Kahler Grand Hotel

More From Minnesota

A spirit who was brutally killed by underworld
thugs, visits/stays here for peace and possibly justice.



The Kahler Grand Hotel is described as being “elegant, historic, and wonderfully unpretentious.” The Kahler Grand Hotel prides itself in offering the same philosophy of hospitality and service that it had when it was built so long ago. The eleven storied Kahler Grand Hotel has a 1/2 block of its original structure while its second 1/2 block structure is more modern in architecture. Both the new and the old structures blend seamlessly into one large building. The Kahler Grand has two restaurants and a bar; offering a “casual grill,” and an “upscale eatery,” and a “martini lounge.” There is close access to a spa. The Kahler Grand has a large, domed sky-lit recreation center that includes a rooftop pool, a whirlpool and saunas, and an exercise room with a variety of equipment. Other amenities include: Room Service, Shuttle Service (free), 24-Hour Front Desk, Concierge Service, Shoeshine, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Business Center, Fax/Photocopying, Hair/Beauty Salon, Souvenir/Gift Shop.

The first floor retains its original Tudor Gothic interior architecture, providing the visitor with an ample “wow factor” upon entering the hotel.


Appealing to a wide range of patrons needs and tastes, the accommodations vary from basic economy, to moderate and upscale, and for those who wish the best, the luxurious suites. The hotel has 668 guest rooms, and 15 grand suites to offer its guests under such titles as Executive King Room, King Room, Economy Double Room, Queen Room, and Double Room with Two Double Beds. Though no longer officially a 5-star hotel, the service is still 5-star!

Patients from the Mayo Clinic are also well taken care of. Special diets can be provided when requested. Patients who have day surgery, can relax in a room, and order post surgery food from room service, or have a relaxing massage. Not only is there a subway system to various hospitals and the Mayo Clinic, there is also a skyway directly to The Mayo Clinic. There is also a complementary shuttle service that takes the guest around to areas of The Mayo Clinic campus and shopping areas as well.



The Mayo Brothers wanted to build their hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Being a small country town, Rochester at first couldn’t offer enough places for patients and hospital workers to stay, creating a demand for real estate development in the hospitality field. As a beginning effort, the Mayo Brothers asked John Kahler, of The Kahler Corporation; formed in 1917, to build them this hotel/hospital to be the starting home of this grand, medical vision to offer care to people.

In 1921, The Kahler Grand Hotel started its existence as Rochester’s central landmark property, known then as The Kahler Hotel. This unusual building was a hybrid, one of its kind. This eleven floor structure not only offered services of a up-scale hotel but also as the very beginnings of the Mayo Clinic Hospital, though the hospital was originally called “The Sanitorium.” Six floors of the building were used for hotel purposes and five floors for hospital services, including three operating rooms and several laboratories. “The new Kahler Hotel was designed following John H. Kahler’s unique way of providing hospitality. It was to be a “triple plan”: a 210-bed hospital with operating suites for oral, plastic, and general surgery, a 150-bed convalescent unit, and a 220-room hotel.”

John Kahler, who started out managing The Cook House in Rochester, instilled the philosophy of being “a progressive hotel” from the Kahler Hotel’s opening day. Serving the guests came front and center. “Guests were given every convenience, including perfect service, courtesy, and attention to detail.”

The final cost for this truly elegant and high style hotel was more than $1.75 million dollars which was quite a boatload of money for 1921! “The Tudor Gothic architecture complemented the interior decoration, where cathedral arches and cornices, textured ceilings, crystal chandeliers, damask draperies, and Wilton rugs patterned after English originals treated guests to the ultimate in comfort and luxury.”

As the Mayo Clinic Hospital grew and expanded, so did the Kahler Hotel and other hotels that the Kahler Corp. owned and developed, to provide places for the influx of people coming for medical help. Thanks to the efforts of the Kahler Realty Corporation, and others, a growing hotel industry rose to the need of visitors and hospital employees as well.

During the Depression era, more improvements were made, despite hard economic times. Due to Minnesota’s bitterly cold winters, a pedestrian, tile-lined subway system, was constructed, connecting the downtown Mayo Clinic Campus of patient buildings and hospitals to surrounding hotels and retail.

