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.
& 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 front 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.