San Diego, 1921
Newly wedded, Ruth let her husband escort her out of the cab and onto the cobbled walkway. The balmy ocean air teased her skirts as she squinted up at the large pointed tips of their honeymoon hotel.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Her husband Walter said, he too gazing into the grey sky at the wooden structure. “Built in 1887.”
“Definitely. Very romantic.” But the dizzying heights of the hotel made her feel uneasy. “A little overwhelming, though.” She wasn’t used to luxury.
“Not at all! They have extravagant balls and marvelous parties on the beach.” He smiled at his new wife. But Ruth still felt an eerie sense. Almost like a twinge of déjà vu. Like the earth she walked on was sacred. And she was a trespasser.
But she instead chose to focus on the beauty of the building, the gallant patios and tall palm trees surrounding the land. Despite the distant clouds rolling in, the hotel was quite beautiful in the dying daylight.
“Let’s go inside. I’m sure it’s just as beautiful.” She said as she took Walter’s arm and followed him into the dimly lit Victorian lobby.
The man at the front desk was incredibly amicable and courteous. Walter signed his name and Ruth’s into the hotel guest book. “Too bad the clouds are moving in,” Walter said to the concierge. “I was hoping to enjoy a pleasant evening with my wife on the deck.”
“I’m sorry, sir. The deck will be closed this evening. A storm is rolling in. Supposed to hit tonight,” said the concierge.
Walter hid his disappointment, “Ah, no matter. We can spend our evening at the restaurant.”
After a lovely dinner, Ruth sat next to Walter at the bar. The glass windows lining the wall of the restaurant brought in the last of dusk, and Ruth found herself gazing at the dimming outside. She was drifting farther away, feeling the eerie sense return to her body. Walter broke her trance.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t be outside, dear.”
“No matter. I’m perfectly content here.”
Walter signaled for the bartender to return. As he poured another drink, Walter said, “This storm is pretty bad. Do we know when it will pass?”
“Couldn’t say for sure, sir.” The bartender said. “There hasn’t been a storm this bad in 30 years or so. Probably since the shipwreck storm.”
Ruth sat upright. “Shipwreck?”
The bartender proceeded to tell them about a ship that was caught in the worst storm of the century. The storm tore the ship to shreds left no survivors. Upon the morning, bodies of the dead as well as bits and pieces of the ship, were seen washed up on the shore of the hotel’s beach.
“Not only can you still see the remains of the shipwreck on shore, they say that one of the passengers, a man from the crew, now haunts this hotel telling guests to leave before the storm hits again.”
Walter laughed. “What a story,” he said, disbelieving. But Ruth shivered and took only sips from her wine.
Later, Ruth, dressed in her nightgown, idly brushed her hair in the vanity mirror. Walter chatted on and on about their festivities for their honeymoon. Ruth wasn’t listening. She was trying to dismiss the feeling of unease that hadn’t left her since their arrival.
“Ruth? What do you think of that?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, sounds lovely.” Ruth said, though she didn’t hear what her husband had told her. “Walter? Do you believe the stories about the haunting?”
“Not at all, come to bed.” And they fell asleep for the night.
But just as Ruth fell asleep she suddenly heard footsteps in the dark. She looked around, but her vision was swaying at if she were at sea. She heard footsteps again but saw nothing in the darkness. She thought of waking Walter but she couldn’t move her body. The sounds were louder, and she could hear waves crashing on the shore. On the shore, or crashing against a ship? The sound of waves and feeling of swaying intensified and she felt seasick in the darkness. Muffled screams emitted from somewhere far away. Chills covered her skin as she attempted to scream, to rid herself of the nightmare but her voice was muted by the deafening crashing waves and screams.
Suddenly, silence. Ruth gasped and awoke, sitting up. In the still, quiet night, she tried to breathe normally. But before she could look to Walter, an inky shadow crept into the room from the under the door. Her trance still upon her, Ruth held her breath, trying to make sense of her surroundings. Was she imagining things? The stories from earlier in the evening had made their way into her subconscious.
The shadow hovered over to her and stood inches from her. Heart racing, Ruth was paralyzed. The shadow formed a face of a man, his expression distressed. Their eyes met.
Ruth’s trance abruptly turned into a slumber and she slept dreamlessly.
Upon the morning, Ruth awoke to Walter trying to wake her. “You’ve been asleep the whole morning. I’ve been trying to wake you. Are you alright?”
She scanned her husband’s face for signs of distress but saw nothing. Rather than try to explain what she saw… or sensed… she wondered if it was only a dream.
“Yes… I think I am alright,” she answered, despite aches of nausea and fear.
“Good. Let’s get dressed and head downstairs.”