The folks on Balsam Mountain have been whispering tales for generations about the strange goings-on at the old
Balsam Mountain Inn. Townspeople who once worked at the grand hotel, years before the restoration, tell stories reminiscent of The Shining. They talk about how they would meticulously shut down the grand lady for the winter, room by room, then say their final good-byes and drive away, only to turn and look back up from the bottom of the hill to find every light burning brightly again. Weary, they would have to return to the hotel to shut them all off again, only to find them back on as soon as they got to the bottom of the hill again. Children, lured by the spooky, vacant structure, would bravely dare each other to peek through the windows, to be scared out of their wits by the ghostly images of people inside the dining room and lobby.
Standing like a sentinel on a high ridge above Balsam Gap, the three-story Balsam Mountain Inn welcomed its first guests in 1908. For decades visitors arrived by rail at the old Balsam Depot, the highest railway station east of the Rockies, at an elevation of 3,500 feet. Passengers from this era would disembark on cool, starry summer evenings and take a slow stroll or carriage ride up to the inn.
“If you are coming to the mountains, come all the way up,” read the advertising slogan of the Balsam Mountain Inn when this Colonial Revival structure was first opened by two brothers, Joseph and Walter, who had been so successful with their boardinghouse that they decided to expand into the hotel business. Wanting everyone to see what a grand place they built, they erected the majestic monument at the top of the highest hill, overlooking the town. After framing the first two floors, the brothers raced to the bottom of the hill to admire their handiwork from the train depot. When they saw that it wasn’t visible from that point, they added the third floor, so that both townsfolk and train passengers could not help but notice the palatial retreat.
Not much exists of the town of Balsam today except for the grand old wood-frame hotel sitting high on the mountain. Once a bustling mountain retreat, with three inns, several general stores, and a Baptist church, the town practically vanished in 1959, leaving a single grand reminder of a time when people came from all over the
country to this mountain haven.
The lonely hotel had sat vacant for many years, and according to architects only inertia and beaded board were
holding it up, when Merrily Teasley purchased the ailing property in 1990 and painstakingly restored it to its original grandeur.
Shortly after she reopened the Balsam, Merrily started hearing reports from guests that someone had tried to enter their rooms. Occasionally, the guests would inquire if there were a ghost. Merrily scoffed at the idea that her hotel was haunted, and figured that someone had just gotten lost on their way to their own room— That is, until one night in the dead of winter, when she was the only other person in the hotel. When the sole occupants reported the next morning that someone had turned the door knob of Room 205, Merrily knew it could not have been a human hand, and she started taking the reports more seriously.
“The first few times I didn’t pay attention,” Merrily admits. “I figured maybe someone was trying the wrong door,
but then, when no one was here but me, that’s pretty hard to explain.”
Interestingly, the reports only come from Rooms 205 and 207, in the southwest corner of the hotel. Today, a blank diary is left in each room for guests to record their impressions of the Balsam. The diaries in Rooms 205 and 207 are filled with ghostly accounts.
Some guests have actually heard footsteps walking across their room as they lay in bed. Although they could not see anyone in the room, the footsteps continued for hours, pacing back and forth on the wood floors.
Probably many others have heard the phantom at their door, but did not think enough of it to report it.
When I stayed, there was only one other couple in my wing at the hotel. They had received their night as a wedding gift from fellow workers at the North Carolina Office of Tourism. They didn’t know that the inn was haunted, but realized they too had experienced the ghost.
In the morning, as they were dressing, the doorknob began to turn and jiggle. “I really didn’t think anything of it, until I heard the reports from the others. I was more afraid that the maid would walk in and find me naked,” she mused, eyes wide.
The ghost also hangs around the kitchen. Jennifer, a waitress in the Balsam restaurant, reports stories she has heard from other workers. “Sometimes the door to the kitchen suddenly swings wide open, and then closes slowly, as if someone is walking through.
The door is so heavy, there is no way it can open on its own. I’ve also heard talk about footsteps in the
dining room, and the smell of perfume. My friend used to work here years ago. She saw the lights go on
after they turned them off.”
Ask for Room 205 or 207. Many guests don’t even realize they have experienced the ghost, blaming the boisterous noises outside on a drunken guest looking for his room. To date, no one who hears the commotion has opened the door to investigate, so if you hear someone (or something) outside your room, rattling the doorknob and trying to get in, open the door if you dare, and solve the mystery of what awaits on the other side.
The splendid Victorian structure, built in 1905, is perched atop a 6,000-foot mountain. On the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel boasts a onehundred-foot lobby, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a library with over 2,000 books. Over the years, the inn experienced only minor changes until an extensive restoration was undertaken in 1990 by owner Merrily Teasley, who restored the beautiful hardwood floors, the beaded-board walls, the original artwork, and the Victorian furnishings. Outstanding features include the massive Greek columns throughout the lobby and the two huge porches that encompass both the first and second floors. These are a favorite place for guests to relax and enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery.
The warm, inviting lobby is full of wicker furniture and runs the full hundred-foot length of the hotel. In the fall and winter, guests snuggle up to the huge fireplace in the lobby to warm their toes.
Although each of the original hundred rooms had running water, there were two large public baths, one for ladies and one for men, on opposite wings of the hotel. If your room was on the other side of the hotel, you had a long walk. Today there are eight suites, sixteen rooms with sitting areas, and twenty-six regular rooms. Each has a private bath, some with antique claw-foot tubs.
The inn is perched upon twenty-six glorious acres, with trails, creek, springs, a pond, and lawn games. Tennis, golf, whitewater rafting, and fishing are nearby.
The original grand dining room and kitchen are once again open and serving Smoky Mountain specialties to guests. Some evenings, diners are entertained by live piano music. Merrily also hosts dinner theater and murder mystery weekends. Breakfast, as well, is served in the dining room. Early-morning coffee is served in the library, which boasts more than 2,000 volumes of classic books.
At various times throughout the year, the hotel becomes very lively, as both local and nationally acclaimed musicians make both scheduled and unscheduled performances. You might run into Sheila Adams, Paul Craft, Muriel Anderson, or Tony Ellis Washington strumming a banjo or guitar in the lobby.
Balsam Mountain Inn
P.O. Box 40
Balsam, NC 28707
828-456-9498 or 800-224-9498
From : Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels by Frances Kermeen – Copyright © 2002 by Frances Kermeen.
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