One of the things I liked doing best while we were in Istanbul was visiting the Pera Palace Hotel. Or, as it’s known in Turkish, Pera Palas Otel.
We didn’t stay there (out of our price range), but I made a point of finding it. In a manner of speaking, you could say it’s haunted. Though not by the traditional type of ghosts I normally seek. This was once a quite posh haunt (still is) to many a famous person visiting Istanbul, such as
- Ernest Hemingway
- Greta Garbo
- Sarah Bernhardt
- Queen Elizabeth II
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (who was the first President of Turkey, credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey, and who is still much beloved by his people, who go to great lengths and take great pride in ensuring his legacy and vision for the country lives on. Room 101, where he preferred to stay, is designated as the Ataturk Museum Room and displays many of his personal belongings.)
But the former guest I was most intrigued by, and one who also has a room named after her (but which you can stay in), was the legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie.
It’s thought she wrote Murder on the Orient Express while staying in Room 411. But what adds to the room’s mystique is what a psychic said was hidden within: the key to Christie’s 11-day disappearance in 1926.
In fact, medium and clairvoyant, Tamara Rand, held a seance in 1979 in which she divulged contact had been made. Christie’s spirit pointed her to an actual key hidden in room 411 of the Pera Palace hotel. The key supposedly fit the lock of a box containing a diary that explained Christie’s 11 missing days.
In 1979, a key was found in the room. Trouble is, if there was a locked box with a diary detailing the days she disappeared, where was it? It’s still not been found.
Also complicating matters was another key marked “Room 411” that was discovered in 1986–but in room 511. To this day the mystery endures whether it’s at all related to Agatha Christie, her missing diary, or her unaccounted for 11 days.
All I know was roaming the grand old hotel’s floors was thrilling. Mainly because, as I mentioned before, we weren’t staying there. We walked in with the sole purpose of finding Agatha Christie’s room and snapping a photo of it.
No one dared divulge whether ghosts roam there or not. But it was easy to imagine thanks to the impeccably preserved classic elegance that keeps the hotel’s historic past very much alive.