If These Walls Could Talk ...
Nestled in the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains is the small town of Napanoch, New York. Within its quiet streets it holds a treasure for both the weary traveler and the paranormal enthusiast – the Haunted Shanley Hotel. The historic Bed & Breakfast has boasted several famous guests as well as a few infamous ones that used to patronage the Gentleman’s Club and Bordello. A few of those guests have never left and still linger in the corridors waiting to greet newcomers and welcome back the returning guests.
In 1845, Thomas Ritch was the first to put mortar to stone (or more accurately, nail to wood) and erect the Ritch’s Hotel on Main Street. Napanoch was a nice vacation destination from those attempting to escape the hustle & bustle of the larger cities. Due to the convenience of the railroad, many a traveler came to rest his head. The Thomas Ritch Hotel claimed in a local newspaper to be “…one of the area’s best with fine food and new furnishings…” Even after Ritch sold the hotel in 1851, the newly named Hungerford’s Hotel continued to purport the property as “…one of the most beautiful and commodious public houses to be found in any section of the country.” Mr. Hungerford catered to the same clientele as Mr. Ritch, including the elite Gentleman’s Club that boasted a very distinguished membership and was quick to dandle the ladies of the bordello on their knees.
The hotel changed hands a few times but in 1887, Adolph Wagner became the new landlord. Eight years later, on March 18, 1895, a nearby home in Napanoch caught fire. The fire quickly spread leaving ruin in its wake. The Shanley Hotel was not spared the damage and was tragically burned to the ground. Mr. Wagner would not see his investment go to waste so he quickly rebuilt and the hotel was back in business by November of the same year.
The most notable owner and for whom the hotel is still named was James Shanley. When his family immigrated to New York City from Ireland, James and his brothers found success in opening restaurants and hotels across the country. He moved upstate and discovered the beauty of the hotel and the town of Napanoch. He purchased the hotel for his own on October 1, 1906. Mr. Shanley gave it his own touch by adding a bowling alley, billiard room and even a barber shop to the building.
James success brought prestige to the community but it wasn’t simply his ability to produce revenue that made the people of Napanoch love him. He was a good man with a kind heart and an outgoing personality; people naturally were drawn to him, including the lovely Beatrice Rowley. The two were married at the Shanley Hotel on April 26, 1910 and took off to the Nation’s Capitol to enjoy their honeymoon. When the newlyweds returned from Washington D.C., they were met by not only a parade welcoming them home, but also a skimmerton. The skimmerton party typically included most anything that makes a loud noise from cowbells to clanging pots—and the young men of the community would gather at the new home of the bride and groom and continue to make a clamor until the groom either invited them in to celebrate or tossed salt at them to go away. It was a grand celebration that night that would signal a grand future for the young couple, that is, until tragedy after tragedy befell the family.
Even through the hardships, Beatrice and James Shanley entertained and welcomed everyone to the Shanley Hotel. They were known for their card and domino tournaments as well as hosting elaborate parties and events. Mrs. Shanley was quite famous for her high teas and social card parties. She may have lived in a small town but she still wore decadent jewelry and was on the cutting edge of fashion. Her hotel was a reflection of her knack for style with Victorian beds with sheets of satin and silk! Perhaps this is why they had notable guests such as Thomas Edison and Eleanor Roosevelt. But it was more likely because the Shanleys were such an engaging pair that people wanted to be their dear friends. The couple even attended the Inaugural Ball for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor and Beatrice were quite good friends so the soon-to-be First Lady made the arrangements and she was a frequent visitor to the Shanley Hotel.
Beatrice loved children and dreamed of having a large family with her beloved James. On January 6, 1912, she gave birth to their first daughter, Kathleen. The poor soul only lived a little shy of six months. She would go on to give birth to two more children, James Shanley, Jr who lived four and a half months and William Shanley who died at a little over nine months. Her broken heart can still be felt within the walls of the Haunted Shanley Hotel. Many guests have witnessed a woman in period dress wandering through the hallways. She was also known for her fragrant perfume and several people have suddenly smelled a glorious scent that many believe to be Mrs. Shanley nearby. Is she still looking for her children or perhaps she is still mourning the loss of her sister…
Esther and John Faughman lived in the adjoining apartment of Beatrice and James. Beatrice was very close with her sister, Esther who was a notable beauty with a kind heart. As much as Esther loved her sister, she dearly missed her friends and family she had left behind in New York City. It is said that every day she would wait beside the mahogany telephone booth waiting for her friends to ring from back home. Esther met a sudden end at the hands of influenza in 19181, leaving her grief-stricken sister to raise her two little girls.
