If gadding with ghouls is your idea of a fine vacation, here are the top six haunted hotels awaiting your next road trip.
By Ashley M. Biggers
1. St. James Hotel, Cimarron
Built by Henry Lambert in 1872, the St. James Hotel was the backdrop for numerous shootouts during its Wild West days—it still boasts the evidence in its dining room ceiling where 22 bullets are still wedged. It's located in the heart of Cimarron, 40 miles south of Ratón on N. M. 62. Train robber Black Jack Ketchum, and outlaws Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Billy the Kid stayed in the hotel during its heyday—today, you can say in rooms named for these famous guests. It is said to be the location of more than 26 murders, and the victims supposedly wander the hotel. In fact, room 18, which T.J. Wright is said to haunt remains un-booked as though he—or his ghost—were still staying there today. The St. James re-opened its door in June after renovations that gave the luxurious Western hotel a facelift.
Route 1 Hwy 21 Box 2, (505) 376-2664
2. La Fonda, Santa Fe
With a history that dates back almost to the City Different's founding 400 years ago, it's no wonder that the inn is fraught with tales of the paranormal. In 1857, an unfortunate gambler found himself truly out of luck when a lynch mob took him from the gambling hall and hung him in the hotel's backyard. Today, this patio has been enclosed and is the site of the newly remodled La Plazuela restaurant. Rumor has it that guests have seen what appears to be the shadow of a man swinging from a tree while dining there. Ten years later, territorial justice was transplanted from the courthouse to La Fonda's lobby when the Honorable John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot there. Guests claim they have sighted the judge, in his long black coat, wandering the hotel today. A young bride, who was murdered on her wedding night by a jealous ex-lover, is also said to haunt the wedding suite. The hotel, which is located at the end of the Santa Fe Trail, is an icon of Santa Fe-style inside and out, with its southwestern décor and multi-tiered adobe exterior. During your stay, stop in the hotel bar for a late-night drink—the ghost of a cowboy might just pull up a barstool next to you.
100 E. San Francisco St.; From $229 per night; (800) 523-5002; www.lafondasantafe.com
3. The Lodge, Cloudcroft
Originally constructed as a stopover for the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway, the Lodge burned to the ground in the early 1900s. During the quaint chalet's heyday, Rebecca, a strikingly beautiful chambermaid with red hair, was murdered when her jealousy-stricken lumberjack suitor found her in the arms of another man. Today, the lodge's "friendly," though mischievous, ghost has been said to wander the halls, moving furniture, flicking lights on and off, and spontaneously igniting fires in fireplaces. Some believe Rebecca is searching for a new lover or friend who would appreciate her playful nature. The cozy mountain retreat, located 20 miles east of Alamogordo off N.M. 130, is ideal for curling up with a book by the fire during the winter, and striking out for a golf game at the Lodge's course during the summer. During your visit, don't miss a hearty meal at their restaurant—named after their favorite friendly ghost.
One Corona Place; From $125 per night; (800) 395-6343; www.thelodgeresort.com
4. Foster's Hotel, Chama
The Wild West is still alive and well through the wanderings of three ghosts said to frequent this rugged hotel, saloon, and restaurant in Chama, located 100 miles north of Santa Fe on U.S. 84. Guests have reported hearing the sound of a woman—said to be a frontier judge who was poisoned in the hotel when several local men took offense to her leadership position—choking and gasping for breath. Across the hall, hotel staff has heard a small girl's cries. They believe they are from the ghost of a youth who died there of an illness more than 100 years ago. The specter of a cowboy is also said to wander the hotel's halls. Pair these events with other mysterious sightings and this hotel, which is located directly across the street from the famed Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and you'll have plenty to investigate during your next ghost hunt.
393 S. Terrace Ave. Chama; From $45 per night; (575) 756-2296; www.fosters1881.com
5. Shaffer Hotel, Mountainair
Clem "Pop" and Lena "Ma" Shaffer ran their modest hotel in Mountainair, the "Pinto Bean Capital of the World" located more than 70 miles southeast of Albuquerque on U.S. 60, with care until their deaths during the 1950s. The duo is said to look over the hotel today—peering at guests and moving objects as they see fit. The town has a quaint, Western downtown and serves as a jumping off point to visit pueblo ruins in the area.
103 West Main St.; From $69 per night; 505-847-2888; www.shafferhotel.com
6. La Posada Hotel, Santa Fe
In 1882, a prosperous merchant named Abraham Staab built his three-story brick mansion, in the French Second Empire-style, on property that now belongs to La Posada. Abraham and his wife, Julia, entertained Santa Fe society in the grand residence decorated with the finest European materials. Legend has it that Julia Staab has never left it. Julia has most often appeared at the top of the grand staircase in the original building in the main complex of the inn. However, she has also been seen in the Nason Room, a small alcove built upon the old formal gardens of the original structure. So, why does Julia Staab linger? Some say that ghosts appear when death occurs in a state of turmoil and anxiety, such as the circumstances that seemed to attend Mrs. Staab’s final years. Depressed over the loss of a child and other unsuccessful pregnancies, Julia Staab was rumored to have gone mad, retreating to her bedroom until her death at age 52. In recent years, her alleged spirit has been the subject of many ghost tours, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and Weird Travels. The Staab House stands today in the form of a bar, where guests of La Posada enjoy cocktails and light Southwestern fare. Some have even reported meeting the grand lady. www.laposadadesantafe.com
More Haunted Hot Spots:
Laguna Vista Lodge, Eagle Nest; www.lagunavistalodge.com
Plaza Hotel, Las Vegas; www.plazahotel-nm.com
Special thanks to the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association, whose research provided the basis for this list. For info: www.sgha.net