The Pink Lady

The air was crisp that November night. Wisps of smoke from the fireplaces in the Great Hall floated up two floors to the Palm Court. The rooms were warmed by the fireplaces glow and mingled with the nature of the visitors. The hushed murmurs of conversation could barely be heard over the jazzy 1920s music that bounced off the massive stones and pillars of the hall.  She could hear all of the joviality from the fifth floor of the Palm Court, which, unlike the Great Hall, was a desolate place that night.

She was beautiful and young. She had graceful features, and her long hair fell around her shoulders that were covered in her pink evening gown. For such a pretty girl, she did look somewhat melancholy. She stared from the edge of the fifth floor down to the tiled floor far below her. Those tiles seemed so welcoming to her. It was as if they were calling her name. It was a subtle and quiet moment. She was hypnotized by the expanse of the hotel. The danger of what she was doing registered somewhere deep within her mind, but she ignored it.

The low wall, built to keep people safe, was holding her back. It screamed, “lean back,” but it’s pleading warning fell on deaf ears. The vastness of the room was so inviting. The thin air seemed strong enough to provide her with support. She rested more of her weight on the wall and her arms reached for the floor below. The air moved, and then the safety of the floor was no longer under her feet.

What had she done? Did she sift too far over the wall? Had somebody shoved her? Had she recognized the solution to her depression with the floor below her? She was moving in slow motion. The wind whipped through her hair one last time. Her pink ball gown pressed against her body and flapped in the wind behind her. The spell of the beauty was broken. But it was now too late. The floor was growing larger, the closer she came. She would soon meet the hardness of the floor once more. As her reality dawned on her, horror-filled her eyes and she tried to scream, but it was too late. The last things she heard were laughter, murmurs, the music. The last thing she felt was the child of the air, and then, the hardness of the floor.

In the Great Hall, the musicians never missed a single note, and nobody lost their conversation. The fireplace continued to pop with its warmth, but there was a change. Everybody was aware of it, but they couldn’t figure out what it was. Nobody said anything, but they knew. They would soon find out what caused this change in the night’s energy.

The moon would shine brightly once they walked into the silence of the Palm Court. There, they would see the young girl in her beautiful pink gown, as cold and lifeless as the tiles she laid upon. They would then have their answer. Tragedy. Tragedy is what they had felt.

As time passed, that night would soon be forgotten. The girl and her gown would soon become one with the Earth. And while everything about the young girl disappeared, something seemed to live on. At first, people weren’t quite sure as to what it was, but they would hear stories.

“I saw it,” somebody said. “I saw it with my own two eyes. I was working late one night in the Main Inn. It was quiet, and I was alone. Then, suddenly, I had this strangest feeling that was no longer alone. I felt as if I was being watched when I looked the other way. A chill ran up my back, and the hair on my neck stood on end. It got so cold, and when I looked up, there she stood. It was a lady wearing a long pink dress. She looked sad, maybe even lost. As soon as I saw her, she disappeared. I was as if she had never been there.”

For generations, these types of stories would continue to pour in. Someone would spot her at a distance, gliding across the hall. Someone came face to face with her as they rounded the corner. Then there is the mischievous goings-on. Somebody would buzz the fifth floor, but when the operator reached the floor, he would be met with an empty hall. Vacant rooms would end up getting locked from the inside, and the lights of the hotel would turn on and off without reason.

Chiefs of police, doctors, maids, children, and adults, people from all walks of lives have experienced something in the hotel. The hotel administration would forbid the conversation of this topic in order to keep from frightening their guests. But many more people who had heard about this lady in pink would come to the hotel in the hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Some were lucky enough to see her, but most wouldn’t see a thing except for the beautiful hotel.

Now, the Grove Park Inn need not only be talked about in the context of the Pink Lady. In fact, the hotel is such a sight that one could talk about its beginning and its creator, Edwin Wiley Grove. He was a self-made man who created the Paris Medicine Company in Paris, Tennessee. He made most of his money with Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic that sold like crazy throughout the south. Tasteless, in this case, was a good thing. It was a malarial preventative, and it was promoted by saying that it could disguise the unpleasant taste of quinine.

On his doctor’s advice, Grove moved to Asheville. Seeing how healthy the tourist business was in town, and not being one to pass up an opportunity to make money, he started working with his son-in-law, Thomas Seely, to create the Grove Park Inn.

Since it opened in 1913, it has remained in continuous operation. The Inn has seen the likes of George Gershwin, Harry Houdini, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even President Obama. Known for its comfort and elegance, the Grove Park hosts several world-class restaurants and a superior spa. With its beauty, it is easy to understand why nobody would want to leave.

The Pink Lady has been present on the Inn for more than 90 years. But she has always been cloaked with mystery. Nobody really knows who she was. The only thing we know for certain is that sometime in the early 1920s, a young woman dressed in a pink guest, staying with a registered guest in room 545, allegedly fell to her death from the balcony. There are rumors that surround who the young lady was and how exactly she died. For the most part, she is a benevolent spirit.

