The Villa Theresa Guest Bed and Breakfast House (traditional name) was built in South Dakota, on a large hill that commands a beautiful view of downtown Hot Springs and the southern edge of the black hills area. It is conveniently located near the local hot springs, that the nearby town takes its name from.
Address: Villa Theresa Guest House Bed & Breakfast (The Toal House), 801 Almond Street, Hot Springs, South Dakota 57747.
George & Rebecca Toal, Innkeepers - Web-Site: BlackhillsGuesthouse.com
Described as having a rambling structure of about 5,000 square feet total. This includes twenty rooms, a unique, one of a kind octagonal centrally located living room, with a 2 and a half story "intricately stenciled" oak ceiling. This guest house features beautiful hardwood floors, 7 outside doors, and a narrow, winding staircase in the living room that leads to a trap door opening in the ceiling, which in turn opens up into a "hidden room" in the house's cupola. The cupola has almost continuous observation windows, offering the lucky guest "dramatic" views of the red rock cliffs.
"The inn boasts seven bedrooms, each with its own private bathroom, of which some have showers, some have bathtubs and two have 2-person Jacuzzi tubs. The inn features front and rear covered porches and guests are encouraged to relax and enjoy the view during their stay. Breakfast is served each morning in the formal dining room."
This structure was originally built by developer Fred T. Evans, in 1891, with the purpose of being a retreat spot for well-to-do, Iowa businessmen wanting some rest and recreation. Some came, of course, to take advantage of the local hot springs, enjoy the view and the chance to just relax. However, others were more rowdy, and their retreat activities took the form of gambling, partying, and being serviced by the local ladies of the night, who practiced their trade in the two small bed rooms off the main living room.
In 1916, a Spanish-styled mansion, Villa Theresa was built on the property near by. In 1925, Evan's Guest House was bought by the same people who owned the mansion. It became the guest house of the Villa Theresa Mansion.
In 1974, the Akhtar family bought the guest house and lived there until the mid-1980s. It was owned briefly by someone else until 1990, when it was bought by the current owners, who renovated the structure extensively, transforming it into an upscale bed and breakfast inn, now called The Villa Theresa Guest House.
Most of the ghostly occurrences that the Akhtar family witnessed happened in the first two years of their stay in this structure. The family never felt quite comfortable in their house, like some presences didn't like them, a traditional family of a husband, wife, and five children.
1) Apparitions Seen on the Winding Staircase
* While sitting on a couch in a corner of the living room, across from the bottom of the staircase Mrs. Akhtar looked up and saw in an instant, a flesh and blood apparition of a very elegant, beautiful woman walking down the stairs, looking straight ahead, with her hand on the rail. This woman was wearing a long, turn-of-the-century evening gown, that had a thin, lacy ruffle on its bodice. Her shimmering, brown hair was pulled back into a bun. She took a few steps and then disappeared. This apparition could've been Mrs. Theresa Evans, a gambler's wife, or even one of the prostitutes on her way to work.
* While sitting on this same couch, Mrs. Akhtar and her son both saw half way up the staircase, a male apparition, with his hands curled around the banister intently glowering at them in a unfriendly fashion. He wasn't a flesh and blood type apparition, but more of a black and white type, like you see in old photographs. This menacing apparition was crouching behind a railing on a step located just outside one of the bedchambers used for prostitution. When she made eye contact, she was filled with an uneasiness.
* On a landing about half-way up to the trap door to the cupola on the staircase, Mrs. Akhtar was witness to a frightening scene. On this landing she saw an early-forties, wavy-haired man wearing pants and long sleeved shirt. Standing across from him stood an Hispanic woman who came up to his chin. She was wearing a '50s style, full poodle skirt, and white, roll-down socks. They were having a heated quarrel, that turned into a vicious fight. Suddenly, the woman grabbed his hair, and he threw her over the railing, in a fit of temper. Some sources have told Mrs. Akhtar that a young maid that had worked there during the fifties, had suddenly disappeared without a trace. A psychic friend of Mr. Akhtar told them that a woman had been killed there by a violent-tempered man, and was thrown into the river. The owner of the guest house during this time period, was known for his violent temper, but there is no proof of this.
2) While busy doing something in the living room, Mrs. Akhtar kept looking up at her cute little dog who was standing on the landing above her, peaking through the railing at her. Then, when she looked up again, the dog suddenly wasn't there, but was sitting at the bottom of the staircase, starring at something that was above him on the landing. It was too short a time for the dog to run down the stairs. Something had floated him downstairs.
3) One of her son's friends was sleeping over in a guest bedroom located in the basement. He became frightened when he saw the door knob on an outside door turn by itself all by itself. He had thrown the door open, thinking that the son was playing a trick on him. No one was there.
4) Another friend of the son of Mrs. Akhtar spent the night in the living room because of a big snow storm. He was frightened by an eerie blue light that moved around the ceiling of the living room. Shortly before he saw this blue light, the boy and the son had briefly seen an apparition, dressed in a dark suit, glide quickly from the house's entryway into the front bedroom.
5) One of Mr. Akhtar's brothers was sleeping on the living room couch bed. He awoke to hear noises coming from the cupola room. Since the trap door was left open, he saw a red light moving around that room, making noises like someone was up there.
6) The Hunters bought the guest house in 1990, with plans to renovate the place, and turn it into a life long dream of running a nice bed and breakfast in their retirement years. After a year of fixing up this old structure in a grand manner, they opened The Villa Theresa Guest House. It now is home to lovely antiques, heirloom furniture, pioneer quilts, and paintings of South Dakota painter, Harvey Thomas that depict pioneer life in South Dakota. Each bedroom is beautifully decorated in a western flair, and the three main bedrooms are named after the wives of former owners.
* During their first night in the guest house, Mrs. Hunter awoke to see an apparition's face, hovering over her. She later identified the face as being a former owner, Chicago developer F. O. Butler.
* A few weeks after the Hunters had opened their new bed and breakfast, their son came to visit them, and stayed in one of the small bed chambers off the living room, which were the old brothel rooms. He had a hard time sleeping, because he felt an unseen presence was carefully watching him all night.
Probably, but only occasionally.
After the above incident in the old brothel room, the spirits have been quiet and nearly non-active. There have been relatively few ghostly occurrences, perhaps because the Hunters did such a great job fixing up the place, making it once again into a guest house, a really nice one at that! Naming the rooms after past wives must have pleased some of the spiritual residents here. They also must like and accept the Hunters, who are not only native South Dakotans, but don't have any noisy, young children living with them.