Tragedy was not limited to the Shanley family. The Barber, Peter Greger, whom James had hired lived in the Shanley Hotel with his family. His youngest daughter, Rosie, was only 3-years-old when she met a horrible demise. The little girl had wandered across the road to the Hoornbeek Farm where she lifted a wooden slab to peer into the covered well. Losing her balance, Rosie toppled into the well, striking her head upon the rocks as she fell. Her body was found nearly two hours later, living her brokenhearted father with a difficult decision. He came to the conclusion that he could no longer live at the site of the tragic accident so he gathered his wife and remaining daughter and returned to Brooklyn. Many people have seen the apparition of the little girl and have heard her speaking to them from the shadows of the hallways. Is she confused or does she just want to play a friendly game of hide-and-seek?
In September of 1915, another tragic moment occurred for a nearby family. Dr. Walter Nelson Thayer, Jr. was backing his car out of the alley that ran between his home and the hotel. His 5-year-old son, Walter Nelson Thayer III, jumped onto the running board only to fall off again. The car backed over him and he suffered severe head injuries but did not die from the incident. For years many believed that the boy was the spirit affectionately called Jonathan that plays in the attic, if he wasn’t the victim of the car accident—who is the little boy? A spirit that decided the Shanley was a nice home filled with nice spirits and guests? Perhaps…
After young Rosie’s death and her family left the Shanley Hotel, the attempt to legislate morality became the norm for the Congress of the United States. When they issued the 18th Amendment prohibiting the transportation and sale of alcohol in the United States, several establishments found ways to flout the audacity of the law, James was not immune to the desire to please his clientele. What was once the Greger apartment became an active bordello with ladies there to meet the ever pleasure of those who frequented the Speakeasy/Gentleman’s Club.
One might wonder how these pleasures of the flesh would have been given countenance by Beatrice, no one knows for sure but we do know that the hotel had been conducting similar business since its inception as the Ritch Hotel. We also know that James was actively involved with John Powers, a known liquor bootlegger. The two kept the illegal sweet nectar hidden beneath the bar through a trapdoor. A raid was conducted on the Shanley Hotel on February 26, 1932 which led to the confiscation of the alcohol and the arrest of John Powers and James Shanley. Although both were arraigned in Federal Court, neither did any time. It’s possible that they were simply given a fine but let’s always remember the close connection that Beatrice and James had with President Roosevelt and his wife. Sometimes it comes in handy having friends in high places! Many believe that John Powers never left the Shanley and continues to lurk in darkened corners…maybe he’s looking for that lucrative booze that was confiscated!
James passed away in 1937 after suffering a massive heart attack. The community was heartbroken and expressed their sorrow through letters and flowers. Eleanor Roosevelt sent a letter to Beatrice expressing her sorrow that she had not known of his death in time to make the funeral.
Beatrice sold the Shanley Hotel to Allen H. Hazen who ran the hotel until his death in 1971. Under his management, the Silent Room gained its moniker. The story that has been shared is that if Al had encountered too many spirits (the kind that requires imbibing) the staff and guests would tiptoe around as he slept it off in the Silent Room.
Throughout the next few decades the Shanley changed ownership and even served the community as a tavern, the James Shanley Tap Room. In 1991, it closed its doors and was abandoned for over 10 years until a man with a vision and a heart of gold decided to take on the challenge of restoring the building to its former glory. In 2005, Salvatore Nicosia bought the Shanley unaware of the spirits residing within its desolate walls. It did not take long for the spirits to make themselves known to Sal as they saw his efforts as a labor of love befitting of the noble history of the hotel.
From 2007 until his death in July of 2016, Sal poured his heart into the building bringing it back to life and giving both guests and the spirits a second home. Now that the Haunted Shanley Hotel has reopened, you will not want to miss the opportunity to sleep with the spirits! Maybe you will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Beatrice, James, Rosie, John, Joe, Jonathan…or the several other spirits that still linger in the corridors and room waiting to make you feel right at home!