Oregon has its fair share of spooky stories to delve into for the Halloween season. From the spirits at Heceta Lighthouse to Polybius, the mind-controlling video game, and Wally the Wallowa Lake monster to the coastal Bandage Man, most of these stories are easily debunked. However, a historic hotel in Southern Oregon has an authentic and tragic backstory worthy of a ghost.
Constructed in 1905, the Baldwin Hotel Museum is the oldest public building in Klamath Falls and remains haunted by the story — if not the spirit — of former proprietor and local photographer Maud Baldwin.
Illuminating flashlight tours
Todd Kepple of the Klamath County Museum likes to begin the Baldwin Hotel Museum’s popular evening flashlight tours from outside, near the street.
He tells visitors, “Imagine what the building looked like when it opened. It was the tallest in Southern Oregon at the time, and brick buildings were fairly uncommon.”
In September and October, the museum offers special guided tours of the historic hotel.
Kepple says touring via flashlight offers a different sensory experience than just viewing the museum in the daytime, allowing visitors a chance to focus on each object: “When it is dark, and you have a flashlight, you can highlight one item at a time in a more meaningful way.”
The restored building features 40 rooms decorated in 1910-era artifacts, including a kitchen, laundry room, music parlor, doctor’s office and a fourth-floor photography studio complete with photographs — and a haunting backstory.
A lingering presence
A century ago, local photographer Maud Baldwin and businesswoman worked out of hotel room 401, processing thousands of photographs documenting the Klamath Basin.
In May 1926, she took her own life near the hotel. The evening newspaper reported on the discovery of her body.
Stories claim Maud, or some other spirit, still resides at the museum. The Haunted Places website states: “Many reports of historical figure Maud Baldwin and various other tenants have been reported seen at or near the hotel. Strange sounds, lights, and noises also reported. Figures and shadows seen from windows also noted.”
Most nights, a glowing light appears from Maud’s former fourth-story room. From the road below, that single light may look eerie — but as Kepple explains, there is a rational explanation. “We always leave a light on in Maud’s studio. It’s just our way of paying our respects.”
Kepple says the museum has no record of paranormal activity and stresses that the Baldwin Hotel offers much more than a ghost story: “It’s a treasure most people have never discovered. Once they do, then they are amazed.”
Maud proved to be a talented photographer and active community member, but Kepple thinks her self-portraits hint at her emotional turmoil: “She seems to carry ennui.” He explains, “We have several pictures of Maud, and in every one of them, she has a melancholic look.”
The Baldwin family business
Maud’s father, George, was a prominent businessman and politician in Southern Oregon. He arrived in Linkville, now Klamath Falls, in 1874.
According to newspaper reports, in 1906, he opened the four-story “Baldwin Block” as a mixed-use building constructed into the rocky hillside.
The building stood out as the tallest building in Southern Oregon at the time and one of the few built of brick. The Baldwin hardware store sat on the ground floor, while other stories offered office and apartment space.
Anticipating the arrival of the railroad and growing demand for overnight lodging, George transformed the building into a hotel and restaurant with modern luxuries, including hot and cold running water in every room. In 1909, rooms started at a dollar a day.
In 1911, he expanded the hotel with additional rooms and an elegant lobby. The local newspaper reported, “the Baldwin Hotel will soon be one of the best equipped and appointed hotels in the entire state.”
The guest register includes names like John Muir, Zane Grey and four Presidents: James Garfield, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, the last of whom visited several times on his way to Crater Lake.
The fourth floor included a photography studio reserved for his daughter Maud. Today, her equipment and reproductions of her work remain on display.
A photographic legacy
Born in 1878, Maud showed an early interest in photography, eventually attending the California College of Photography in Palo Alto.
Throughout the 1890s to 1910s, Maud took thousands of images of the Klamath Basin — no easy feat at the time. The equipment proved both fragile and bulky, and the processing labor intensive.
Still, she hauled her equipment everywhere. Her efforts paid off with priceless scenes. She captured images of Klamath and Modoc people, loggers and ranchers, along with thousands of wildlife and landscape photographs.
Kepple says, “Her photos were beautifully composed and remain an absolute treasure for us.”
By her late 30s, her photographic interests dwindled, and she spent more time in civic and social life. As her mother’s health deteriorated, she became the family’s full time caregiver.
In 1920, her father’s death hit her hard, leaving her with heavy responsibilities. Despite having other siblings, she became responsible for caring for her mother and the Baldwin businesses, including the hotel.
According to those who knew her, in the mid-1920s, she began what was described as a doomed romance. Kepple says that, as the story goes, she fell in love with a hotel worker but he had set his sights on Alaska. Maud, burdened with family responsibilities, had to stay behind.
In 1926, at age 47, Maud drowned herself in the Link River near the Baldwin Hotel, leaving a suicide note that she was “going insane” and that they could find her near the lake.
The Klamath Falls Evening Herald reported, “Culminating a life of unselfish devotion for those she loved and believing the strain she was under would cause her to lose her mind (she) drowned herself in Link River.”
Over the years, the hotel changed hands and finally closed in 1977. The following year, in 1978, it became a public museum.
The Baldwin Hotel Museum is open through the summer months and for special events. This month includes the flashlight tours and a weekly Monday night concert series.
If you go
Once you’ve reconciled with the spectral risks, here are the details for how to enjoy the museum by flashlight:
- Available weekends through Saturday, Oct. 28.
- The hour-long tour costs $10 per person and must be prepaid by calling the Klamath County Museum at 541-882-1000.
- Flashlights are provided.
- Group size is limited to six people.
“Oregon Experience” behind the scenes
In 2011, while the hotel museum was closed to the public, Todd Kepple of the Klamath County Museum allowed the “Oregon Experience” crew to use the hotel lobby for some filming.
During our few hours there, we explored the quiet rooms of the old building. Of course, we specifically inspected Maud’s photography studio on the deserted fourth floor.
I’m disappointed to report that we didn’t have any interactions with Maud or any other spectral encounters. That said, inside the meticulously decorated hotel filled with original artifacts and her stunning photography, Maud’s legacy continues to live on in the museum.