Why T.J. Wright (the ghost of room 18) cannot be haunting the St. James hotel.

First of all, and most importantly, T.J. Wright did not die at the St. James Hotel as the legends have suggested. While the 1880 census does show that he was there, the 1920 census show him to be in Albuquerque, way after the date of his supposed demise in Cimarron.

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The first three articles are really important as they set up  the foundation of the ghostly legends at the hotel.

Ed Sitzberger and Pat Loree  bought the hotel in July of 1985. From reading the various newspaper articles, the “attack” on Loree in Room 18 occurred sometime in 1986. The first newspaper that mentions the building is haunted is also in 1986, however there are not any details.

“Only a few ruins outside of Eagle Nest stand where Elizabeth town once flourished, and Cimarron is capitalizing on its wild history with pictures and tours at the haunted St. James Hotel.”

The second mention in the media of ghosts at the St. James hotel occurs on December 6th, 1987 in a story that was written by Steve Brewer for the Albuquerque Journal. It is the first full account of the initial occurrences that are claimed to be paranormal.

   “Cowboys and outlaws, wives and ladies of the evening gather occasionally in the ornate lobby of Northern New Mexico St. James Hotel, talking and drinking, toasting the past, say the hotel’s owners.

 

   They describe the parties in whispered, uneasy tones, with just a touch of nervous laughter. The party-goers, they say, are invisible ghosts, poltergeist, spirits.

   Pat Loree, who owns the St. James with her husband Ed Sitzberger, said she witnessed such a ghastly celebration one night while locking up the hotel.

   ” I came in through these double and I heard a party going on,” she recalled. ” I kid you not. I could hear people talking. I could hear glasses clinking. I thought, oh, now you’ve done it, you’ve finally flipped.”

   Loree said she slowly crossed the expansive lobby thinking perhaps the sounds were coming from a furniture grouping at the far end. As she walked, the noises gradually diminished. The furniture was empty.

   ” I turned and I said, I’m glad you’re having a good time. I’m glad you’re here for a party. Please leave everything as good as you found it, if not better.”

   As she walked back across the room, the party sounds resumed.

   “I closed the double doors I ran upstairs and I called Ed and said,” there’s a party going on in the lobby and I can’t see it.”

   Such paranormal occurrences are normal at the St. James, where, the owners say, at least three ghosts reside, and others occasionally visit.

   “I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me,” Loree said.

   Most of the hotel workers say they’ve had experiences with the ghosts, as has Sitzberger, a recently retired mechanical engineer, and self-described skeptic.

   “There have been enough things happen that I am a believer, too, now,” he said.

    It’s easy to believe the ghost stories at the St. James, which fairly reeks of the Old West. The hotel is as much museum as inn, what it’s antique decorated rooms, brocade wallpaper and hallways decorated with photographs of the famous and infamous who stayed there. The photos date from the days when Cimarron was the center of an untamed land rife with political intrigue, feuds, and fighting.

   Historians say 26 people were killed at the hotel, gunned down by the likes of Clay Allison, the gentleman gunfighter,” and Bob Ford, the reputed killer of outlaw Jesse James.

   The embossed metal ceiling of the dining room still bears bullet holes that speak of that more violent time. The action at the hotel these days comes from the spirit world rather than shoot em ups, the owners say. Some of it has been hilarious, they say, some has been sublime. Some has been outright terrifying. The couple trace most events to three resident ghosts (they prefer the term spirits) they call Mary, the Imp and “18”.

   Mary, named after Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the hotel in 1880, lives in one room of the hotel and sporadically roams its halls. Usually, the only sign of her presence is her perfume.

   “It’s a very, very fragrant odor,” said Kathy Jones, a 47-year-old clerk, and waitress at the hotel. “It does come on you like you’re walking towards someone and it gets stronger as you get close. It’s just all of a sudden it’s there, then all the sudden, it’s not.”

   Recently, Mary was more assertive with a couple who opened the window to her room, said Sitzberger, 56.

   “He said the window wasn’t stuck like by paint anything, but he had a heck of a time raising it,” he said.”It was like someone was pushing down on the window.”

   The guest returned to bed and heard several sharp raps on the second story window, Sitzberger said. Since the guests had been warned about Mary, the man closed the window part way to accommodate her and returned to bed. Again came the raps. He closed the window.

   “She made it clear she wanted it closed,” Sitzberger said, adding the guests claimed the room then cooled on its own.

   “The imp enjoys practical jokes and keeps employees busy adjusting lamps and searching for pens and calculators he hides, Loree said. Glasses in the kitchen explode occasionally through the imp’s efforts, and jars of pickles had been known to ease off floor level shelves and roll out of the room.

