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The Innkeepers: A Ghostly Analysis

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

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“I don’t believe in ghosts, but the closest I’ve ever come is staying at The Pedlar.”

In the 2011 film "The Innkeepers," two employees, Claire and Luke (played by Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy), are working their last few days at a New England hotel before it closes down for good after over a hundred years. With very few guests and plenty of time to hang out, the pair decide to investigate the hotel’s other guests

The hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, a woman who hanged herself and whose body was supposedly buried in the basement. Claire and Luke use EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) equipment to try and capture the disembodied voice of Madeline O’Malley. When Claire is investigating alone one night, she hears the ghostly notes of a piano seemingly playing itself and understandably gets scared and loses her shit.

The movie pulls viewers in with each ghost story Claire and Luke share while providing more “proof” as time goes on. Claire hears and sees things like the ghost of Madeline O’Malley in her room.

“Everything in this world is connected. Whether we understand that or not depends on our sense of perception –our willingness to communicate.”

- Leane Rease-Jones, The Innkeepers

In a 2011 interview with Dread Central, “The Innkeepers” writer and director Ti West recalled staying at the real Yankee Pedlar hotel while filming his movie “House of the Devil.”

According to him, strange things would happen at the hotel. Strange enough to make a movie about. “The Innkeepers” was filmed at the actual Yankee Pedlar Inn. Which somehow adds even more of a ghost story element.

The real Yankee Pedlar Inn has a lengthy history of its own. In 1890 Irish Immigrants Alice and Frank Conley bought the lot in Torrington, CT, with the intention of building the first hotel in the state. In July 1891, the hotel opened as the Conley Inn. In 1910, after years of service, the Conleys both passed away, just five months apart. Their niece sold the Conley Inn two years later. The hotel went through several owners before being renamed The Yankee Pedlar Inn in 1956.

Room 353 was, at one point, the Conley’s apartment. Alice is said to have died there, and there have been reports of her roaming the halls, checking on guests. There have also been claims of odd smells and apparitions in that room. Her rocking chair, which is kept in the hotel lobby, is said to rock back and forth on its own.

In room 295, guests experience odd smells and the feeling of someone getting into bed with them. There have also been claims of a woman being seen in the room.

In the hotel pub, people have seen the ghost of a grey-haired man who is believed to be Frank Conley.

Other reports from those who have visited the hotel include lights flickering, doors opening and closing, being tugged on or shoved, and experiencing heightened emotions or disturbing dreams.

There isn’t any evidence that the Conleys died of anything other than natural causes, but with the hotel being such a big part of their life, they may just want to stick around. The Yankee Pedlar Inn currently sits empty as it closed in 2015 for renovations and has yet to open back up for business.

“I don’t know a lot, but I do know a little bit about a lot of things.”

- Luke, The Innkeepers

Without further research or evidence, it appears that any ghosts of Alice and Frank Conley would be either Traditional or Historical Ghosts or Mental Imprint Manifestations,

Reports of Alice “checking in on guests” could give the impression of her being aware of their presence, however, it could also just be her leftover energy simply repeating what she did for so many years of her life.

“The Innkeepers” ghosts appear to be much less innocent. At one point in the movie, Claire receives a warning from the actress-turned-medium, Leane-Rease Jones (Kelly McGillis), to stay out of the basement and eventually is told to leave the hotel entirely.

Claire, unfortunately, does end up in the basement again, but not before walking in on an elderly guest (George Riddle) who took his own life in one of the hotel room bathrooms. She then witnessed the apparition of Madeline O’Malley’s hanging body. Claire is lured toward the basement by a disembodied voice, only to see the ghost of the guest who took his own life before falling down the stairs.

Once Claire is in the basement that the movie takes an even darker turn. A terrified Claire wanders deeper into the dark and finds herself in the room where Madeline O’Malley’s body was supposedly buried. She bangs on the doors to the garage in an attempt to escape. The same doors she had chained shut earlier in the movie. Behind her, the ghost of Madeline O’Malley appears, looking rotted and sinister.

The next morning, Claire’s body is removed by paramedics. She died of an asthma attack. Luke tells police that he tried banging on the door to get her out, but she didn’t hear him, and he couldn’t open the door to save her.

Obviously, the ghosts in “The Innkeepers” are much more frightening than the Yankee Pedlar tales of lights flickering and clothes being tugged (something crawling into bed with you might actually be terrifying, though). While the ghosts of Madeline O’Malley and the elderly man aren’t exactly what I would consider Poltergeists, they do appear to fit into multiple categories, Elementals, and Traditional or Historic Ghosts.

If Madeline O’Malley’s body was really buried in the hotel’s basement and she really did lead Clarie to her demise by getting her down there, this gives the impression that O’Malley is attached to her own burial ground. Trapped in the basement forever by her remains.

On the other hand, there’s always the possibility of Claire winding up in the basement because of her own curiosity. The ghosts of Madeline O’Malley and the elderly guest could just be entities aware of the living, and seeing the apparitions was enough for Claire to suffer a severe asthma attack.

“Doesn’t a cyclops always have one eye?”

- Claire, The Innkeepers

One of the best parts about “The Innkeepers” is how the story changes based on the perspective of the viewer. There are four types of people watching “The Innkeepers.”

The believer watches Claire as she is tormented slowly by the ghost of Madeline O’Malley and maliciously shoved into the basement by the old man. This perspective shows the haunted hotel somehow holding Claire hostage and intentionally getting her into the basement to take her life.

The second believer may not necessarily think that the ghosts of the Yankee Pedlar are malicious, but they do, in fact, exist and literally scared Claire to death by asthma attack.

The third believer might think that Claire got caught up in old ghost stories while wandering around a hotel alone at night. Maybe Claire didn’t see anything in the basement other than what her own imagination conjured up, and the hotel wasn’t haunted until she died in it and is left to haunt it herself.

The skeptic watches the movie and sees a young girl led further into the depths of her own imagination by immersing herself in ghost stories and haunted history. She believed so intensely in the ghost of Madeline O’Malley. Her panic was further fueled by Leane Rease-Jones telling her she needed to leave the hotel. By the time Claire saw the old man dead upstairs, shock set in, and since she believed in the ghost of Madeline O’Malley and believed that it was a malicious entity trying to kill her, it was, and it did.

In the end, no matter how you watch the movie or what type of ghost Madeline O’Malley and the elderly man are, there seems to be no escaping fate for Claire.

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