I had been friends with Serena for about 4 years when her childhood home in Billings, Montana burnt down. The year was 2008 and together we were an unstoppable force, known by many as the “party” type. We would talk about boys and dance class and school, but one thing we never talked about was ghosts. Thinking back, I hardly remember any kind of heart to heart with Serena, let alone conversing about what happens after you die. Little did we know this discussion about spectral beings would come to fruition soon enough, in the midst of catastrophe.
Serena’s home went up in flames on a weekday night, destroying everything her family held dear. Thankfully everyone survived unscathed but the fire still shook us to the core. This was the house we had our graduation party at, where we had sleepovers and made memories. We were only 19 and the idea that everything could be lost in an instant was hard to digest. Even so, they picked right up and moved themselves into the 48 year old hotel aptly name The Billings Hotel . Serena quickly went back to her usual self, calling me up late that Friday night to stay with her. I arrived at around 12:30 am as she was on the phone with her boyfriend. Soon after, paranormal hell broke loose.
After parking in an empty lot, I noted that Serena was on the second floor as I entered the hotel. The room had two beds, so I laid myself across one closest to the bathroom as she finished her call on the bed nearest the window. I began texting, trying to pass time while they dragged out their exchange of “I love you’s” but soon after I relaxed, I heard something – tap. tap. taptaptap. The distinct sound of a finger tapping a glass window. I look over at the closed blinds befuddled, but ultimately passing it off as nothing. Then again - TAP. TAP. TAP. Three clear and intentional taps. I turned in panic to my friend, wondering why and how someone was tapping the outside of our second floor window. She quickly hung up and listened with me. It was nearly 1 a.m. now but we were wide awake. Our adrenaline was pumping as we watched the blinds and heard it again. TAPTAPTAP. It was louder now and we knew neither the heat nor the air conditioning was on, as the weather that night was mild.
Serena flew over to my bed faster than I’d ever seen her move and huddled with me in fear. The tapping persisted, even as we turned on the TV in an attempt to ignore it. This nearly worked as we tried sleeping in spite of it until a large SLAP came from the window, as if an entire hand hit the glass to get our attention. Something shuffled near the bathroom at the same time and as fast as it happened, we were out of the room and down the hallway, determined to find answers. I hurried down the stairs and outside, thinking I could see someone reaching over from either room beside ours. Instead, all of the rooms were dark and unoccupied. There were no nearby trees, no people; there was only me, an empty parking lot, and the realization that this was something paranormal. When I went back inside, I tried explaining what was happening to a janitor and to my surprise he was unaffected, as if he had heard similar storied before.
We ran back to our room unsure of what to do next. After closing the door, we called Serena’s brother who was staying down the hall. He answered with an exasperated sigh, “Was that you guys?”, “Was WHAT us?” Serena questioned back, “The knocking on my door all night.” At this point, we were completely baffled. Was this ghost traveling between her families’ rooms? Were there multiple ghosts in this hotel? We asked him to come listen and explore the window area for a logical explanation. However when he arrived, as these stories typically go, the tapping stopped. Her brother stayed for about 15 minutes until finally leaving, tired and unconvinced that paranormal activity was to blame for the bizarre night. We locked the door and got into bed, exhausted. That was when, not even 5 minutes after her brother had left, we heard it faintly one last time…taptaptap.
The morning after, we flew down to the front desk to ask if the hotel was haunted. Much to Serena's families surprise, we were told it was indeed occupied by some ghostly guests. Although the hotel employee didn't say much more, maybe for fear of stirring up something they didn't understand, we knew the truth. The Billings Hotel belonged to the dead. And they wanted our attention.