In 1953, the hospital functions were phased out of The Kahler Hotel. The Kahler Corporation sold all of its hospital holdings, including the Colonial Hospital, The Worrall and Kahler Hall nurses home, to the newly expanded Methodist Hospital.

Using their profits from these sales to expand “its hotel services,” The Kahler Corporation was able to focus on creating better offerings in their hospitality business, appealing not only to patients, but also for tourists, building several hotels aimed at various pocketbooks. Eventually, they developed and owned four hotels in Rochester alone, including The Kahler Hotel, The Kahler Inn & Suites, and The Kahler Plaza Hotel.

For many years, The Kahler Hotel appealed to the rich and famous clientele, as many amenities were improved and added to draw this economic group. An upscale, high class restaurant, The Elizabethan, was located within the hotel. In the years to come, such well-known people as boxer Muhammad Ali, evangelist Billy Graham, actor Jimmy Stewart, King Hussein of Jordan, and Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, stayed at The Kahler Hotel. General Eisenhower did a campaign speech on top of a table in The Elizabethan, during his run for president. Amenities included services expected at a 5-star hotel. The hotel went out of its way to please its guests, indulging in even the “most exacting requests and tastes.”

Some examples of this were provided in Matt Stolle’s article for Postbulletin.com: “Baseball manager Leo Durocher had a special mattress stored at the Kahler for him. Lyndon Johnson would commandeer a hotel elevator for his entourage’s exclusive use. Fresh squid was flown in from Chicago to satisfy the finicky tastes of some South American guests. Some foreign leaders brought their own cooks and their own food with them.”

“Yet some famous guests preferred to check in under aliases to avoid the publicity. And then there are the stories that never made the front pages of newspapers, the dramas that remain contained, like ghosts, within the walls of the Kahler Hotel. And about those histories, the walls are not talking.”

To help keep their costs down, The Kahler Corporation also invested in the commercial laundry and cleaning business, a smart move for owners of hotels who need such services, creating a new company, Textile Care Services.

The beginning improvements made at The Kahler Hotel was the expansion of the hotel to the north, adding a 228 room addition to the original structure, in 1954. The next addition to the Kahler Hotel came in 1968, when a 162-room expansion was added onto the east side. The Kahler Hotel became an immense structure that took up much of the entire block.

The next major face-lift for The Kahler Hotel happened in 1994; sprucing up the decor and upgrading the rooms to modern standards expected by the public who stayed there.

By 1996, The Kahler Corporation owned seventeen hotels with 4,255 rooms throughout the country, including the four hotels with 1,329 rooms in Rochester, making them a profitable, desired company. The inevitable event happened, in 1997. The Kahler Corporation was bought out by Tiger/Westbrook Real Estate Fund, a New York organization. Tiger/Westbrook Real Estate Fund turned around and sold The Kahler Corporation to Sunstone Hotel Investors, a real estate investment firm based in San Clemente, California, for the hefty price of $322 million.

In 1998, Sunstone Hotel Investors spent nine million in makeovers for the four Rochester hotels. The Kahler Plaza Hotel was converted into a Marriott, and The Kahler Hotel experienced a name change: The Kahler Grand Hotel, along with big improvements inside the building. Among other improvements, Sunstone Hotel Investors converted the Elizabethan Room in the Kahler Grand into a banquet room. While “ending 75 years as Rochester’s best-known high-end restaurant,” the new banquet room expanded opportunities to host social events of all kinds, better serving the community of Rochester.

Ten years later, in 2008, Sunstone Hotel Investors invested another $5 million expansion at the Kahler Grand Hotel. On the 11th floor, they almost doubled the size of the hotel’s high-end suites, offering forty-two suites, known as “The International Suites.”

The latest change in ownership took place in 2012. Five midwest-based investors “signed on the dotted line” to buy the four downtown Rochester Hotels plus the commercial laundry company, Textile Care Services. It will be interesting to see what improvements they have in store for The Kahler Grand.

Though the Kahler Grand has had several owners, their dedication to guests is still as strong as it was in the beginning. Though no longer a 5-star hotel, The Kahler Grand Hotel is still very popular with Mayo Clinic and Hospital patients, and is also a beloved destination for Rochester, Minnesota vacationers, because of its fine service, lovely decor, comfortable accommodations, and convenient location.



