Phantoms at the Pfister are known to cause sleepless nights for some guests at the historic hotel
Paranormal Claims at
the Pfister Hotel
- TVs, radios, and electronics are said to turn on-and-off without warning
- Strange knocking is heard at times
- Loud footsteps have been reported in guest rooms
- Objects in peoples' rooms are said to be moved around by unseen forces
- Apparitions are seen in halls and in guest rooms
Pfister Hotel’s History of Hospitality
In the bustling downtown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there are plenty of hotels and smaller B&Bs to choose from, but only one can take the title of ritziest lodge in town. For Milwaukee, that title is indisputably held by the Pfister Hotel.
The hotel’s stately, cream-colored exterior exudes a special aura of Gilded Age decadence that invites all who lay eyes on it to visit and spend a night or two in urban luxury, even though it has been a fixture since the 1890s. In that time, plenty of guests and workers have come and gone. But, some people say that not everyone who comes to the Pfister leaves, and that some spirits remain there forever.
Timeline of Pfister Hotel's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see Pfister Hotel through the years
Milwaukee in the late-1800s was a rapidly growing city due to an influx of predominantly German immigrants. One of these immigrants was Guido Pfister who, along with business partner Frederick Vogel, founded a prosperous leather shoe company in the city. By the 1880s, Pfister was successful enough to invest in other local businesses, but his dream was building Milwaukee’s finest hotel. Though Guido Pfister died in 1889 before that dream was fulfilled, his son, Charles Pfister, took over and set out to achieve his father’s vision.
Under Charles Pfister’s direction, the hotel went up quickly. Costing an estimated $1,000,000 at the time, the new Pfister Hotel spared no expense. Opened in 1893, the state-of-the-art hotel included modern amenities of the era like electric lighting, fireproofing, and thermostat controls in each room. Adding to the upscale hotel’s charm was a wide array of Victorian paintings, collected by Charles himself, making the Pfister the biggest hotel-based collection of Victorian artwork in the world.
The luxurious hotel struggled after its grand opening, as a hotel of that size and opulence was quite new for Midwestern cities outside of Chicago. But, the hotel’s reputation soon spread and far-off travelers began reserving rooms at the Pfister well in advance. The hotel was also assisted in its early years by hosting big regional events, such as a convention for the Wisconsin Republican Party, as well as hosting big names of the time, like then-president William McKinley in 1897.
As the Pfister Hotel saw greater success, Charles took a more active role in managing the hotel. He opened a modest, Prohibition-era pub in the hotel named the ‘English Room’ in the 1920s, and even concocted his own special drink for the hotel bar, dubbed ‘Indian Punch.’ Charles was poised to remain the figurehead of the hotel’s operation, but life had other plans; Charles Pfister suffered a massive stroke in spring of 1927, and died in November of that year.
In the years that followed Charles’ death, the Pfister Hotel continued to function, even managing its way through the Great Depression and World War II. But, by the late 1950s, the historic hotel had started to show its age, and newer hotels were stealing away needed business. In 1962, the aging hotel was purchased by Marcus Corporation founder Ben Marcus, who hoped to revitalize the elegant inn. Along with restoring the old hotel building, Marcus added a massive 23-story expansion to the building, helping bring it back to profitability.
Pfister Hotel: A Home for Stars…and Spirits?
Since being bought by the Marcus Corporation, the Pfister Hotel has thrived thanks to regular maintenance, careful restorations, and its position as one of the most upscale hotels in Wisconsin. Along with attracting far-flung travelers and well-to-do executives on business trips, the Pfister is a popular reservation with MLB teams visiting to play games in Milwaukee.
But the Pfister Hotel today is known for more than just its luxury and history. Some guests, including many MLB stars, are convinced the storied hotel is haunted.
Pfister Hotel’s Electrical Oddities
Some of the most famous ghost stories around the Pfister Hotel come from major league ball players lodging there. One of the earliest reports of paranormal activity from a visiting MLB player came in 2001, when a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers reported their TV turning on-and-off throughout the night and strange knocking on their door in the middle of the night.
Since then, both MLB players and regular guests have reported instances of TVs, radios, and other electronics turning on and off without warning.
Phantom Footsteps at the Pfister Hotel
Along with the electrical malfunctions reported in guest rooms, the sounds of disembodied footsteps are also some of the most common paranormal reports at the Pfister.
Michael Young of the Texas Rangers baseball team had a well-known encounter with these mysterious footsteps after a game in Milwaukee. He was supposedly woken up multiple times in the night by loud footsteps that, over time, evolved into stomps around his room from some unseen force.
Pfister Hotel’s Messy Mysteries
Other guests sometimes report that things are moved around their rooms while they’re out, sometimes entire pieces of furniture. Another MLB player claims that, though they had laid out clothes neatly on a hotel room table before heading out for the day, they returned to find the clothes strewn about and the table pushed to another area of the room.
No defined cause for this has been found, and over time, more guests have reported similarly shifting objects in their rooms.
Apparitions of the Pfister Hotel
Going along with all these paranormal claims are reports of apparitions. More specifically, the apparition of Charles Pfister himself. Some guests have claimed to see a shadowy specter of a man matching Charles’ description lingering through hallways and occasionally appearing in certain guest rooms.
Others have spotted shadow figures that don’t quite look like Charles, but many attribute that activity at the Pfister to Charles’ ghost alone.