Terror at the Battery Park Hotel

Posted by junketseo in Asheville Ghost Tours
Terror at the Battery Park Hotel - Photo

Asheville’s heyday ran adjacent to the development of the railroads. Flocks of thousands by rail to the temperate mountain city, escaping the pressures of modern life. The Battery Park Hotel rose from the steam and iron, becoming a favorite for the weary traveler. But, it wasn’t before long that a grizzly murder occurred here, tarnishing the hotel and leaving a permanent spiritual stain throughout the fourth floor. 

A 19-year-old girl named Helen Clevenger was shot to death on July 17th, 1936. A thunderous storm the night prior had left her murder unnoticed. A 22-year-old African-American bellhop Martin Moore was arrested eleven days after the young girl’s death. Six months later, he was executed in the state gas chambers. With little evidence against him and a forced confession, he is considered nothing more than an unfortunate scapegoat. 

The spirits of Clevenger and Moore haunt the Battery Park Hotel, a continuous reminder of that tragic night in “The Land of The Sky.”

Who haunts the Battery Park Hotel?

Helen Clevenger, a young girl murdered in her hotel room, and Martin Moore, the man falsely accused of her murder and later executed. 

Spirits of the Battery Park Hotel

The spirits of these characters now haunt the hotel, their story seemingly taken out of film noir. Why do they relentlessly roam the hallways of the fourth floor? Where did their justice go, and what was their fight?

For more fascinating stories and more haunted locations, follow our blog! Enjoy tales of terror and mystery from all around the Asheville area. 

The Murder of Helen Clevenger

A thunderous storm ran through the city of Asheville on July 16th, 1936. Each colossal clap reverberates against the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in the chaos, a young girl is murdered. They say the gunshot rang out sometime after 10:30 pm, muddled by the storm, becoming just another enormous boom in the night. 

Her body was found, her face badly beaten, and a .32 caliber wound in her chest the following day at 7:30 am. Her Uncle, William Clevenger, with whom she had been traveling, went to wake her only to find her deceased corpse. Helen was on a road trip with William, a nearby North Carolina State University professor, and had just finished her first year at NYU. An honor student and budding young adult, it was sadly her first adventure outside the confines of her studies and home life. 

An investigation immediately took place after her body was discovered. There was little evidence, but a bellhop told police about a mysterious man of about 5’ 9” walking around the lobby late that evening. Eleven days later, a suspect was brought into custody: Martin Moore. Much more prominent than the previous profile, a confession was the only evidence against it. Moore was sentenced to death and gassed in December 1936. 

The Spirit of Martin Moore

Americans did not soon forget about the young girl from NYU. Her murder occurred in one of the prestigious hotels the Blue Ridge Mountains had to offer. The hotel and its predecessor, which shared the same name, served the elite, housing such respectable guests as George Vanderbilt and Babe Ruth. The murder of Helen Clevenger shook the United States to its core at the time and spelled lousy business for the Battery Park Hotel.

A violent African-American man murdered a young girl. This picture struck horror in the hearts of 1930s America, a predominantly white society. His “confession” was beaten out of him over several days by a New York detective. The hotel wanted to put an end to this fiasco and needed a scapegoat to do so. A poor, young black man portrayed the typical villain of the time and aroused little questions. 

His spirit remains restless within the Battery Park Hotel. The injustice brought upon him has left his tormented soul trapped in limbo within the building. The Art Deco building now operates as apartments and senior living. One service elevator is constantly under repair, which runs by itself late into the night. Guests file complaints against it, as it is serviced but continues to cause a stir. This was Martine Moore’s elevator during the old days of the hotel. 

Suspects in Helen Clevenger’s Murder

Others have been brought up as suspects in Helen Clevenger’s murder. From the ordinary to the unusual, none have ever been brought into custody and likely never will. 

Suspects in Helen Clevenger’s Murder:

  • The nephew of a hotel manager
  • German Violinist Mark Wollner 
  • Author F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Starting with the most outlandish is always the most fun. Asheville Historic Inn claims a loose connection between the famous author and the murderer. He was in Asheville during the summer of 1936 and in a manic state of affairs. His wife Zelda had been recently admitted to a nearby hospital to be treated for schizophrenia. Fitzgerald followed this with a suicide attempt, and one harrowing night he chased a bellhop around with a gun. 

The Grove Inn, a hotel not entirely far from the Battery Park Hotel, promptly kicked him out. Fitzgerald was around 5’ 9” and could have wandered over to Battery Park in a manic, alcohol and drug-fueled craze. 

German Violinist Mark Wollner seems to be the most likely suspect. It was noted that Wollner liked to escort daughters of the wealthy back to their rooms. He was staying in the hotel at the time and was even questioned but was later released. A taxi driver saw a man jump from a balcony that night, and Wollner had an odd limp while talking to the police. 

Wollner moved to nearby Hendersonville shortly after the murder and lived there until he died in 1969. Five unsolved murders occurred between his arrival and death, all similar in character and structure to Clevenger’s. 

Helen Clevenger’s Spirit

Many approached the Battery Park Hotel with caution as news of Helen Clevenger’s death spread across the country. But as the automobile overtook railway passenger cars, fewer needed such hefty overnight accommodations. The hotel eventually shuddered and was renovated into a senior living home and later apartments. 

For those in tune with the spiritual world, such as the many tour guides that stop at the hotel, they feel the overbearing presence of Clevenger’s spirit. Residents and the apartment staff refuse to rent out Clevenger’s old room. The third floor has seen its fair share of shadow figures and disembodied voices. 

But, the most terrifying reports flood in on the anniversary of her death. A strange light emanates from the room where Clevenger lost her life. It shines brightest around 10:30 pm when Clevenger is brutally beaten and shot through the chest. 

What Spiritual Activity Happens at The Battery Park Hotel?

A bright red light shines out of a room on the third floor on the anniversary of Helen Clevenger’s death (a young girl murdered in 1936). 

Next time you find yourself in Asheville, North Carolina, take a ghost tour with Asheville Terrors. We take you to The Battery Park Hotel and other terrifying locations on an informative and thrill-filled adventure.