BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) — "This looks like the cover of, like, a horror movie poster," Jack Osbourne, host of the Travel Channel's "Portals to Hell" series, says as his black SUV pulls up in front of the Padre Hotel in downtown Bakersfield. He gets out of the car and stares up at the imposing cream and brown façade, bathed in pale winter sunlight. "First impressions: it actually does remind me of 'The Shining.' It's got that same kind of vibe."
Osbourne and fellow paranormal investigator Heather Taddy visited the Bakersfield landmark in December 2020. Thanks in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed down business considerably, they and their small crew were able to stay in the hotel alone for two days, marking the first time the hotel has been investigated for television.
Before locking themselves down for the investigation, Osbourne and Taddy chatted with general manager Jennifer Johnson and a few other staff members about their experiences working at the Padre.
The ghost of a little girl is especially active in the hotel lobby, Johnson said in the episode, and "likes to tug on shirts and aprons." She also apparently left a handprint on a column in the hotel's Farmacy Café, which seems to come back no matter how many times employees clean it off.
Sinks also turn off and on by themselves in the public restroom downstairs, Johnson said. She also noticed that the locks on the bathroom doors often jiggle with no one on the other side.
"Oh, that's just the ghost," her co-workers told her when she mentioned it.
A cook named Andreas said he routinely sees a tall man in a white coat walking down the hallways and thought he was the chef until one day the chef was cooking upstairs and Andreas saw the man downstairs. Johnson said that housekeeping staff often feel like they're being watched. When they turn to look, they catch a quick glimpse of a tall man in a long coat who quickly vanishes.
The seventh floor is said to be a particular hotbed of paranormal activity, as are the upper floors in general.
"It’s a beautiful hotel. It’s been modernized, but there is a sense of a home abandoned. There is a vibe that is palpable, that is bad,” Osbourne said in an article for Bakersfield.com discussing the Padre episode, which aired as the show's season 2 finale in 2021.
As a Bakersfield native, I of course had to watch the episode for myself. It was a blast seeing a nationally televised show feature a downtown landmark that has been a fixture of this city since long before I was born.
The Padre's story begins during the Central Valley's Roaring Twenties, when prosperity from an oil boom increased the demand for an upscale hotel. Designed by Los Angeles architect John M. Cooper, who also designed the Roxie Theatre in downtown LA and San Bernardino's City Hall, the Spanish Revival style hotel was constructed on the former estate of city father and Judge Benjamin Brundage for around $600,000 — roughly $10 million in today — as reported by Julie Carr of HauntedHouses.com.
Originally styled the Hotel Padre in honor of Franciscan monk Padre Francisco Garces, one of the first European missionaries to visit the area in the 18th century, the Grand Old Dame's grand opening was held on April 12, 1928. Boasting 196 guestrooms as well as a banquet hall and a coffee shop, the eight-story hotel was the tallest building in town. It soon became the centerpiece of the downtown business district and was hailed as the "finest hotel west of the Rockies,” according to a 2015 article for Bakersfield Life.