Sunday, May 9, 2010

Historical Mediumship - Beautiful Stranger of the Hotel Del Coronado


I have described the process of "historical mediumship" elsewhere. Briefly it is the application of techniques of mediumistic communication with historical individuals for the purpose of eliciting new and unknown information from their lives. Using rigorous historical research techniques, this information is checked for accuracy. If it is found to be valid, the information can contribute vastly to existing histories of people and places.

This paper describes on such investigation in some detail. Not only does it illustrate the value of the historical mediumship process, but it also explores the challenges faced when prior histories have been developed without due care in the background historical research. In the present case, it was necessary to recheck all the work of prior authors, understand why the story developed through mediumistic communications was so different, and ultimately arrive at what seems to be the most accurate version of this story to date.

Hotel Del Coronado Beautiful Stranger Legend

The Hotel Del Coronado is located across San Diego Bay from San Diego, California. The hotel overlooks the ocean in what has to be one of most scenic Victorian hotel settings imaginable. For many decades there have been various rumors regarding supposed hauntings of this grand old hotel. Many believe the background of these hauntings can be traced to the stay of a young woman in November 1892. It is believed she never left the Hotel Del Coronado.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1892, a beautiful young woman arrived alone at the Hotel Del Coronado. She checked in giving the name Mrs. Lottie A. Bernard and was assigned room 302 on the side of the hotel away from the ocean. She said she had neuralgia and was apparently not feeling well. In the ensuing days she conversed with only a few people. It came to be understood that she had been travelling with a male companion from whom she had become separated. This man had her luggage checks and so she had left her luggage at the train station in San Diego. She told several people she was suffering from neuralgia and may have obtained quinine pills for her disorder at the hotel drug store.

The woman spoke at greatest length with the hotel's chief clerk, Mr. Gomer, the morning of Monday, November 28. During that conversation she named her travelling companion as a doctor from Minneapolis; she said he was her brother. But she didn't know where he was. When asked who could assist her with funds for her stay, she gave the name G. L. Allen of Hamburg, Iowa. Mr. Gomer contacted Mr. Allen for funds and received a favorable reply the next day.

Lottie came to check for messages at the office Monday evening as she had for three nights prior. As before, there were no messages. The following morning a worker discovered her lifeless body on steps leading down the beach on the ocean side of the hotel. A hand gun lay near her outstretched right hand, a single bullet was in her skull. She was an apparent suicide. Her body was removed to San Diego where she lay in state for two weeks. A Coroner's Inquest was held and the empanelled Coroners Jury concurred the young woman died by her own hand.

The young woman was identified by different names during those two weeks. Initially everyone believed her to be Lottie Bernard of Detroit. When her travelling companion (who was supposedly nearby) never arrived, the Coroner distributed a sketch of the young woman to newspapers in California and Detroit. The first family to responsd was the Wyllie family of Detroit. They believed a young woman from their family might be this "Beautiful Stranger" as she had come to be called in the newspapers. It turned out this was a misidentification. The second family to come forward was the Grant family of Los Angeles. They believed the young woman might have been their former housekeeper who vanished from Los Angeles the day before the Beautiful Stranger appeared at the Hotel Del Coronado. Convincing yet circumstantial evidence was subsequently discovered which mostly supported this identification. It was ultimately found that this young woman was actually named Mrs. Kate Farmer Morgan of Riverton, Iowa. Accordingly the name on the San Diego death certificate was changed. The young woman was finally buried in San Diego December 12, 1892 in an unmarked grave in Mount Hope Cemetery where she rests to this day.

Modern Contacts with the Beautiful Stranger

In February 2006 Spirit Advocate and medium Bonnie Vent and myself arrived at the Hotel Del Coronado. We had come there to speak with the Beautiful Stranger and try to get her story from her perspective. It had been over a century since the events that led to her death and we were unclear whether or not she would even speak to us. We were not to be disappointed. We sat in an interior hallway and initiated communications. At first the young woman would not speak when we called out the name "Kate Morgan", believing that to be her true name. After two failed attempts, we asked to speak with "Lottie Bernard"; this worked. She proceeded to tell us that her name was not Kate Morgan, that she was tired of others telling her story as Kate Morgan's story and in general dismissing her, Lottie, when she was there all the time. We were unable to proceed with any further information until we indicated that we understood this clearly. She really wants the world to know that she is not Kate Morgan.

