If you’re on a road trip or traveling to San Antonio, Texas, you have got to stop at the up-and-coming Pearl District. It’s filled with the coolest bars and restaurants and is a great place for locals and tourists to hang out. But the real appeal of the neighborhood is a building forever tainted by one eerie mystery: the Hotel Emma.
The lodging’s sordid past involves a tragic car crash, an explicit affair, and dark secrets that have been hidden for years. Secrets too sick that locals only talk about them after a drink or two… or three. If you want a good ghost story, here is the tale of The Hotel Emma.
The Hotel Emma
This 19th-century brewery-turned-hotel is the perfect place to rest your head for the night if you happen to pass through the historic Alamo land. But guests should beware. Its elegant façade and renovated halls may seem appealing, but they serve one purpose – to cover up a chilly past. One that’s been marked right into its name.
Let’s start at the beginning. In 1902, a German immigrant named Otto Koehler left his job managing the Lone Star Brewery in order to take over the Pearl Brewing Company. He had big plans to transform the Pearl into one the biggest breweries in America.
The First Emma
When he left Germany, Otto settled down in St. Louis, where he learned everything there is to know about the brewing business. He then moved to San Antonio and was certainly a force to be reckoned with. It didn’t take long for him to become president of the Brewing Association.
His expertise in the beer trade mixed with his successful investments made Otto a respected man and a rich one at that. In fact, he was recognized as one of the wealthiest people in the Southwest until he died in 1914. Now, this is where his wife, Emma, comes in.
Otto Has a Type
Also, a native German, Mrs. Emma Koehler stood right by her husband’s side through all his success and even helped him run the brewery business. At least until 1910. That year, she was in a horrific accident that left her confined to her bed.
Her condition was so severe that it required full-time care, so Otto looked to hire a home nurse. It didn’t take long for him to find the perfect person for the job. As a German immigrant herself, Emma’s nurse was seemingly perfect for the position. Strangely enough, her name was Emma too: Emma Dumpke.
Emma Number Two
Emma Dumpke (Emma II) was in her 20s when she started working for the Koehlers. She was described as a petite woman with beautiful hazel eyes. Of course, Otto was quickly captivated by the new Emma, and their relationship turned romantic.
Otto was in his mid-50s at the time and didn’t really try to hide his relationship with Emma II. With a bedridden wife and being as rich as he was, no one would dare speak out against him. Or so he thought. The barrels would soon take a turn that nobody saw coming.
The Third Emma
Quickly after Otto took Emma II as his mistress, she decided to invite one of her good friends to come live with her in San Antonio. Emma II’s friend also happened to be a German immigrant nurse. And to make things even weirder, her name was also Emma. Emma Burgermeister.
Emma Burgermeister (Emma III) was no less stunning than her friend. She was a tall blonde who had a special charm to her that made her irresistible. Otto once offered to buy the two girls a cottage in town for them to live in. But there was one catch.
Otto was worried about Emma II’s loyalty, so he purchased the cottage in Emma III’s name. That way, he wouldn’t lose the cottage if Emma II ever decided to leave him. He also gave the two Emmas a monthly allowance: $125 for Emma II and $50 for Emma III.
From the outside, it looked like Otto was acting like a gentleman, providing housing and money to his mistress and her friend. But Otto was a remarkable investor. After all, that’s how he made his fortune. And a good investor always has his best interests at heart.
Too Many Shapes
And Otto’s interests weren’t in the least bit surprising. Why have one Emma when you can have two? Or, better yet, three of them. When Emma III arrived, Otto’s love triangle was finally completed. Well, I guess this was more of a love square.
But if we have learned anything from geometry, it’s that hearts and triangles are incongruent. By 1913, Otto’s unsettled feelings about Emma II proved to be true. She met a man named Doschel and ran off to marry him in St. Louis.
She Said No
Even though Otto had had his suspicions about Emma II for a while, the beer mogul didn’t take her sudden departure any easier. In his grief, Otto pushed himself harder at Emma III: He upped her allowance, traveled the world with her, and even asked for her hand in marriage.
Although she claimed to be in love with Otto, the marriage proposal put things into perspective for Emma III. She could not allow Otto to just abandon his sick wife like that. She was in such terrible condition. But a rich, powerful man like Otto doesn’t take no for an answer.