One well-to-do lady, Helen Vorhees, heiress of the Brach candy-making family came to Rochester in 1977, and stayed at The Kahler Hotel, as she had a medical appointment at the Mayo Clinic. This wealthy widow who loved animals, started out in life as a hat-check girl, but wound up marrying Frank Brach. They had a wonderful, loving marriage. Frank Brach was a gifted entrepreneur who grew his father’s candy business into a very successful, candy company, with world-wide demand, creating millions of dollars as a result.

After her husband died, Helen Vorhees became a very wealthy widow with a lot of money to live on, as well as a twenty million dollar trust fund, which can attract despicable people who look, watch and wait for an opportunity to take it.

Like many rich widows of the era, Helen Vorhees became interested in investing in race horses, and fell under the spell of a shyster and swindler, Richard Bailey, who was the front man for the Chicago-based Jayne Gang; a group of thugs who had started a horse selling business racket in the 1930s’, aimed at rich, lonely widows and other gullible people. If the Jayne Gang were crossed, they often used murder as a way to deal with problem people.

After her Mayo Clinic 1977 check-up, Helen Vorhees, a Chicagoan, had planned to fly home. She was last seen alive checking out of The Kahler Hotel and buying some things in the hotel gift shop before leaving to supposedly catch a plane back to Chicago. She vanished without a trace, leaving her fortune and the 20 million trust fund up for grabs by people named in her will.

When questioned by police, Helen’s house manager, Jack Matlick, gave a fishy, suspect story. He claimed that he picked Helen up at the airport and got her on the next day plane to Florida, though he didn’t have her flight number, or any other information that proved that she actually did so. However, the stewards on the airplane, who knew her by sight, don’t remember her being on the plane that she supposedly took back to Chicago.

When friends came to see her on the day she was supposed to come back, Jack said that she was too tired to talk to them, which wasn’t like Helen at all, who was a very social person. Apparently, one may suspect that Jack was paid off by her killers, or had his eyes on her money, knowing that he was in the will, and not too eager to find her. His story was shady and full of holes, but there was no proof or any other scenario. Before reporting her missing to the police, Helen’s brother and Jack had burned all her diaries, agendas and other telling evidence to keep her private matters from going public, they said.

With no body, no evidence, no clues, no clear motive, and no suspects, the authorities watched helplessly as the trail grew cold, and her fortune was divided, according to her will; between her brother, Jack Matlick and her animal charities, when she was declared dead, in 1984.

However, the truth has a way of eventually coming out. The journey to finding the truth began with the court-appointed attorney guardian ad litem, John Menk, who deposed Helen Vorhees’ financial advisor to find out how Helen had spent her money. This financial advisor was very honest, and had detailed records. The most important information that was gathered was the records showing how much she paid for her race horses, and what they were actually worth. There was factual evidence of the fraud pulled on her concerning the price of the horses that pointed to Richard Baily and the Jayne Gang years later.

In 1989, this information was scooped up by Assistant U.S. Attorney Miller, working on cleaning up this seedy rampant horse scam, known as Bailey Horse-Fraud Ring that was being used to cheat unsuspecting people. This investigation tied into the murder of Helen nicely, and it reactivated the motivation to continue to seek her killers.

In this report made by Helen’s financial advisor, Richard Bailey’s brother, P.J., sold Helen a pair of mares for $50,000, that turned out to be worth a little less than $9,000. A few months later, P.J. and Richard sold Helen a stallion, called Potenciado, claiming that he was a champion, for $45,000. He actually was worth only $8,500. Helen Vorhees wasn’t fooled for long, and made the fatal mistake of telling Richard Bailey that she, a lady with clout, was going to the District Attorney. Uh oh!

Helen Vorhees’ murder wasn’t in vain. As a result of the investigations into the Bailey Horse-Fraud Ring and the disappearance/murder of Helen Brach, the following consequences took place:

In 1994, the whole Jayne Gang of nineteen people were arrested, sixteen of whom pleaded guilty outright after investigators in northern Illinois uncovered evidence tying them to a nationwide horse-killing insurance fraud scheme. Through 2002, the investigation into her death led to 33 convictions on charges including “fraud, arson and obstruction of justice.”

