Road Trip #6 – Horror Hotel

I think anyone undertaking a road trip has to have a few horrible accommodation experiences just to generate good anecdotes and make one more appreciative for basic motels.

Back in 2001, when touring New York, New England and South-Eastern Canada, Mr Pict and I had a run of cruddy hotel experiences, things like cigarette burns in bedlinen and mouldy sealant around showers.  So when we turned up at our hotel in Nova Scotia and discovered the room reeked of smoke – and both being non-smokers – we decided to cancel our booking and find an alternative.  That proved to be pretty challenging, however, and we ended up at a motel we now refer to as the Werewolf Motel.  We gave it that moniker because of the deep grooves running down the door of our room that looked ever so much like gigantic claw marks.  More terrifying, however, was the fact that the manager was sitting in his office in his yellowed underpants and vest (singlet) with his stained and moth-bitten laundry hanging above his head.  We spent the entire night expecting to either hear a howl or be devoured by bed bugs.

On this road trip, our kids got to have their first – but probably not last – horrible hotel experience.  Our stop for the night was Toledo, chosen only because it was a convenient place to stop on that day’s journey.  Photos on the website had been taken from convenient angles to not reveal how utterly dilapidated the hotel was.  As we pulled up, our stomachs sank.  The surrounding street were rough as a badger’s butt and as we entered the hotel car park we could see mattresses and chairs piled up outside some of the rooms.  The place was really run down and falling to pieces.  Then we saw the yellow police tape across one patio door.  Gulp.

It was pretty late in the evening and finding accommodation for six of us was going to be problematic so we decided just to treat it as an adventure for the night and stick with it.  As we walked along the dank and dim corridor towards our suite, our youngest son asked, “Is this a haunted house?”  The corridor was eerily reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel.


Our room was actually OK.  It was dated and very battered around the edges, the decor was very tired, but it was spacious and the beds were comfy – which was pretty critical.  Nevertheless, my 9 year old refused to open any cupboard doors in the kitchenette in case he found a severed head.  What the hotel did have going for it, as far as the kids were concerned, was a large thermal heated swimming pool but I don’t think even that mitigated against the fear of disease or death.


Toledo was clearly a place struggling to recover from the collapse of traditional industries and deep recession.  Every street we drove through suggested depression and hopelessness.  It was apparent that the hotel we were staying at was not being used by tourists very much but was instead catering to people living there paycheck to paycheck.  It was all really sad and I actually felt guilty being in that context as a tourist on vacation.

We did not want to hang around the hotel so we decided to go out and see a movie.  My kids have never been to a proper drive-in cinema so we headed to the Sundance Kid Drive In at a place called Oregon.  Disappointingly there was no raked parking so we had to reorganise all of the seating so that everyone could get a decent though imperfect view of the screen.  The sound quality through the radio was fantastic though.  We saw the new version of ‘Ghostbusters’ which I found entertaining and, not being much of a fan of the original, actually enjoyed the new version more.

Despite an almost full moon, a rattling and rasping AC unit, and our imaginations running wild, we all managed to get a decent sleep.  We survived the Horror Hotel.


34 thoughts on “Road Trip #6 – Horror Hotel

    • That hotel really was not a pleasant experience but it was one night only and it will give the kids a good anecdote about their first ever awful hotel experience. And they got to act out bits of The Shining without ever having seen the movie so that was a bonus.

  1. Woot for surviving the Horror Hotel!!! 😀 I was expecting a photo with a white shadow on it but maybe that was asking too much. We want a great vacation not a real horror vacation. Great post!

  2. Now I understand your warning about The Shining – and I am pretty sure I’d rather stay in a haunted hotel than such a horrible hotel!

    • It really was ghastly. I was so glad we were only there for just one night and not even much of that – just long enough to sleep. We understood why it was such a bargain price, of course.

  3. After far too many -questionable- places I’ve had to stay I have to admit that I pick the boring, safe ones now. I’m pretty sure I stayed at a few places I’m lucky to have made it out of!

    • We tend to stay in chain motels / hotels with the kids because they are boring but predictable. We actually funded most of our accommodation for this trip through my husband’s loyalty points since he travels so much for work. Incredibly this place was actually a chain but apparently one that doesn’t monitor its franchisees adequately. It was pretty dire. That chain has now lost us as customers. We would never risk booking with them again.

      • We stayed in one of those type of places on an east coast road trip a few years back. When we go East we have family all over so we end up driving from upstate NY to Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut…But that place we had to spend one night was just horrible, and like yours was part of a chain, but seemed like it was in the apocalypse! And it was summer and we paid as much for that place as we would have paid in Manhattan for a night.

  4. Still chuckling about the Werewolf Hotel and that chap in his underpants and vest!! What a great picture it paints although not if you’re staying there for sure. I always think the worst hotel experiences give the best stories and they tend to be the most memorable, we’ve had our fair share down the years and you can always look back and laugh. The drive in cinema sounds like fun, never done that but another of those would love to try things!

    • I’m glad to have made you chuckle, Joy. My husband and I often comment about the fact it’s the things that were either unscripted or an ordeal at the time that we talk about most when remembering travels past. For instance, when we think of the Amalfi Coast our first thought is of the terrifying drive along the cliff road and all with a flat tyre.

      Drive-in cinemas are great fun so long as everyone can see the screen adequately. If you can find one with raked parking so that the car tilts up towards the screen it does make all the difference.

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