Many haunted hotels claim to have guests who never checked out, but Chico’s permanent residents may be its original owners, Bill and Percie Knowles. Built in 1900 to accomodate gold miners at nearby Emigrant Gulch, the hotel became a renowned health resort after Bill’s death in 1910. During the Depression of the 1930s business declined and Percie’s health eventually broke under the financial strain. She spent much of her time sitting in a rocking chair in Room 349, staring out the window at the mountains. Percie was committed to the Warm Springs State Hospital in 1936 and died there a few years later.
Apparently she has returned in spirit to the hotel that meant so much to her during her lifetime. Employees, security staff and guests at this world-famous resort near Pray, Montana, have seen Percie many times over the years, floating along a third floor corridor or seated late at night in the restaurant with her husband Bill. In the summer of 2000, Percie appeared in the dining room in full view of guests, who thought the woman in outdated clothing was just another guest–until she vanished.
When I stayed there a few years ago, I asked to see Room 349 and was given the key. The room just been made up by the maids, so I took a photo from the doorway, careful not to disturb anything, then walked down the hall to Room 351, where guests have reported seeing a dark figure at the foot of the bed. On a whim, I decided to return to Room 349 to finish up my roll of film. As I stepped inside, I heard a slight gasp, as if I had surprised someone. Almost reflexively I raised my 35mm. camera and took three quick snapshots. At the same time, my husband exclaimed, “The bedspread’s wrinkled!” When we had left the room ten minutes previously, the bedspread had been tight and unwrinkled, exactly as the maids had left it. Now there were wrinkles in the middle, as if someone had just sat on the bed.
When my photographs were developed, the first was completely normal. The second and third showed a gradual materialization of what may be a woman’s face. It seems to me to bear a resemblance to Percie, complete with upswept hairstyle.