was dressed in a 1940s-era cabby uniform.
“Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you,” said Jack. “But could you tell me how far the Barrow Hotel is from here?”
“Why on earth would you want to go there?” asked the driver in an incredulous, though mannered, tone of voice.
Jack explained that he was looking for a film location in Atlanta. The driver shook his head and replied, “You won’t have any luck there. They just renovated it a few months ago. Now it looks like every other modern hotel ’round here.”
Taken aback, Jack replied, “But I saw their website, and it looked like…”
“…I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, mister,” interrupted the driver. “But that’s the way Atlanta is. They tear down historic buildings left and right. A cryin’ shame if you ask me. Now, I don’t mean to push my hotel on you, but the Scofield may be what you’re looking for. It’s one of the few old hotels that’s still standing. They’re kinda busy this time of year, but they might have one more room.”
Cold and drenched, Jack quickly hopped into the cab. “You got a deal,” he said. “Anything to get out of this rain.”
As the taxi rumbled through the dark Atlanta streets, Jack noticed that the interior of the cab was in great shape, but not overly so. It didn’t look like it was restored as much as it was used carefully. Jack had worked on cars long enough to know that, from the sound of the engine, the Hotel Scofield must have taken great care of its taxi fleet.
After what seemed like hours driving through the misty darkness, the cab finally pulled up to a brightly lit building. “Here we are, sir,” said the driver as he pulled beside the doors.
Jack got out, and his eyes widened immediately. The Hotel Scofield was a grand, 15-floor brick edifice very much in the style of 1940s luxury hotels. It was a solidly built, narrow building, with a golden awning, red carpet and gas lamps glowing warmly in the foggy night. The doorman smiled at Jack and opened the door into the lush lobby. Sparkling crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, red velvet curtains flowed over the windows, and plush chairs and sofas invited weary guests to relax in luxury. Jack smiled as he looked about – he had hit the jackpot.
Like the taxicab, the hotel didn’t look restored as much as it did looked after. The management seemed to take great pride in transporting its guests to another time. It would work perfectly for the film.
Jack walked up to the front desk – which was made of deep blue marble with polished gold trim – and asked the manager for a room. The slightly plump man smiled warmly and replied, “Well, we tend to be busy this time of year, but we might have one more room.” After checking the registry, the manager said, “You’re in luck – we have a room available on the top floor. Best view of the city!”
With that, he signaled a bellhop to grab Jack’s bags. As Jack followed him toward the elevator, he noticed something strange. The guests in the lobby wore fancy evening wear – the men in tuxedos, the women in long vintage dresses. There were also soldiers milling about in green, World War II-looking uniforms, grabbing the attention of the giggling single ladies. Champagne was flowing everywhere. Children in their best suits and dresses ran laughing around their parents’ legs. All smiled warmly at Jack as he walked by. Have I wandered into a costume party, thought Jack. Or worse – is someone already shooting a movie here?
Jack heard a piano player playing the standard “Auld Lang Syne” in the smoky cocktail lounge. Then he noticed the decorations – a giant Christmas tree glowing brilliantly in the main sitting area, a wreath hanging over the fireplace, greenery with red bows draped over the railings. Nothing unusual – except that it was mid-April.
It was then that Jack froze in his tracks. Across the fireplace was a huge banner that read, “Happy New Year 1946.” At the end of the hall, the golden elevator doors suddenly swung open. Inside was a car full of holiday revelers, all smiling warmly at Jack. One of the men reached out his hand and said, “Come on up, buddy. I think there’s room in here for one more.”
Jack didn’t move – something was definitely odd about this place. Better to stay somewhere where he felt comfortable. “That’s alright,” he said to the man. “You go on.”
The festive piano music suddenly stopped, leaving an eerie silence. Jack heard a rustling sound behind him. He turned and saw that the party crowd had gathered behind him, still smiling. The man in the elevator reached out again for Jack and said, “You don’t understand. We have room in here for one more.”
The crowd suddenly closed in behind Jack. Jack was not an easily scared man, but he was impulsive. He whirled around and charged back through the crowd. Two soldiers grabbed his arms and dragged him back to the elevator. The room began to spin around them, and Jack could swear he saw the Christmas decorations starting to melt. The walls morphed into a sooty black color, and the stinging smell of smoke was everywhere.
“Come on friend,” said the smiling man in the elevator. “There’s no need to fight – I told you, there’s room for one more.”
Horrifying screams filled the room, but the revelers stood silent, the same silly grins plastered on their faces. The room heated up rapidly to an unbearable temperature. Black smoke now filled the air, and Jack’s blood ran cold as he realized that the place was on fire – but no one wanted to leave.
With every ounce of strength he had, Jack wriggled free of the soldiers and charged back though the crowd, knocking over anyone who stood in his way. Hands grabbed desperately at his clothes through the blinding smoke, the screams deafening.
Suddenly, the ground dropped beneath Jack’s feet. He tumbled down the lobby stairs, his head smashing against the marble floor. The room spun wildly around him, then went black.
Moments later, Jack opened his eyes. He found himself lying on a dirty floor littered with garbage, chipped marble and broken glass. He sat up dizzily, wiped the trickle of blood from his forehead and gazed about the room. He was shocked to find that the ornate hotel lobby had fallen into ruin long ago. The windows were broken out, and the rooms were black and gutted. Vagrants had spray-painted graffiti on the walls.
“Hey!” shouted a gruff voice behind him.
Jack whirled around to find a police officer standing in the doorway, his hand on his gun. “What are you doing in here?”
“I…I don’t know,” was all Jack could say.
The policeman studied Jack for a minute, then helped him to his feet. “Did somebody attack you?” he asked.
“No, sir,” answered Jack. “I just checked in here a few hours ago and…”
“…What do you mean ‘checked in’?” asked the policeman. “This hotel ain’t been open since the great fire years ago.”
Jack suddenly turned pale and asked, “What fire?”
“Just the worst hotel fire in U.S. history,” said the policeman. “Didn’t you see the historic marker outside? Over a hundred people died in here. They said this place was fireproof – you know, kinda like they said the Titanic was unsinkable. But they were obviously wrong.”
Jack looked about the room in disbelief as the policeman continued: “Most of the folks who survived were on the lower floors. Our fire department didn’t have ladders tall enough back then to reach the top floors. It was a horrible sight.”
“When did it happen?” asked Jack, almost afraid of the answer.
The policeman scratched his head and said, “I believe it was New Years Eve, 1946.”
– THE END –
One More Room – Story Credits
Written and Directed by Craig Dominey
Told by Jim McAmis
Sound Design by Henry Howard