Kate Morgan, the Beautiful Stranger
(Hotel del Coronado)

kate morgan
The Hotel Del Coronado is San Diego's second most famous haunt. This hotel caters to the rich and famous such as movie stars, Presidents, and European Royalty. Oh yes, there's also Kate Morgan, a resident ghost.

The History

The Hotel del Coronado was established in 1888, at the height of San Diego's "boom" years. The luxury hotel boasted good weather, wonderful beaches, and an easy carefree life. Affluent folks from the east and midwest flocked to the Hotel Del to enjoy the best of what California can offer.

So wonderful was this hotel that it attracted prominent members of society: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Henry James, Sarah Bernhart, Mae West, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Newhart, King Edward VIII, 15 US Presidents, and more!

kate morgan
The Hotel del Coronado is a luxurious, oceanside hotel

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Photograph of Kate Morgan taken circa 1886

According to Hotel records, a 24 year old lady who called herself "Lottie A. Bernard of Detroit" checked into the Hotel Del on November 1892. She came alone but told the staff that she was waiting for her "brother". Five days later, the "brother" still had not arrived; the beautiful but troubled lady procured a gun and shot herself in the head. Investigations later suggested that she may have been pregnant and aborted a child before her suicide. Indeed, she was probably not waiting for a "brother" rather she was waiting for her husband named Tom.

Because the event occurred near Thanksgiving and, in such a prestigious hotel, it received much media coverage. The newspapers called the lady the "Beautiful Stranger".

Note: In September 2011, family members of Kate Morgan contacted san-diego-travels.com to inform us that the information on this page is "rubbish" and relies on "fabricated" information. Readers are advised to read about Kate Morgan from wikipedia which, although not complete, is closer to the truth.

A woman from Detroit came forward and announced that the Beautiful Stranger must be her daughter, Lizzie Wyllie. Lizzie had run off to California with a married man. As well, Lizzie had an aunt named "Lottie A Bernard" so it likely that Lizzie used her aunt's name so as to hide her true identity. However, days later, the woman retracted her statement and reported that her daughter Lizzie was alive and well in Ontario.

During this time, a boarding-house owner in LA reported that one of her employees named Kate Morgan had gone missing. Her physical description matched that of the Beautiful Stranger including the presence of two moles on her face.

To complicate the matter, a guest at the Hotel reported that he had traveled to San Diego by train and he saw the Beautiful Stranger with a male companion on the train. The couple quarreled and the man disembarked in Orange County. The lady continued to San Diego by herself. If this lady was the Beautiful Stranger, then she cannot be Kate Morgan. Kate was still in the boarding house at the time.

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Vintage photo of the Hotel Del near the time of Kate Morgan

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To this day, no one knows exactly who the Beautiful Stranger is. Locals and and Hotel staff refer to her as Kate Morgan. In September 1989, Alan May (author of the Legend of Kate Morgan ) did some research and was convinced that the Beautiful Stranger was indeed Kate Morgan. He placed a headstone where she is buried and inscribed on it: "Kate Morgan also known as Lottie A. Bernard". Critics were unhappy with this since it solidified that the dead woman was indeed Kate Morgan, though there was very little conclusive evidence to support this.

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Alan May also introduced a theory suggesting that Kate (and a maid who befriended Kate) were both murdered by the husband Tom. Evidence to suggest this comes from the bullet lodged in Kate's head. It apparently did not match the gun which she had purchased. As well, had she shot herself in the head, the bullet should have exited, yet it did not. Other details such as the position of Kate's body at the time of discovery and the angle in which the bullet entered her head were inconsistent with the suicide theory. The book is actually quite compelling.

However, the story is not finished, after Alan May's death in 1991, further events suggest that the Beautiful Stranger was not Kate Morgan. It was the murdered maid who befriended Kate. The real Kate Morgan ran off with her husband Tom.

Note: In February 2012, author John Cullens contacted san-diego-travels.com to inform us that he had a plausible answer to the 120 year-old mystery. His research is published in two books which you can see in his web site.

Obviously there is much controversy and much still remains a mystery. However, whatever her story was, the Beautiful Stranger was clearly lonely, scared, and probably desperate. She did not rest in peace.

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The lobby of the Hotel Del: you would never guess that
it was haunted.

The Hauntings

The Beautiful Stranger was said to have checked into room 502 which is now 3502. House keepers will confirm that Rm 3502 is haunted. After cleaning the room, they find that the soap and shampoo have all been rearranged by themselves. Staff members often experience lights flickering on & off and windows opened when they should have been shut. There is an general feeling of unease or discomfort, sometimes there are unexplained cold drafts or footsteps. All very unnerving.

Some Hotel guests are familiar with the events surrounding the Beautiful Stranger and actively ask for Rm 3502. They are not disappointed. Other guests enter the suite completely unawares of its history. These often call in the middle of the night and ask to be put into another room: they did not last a night in Rm 3502.

Interestingly, there has also been many haunted sightings in room 3312. The Hotel Del Coronado has undergone renovations and room changes. Could room 3312 be the Beautiful Strangers room? Indeed studies of the Hotel Del floor plans from 1892 show that rm 302 was the maids quarters and that rm 312 was more likely to be the room which the Beautiful Stranger checked into. Who then is haunting rm 3302 if the Beautiful Stranger was in rm 3312? Some say that the phantom in room 3305 is the maid who befriended Kate (the maid disappeared on the night that Kate died). It is all very mysterious and chilling.

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The Hotel Del has been renovated and rooms have been renumbered. Despite this, much of its exterior remains the same.

One thing for certain, the opulent Hotel Del Coronado was the site of a pained and distraught death. The victim's name is unknown but we call her Kate Morgan. She may still be roaming the halls: she checked in but never checked out.


Rm 3312 and 3305 Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA

kate morgan