Waking up in a haunted hotel every day may seem like a living nightmare, but for Blair Murphy, it’s a reality.
As the owner and operator of the Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, Pennsylvania (USA), mysterious noises and unexplainable occurrences are just a part of normal life when living in a 130-year-old historic building.
Although the walls dawn taxidermized animal heads and showcase the portraits of ghosts that haunt the hallways – those are not the only things that make the place spookier than an average residence.
Even though it contains the dreaded “Canopy Room” that most guests cannot bear to stay the full night in, there are two particular eccentricities within the structure that make the Grand Midway Hotel stand out above the rest: the world’s largest Ouija Board and largest Tarot Card.
"The Grand Midway Hotel was an old coal mining hotel from the late 1880s," explains Blair. "I could recall countless ghost encounter stories from folks who have stayed the night here. It's actually been a fascinating place to live. But then the paranormal buzzing sort of went silent for about two years."
Inspiration for the super-sized board came as a direct result of the two-year lull, when Blair and then-girlfriend Camille Zamboni decided to play with the Hasbro-created Ouija game back in 2016 to see if they could rile up any spirits.
After a night of playing the board and communicating with spirits within the Edgar Allen Poe Room, the two found themselves with the idea of making the world’s largest board on top of the roof of the hotel.
"Shortly after that night, things flipped out throughout the hotel. Energies were swirling. Guests were getting completely freaked out," says Blair. "It seemed to kick things up into an entirely new level of paranormal activity. We were seeing floating people and hearing voices and even the hotel pets were flipping out and reacting to unseen forces. Our dreams were pretty wild.
"And it wasn't just us. Other longer-term hotel residents were saying 'there is absolutely something going on here' and having their own middle of the night weird encounters."
The final 121.01 m² (1,302.54 ft²) board took weeks to finish, after a lot of planning and coordination between team members Brian Cano, James Bertolasio, Mark Portante, Mark Swindler, Nova Lox, Luke Hoffman, Camille Zamboni, and project leader Blair Murphy.
As a dedicated artist, Camille Zamboni spearheaded the painting of the board, making sure the lettering was an exact replica of the board per Guinness World Records guidelines.
"After we were done, some really strange things started to happen. Blair and I were sleeping and in the middle of the night, we woke up because we both heard my son screaming. Except, he wasn’t staying in the hotel that night," said Camille.
Camille also mentions her and Blair saw "angry" versions of each other when the other person was nowhere in sight.
"I remember I had gone to sleep and I woke up to him yelling and screaming at the end of the bed. I was so confused because he never does that, so I asked 'what’s going on?' and when I looked again he wasn’t there. He had been in his study the whole time. Similarly, on a different day, Blair saw me in the attic running my mouth and yelling about something and started to respond to ‘me’. However, I wasn’t in the hotel – I had left to go run errands when that happened."
Now located on the roof of the third floor of the hotel, the irony of the placement is that the inventor of the original Ouija Board William Fuld actually died after falling off the roof of a third-story building.
Even with these chilling occurrences and coincidences, it wasn’t enough to stop the team at The Grand Midway hotel from achieving other records.
As Blair himself is quite the artist and filmmaker, he decided that creating the world’s largest tarot card would be a fitting addition to all of the ongoing work he had done to the hotel since he first acquired in it 2001.
“I've always looked at it like the hotel chose me. I was living in Los Angeles when an ad for the historic Pennsylvania hotel showed up in my email one day like a creepy spirit finger from the grave, tapping for my attention, saying 'buy me... move here... live here... this will be fantastic...' It has been one fantastic adventure,” said Blair.
The son of two funeral directors, Blair was used to being around death as a child; something that played a big part in his interest in the numerous paranormal experiences that are said to regularly occur in his haunted home which boasts 32 rooms of chilling themes.
These rooms have a variety of different moods, ranging from the Vampire Room which contains a hidden passage to attached quarters full of coffins, all the way to the Magician’s Room, where one needs to push through a secret bookcase in order to enter into the dark residence.
The Canopy Room, which is said to be haunted by a ghost who died there decades ago – is by far the most terrifying in the building.
With a life-size doll and Victorian décor surrounding the area – many claim that they’ve felt spirits touch them or have seen ghosts appear in the room.
So it's no wonder that with all of the eclectic and strange artifacts that exist around the hotel – Blair would want to add another record-breaking object to the establishment.
After recruiting painter Terrence Kauffman in 2017, the pair worked together to form a 6.42 m (21 ft 1 in) long, 4.87 m (16 ft 0 in) wide card that now hangs suspended on the ceiling of the first-floor library.
Both Terrence and Blair chose The Universe card from the Thoth Deck as the symbol for the record.
Unlike some of the sinister components to The Grand Midway Hotel, this card symbolizes positivity and satisfaction – as it represents good fortune and reward for one getting out of life what he or she has worked hard for.
Similar to the woman dancing in the center of the image, this particular card is representative of a celebration, and happiness of making success a reality.
Given this particular card now holds a Guinness World Records title, it seems to be quite effective.
This is the first time artist Terrence worked on a record – as his day job consists of being a tattoo artist.
He mentions that he is happy to work on one of the many projects Blair has done to put Windber, Pennsylvania on the map.
And despite recent headlines of another Ouija Board claiming to have broken his record title, Blair still holds the official Guinness World Records title per the guidelines and submitted evidence.
The rivalry has inspired him to continue pursuing more records in future, as he is now pondering the idea of creating the world’s largest coffin in the historic church he recently acquired down the street from the hotel, which now hosts the chilling Anne Rice doll collection.
Now, many who have caught wind of the extraordinary record titles have now flocked to see them in person, and are impressed with the story that encompasses 19th Century historic building.
Long-term residents of the Grand Midway such as Synthia Berns, recognizes his hard work and ambition.
"It's really great to see what Blair has done for the community, he has just brought so many people together and it’s such an honour for the town to be able to have two Guinness World Records titles. I am just in awe of the incredible work he has done."
Want to learn more about The Grand Midway Hotel? Check it out, here.