As she began to tell her story in some depth on that first encounter, it was clear she was telling us her story in her words - exactly what we had come for. Unfortunately (or pehaps in retrospect, fortunately) we did not know whether this was all fact or fiction - we had only a very cursory knowledge of the original Legend and so had to take everything at that moment on faith. We followed up with deep historical research and ultimately discovered that a great deal of what we learned even on that first day was remarkably accurate. And it differed in many important ways from stories others had told before of this same Beautiful Stranger.

We spoke with her again in August 2006 when she told us details of her death. Curiously she believed that she was the victim of an accidental shooting. Even in February she had told us that she was not a suicide, although she fully accepted responsibility for the circumstances that put her in danger that fateful night in 1892 when she did die. When we heard her story in August, we asked if she had seen the person who was the intended target. This got her (Lottie) to thinking and she suddenly realized that she had not. She realized that perhaps she indeed had been the target, something she had apparently never considered before. So at this point, Lottie is unsure if she was the victim of an accidental homocide as she had believed for so many years or was the intended target in a brutal premeditated homocide. Another person would come forward that would help answer this question, but that would not happen for another two years.

Our final conversation in 2006 occurred on the 114th anniversary of her death in the room where she spent her final days at the Hotel Del Coronado. During a remarkable forty minutes, Lottie retold her story through medium Bonnie Vent. Her words and gestures were recorded for posterity on video.

Errors and Corrections

Most prior authors came to believe that the young woman's true identity was Kate Morgan. This was based on the circumstantial evidence mentioned previously. But our research uncoverd details which called this evidence into question. Indeed the Beautiful Stranger herself gave us guidance to help us find key clues to her background and identity. For example, she told us that she grew up in Minnesota. We were able to locate a Charlotte Anderson who did live in Cottage Grove, Minnesota on the Wisconsin border and who moved East to Wisconsin by 1880 with her family.

Most significant was her insistence that she was not Kate Morgan. This left us with a dilemma - either she was right and everyone else was wrong or she was
very mixed up. As it turned out, the evidence for Kate Morgan being the Beautiful Stranger was not that complete. And there were some significant problems that no one had resolved prior to our examining the story from a fresh perspective.

One reason people believed Kate Morgan might have been the Beautiful Stranger was that she knew the name G. L. Allen of Hamburg, Iowa. Kate Morgan's husband, Thomas E. Morgan, was in fact George L. Allen's step-brother-in-law by virtue of a common step-mother. But things weren't that straightforward. Kate Morgan left her husband Thomas in 1890 without divorcing him. Apparently they had what we today would call "irreconcilable differences." She went west with Albert Allen, G.L. Allens' elder brother . The two arrived in northern California, apparently separarted and Kate Morgan ended up working in various households in Los Angeles. This is what she was doing when she vanished in 1892. But was this evidence as clear as it seemed? In fact George Allen had known Kate left his friend and her husband Thomas Morgan. Her leaving had caused Thomas some amount of local embarrassment in Riverton, a small farming community. George Allen was likely not pleased with Kate's behavior and would probably never have helped her. And when he was contacted by the Hotel Del Coronado, he was asked to assist Mrs. Lottie Bernard, not Kate Morgan. In fact, his reponse strongly suggests that he knew of a woman with a name similar to Lottie Bernard and thought he was helping that woman. And that, in turn, suggests that Lottie was a real person.

When George Allen was a boy in Island Grove, Illinois, the family had neighbors named Barnard (not Bernard). We believe the man who married Lottie was in fact one of the Barnard boys. In his telegram to the Hotel Del Coronado in November 1892, Allen said that he 'did not know the woman but did know her husband having gone to school with him'. We believe George Allen was referring to a Barnard.

