The Haunted Emily Morgan Hotel (San Antonio, Texas)

Ideally positioned in downtown San Antonio, Texas, just steps from the River Walk, the Emily Morgan Hotel is an iconic fixture dating back to the 1920s (sort of). The architecture and the building itself do in fact date to the 1920s, but the hotel has only been there since 1984.  Before becoming a luxury hotel with stylish guest rooms and lavish amenities, the Emily Morgan was known throughout the region as the largest Medical Arts Building and featured a psychiatric ward as well as a morgue. It has since its opening gained worldwide notoriety, not for perfectly crafted cocktail and fresh southwestern inspired cuisine, but for things that go bump in the night (or rather for the stories of the things that go bump in the night).

The front of the Emily Morgan
The towering Emily Morgan.

There are several places in San Antonio that have been the sites of paranormal investigations, but the Emily Morgan is considered to be the most haunted in the city. By many accounts it is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the world and according to USA Today, it is officially the third-most haunted hotel in the world. It is difficult to determine if this is in fact true since there is no real way to measure the quantity or quality of a haunted site.

Despite the reports of haunting, the number of accolades the Emily Morgan has received place it amongst the most well respected hotels in the US. In 2015, it was inducted into the Historic Hotels of American Organization, in 1977 it was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Alamo Plaza Historic District. It’s been featured in numerous magazines, and in 2010 received the American Institute of Architects San Antonio’s Twenty-Five Year Distinguished Building Award. And of course, in 2015 USA Today listed the Emily Morgan as the third most haunted hotel in the world.

Medical Arts History

The hospital was designed with care but the times meant that there were some issues that could not be avoided. The waiting rooms, and surgical suites were on the upper levels to distance them from the morgue, and the windows were often wide open to insure the smell from the basement was not too strong for the patients. When it operated as a medical facility, the downstairs levels functioned as offices for the doctors, and the basement, of course, was the  morgue.

Built as the city’s first Medical Arts Building. The building is somewhat known to architecture buffs for the terra-cotta gargoyles crawling up its sides. As a play on the purpose of the building, each of the gargoyles were styled to depict various medical ailments. Some of the gargoyles grab at their bellies with distressed faces, some are disfigured with the agony of broken bones, and a few show the signs of dental pain with rows of badly damaged teeth.

The Medical Arts Building served the community of San Antonio for more than fifty years before it was closed and summarily converted into an office building in 1976.  Less than ten years later it was purchased and became the upscale Emily Morgan Hotel. Despite its strange and storied past, it has thrived ever since.

The Haunted Emily Morgan Hotel

It’s said that the most haunted floors of the are the seventh, ninth, fourteenth, and the basement. These floors had different functions and served as the psychiatric ward, the surgery level, the waiting area, and it almost goes without saying, the morgue. It is also part of the folklore that all of the paranormal activity dates from the time the building served as a medical center.

The twelfth floor however is where guests often report faucets that turn themselves off and on, and call the front desk complaining of flashing lights that don’t seem to happen in the rest of the hotel. While many visitors want to have a paranormal experience, the twelfth floor is the where guests most commonly ask to be moved from.

Despite a spotless maintenance record, the elevators are as strange a place as the rest of the hotel. Attendants at the front desk have noted that they oftentimes receive phone calls from the emergency phones in the elevators when no one is inside them, and people are sometimes trapped in the elevators when there’s no reason for the doors not to open. The elevators really seem to have a mind of their own, and though it is off limits to visitors of the hotel, it’s not uncommon for the elevators to take guests to the basement level without them pushing buttons for the lower level.  When they get to the basement the doors will sometimes stay open forcing guests to take the stairs back up to their rooms.

The basement of the hotel is roped off and completely off limits to visitors.  Staff are allowed in the basement and are often required to work there for brief periods of time, it seems that it is universally hated by all who enter.  When the hotel was a Medical Arts building, the morgue and the crematorium was housed in the basement and hundreds of autopsies were preformed in the area. It has also been said that there is often a stench of burning flesh in the basement of the hotel and that alone should be enough to keep wandering visitors from trying to see the dark underbelly of the hotel

Emily Morgan Hotel Facts

  • The Hotel was determined to be the third most haunted hotel in the world by USA Today. The metric for that decision is unknown.
  • It is common for guests to request room changes or to just leave in the middle of the night because of paranormal experiences.
  • Though there are technically 13 floors, the Emily Morgan Hotel does not have one and prefers to go directly from 12th to 14th.
  • The Emily Morgan is pet friendly.
  • There is a blank space between the fourteenth floor and the observation tower that was originally supposed to house a large clock. The clock was never built.
  • The seventh floor of the hotel is supposed to be the most haunted floor (because ghosts can’t climb stairs) and is reportedly haunted by a ghost bride.
  • In comparison to other historic hotels, the Emily Morgan is relatively young.  It was only opened as a hotel in 1984.
  • The Emily Morgan was San Antonio’s first skyscraper, and the first west of the Mississippi River.
  • The hotel was built by J.M. Nix and designed by architect Ralph Cameron.