I work for a large contracting company, and I travel all over the US and Canada for work. I spend more than 9 months a year on the road, staying in various hotels.
Since I pay all of my lodging costs out of my own pocket, I try and find places that offer a weekly or monthly rate, which is usually about half as much as you would pay if you were to rent the room on a nightly basis. It is worth noting that places that offer these long-term rates aren't generally five-star chain hotels, but instead are generally older, independently owned places that range from nice on down to "roach motel" dives.
Last month, I was assigned to a project in northern Wisconsin. I got to town, searched the web, and found an older motel that offered a good monthly rate. Instead of calling ahead, I just drove to the hotel and asked the manager if they had any rooms available for a month. The manager seemed hesitant, but said that they had one room with no bookings for the upcoming month, and explained that he had been planning on remodeling the room in question before renting it out. He said that they had been updating all the rooms, and hadn't got to that one yet, but he would discount it an additional $50 below the usual monthly rate since the furniture, bed, and carpet were older and a bit shabby. This seemed like an awesome deal to me, so I booked the room and paid the whole month in advance.
The manager explained that I had to pay in advance in order to receive the monthly rate and the additional $50 discount, and pointed out that there were no refunds available if I decided to leave early. The fact that he was adamant about "no refunds" made me a little suspicious, so I got the key from him and looked at the room before handing my credit card over, and the room appeared to be decent enough, so I went ahead with the deal.
This was the first week of July, and it was very hot and muggy. The first thing I did after hauling in my luggage was to crank up the old air conditioner, which looked like it probably dates from the mid 1980's. It rattled and vibrated quite a bit, but it pushed out plenty of cold air, so I didn't give it much thought.
I went to bed, and when I got up the next morning and stumbled towards the bathroom, my feet encountered a huge puddle of water on the floor. The air conditioning had been running all night, and the condensation from the highly humid air had dripped down the power cord and soaked the floor. I grabbed the little garbage can out of the bathroom, pulled the trash bag out of it, and put the empty can under the air conditioner to catch the constant drip of water. I mopped up the water and headed off to work. When I got back that afternoon, the trash can was about half full of water, so I dumped it down the shower and put the trash can back.
This became my routine for the next week, emptying the trash can every day either before or after work. I work long days, and generally would come home, take a shower, and immediately go to bed. I would occasionally hear what I assumed was the tenant in the next room banging around at night, but after a long day at work, I can sleep through anything, so I didn't pay much attention to that.
About halfway through my second week in the room, my work boots came up missing! I always put them in the same spot by the door, and I woke up to head to work and couldn't find them anywhere. I was pretty mad, and was just about late for work. I remembered that I always kept an extra pair of boots in the truck, so I jerked the door to the room open, and my boots were sitting right outside my door! The only conclusion I could come up with was that housekeeping might have moved my boots, although I couldn't imagine why they would have been in my room while I was asleep, since they usually came in the middle of the day while I was working.
When I got back from work that day, I went to the motel office and demanded to know why housekeeping had been in my room at night. The manager assured me that such a thing was impossible, and that he and his wife cleaned all the rooms themselves. He repeatedly assured me that they hadn't touched my boots, but from his manner and body language, he seemed to be hiding something.
I decided that I didn't trust the manager, so when I left for work the next morning, I stuffed all my gear back in my suitcase and took it with me. I had already paid for the whole month, so I figured that I would just not leave anything in my room while I was away at work.
When I was sleeping at night, I started making sure to lock the chain lock on the door, figuring that there was no way for anyone to get in and mess with my stuff that way. After a few nights of this, my rude awakening happened.
I was sound asleep when I was hit in the side of the face with a deluge of frigid water! I came out of bed absolutely furious. I was cursing loudly, swinging my fists at empty air. Enough light came through the curtains and from the lights on the digital clock, microwave, and coffee pot that I could see that I was completely alone in the room. I turned on the bedside lamp, still snarling profanities and dripping water, and immediately looked at the chain lock. It was still locked! I rushed into the bathroom, figuring that it was the only place for someone to hide, but it was empty. I was completely baffled by this point, but knew that I wasn't imagining things, because my hair and face were soaked, as though I'd just got out of the shower.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that a pipe for the rooms above me must have ruptured. I walked back out to look at the ceiling, and saw no trace of water damage or a burst pipe. What I did see was the empty garbage can I had placed to catch the dripping water from the air conditioner. It was sitting upright on top of the television, a good 15 feet from the air conditioner. When I saw it, I suddenly realized that it must have just been moved, because I hadn't stepped in a puddle of water when I stormed into the bathroom!
This hotel room didn't offer any hiding spots for anyone. There was no closet, no cabinets, nothing that could hide even a small child. I grabbed a towel, dried my head off, stuffed my gear back in my suitcase, got in my truck, drove up the road a ways, and slept in my truck the rest of the night.
The next morning, I was waiting for the manager when he arrived. I demanded a refund for my unused nights. He reminded me that I had agreed that no refunds would be given, and I could see from the half-smirk look on his face that he knew that room was haunted. I'm a pretty big guy, and I leaned across the counter and snarled, "Well, since you rented me a room that wasn't vacant, I figure that agreement doesn't mean a whole lot, does it? Does the fact that you're scared of that room have anything to do with why it hasn't been renovated yet?"
He wordlessly reached over, popped open the cash register, and handed me $200, which was actually more than he owed me. I grabbed the cash and left.
After I'd had a few days to cool down, I wished that I would have tried to make contact with whatever was in the room. It had only hid my boots and dumped water on me, after all. In retrospect, it seems more playful than malicious. By the time I came to this realization, though, I was several states away, working on a new project.
If I ever get back to that part of the country, I might go back and see if they have a room that just happens to be vacant because they just haven't got around to remodeling it...