There's a ghost on the top floor of the Queen Anne Hotel. Three times a week a ghost tour begins in the lobby downstairs. After an excellently delivered welcome and introduction, the tour guide leads the group up stairs. I've seen this introduction several times during the many years of staying in this San Francisco hotel.
I love it here. When I come to town for conferences I try to stay here. The price is right and it has a very homey feel. The rooms have high ceilings, tall windows, beautiful wood furniture, and many of them have fire places.
I'm sharing a large room with Chris. Both of us are on east coast time and so we tend to wake up well before five. He works on one part of the website we edit while I work on another portion. The room is comfortable, except . . . except that the last time I stayed in this particular room I was with my family.
Maggie refused to share a bed with Elena because "she smells like pee in the morning". Elena was two or three. How else was she supposed to smell in the morning?
Maggie decided to share a bed with Kim and Elena set us up in the other bed.
"Here dad I plumped up your pillow."
"Thanks, Elena. How come you have two pillows and I have one?"
"I just do," she answered.
She flopped back on her pillow, pulled the covers up to her neck, and reached over and placed her hand on my bicep. As the night went on and she grew colder she would burrow under me a bit. I was always afraid of rolling over onto her. Having that thought planted in my subconscious seemed to be enough to keep it from happening.
We woke up and went down to breakfast. A little juice and coffee while we waited for James. The girls couldn't wait to show him the hotel. The dining room, the beautiful piano in the sitting room, the glass chess set, and the fireplace. They also showed him where the put out cookies late in the afternoon. They told him about the ghosts on the fourth floor.
"It's a friendly ghost," said Elena.
"How do you know?" asked James.
"It just is," she answered.
Maggie added, "The man in the hat, the one who runs the ghost tours, told us that this ghost was a friendly one. It haunts the fourth floor."
"Woooooooo," Elena made ghostly haunting noises.
"Nuhh uhhh," said Maggie. "You don't actually hear it. It's just there."
The room I'm staying in has a little alcove above the front entrance. The girls had set it up as there secret little area and laid out their stuffed animals and books at the little desk there. They'd heard the fog horn at night while they lay trying to sleep. At first it was an unfamilar noise that seemed quite loud. Then it had faded away, the way familiar things do. In the morning they'd run to that window over there and looked outside to see what kind of a day it was going to be.
They loved to come down the long staircase. They would send me on ahead so they could come down by themselves like Cinderella entering the ball. Coming upstairs the stairs weren't nearly as dramatic. They preferred the elevator. It wasn't an ordinary elevator. It had a chandelier on the ceiling in the middle and a love seat along one wall.
"Dad," Elena yelled, "it was my turn to push the button."
"You push the one inside for the floor, Maggie pushed the one outside."
"I did not," sulked Maggie. "The elevator was already here."
"Well is it her turn?" I asked.
Maggie glared. Too honest to lie but too mad to give in easily. "I guess." While Elena pressed the button, Maggie ran to the love seat and sat in the middle so that no one else could join her.
Elena tried. She planted her behind between the arm of the love seat and Maggie's left leg and tried to wiggle her way back. "Mooooooove," she whined.
"No," Maggie snapped. "I was here first."
Our long journey to the second floor was over. The elevator door opened. I handed Maggie the room key.
"No fair," complained Elena as Maggie opened the hotel room.
From that visit on, the girls always had a picture in their minds of the hotel that I stayed at when I was away. I felt that kept us closer while I was gone.
"Are you staying at the Queen Annie?" Maggie would ask.
"Anne," Elena would correct, "it's called the Queen Anne."
"I know that," Maggie would retort.
Not wanting to be left out of things, Elena would play along. "Dad, aren't there ghosts at the Queen Annie?"
There are. As I sit in the same room where we all stayed I am surrounded by ghosts. There are everywhere. Some have followed me from Cleveland and some were here in San Francisco when I arrived.
All of them are friendly.