She seems to be the most active when there aren’t as many people around. One woman who worked in the Catering and Convention Services experienced something strange in 1981. The hotel was closed during the winter, at that time, and she was there one night working on the cash registers and working through some preparatory errands. She was the only person there, besides a sole security guard somewhere outside.

Around 11, she left the Inn, and because the door was set to lock behind her, she couldn’t reenter. She went to her car, but she couldn’t leave because of the chain across the driveway. When she looked up, she saw that all of the lights on the sixth floor of the Main Inn were on. She assumed that the security guard was on that floor. She pulled up to the hotel and honked her horn, hoping to get the guard’s attention. A few moments later, the guard came walking up through the parking lot. Puzzled by the fact that he didn’t come from inside, she wondered why the lights had been on. She and the guard went back inside together to investigate and went to the sixth floor. When they got there, they saw that all of the lights were off.

At a loss, the guard took her back to her car, and once outside, they looked up to see a dark hotel. While it’s understandable for people to have mixed feelings about witnessing the Pink Lady, she has always been a benevolent spirit, and at most, maybe a bit on the mischievous side.

One of the managers of Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar was well acquainted with the peacefulness associated with the Pink Lady. She said that she had encountered a form of the Pink Lady on several occasions. She described it as a cloud of real dense smoke. She said that it just flows and is pinkish pastel in color. She said that on one occasion, when Elaine’s was full, she was walking towards the landing of the steps and had to quickly dodge out of the way to make sure she didn’t walk into the spirit. These types of stories show the sociable side to the Pink Lady.

While many people have stated that the Pink Lady appeared as an abstract form, like a smoke, but others had seen her in a nearly tangible, distinct figure. This particular appearance took place on New Year’s Eve in 1989. Two Inn workers were at a party at the hotels’ accounting office. It was around three and four in the morning, and they were the last ones; after that, the party wound down. They heard something coming in the back door. When they looked up, something past them real fast, they know it was a woman, and she was dressed in party clothes. They figured that she was a guest, so they got up, but she was gone. They called security, but they couldn’t find anything.

One of the former photographers at the hotel, who worked there from 1991 to 1995, said that she encountered the distinct form of the Pink Lady many times when working in her photo lab. She said that the Pink Lady use to play tricks on her. She would move things around or touch her. She even saw her a few times. She also stated that the Pink Lady liked to scare her photographers. This particular worker, while her photographers were afraid of the Pink Lady, she never was. She felt she was a bit of a prankster and just wanted people to know that she was there. Once the Pink Lady realized she couldn’t get a rise out of her, her appearances happened less often.

As far as guests go, children seem to be the ones who have spotted her the most often. The hotel received a letter from a doctor who lives in Tampa, Florida. He stated that in December 1992, he and his family had stayed in the hotel in rooms 443 and 445. One afternoon, the doctor and his wife were out. Their two-year-old son was napping in room 443 while there baby sitter was in 445. The sitter heard the child murmur for around an hour and a half before he fell asleep. When the sitter went in to check on the child, he asked, “Where did the nice lady go?” She was quite puzzled by this and asked him what lady? He replied with, “The nice lady I’ve been talking to.” The sitter tucked him back into bed and murmured for a few minutes and then went to sleep. Once the doctor and his wife came back, their son told them about the nice lady. The incident would repeat the following night. On both days, the doctor knew that he had chained and locked their door.

While there are numerous stories about sightings of the Pink Lady, there have also been reports of odd occurrences that don’t have any conventional explanation. Security, on many occasions, has gotten a call to go to the Main Inn and unlock the bathroom doors. Keep in mind that the bathroom doors bolt from the inside. They don’t have a key that opens them. The only way they could be locked was from the inside.

While nobody knows for certain about the identification of the young woman, which seems to be a common problem in Asheville, there are a lot of theories about who she could have been. Some say that she was visiting the Inn for a clandestine evening with her married lover when he called off the affair. She threw herself off the balcony in her anguish. Some say that she was a servant girl from a local home who had an affair with the man of the house when she became pregnant. When he found out, he pushed her off the balcony to make sure their secret was not revealed. Others say she as a young debutante who accidentally slipped and fell.

There is a nicer theory of her identity. Some historians say that the ghost could be that of Zelda Fitzgerald. She was being treated for a nervous breakdown at the nearby Highland Hospital. Her husband, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, would stay in rooms 441 and 443 at the Grove Park Inn when he was in town visiting his wife. Some say that when Zelda died in the hospital fire in 1948, she attached herself to the Inn because it reminded her of happier times. What I find interesting is the boy who told his parents and baby sitter about a nice lady was napping in room 443.

While ghosts may seem like a scary concept, I don’t think anybody has anything to fear from the Pink Lady. She has made the Grove Park Inn her home for close to 100 years, and she doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

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