Three cases went through the court process. Richard Bailey was convicted on strong circumstantial evidence of hiring killers to murder Helen in 1994, as well as committing fraud. Two others were also convicted of various charges of fraud.

In the course of looking for Helen Brach’s murderer, authorities solved a string of murders, from 1955, that involved Ken Hanson, who was strongly suspected of playing a role in Helen’s murder as well. Ken Hanson and his brother Kurt it seems had done some dirty work for the Jayne Gang.

There was no clear, hard evidence though as to who killed Helen, and what had happened to her body, until 2005, when more truth was revealed. In Richard Baily’s appeal in 2005, Joe Plemmons, who was granted immunity, testified and gave his version of what actually happened to Helen.

According to Joe’s testimony, another horse trader; (perhaps brother P.G. Bailey;but not Richard), hired the vicious Hanson brothers to kill Helen, because she was going to turn them all into the authorities. As she left The Kahler Grand Hotel, the hit squad was waiting for her. She was forcibly taken into a car with the villainous Kurt and Ken Hanson, and Joe himself, hired to be an extra pair of hands. They drove to Chicago, where she was beaten and choked without mercy by the Hanson brothers out of the sight of possible witnesses until they thought she was dead. When transferring her body from the trunk of the Cadillac into a station wagon, she groaned; not quite dead yet. Joe shot her twice through the blanket. Her body was transported to Indiana, where her body was thrown into a white-hot steel furnace.

Entities who were tragically killed in an accident or brutally killed at the hands of another:

The murder victims can’t let go of their quick demise, or what they suffered, dwelling on events before it happened or the horrid experience itself. It makes it worse when the victim sees his or her death as undeserved.

Helen Vorhees suffered a violent death at the hands of vicious men, because she wanted to turn in a criminal gang.

Choose to visit /stay in places that they enjoyed while alive, perhaps looking for peace of normalcy, and better times, which is the opposite of what they experienced in their death.

Helen Vorhees enjoyed staying at The Kohler Grand Hotel, so she visits to relive the experience.

Sometimes entities who died in such a manner, are restless because:

Those responsible for their death are left unpunished or the truth about their demise hasn’t been revealed or discovered yet by the living.

It took 17 years for the injustice Helen Vorhees suffered, buying horses not worth the price, to be righted and those responsible properly punished. It took even longer for the truth to come out about her violent murder. While Ken and Kurt Hanson were exposed as her killers, Kurt was killed by someone else, and Ken was sent to prison for other murders they could hang on him. The person who actually ordered her death wasn’t proven because of a lack of hard evidence; though Richard Bailey was convicted on the circumstantial evidence gathered against him, fingering him as the person who arranged it all.

On appeal, Richard Bailey was denied a more lenient sentence, in 2005, because there was no hard evidence that anyone else actually ordered her death, despite Joe’s testimony, that was a little suspect. Joe was trying to get Richard Bailey out of the murder rap, without implicating anyone by name. He didn’t name this other horse trader, and said a group of 10 men beat her up, again not getting specific with names. The authorities had already surmised that the Hanson brothers were contracted to kill her. Because Joe was given immunity, he admitted that he shot her, but only under duress.

The body is never recovered, or was disposed of or buried in a disrespectful manner, not up to standards of the deceased.

The battered body of Helen Vorhees was unceremoniously dumped into a steel furnace and destroyed completely. She could still yearn to be buried in a place of remembrance; in the family crept, beside her beloved husband with her two favorite dogs.



The Entity of Helen Vorhees:

In 2004-5, Chad Lewis and Larry Fisk interviewed witnesses.

For years, staff members and guests have taken a ride up in an elevator with a solid-looking woman, who has been recognized as being Helen Vorhees.

They were shocked when she disappeared before their eyes. Their story was reported in Chad Lewis and Larry Fisk’s Book, Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations.


Perhaps so.

