'Unsolved Mysteries': A Brief But Morbid History of the Belvedere Hotel

The first episode of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries explores the death of Rey Rivera. In May 2006, the body of newlywed Rey Rivera was found in an abandoned conference room at Baltimore's historic Belvedere Hotel, eight days after he mysteriously disappeared. The Baltimore Police maintained that the 32-year-old committed suicide by jumping from the hotel's roof and fell through the ceiling of the second-story annex. However, the medical examiner declared Rivera's death "unexplained." Many, including his devastated wife, Allison, suspect foul play.

The Belvedere Hotel is considered one of the most haunted places in Baltimore, and is part of walking ghost tours in Mount Vernon. The ritzy hotel opened in December 1903. Throughout more than 100 years of operation, it hosted dozens of celebrities, movie stars, athletes, musicians and presidents. At one point, it was even the tallest building in Baltimore, standing at 188 feet.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Wallis Warfield Simpson, the famous Baltimore socialite whom King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry, frequented the hotel. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald also stayed at the Belvedere Hotel with his wife Zelda in the 1930s. Woodrow Wilson stayed there during the 1912 Democratic National Convention. Later that year, he became the 28th president of the United States.

The hotel saw many society events and weddings, and many used to say "meet me at the Belvedere," the first Unsolved Mysteries episode noted. Parties had tons of booze, exotic animals, and is even rumored to have a simulated wave pool. Although the space was converted to condominiums in 1991, its ballroom, restaurants and lounges were restored for public use and maintain the Belvedere's old-school glamour.

Unsolved Mysteries Netflix Poster
The poster for Netflix's docuseries "Unsolved Mysteries." Netflix

Mikita Brottman's 2018 novel An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere details the hotel's past, along with the mystery surrounding Rivera's death. She noted a few suicides that occurred at the hotel. It appears that even though many people check in, the same amount don't check out of the high-class establishment.

In 1909, six years after the hotel opened, 17-year-old Thomas E. Sutton Jr. checked into the hotel after an outrageous argument with his father, as per the Baltimore Sun. "The father said he feared his son was keeping bad company and took the key from him for that reason," the news outlet reported at the time. Sutton Jr. took his own life by inhaling chloroform.

Several years later, in June 1917, a maid discovered blood dripping from underneath a bedroom door. When hotel staff entered the room, the body of Lawrence Perin, a "local society idol," was found. He was lying on the floor with a gun by his side. Perin checked into the hotel to take his own life, and had left suicide letters indicating his "mental depression" to his mother and his wife, the Washington Post reported.

unsolved mysteries rey rivera
'Unsolved Mysteries' focuses on Rey Rivera (second right) in its first episode Netflix

A year later, a bride was strangled to death in her bridal chambers after being accused of infidelity. In 1918, Bernice Chaney Webster died at the hands of her new husband, Carlyle P. Webster. "I have known the girl I married for nearly two years and I could not believe certain things," the note read, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I have loved her so much, so it is better that we both die together." Carlyle had swallowed poison but was alive when police found him, so between that and the note, it seems that it was a murder-suicide that happened at the Belvedere.

Joe Otterbein, who worked at the hotel in the late '80s, during its last gasp as a great hotel, and Tom Hamrick, who managed the Owl Bar and The 13th Floor bar, said in an oral history for the hotel that a ghost haunts the Belvedere, as per the Baltimore Magazine. A woman caught her husband dancing with his mistress in one of the hotel's ballrooms, and shot him in the 1920s/30s. The man's ghost haunts the 12th floor of the hotel, but only bothers women.

"None of the girls ever wanted to work up there by themselves," Otterbein recalled. "Once in a while, people who worked up there would swear that glasses would fall to the floor and break with nobody nearby, or they'd put something down and a little while later it would be somewhere else."

Harry C. Hassett, who was the president of a brokerage merchandizing firm in Toledo, Ohio, took his own life in 1921. The police received a telegram about a guest who planned on ending their life, but were too late to stop him when they arrived. The Washington Post reported that they found him dead with a gun in each hand, along with a note where Hassett called himself "crazy as a bedbug."

In 1929, the body of William Harvey King, Jr., the assistant to the president of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, was discovered on the roof of Belvedere's second-floor sun parlor. Whether he jumped or died from the fall from his hotel room on the 10th floor remains a mystery.

The same year also saw the suicide of Yale student Leigh Miltz Marlow, the son of Thomas A. Marlow, a prominent name in banking circles in the Northwest and a former member of the Finance Committee of the Republican National Committee, fall from the eighth floor of the Belvedere Hotel to the streets of Baltimore, according to The New York Times.

Baltimore Magazine noted one incident in May 1936 where two 21-year-old girls got their legs caught between the shaft and the ledge of an overloaded elevator. They were then trampled by other shocked hotel guests.

During a time period where the hotel was abandoned, Sam Shapiro was infamously murdered there, the Baltimore Sun reported. Shapiro, who owned several parking lots around Baltimore, was killed in the Belvedere's lobby by a former employee, Doug Arey, in 1973. His body was driven to Pennsylvania and rolled down a hill. Arey went to fetch a shovel to bury the body, but he forgot where he deposited it.

Unsolved Mysteries is available to stream on Netflix.