On my first trip to the Del, I was browsing the Victorian Gift Shop, which, I might add, is right up my alley, when a man entered.
“So, have you seen the ghost of Kate Morgan?” He asked the clerk.
“Oh, yes.” The woman seemed dead serious.
Intrigued, I purchased Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel Del Coronado. On the cover, it says “The official account of Kate Morgan’s 1892 visit and why she haunts The Del today.”
Over the years, there have been so many “sightings” that the hotel figured it had nothing to lose by publishing what is known of this young woman’s visit and tragic death, and the paranormal phenomena guests and employees have reported.
Kate Morgan had lost contact with her husband. He was a professional gambler, and last she heard, he plied his trade on railway cars. Kate worked as a domestic in Los Angeles when she took the train south and checked into the Hotel del Coronado alone. That in itself was unusual, but her behavior was strange.
She seemed be ill and said it was terminal. She claimed that her brother, a doctor, would come. She was not interested in a local doctor, only in the man she inquired about at the front desk at least once a day for four or five days.
She took a train to San Diego, bought a gun, and a hotel employee found her body outside early in the morning. She was twenty-four.
A corner’s inquest was held almost immediately. Newspapers across the country speculated about the young woman, who had checked into the hotel using a false name. Although she had claimed to be expecting her physician brother, it turned out she had no brother. Who was the man she anxiously awaited, and did she end her life because he did not come to her? perhaps it was her no-good husband or a lover. Had he cast her aside? Had he left her in a family way?
The San Diego Union reported that a hotel guest saw Kate Morgan on the train from Los Angeles to San Diego, accompanied by a well-dressed gentleman, and the two of them had a bitter quarrel, right on the train, which ended with Kate asking for forgiveness and her companion getting off the train without her. This witness saw her again at the hotel, and he was sure it was her. Trouble was, this man said Kate was on his train from Denver to San Diego. Funny that he spoke to a newspaper but not to the authorities. He may have been entirely made up by the reporter.
The hotel’s heritage department compiled recent sightings in the book Beautiful Stranger, and some of them are in Kate Morgan’s room, and others seem to have no connection. Quite a few have occurred in a different room.
I regret I did not ask the gift shop clerk what she had seen to make her feel that the ghost of Kate Morgan was in her presence. The book describes incidents in the stores — the clerks witnessed books “jumping” or flying off of shelves, and the stories were corroborated by the store’s customers.