The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside County has deep roots. Built in 1876, it was originally a boarding house with only 12 rooms. Due to California’s desirable weather, the state quickly became a tourist destination for the wealthy and brought hoards of east coasters and Europeans over.
By 1903, owner Frank Miller, had expanded the hotel to have over 200 guestrooms with architectural features from more than 20 different California missions. The hotel was filled with artwork, furniture and other artifacts from around the world including the oldest bell in Christendom, dating back to 1247.
The hotel features two chapels on the grounds dripping with luxury and rare finds. The St. Francis of Assisi chapel has Tiffany stained glass panels and an 18-karat gold altar. The inn is so much more than a hotel and spa. It is considered a living museum with each artifact documented on site. Daily tours are offered.
Much like the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa has hosted many notable people through the years including celebrities and presidents. It has also been used in famous movies such as 1915’s “The Vampire”, 1938’s “Idiot’s Delight”, and 1997’s “Man in the Iron Mask”.
Some of the names of those who have visited here are Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Jr; social leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and John Muir; and entertainers including Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and James Brolin.
Dark History, Rumors and Legends: Riverside has some pretty dark history attached to it which involves human sacrifices and Satanic roots. Take a look at our Noguchi Gardens article for instance. Not even a rumor, there are factually underground tunnels leading to various places underneath the Inn, one being Mt. Rubidoux, and even a catacomb.
It seems the main reason for the tunnel’s existence was to smuggle booze during the prohibition era, which was all too common during those times. At one point, there was a rumored speakeasy down there where parties would be held and a museum holding various artifacts from all over the world. Who knows, maybe some of the treasures we see above were once held below!
Apparently if you go to the entrance of the Spanish kitchen and walk outside, there are little red house-looking objects on the sidewalk that are exhaust vents for the catacombs. Here is a video that shows proof that they do, in fact, exist.
The source I read worked security at the Inn in the early to mid-eighties while it was closed for restoration. She says that she actually walked and crawled through some of the tunnels and the catacombs. She says the catacombs are located at the basement and sub-basement levels beneath the southern half of the Inn. In her own words:
“The Catacombs are located at basement and sub-basement level beneath the southern half of the Inn. Elsewhere on this website you will find pre-1985 floor plans. Looking at the basement floorplans you will see an area labeled as Catacombs. The little squares in the layout are support columns. From that first room you can travel south to the walkway that parallels Orange St. and turn left or right.
Turning left takes you through a walkway that contained some of the pipes for the large musical organ in the corner of the music room as well as an access to work on the organ. That walkway ended at a door that took you to the rear of the Glenwood Tavern. Turning right took you through a walkway heading west.
At different points the walkway opens to a display area then vacant. Along the way there were stairways heading up to rooms on the southwest corner of the hotel like the Presidential Lounge and apartment number 7. The walkway makes a series of 90 degree turns, and once again you end up in that original room with the columns. A little bit eerie the first time you go down there.
The ventilation system down there was natural venting. Air from street level flowed into the walkways. Lighting came in the form of stained glass windows at the top of various spots along the walkway. On the outside of the building, you see pretty stained glass windows in unusual places.
When walking along the sidewalk on the south side of the Inn you will see a planter full of beautiful flowers. There you are standing above the Catacombs. When I worked there, nothing was in the walkways other than the remnants of manikins that once displayed various figures. So called mummies in someone’s eyes.”
Haunted? The Mission Inn is believed to be one of the most haunted places in California. There have been reports of singing coming from empty rooms, blue lights floating in the air, unexplained equipment malfunctions and feelings of being touched and pushed by ghostly hands. Ghosts have been seen in various places including the hallways, the dining room and outside behind the hotel. Ready for your visit?