SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Dunsmuir is a quaint little town nestled in the mountains of Northern California, and one hotel in the area has quite the haunted past. On the week of Oct. 16, that haunted history got a little more colorful.

On Sunday Oct. 16, Hotel Dunsmuir owner Mark Juarez was having a normal day renovating his historical hotel when one of his guests noticed the faint smell of smoke. Juarez says he found the source of the fire in room 106, on the first floor, before putting it out with a fire extinguisher, “which felt like overkill,” Juarez told KRON4.

Juarez says the initial fire looked small and went out without a problem. As he rallied his contractor, asked a woman to call the fire department and prepared to get the guests out of the lobby in just in case, the fire somehow reignited. When Juarez and his contractor returned to room 106, it was fully engulfed in flames.

The men proceeded to empty three fire extinguishers into the fire, but Juarez says they had no effect on the rising blaze. Fire crews arrived on scene and mitigated the fire a short while later, but Juarez says the incident has still left him with many questions, like how did this fire start?

Fire crews on scene at the Hotel Dunsmuir fire on Oct. 16 (Photo courtesy of Mark Juarez)

Hotel Dunsmuir sustained a significant amount of smoke damage in the fire, and Juarez says the city of Dunsmuir won’t allow him to reopen and host guests until a fire inspector comes to check out the property. Juarez says because the Dunsmuir area is so small he has had a tough time getting ahold of an inspector.

KRON4 reached out to the Dunsmuir Fire team to get more information, but the email was not returned.

Hotel Dunsmuir History

Locals have known Hotel Dunsmuir to be a haunted location due to it’s colorful history. The hotel is 5 stories tall–the tallest in the county–but you wouldn’t know it because the floors are inverted, meaning they go 4 floors down into the ground.

According to Hotel Dunsmuir’s website, the hotel was built in the 1800s, but the first structure burned down in a large fire in 1903 which devastated the town. The building was rebuilt and called The Weed Hotel in 1904, with renovations built “around the building’s original brick skeleton.”

In the 1940s, the hotel was refurbished in an Art Deco style and became known as “Dunsmuir’s Finest,” according to the website. There’s even rumors that John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe would meet up in Dunsmuir.

Juarez says the paranormal history of the hotel is some of the most interesting. A paranormal expert toured the hotel and told Juarez that there are 13 ghosts living there.

“He said the ghosts are friendly, they are here to protect you. They’re not gonna let you get hurt,” Juarez tells KRON4.

Filming of ‘Hotel Dunsmuir’

The history and rumored hauntings in the hotel drew film director and visual artist Michael Zaiko Hall to shoot his latest film “Hotel Dunsmuir” at the location in 2020.

“My producer stayed at the real Hotel Dunsmuir one night. He wrote me and said, ‘There is something very strange about this place,'” Hall told KRON4. After meeting with the owner and touring the hotel himself, he knew it was the right place to film.

All cast members who booked the film also signed on to stay at the hotel for the duration of the shoot. Lead acress Jet Jandreau was excited about the idea of staying there, even after odd things started happening.

“My ghost experience happened on the very first night I was there. The ghosts were checking out all of these new people,” Jandreau said. The day she arrived Jandreau removed all of the throw pillows from the bed in her room because they weren’t her taste. However, Jandreau says that she woke up in the middle of the night one of the largest throw pillows was at her feet on the bed.

KRON On is streaming now

“I thought to myself, ‘Okay, I know someone is trying to make me aware that this is their space,’” Jandreau told KRON4.

Jandreau wasn’t the only one to report strange happenings during filming. Hall says he experienced some inexplicable incidents as well. According to Hall, he was alone in a quiet room when, “suddenly the faucets in the bathroom just turned themselves on full blast. It was extremely shocking,” Hall told KRON4.

During filming in April of 2021, Juarez, Hall and Jandreau got a bit of a surprise from a group of birds. Around 10 p.m. one night over 500 birds, later identified by Juarez as chimney swifts, flew into the lobby of the hotel and made themselves right at home. Juarez tells KRON4 the five people in the lobby carried the birds out of the hotel one by one and released them.

In mid October “Hotel Dunsmuir” was released on streaming platforms. The film also premiered at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, where Hall won the Best Director award.

Visiting Hotel Dunsmuir

Juarez hopes that his hotel can spark more tourists to visit Dunsmuir and check out its beauty. He believes that the hotel’s new scars from the recent fire only add more character to the story of the establishment. If you get a chance to visit the town of Dunsmuir pay close attention to the locals nearby–some were cast in roles in “Hotel Dunsmuir,” giving the film an added note of local gravitas.

“We cast locals, people from Dunsmuir, and they pulled it off!” Juarez said of the performances.