Finding Another Emma?
Shortly after Emma III turned Mr. Koehler down, he went on another trip to Germany. But, this time, he didn’t invite her to join him. She actually didn’t hear from Otto the entire time he was abroad. And when he returned to San Antonio, he didn’t visit or even call Emma III.
It was soon obvious that Otto had moved on with another woman. But, unfortunately for Emma III, all her security was tied up in the old man. She finally decided to try one last time to get what she deserved. When she finally got in touch with Otto, she asked him to meet up, and he agreed. But on one condition…
A Life-Saving Call
Otto told Emma III to meet him at a bar in the red-light district of San Antonio demanding that she bring “all of her papers.” This essentially meant letters, credits, and anything else that she would be able to use as blackmail against him.
It was at that point when she realized just how much their relationship had shifted. Emma III started fearing for her safety. In a desperate attempt to protect herself, she called the one person who could save her from the old man.
The Return of Emma II
From the start, it was evident that Otto was deeply infatuated with Emma II. He would have literally done anything for her. Emma III thought that if she could convince her friend to come to St. Louis, she would have the upper hand against Otto.
She needed a little convincing, but as soon as she realized how scared her friend was, Emma II packed her bags and headed back south. By the time she got there, Emma III had already concocted a plan. Instead of meeting Otto in the red-light district like she was supposed to, she sent Emma II to the Pearl Brewery to ask him to meet Emma III at the cottage instead.
Change of Plans
As you can imagine, Otto was stunned that his former mistress had suddenly reappeared. After Emma asked him to change the plan and meet at the cottage, Otto agreed. On November 13th, 1914, just before 5 p.m., Otto drove his horse and buggy to the little house.
When he entered the house, Emma II was in the parlor, but she told him to talk to Emma III first, who was laying down on her bed with a headache. Otto agreed because he thought talking to Emma III would give him time with Emma II. But a few moments later, everything changed.
So Much Commotion
Minutes after five o’clock, a neighbor heard gunshots. When she ran outside to see what was going on, Emma was screaming for help in the front yard. Police rushed to the scene, and with nosy neighbors surrounding them, they broke down the door.
There are various accounts of what exactly police saw when they entered the little cottage. Some reports said that Emma III was lying over Otto covered in blood. Others say she was lying her head down on a neighbor who got there before the police did. But the question still stands: What the heck happened?!
The Bloody Crime Scene
The crime scene was not pretty. A .25 caliber revolver was found on the nightstand, an open case knife was on the floor and a .32 caliber automatic – the official murder weapon – was lying on the floor in a pool of blood, still hot from being fired.
But one thing is for sure. The man lying there on the floor, dead, with three bullet wounds in his head and chest and a broken neck, was the wealthiest man in the south: Mr. Otto Koehler. The only thing Emma III told police was, “I’m sorry, but I had to kill him.”
Where Is Emma?
Emma III was taken to the hospital immediately to get treated for a cut on her wrist and bruises on her neck. But some witnesses claimed that they didn’t see any injuries on Emma’s body. The police escorted her directly to the county jail from the hospital. But her stay there was short.
Emma III spent just a few nights in the slammer before an unknown person posted her $7,500 bail. Still, she was indicted for her murder by the grand jury, but, suddenly, she was gone. Her lawyer, state Senator Carlos Bee, gave the only possible excuse for her disappearance.
New Life in the Big Apple
The murderess in question left for Germany abruptly to aid wounded soldiers in the war. This could have been an understandable reason for Emma III to skip town and not stand trial, but there was just one little problem. She never actually left the country.
Instead, Emma III ran off to New York City and lived there for three years. But, in 1917, she finally called the court and told them that she was ready to stand trial. By that point, she already had the former Texas Governor handling her case. But make no mistake, Emma III was a very smart woman.
Facing Murder Charges
Emma III returned to the Alamo City in January 1918 to face her charges. The prosecution was ready with a safe and dependable argument and convinced Florence Ramer, one of the first female attorneys in Texas, to testify against Emma III and her plan to kill Otto. But they ran into a little issue.
On the day of the trial, Florence Ramer couldn’t be found. As it turned out, she ran away in the middle of the night. She was found a few towns away and brought back to San Antonio where she pulled a shocking move.
