By Caitlin Fisher

A return to ghost hunting, of course, began with a very particular cast of characters:

  1. Ho Chi Minh, Communist leader of Vietnam
  2. Malcolm X, famed Civil Rights leader
  3. My father, as a teenager
  4. A bellhop named Eddie
  5. And, naturally, the ghost of Charles Dickens.

What all of these men had in common was the infamous Omni Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston, only a block away from the Park Street T stop. The Omni Parker House, according to my father, who was a room service waiter during his college years in the early 80s, was a place bursting with the paranormal. He recalled the ghost of Harvey Parker, owner of the hotel, appearing to question guests about their stay before suddenly disappearing; the spirit of Charles Dickens, who was a frequent resident of the hotel’s third floor, pacing the hall, and hearing mysterious whispers in front of the mirror in Dickens’ room, where he often stood while rehearsing before he gave a reading of one of his stories in the downstairs ballroom. More often than not, my father preferred to tell the stories of the time Stevie Nicks ordered a bottle of whiskey and a raw steak to her room, or the time he ran into Jerry Garcia smoking a joint in the alley behind the hotel, holding a mysterious briefcase. In any case, my father’s experience at the longest-running hotel in America certainly made it the perfect place to search for spirits.

Approaching the concierge’s desk at the Omni Parker House, with the usual strange question — “Could I ask you about ghosts?” — got an unusual response: the concierge immediately agreed to get us “some information about the Omni Parker House ghosts,” turned to the wall behind him, knocked and pushed the wall forward to reveal a secret, back room. He returned a moment later with a sheet that listed all the recent ghost experiences of guests in the hotel. If I wanted to hear about more personal experiences, he told me, I had better ask Eddie.

After approaching the hotel’s bartender in the hopes that he was the mysterious “Eddie,” he told us to ask the bellhops, as they knew all the ins and outs of the hotel. We found a bellhop who pointed us to another bellhop, who finally found us the long-sought-for Eddie.

Eddie, he told us, had worked at the hotel for 49 years; he had “been born in this hotel,” essentially, and had a plethora of stories about residents “who had never really left.” Most notably, he recalled a maid who had quit one day because Harvey Parker, the friendly hotel owner, had appeared from nowhere, hugged her, tipped his top hat and disappeared. Another time, he recalled, a young woman refused to stay the night in Room 303, which he believed was because someone had committed suicide in that room many years prior. Charles Dickens, of course, was also said to haunt the third floor, making the hauntings of the Parker House full of both good and bad energy.

Eddie also recalled the Parker House’s more famous staff, including Ho Chi Minh’s stint in the kitchen and Malcolm X’s time served as a busboy. Also, it turns out, he even remembered my dad, who had been “a real nice guy and a real nice waiter.”

Maybe the Omni Parker House has its ghosts, and maybe not. Either way, searching for the city’s spirits in the derelict hotel of the Gilded Age revealed something new about someone in my life as well.