They are our homes away from home. A place to lay our heads after a long day’s drive or an airplane flight. They can be luxurious or creepy – and most of us have had weird feelings staying in one of them. Hotels.
I have to admit, even the nicest ones give me pause. I sleep very lightly when I’m in a hotel room, and, perhaps, for good reason. You just never know who you’re actually sharing your bedroom with.
More than twenty years ago, my sister, Maureen Tan, and I were researching information for her book which would eventually be called Too Close To Home. We traveled down to Elizabethtown, Illinois and stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast that sat on the banks of the Ohio River. We shared a room with two beds and, after a long day of exploring the sleepy southern Illinois town, we were exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep.
It was summer and the night was warm, even with the breezes from the Ohio River wafting through the window. The old hotel did not have air conditioning, so we were both restless. At about midnight we heard her. The soft shuffling of footsteps in the hallway outside our room.
We both sat up in our beds and looked across the darkened room at each other.
“I thought we were the only guests here,” I whispered.
“We are,” Maureen confirmed. “Maybe it’s the owner.”
“Maybe,” I whispered back, then the familiar, but not too welcome, chill ran up my spine. “But I don’t think so.”
We continued to stare at each other in silence for a few more moments. Finally, in that unspoken way sisters communicate, we simultaneously flipped the light blankets to the side and slipped out of our beds. We tiptoed, which thinking back on it probably looked ridiculous, to the door.
We paused, holding our breaths, and listened.
The shuffling had stopped. On the other side of our door.
Maureen met my eyes and then looked down at the door knob. I shook my head fervently and pleaded silently that she would not even consider opening that door.
Then, the situation resolved itself, we heard her singing. A soft, ethereal sound that echoed throughout the upper hallway and slipped underneath the door.
We both slowly stepped away from the door and moved backwards until we were up against our respective beds. We carefully sat down, making sure we didn’t allow the beds to creak. A few minutes later, the sad song stopped and the sound of shuffling feet moved away from our door and down the hall until there was complete silence.
The wind wafted through the windows, the lace curtains danced in the dim light and we sat on our beds absorbing what we’d just heard.
“That was so cool,” I finally whispered.
“Cool, in a creepy, scare-you-to-death kind of way,” she replied.
“Exactly,” I said. Then I smiled at my sister. “Sweet dreams.”