First off, Ramer used attorney-client privilege and denied everything. It was also one of the last courtrooms the attorney ever saw. Florence Ramer fled town once again after the trial, but this time she was headed to Hollywood. That’s where she kicked off her acting career as Florence Bates.
The courtroom was filled with contradiction. First Otto was coming at Emma III with a gun, then went after Emma II in the parlor. Apparently, Emma III tried to “shoot herself in the head” but missed…? Only one thing could be confirmed, Otto arrived at the cottage unharmed.
After four years of suspense, the trial lasted just one week – including the Florence Ramer delay. On January 22nd, 1918, the all-male jury found Emma III not guilty. She was released of all charges and each juror shook hands with Emma III to congratulate the newly free woman.
Just one year after the trial concluded, Emma III tied the knot with one of the jurors on her trial, J.W Turley, in New Orleans. But, eerily, when they returned to San Antonio, they settled down in the same Hunstock street cottage, where Otto Koehler took his last breath.
The Original Emma Returns as a Bad*ss
Throughout this entire unpleasant mess, there was one person who came out on top: the first Emma. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Koehler miraculously recovered from her bedridden condition and got straight to business. By the time Emma III stood trial in 1918, the O.G. Emma accomplished Otto’s dream of turning Pearl Brewing into Texas’s largest brewery.
Even during the prohibition, Emma kept the doors open by switching to soft drinks and food production. But the exact day that the Volstead Act was repealed, Emma number one rolled out those barrels once again.
“One Is Great, and Three Will Kill You”
Emma Koehler single-handedly operated the most successful company in a male-dominated industry, at a time when women weren’t even allowed to vote. To honor her, the hotel erected from the old brewery took on her name.
If you go to the Sternewirth Bar inside, there is even a drink there called “The Three Emmas.” The infamous cocktail contains Pearl beer, rose cordial, amontillado sherry, botanist gin, grapefruit, and lemon juice. But the bartender warns consumers, “one is great, and three will kill ya.”
The Emily Morgan Hotel
Despite the strange and unsettling origins of the Hotel Emma, it’s not considered “haunted.” Based on my research, guests didn’t report seeing the ghost of Otto or any of the Emmas for that matter. However, it’s a whole different story when it comes to the Emily Morgan Hotel.
Before it became a hotel, the building was where the Mexican forces battled the Texans in the Long Barracks of the Alamo in 1836. Over 600 men died near the now-hotel. It was originally built as Medical Arts Building housing more than 100 medical professionals from doctors to dentists. Reportedly, there was a section devoted to mental and psychological health.
Born There and Died There
The fascinating hotel has Gothic style design details that depict several ailments or afflictions highlighting the original purpose of the building, to treat the injured and sick. The building also included a morgue and crematorium which provided for families from birth to death.
Like any other historic hotel, stories about the hotel continued, sparked by the depth of the hotel’s history. Each story has an eerie element to it. The location and history of the building led many people to conclude that the hotel is haunted.
The staff and guests of the hotel shared their stories about some of the strange occurrences that have taken place at the hotel. The moments of weirdness have made people believe that something supernatural is going on. For example, the phone will ring in the middle of the night, and no one is on the other end of the line.
A maid would clean the room and then find pillows thrown on the floor when she comes out of the bathroom. A sales manager returned to her room one night after dinner and the bathtub had been filled with blue water.
The hotel employees have made numerous reports of doors closing for no apparent reason and feeling an eerie presence on certain floors when nobody else is around. Guests have what they call hospital carts outside their door, and the 14th floor has a distinct smell of antiseptic or a band-aid odor.
The elevators also stop at random floors for no reason. Video cameras captured “orbs,” a term that paranormal investigators use when referring to bright, floating lights around the hotel. Some guests even reported seeing a woman wearing white walking through the halls. Others reported seeing shadows where shadows don’t belong.
Maybe It’s Just the Wind
But do these strange events really mean the hotel is haunted? Probably not. Usually, there are simple scientific explanations for these kinds of mysteries. However, The Emily Morgan hotel is considered the third most haunted hotel in the world because of the various mysterious reports.
