Who Was The Pink Lady?
If you recall from last week’s column (which, like all of our articles, can be found by clicking on “Archives”), I have been waiting 28 years to meet the Grove Park Inn’s resident ghost, fondly referred to by the hotel staff as The Pink Lady.
Always shy and young, with long, blond hair and wearing a vintage pink gown, for decades she has been making unscheduled appearances in the original 1913 Palm Court (top), startling, but never attempting to frighten, hotel guests. In one instance a small child, after awakening from her nap in the adjoining room, asked her parents, “Where did the nice lady in the pink dress go?”
A local plumber working in the dank crawl space beneath the Great Hall told me, long before any such reports had been published, that the Pink Lady kept hovering around him so much that he refused to go back down there.
I should be so lucky.
Upon hearing these stories people invariably ask, Who was the Pink Lady? or How did she come to be at the Grove Park Inn? Did she die here? And, if so, Why hasn’t anyone found any newspaper stories about her death?
Trust me, I’ve asked the same questions, and I’ve tried to find the answers.
But who would have the time to read through hundreds of thousands of newspaper pages on microfilm looking for a story about a young woman dying at the Grove Park Inn? Keep in mind, too, that had a guest died of natural causes or had she not been a local resident, such a death might not even have been deemed newsworthy. And even if it had been, the cozy relationship between a powerful advertiser like the Grove Park Inn and a small town newspaper, struggling to survive on dwindling advertising revenues, might have prevented it from being publicized.
But, then, there was the young and tragic Annie E. Williams.
On July 12, 1913, the very day of the Grove Park Inn’s grand opening banquet, a Southern Railways passenger train headed to Asheville and carrying the keynote speaker — none other than Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan — was crossing a long wooden trestle bridge outside town when it struck and killed a young woman.
Annie E. Williams was a visiting tourist who had just arrived in Asheville on an earlier train, and was walking along the tracks to a nearby boarding house.
The small newspaper article, buried on the back page of the Asheville Times, reported, “that her head was almost decapitated by the train, Southern No. 15, a few miles out, on a trestle. She had no time to jump before the engine struck her. The young woman was picked up by the train crew under the trestle twenty feet below. The body was carried to a house nearby and will be conveyed to her Florida home, probably today, for interment.”
Now, how much imagination does it require to envision the spirit of young Annie E. Williams rising up from her crumpled body, rudely hurled onto the ground beneath the trestle and the panting train above?
Still wearing her 1913-era gown, now stained pink with blood, she then follows the train that killed her, the train carrying William Jennings Bryan and other political dignitaries, all the way to their final destination: the Grove Park Inn.
Annie E. Williams.
My nomination as The Pink Lady.
Until next Monday,
Make something happen — today!
PS – Not to sound too commercial, but my fascination with the Pink Lady did prompt me to write an historical novel set at the Grove Park Inn on the night of August 27, 1918 entitled “An Unexpected Guest.” To read an exert, click on http://www.AnUnexpectedGuest.com.