Perhaps the real evidential 'smoking gun' came from a man who incredibly had not been properly identified until our research. This man signed into the Hotel Del Coronado next after Lottie. His name was Joseph A. Jones. This name is not an alias as has been alledged by others. Mr. Jones was an export broker living in India at the time. He was travelling across the U.S., having come from visiting his parents in Boston. He had come through Denver, Colorado enroute to San Diego. Mr. Jones said he saw the Beautiful Stranger at Denver, travelling with 'a well-dressed gentleman companion.' He noticed them again at Orange, California, when the man left the train leaving the woman aboard, according to Jones. And he saw her, alone, a third time at the Hotel Del Coronado on Saturday, November 26, 1892. He was certain it was the same woman on all three occasions. However, Kate Morgan was known to be working in Los Angeles when Jones saw the Beautiful Stranger on the train at Denver, some 1000 miles to the east! She could not have been Kate Morgan.

And that means: Kate Morgan could not have been the Beautiful Stranger!


The Legend of the Beautiful Stranger of the Hotel Del Coronado has persisted for well over a century since the events of November, 1892. Despite at least four attempts, no one had successfully told the real story. We did two things which others had not: we attempted to speak with the woman and we carefully examined every detail without preconceptions. The result is, as far as we can tell, the most accurate telling of the story to date.

We discovered that the earlier stories all had flaws, and that most identified Kate Morgan of Riverton, Iowa as the Beautiful Stranger. We learned from mediumistic communications with the young woman that this was incorrect. While we found circumstantial evidence which seemed to initially support the Kate Morgan identity, more careful research revealed otherwise.

We found inconsistencies between Kate Morgan and the Beautiful Stranger in terms of the luggage the woman carried, documents she possessed at the Hotel Del Coronado, her health, her personal effects and her overall demeanor. Most significant, we found a fellow guest whose story of the Beautiful Stranger clearly separates her from Kate Morgan. We found in other words, that Kate Morgan could not have been the Beautiful Stranger. We also established through new research that Lizzie Wyllie also was not the Beautiful Stranger.

We believe the actual Mrs. Lottie A. Barnard came from Canada to Minnesota and Wisconsin before marrying her husbmand who she likely lost in the early 1880s. She moved to Detroit, Michigan where she resided until 1892 when she came West to the Hotel Del Coronado. We have information as to why she came west, with whom and even how and why she died. Unfortunately this information cannot, to date, be verified with historical documents. For the moment we shall simply leave things at that. Hopefully more information will come to light in the future which will serve to substantiate and finally complete the woman's story. At the same time, we may have also located Mrs. Kate Morgan in San Francisco in 1900, clearly indicating that she did not die at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1892 as so many people believed.

This account both informs and cautions. We are cautioned that historians, both professional and amateur, must be very careful not to draw conclusions too quickly. Careful historical research requires seeking out all points of view, carefully and dispassionately weighing the inevitable contradictory evidence. The chain of events in our research inform us as to the most likely account of the story to date. And in that we find the utility of historical mediumship. We find that humans remain one of our best tools when it comes to sorting out complex problems, including those presented by history.

If we believe those of a metaphysical persuasion, bringing these true stories to light may indeed help those who have passed with unresolved issues. If the assertion is true, then we have the satisfaction of knowing we have helped someone in a highly personal way. If it were not true, our work still serves the purposes of History. Either way, the validity and usefulness of historical mediumship has been demonstrated.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I am currently staying at the Del (no I haven't seen the ghost) and am fascinated with the story of the Beautiful Stranger. Your article hits on my "pet theory" that for unknown reasons Lottie Barnard become embroiled in the grifter schemes of Kate Morgan and Albert Allen. I don't know if they "used" her to fake Kate's death in lieu of a divorce or if she discovered their scams or what, but am very curious to know if you have any information to explain why Lottie Barnard came west and with whom. I have also wondered if Mr. Jones just is inaccurate in his recollection of where/when he saw the stranger and the gentleman arguing. Perhaps it was after Kate and Albert got on the train in L.A. Very interesting puzzle . . . Laura