Paranormal experts claim that the only explanation for these events is supernatural. Skeptics believe that wind and other natural occurrences are all contributors, but there are no ghosts. What do you think?
The Duke Suite – 1408
Following the tradition of most hotels, the Emily Morgan doesn’t have a 13th floor. What you may not know is that on the 14th floor (which is technically the 13th floor), there isn’t a room number 1408. By design, the room numbers stop at 1407, and the next room is the Duke Suite. If you add up the numbers 1408 together (1+4+0+8), you get 13.
This is just one of the many strange and spooky facts about the Emily Morgan Hotel. When visiting the Emily Morgan hotel, make sure you ask about the hotel’s history and other odd mysteries that happened there.
Oldest Hotel in the World: The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan
The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the oldest hotel on the planet! Its grand opening was over 1,300 years ago – 705 CE! It is one of Japan’s most popular ryokan type of hotels and also competes for the title of the oldest company operation.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a 52-generation same family-owned traditional Japanese inn. The hot spring hotel is located in Hayakawa, Yamanishi Prefecture, Japan, if you want to check it out.
Highest Hotel in the World: The Rosewood Guangzhou
The title of the highest hotel in the entire world goes to The Rosewood Guangzhou. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts own the luxury hotel and it’s located on the top 16 floors of the 1,739 ft (530 m)-tall Guangzhou Chow Tai Fook Finance Centre (Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre).
The hotel stole the “highest hotel” title from the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong which is located on 17 of the top floors of the 1,587.9 ft (484.0 m)-high International Commerce Centre in West Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Largest Hotel in the World: The First World Hotel
Based on the number of rooms available, the First World Hotel is the largest hotel in the world. Located in Resorts World Genting Pahang, Malaysia, the complex has a total of 7,351 rooms: 3,164 standard rooms, 292 deluxe rooms, 649 deluxe triple rooms, 480 superior deluxe rooms, and 136 world club rooms.
Above the lobby level of the hotel, you will find a huge shopping center that includes a casino, retail outlets, restaurants, and even an indoor theme park and other attractions such as Snow World. It sounds like a nice place to spend my next vacation.
Largest Hotel Room: The Grand Hills Hotel & Spa
The Grand Hills Hotel & Spa wins the title for the property with the largest hotel suite on the planet. Located in Broummana, Lebanon, its “Royal Residence” offers an astonishing 44,465 square feet (4,131 square meters) of floor space covering over 3 pavilions and 7 floors.
If that wasn’t luxurious enough, the hotel features over 1,200 pieces of art, such as antiques, sculptures, and handcrafted furniture. And for your relaxation pleasure, you can find private gardens, a spa, saunas, Turkish Baths and so much more.
Tallest Hotel in the World: The Gevora Hotel
The Gevora Hotel is the tallest hotel-only building in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. Not to be confused with “the highest hotel in the world,” the Gevora contains 75 floors- and 2 below-ground level, and 528 hotel rooms. In addition to being the tallest hotel in the world, it’s also one of the tallest buildings.
If you’re looking to relax like royalty, this is the place to go! Aside from the incredible views, there are spas, restaurants, bars and, most important, high-speed internet! The rooms are cozy and stunning, making it the perfect “home-away-from-home.”
Tallest Unoccupied Building: The Ryugyong Hotel
Located in Pyongyang, North Korea, the Ryugyong Hotel of Pyongyang, North Korea is known as the largest unoccupied building on the planet, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It reaches 1,080 ft (330 m) in height but is still unopened. It’s also the 7th tallest building in general.
The 105-story, 330-meter-tall, pyramid-shaped hotel is still unfinished, which explains why it was never opened. The building is also called the 105 Building, which is a reference to the number of floors it has.
Largest Spa Resort: The Mission Hills Haikou
If you need a nice, relaxing vacation, the Mission Hills Haikou, located in Hainan, China, is the place to go. It is the biggest spa resort in the world. With over 30 sq. miles (80 sq. km) in area, it’s 1.5 times larger than Manhattan!
The Mission Hills Haikou also features the second-largest golf resort. The number one spot for the biggest golf resort goes to the Mission Hills Shenzhen- which happens to be a sister resort to the Mission Hills Haikou. That resort has 12 complete 18-hole golf courses and a whopping 216 holes!