There is no hard evidence to back up her presence here, and not much of a chance of getting any. No permission for paranormal investigations has ever been granted. The owners of The Kahler Grand don’t want to invade the privacy of either the living or the dead, as well as try to avoid having a reputation of having spirits there in the building, especially because they plan to spend a boatload of money giving this historic hotel a big face-lift. This entity of Helen has been well-behaved, pleasant, likes people and refined as she was while alive, and there is no need to disturb her, or any other possible spirit who may like to visit or stay.

Old, grand hotels are sometimes a draw for past guests who are now in spirit. Who knows what an investigation may uncover.

Another explanation is that what people have reported was residual energy of the last days of Helen, going about her business before she was taken and killed. What people see is not an intelligent spirit, though it takes a lot of energy, practice and work to appear as a living person to others, which may mean this isn’t just residual energy.

Many personal experiences that have been reported since her death, however, may point to perhaps a spirit who visits a favorite hotel, with dual motives in mind. She can enjoy her favorite hotel while reminding people that she existed, despite having no marker or remains, and keeping the injustice alive of what had happened to her. The fact that people could recognize who she was, in a solid form that looked like a live person, suggests that she wanted those responsible for her violent end convicted for her death.

Helen finally got some justice, but perhaps not all of what she wanted; People were convicted for the swindle, but perhaps not everyone was punished for her death. One thug, Kurt Hanson was killed, while his brother, Ken went to prison for other murders he had done. The actual person who ordered her death may not be the same fellow convicted of it. Joe Plemmons, the man who shot her and ended her life, got immunity for his testimony, after keeping quiet about all these dastardly deeds for so any years.

In 1988, well-known psychic detective Dorthy Allison told an investigator, Catherine Denenburg, that Helen Vorhees was incinerated in an Inland Steel furnace, in East Chicago, Indiana.

While the leads Catherine was able to get from this were ignored by the Assistant District Attorney, Catherine still had the notes she took, and she showed them to Chad Lewis and Larry Fisk.

Many Personal Experiences:

After Helen disappeared, there were many reported sightings of her around the hotel area and especially the elevators. These appearances at least continued up until 2004, when Lewis and Fisk interviewed staff members. No other interviews have been made public recently.

Hard Evidence=Zero

While former staff and staff members, as well as other guests, have had strong personal experiences – such as seeing her full apparition – no hard evidence was ever captured or made public. Probably in the spirit of serving their guests, both alive and dead, the hotel wishes not to disturb poor Helen any more than she already was, perhaps wanting her to find the peace she had in their service-oriented hotel.



The Kahler Grand Hotel
20 2nd Ave SW
Rochester, MN 55902
(507) 280-6200

The Kahler Grand Hotel is located on 2nd Ave SW, in the heart of downtown Rochester, MN. Its northern border cross street is Center Street, that is perpendicular to this section of 2nd Ave SW. Hospitals are very near this historic relic. On Center Street, directly across from The Kahler Grand Hotel is the Rochester Methodist Hospital.

The Kahler Grand Hotel is also right beside the Mayo Clinic on the other side of 2nd Ave SW. The main entry of The Kahler Grand Hotel is just 100 yards or so from the main lobby of the Mayo Clinic, a direct walk across the street, or through the connecting tunnel under the street. The immense hotel takes up almost a full city block – you can’t miss it!

The Mayo Clinic and The Kahler Grand Hotel share a pedestrian area/walkway, known as “Peace Plaza,” on 2nd Avenue SW, which is not open to traffic.



  • Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations
    by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk
    pg. 138
    Unexplained Research Publishing Company
  • “Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten,” (page 10) by Mark Gribben for CrimeLibrary.com
    “Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten,” (page 11) by Mark Gribben for CrimeLibrary.com
    “Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten,” (page 12) by Mark Gribben for CrimeLibrary.com
  • “Kahler Sale Revives Downtown Hotel’s Colorful History,” by Matt Stolle for Postbulletin.com
  • The Kahler Grand Hotel page on HospitalityMinnesota.org
  • UnexplainedResearch.com – “Chad and Terry’s Favorite Haunted Locations in Minnesota” by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk
  • “Ghosts Are Where You Find Them” on redOrbit.com
  • Review of Kahler Grand Hotel on TripAdvisor.com
  • The Kahler Grand Hotel on Yelp.com
  • Inland Steel Company on Wikipedia.org

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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