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Photograph of Kate Morgan taken circa 1886
Fremont County, Iowa
|Died||November 28, 1892 (aged 28)
|Other names||Lottie A. Bernard|
|Known for||Ghost of the Hotel del Coronado|
Kate Morgan (1865–1892) was an American woman who died under mysterious circumstances, and is thought by locals to be a ghost at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. She was buried at nearby Mount Hope Cemetery in Division 5 Section 1.
November 9, 1870, Kate's father, George Washington Farmer, was appointed to be the Postmaster of Hamburg, Iowa. He remarried in 1871, fathered two more daughters and then moved to Texas, where he died in 1876.
Around 1890 Kate ran off with Albert Allen, a stepson of Tom's stepmother, Emily Dennison Allen Morgan.
Kate was hired as a housemaid by the Grant family in Los Angeles and told her co-workers she was married to a gambler. From this statement, Tom Morgan was assumed to be the gambler in question, but in fact, he was a rural mail carrier in Burchard, Nebraska at the time of Kate's death on November 28, 1892.
She was found dead on November 29, 1892, on the exterior staircase leading to the beach, of what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. This was five days after checking into the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado. A San Francisco lawyer, the late Alan May, speculated in the 1980s that her death involved foul play. Evidence for the alleged homicide was a passing statement (or misstatement), during the coroner's inquest, that the bullet found in her head did not match that of her own gun. Nevertheless, whatever the merits of his book, he did revive interest in the subject by causing a stir with his murder theory. Officials who reviewed his speculations chose not to reopen the case.
There has never been any evidence that tied Kate Morgan to the death of "Lottie Bernard" at the Hotel del Coronado, although several authors have attempted to do so. Kate Morgan's family or friends never came to identify the body, and the photo of Kate Morgan given by her employer did not look anything like the "Beautiful Stranger" that described the deceased. According to the Los Angeles Herald, dated December 9, 1892, it states that "cabinet size photograph of Mrs. Morgan, found among others, shows her to be a woman of about 28 years of age, black eyes, large ears, rather large open face and somewhat course features; her mouth is rather large and lips thick. The photograph contained no marks and had evidently been taken recently. The photograph does not denote the appearance of a woman accustomed to stopping at first-class hotels as a guest, or one who wears lace shawls; neither does it show her to be pretty, and the features certainly are not those of a highly educated woman." Although the article was blatantly ignorant in its claim that one could tell the difference between and educated and uneducated woman, it does make a valid point on the difference in ones social status and appearance.
According to author and historian J'aime Rubio, the identity of the woman found dead on the steps of the Hotel del Coronado was none other than Charlotte "Lottie" Barnard of Detroit, Michigan. There is a Charlotte Barnard listed as living in Detroit in the 1890 & 1891 Census. Her address was at 351 High Street (West) and amazingly around the time of the death of the Beautiful Stranger, Charlotte Barnard disappears from any further listings in either the Census or the Detroit Directories. After extensive research of the Coroner's Inquest report, documentation and archived newspapers, it seems that the Kate Morgan theory does not stand up when analyzed thoroughly. Rubio's research claims that Kate Morgan may not have died, but disappeared to San Francisco and was later listed on the San Francisco Census in 1900.
The hotel's Heritage Department has published an official book on this subject, written by the hotel's professional historian, titled The Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and The Hotel del Coronado. It avoids speculation in its research of historical documents available in local public libraries, historical societies, and university libraries as well as city hall and police files. The Heritage Department's book leans toward the official suicide verdict.
There are three other books available now. John T. Cullen has written two: his first, updated in 2008 is Dead Move: Kate Morgan and the Haunting Mystery of Coronado, Second Edition, is a non-fiction account of the mystery. His second is Lethal Journey, a novel published in August 2009.
The third book is The Ghost of the Hotel del Coronado, The TRUE Story of Kate Morgan, by Terry Girardot. Kate's husband, Tom Morgan, was the half-brother of his maternal grandmother, and his book contains full versions of all articles from the San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco newspapers from that period, along with documents from his genealogy research including the original telegram sent to Tom advising him of Kate's suicide. Tom's granddaughter provided him with the photograph of Kate seen on this page.
In Popular Culture
Although the band has not released any relevant information regarding this subject, Kate Morgan's passing is thought by many to be the inspiration for The Album Track "Coronado" from the album "Halcyon Digest" by Indie Group "Deerhunter".
- Gravestone, Mt. Olive Cemetery, Hamburg, Iowa
- Affidavit of Joseph Chandler, August 12, 1879, in the matter of the Estate of George W. Farmer
- National Archives, Old Military and Civil Records
- Biography of Henry Eubank, "Wheatheart of the Plains - An Early History of Ochiltree County, 1969
- Affidavit of B.M. Burke, County Clerk, McCullouch County, Texas, July 7, 1880, in the matter of the Estate of George W. Farmer
- Marriage Certificate
- Gravestone, Utterback Cemetery, Riverton, Iowa
- Written statement by Tom Morgan's daughter
- Tom Morgan's obituary
- Alan M. May. The Legend of Kate Morgan: The Search for the Ghost of the Hotel del Coronado. ISBN 1-122-26574-3
- "Who Was The Beautiful Stranger?" Part 1-4, Dreaming Casually Publications.
- "Who Was The Beautiful Stranger? Part 4, Lottie Barnard." Dreaming Casually Publications
- Census Records, FamilySearch.com
- Official website, Hotel del Coronado, History
- Official Heritage Dept. Book, The Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and The Hotel del Coronado ISBN 978-0-916251-73-4