   Once, the couple said, the imp even appeared to one employee. The worker, a 15-year-old boy, had just taken a job cleaning the lobby and dining room and the pre-dawn hours. On his first day, Sitzberger said, the owners came down from their suite to find him vacuuming while his mother watched. Earlier, he said, the boy had seen a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously at the started youth.

   “The kid did what any red-blooded 15 year old would do, Sitzberger said. “He went home and got his mother. Needless to say, that was his last day on the job. He didn’t like the looks of it at all.”

   The other ghost, the one who occupies Room 18, is such a hostile spirit that the owners now keep the room locked and a large base of dried flowers in front of the door. No one is allowed to enter.

   The last time someone was shown the haunted room, a bird Sitzberger had given to Loree, a valuable golden finch, died the next morning, he said. A necropsy found no cause death, he said.

   “The only connection we could make was that he didn’t take it out on us, but he did do one of our birds in,” Sitzberger said.

   Another time, Loree, 44, was showing the room to a California surgeon who researches poltergeists. As she entered the room, “whatever it was came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.”

   Ken Taylor, hotel’s 40-year-old chef has had several and encounters with “18”, including spending one night in a sleeping bag in the room to see if he could see the spirit. All night long, he said, he slept fitfully, bouncing around on the floor, dreaming about riding ponies.

   Sometimes, Loree calls on the husky Taylor to convince “18” to return to his room. “My presence sort of mellows him out at times,” the chef said.

   Like most of the spirits, “18” isn’t visible to those who encounter him.

   “It’s like pressure,” Taylor said. “The hair stands up on the back of my neck and on my arms and I get goosebumps all over.”

   Taylor said he also saw one ghost, however. He was leaving a room at the hotel on his way to the restroom when he spotted a human-like figure end of the hall.

   “I stepped outside and there was this figure, sort of shimmering,” he said. “I went back to my room.”

   Several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal have visited the hotel to interact with the spirits. Last July, television crews filmed a séance led by a self-proclaimed Albuquerque witch named Oz, but Taylor said the cameras and other distractions kept the session from being very productive.  Oz also spent time chatting in Room 18, said Loree, and came away believing the spirit that died in the room was a man named James Wright. The witch said Wright was killed when he tried to claim the hotel as winnings in a poker game.

   Loree said historians have no record of such an incident involving a man named James Wright. She said, however, she subsequently found the name of a “J. Wright” and three places in the hotel’s old ledger, all dating to 1881.

   “There is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name,” Loree said.

   Another television crew captured on film a door opening by itself in a curtain moving when there was no breeze. The hotel owners show copies of the videotapes to guests over a television in the lobby.

   They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.

   “We have a pretty good business going and I don’t want to scare the hell out of people coming here,” Loree said.

   She expects, however, that the ghost stories, in the end, will have little effect on their business.

   “I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t,” she said. “I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”

   Despite the occasional fright, the owners say they are becoming accustomed to the ghosts.

   “Pat’s even said if we ever get tired of running the hotel, we could just close it down and live here,” Sitzberger said with a laugh. “at least we’d never get lonely.”

 

The first article clearly identifies the three ghosts that are haunting the hotel. However, it is important to note that the spirit which the owners call Mary was merely named after Mary Lambert and in this version is not directly associated with her. It also gives us the first portrayal of the ghost they are calling the “imp.” The eyewitness’s description was that of a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously. And finally, there is the violent ghost they call “18”.  However, the article also contains several controversial elements.

One of the crucial things that ghost hunters and investigators look for when they are interviewing witnesses are qualifying  statements. This is because people who lie use convoluted sentence structure and qualifying language when giving you the details. Qualifying statements, like “to tell you the truth” or  “Honestly,” “I swear to you” are used to overemphasize their truthfulness. When people use these bolstering statements to emphasize their honesty, there’s a good chance they are hiding something. There is no need to add them if they are really telling the truth. Loree makes several qualifying statements during this newspaper interview.

“I kid you not”, “I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me” and “there is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name” (referring to the ghost of Room 18).

The slip up is by saying that “Oz could not have “seen” that name.” The qualifying statement here suggests that is precisely what happened. The sentence structure has too much detail which could indicate that she is untruthful.

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The first team allowed into room 18.

The other odd thing is how quickly the ghost stories develop. The hotel reopens in December 1985 after Loree and Sitzberger finish their initial renovations. Yet within 2 years a television crew has been allowed in to film a séance as well as several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal and a California surgeon who researches poltergeists conducted an investigation of sorts. During the surgeon’s visit, Loree claims that “whatever it was, came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.” Naturally, the reporter asks the couple if they thought that the ghost stories would harm their business.

“They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.” Loree continues by saying, “I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t. I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”

This is a little suspicious as well. For example, in my book, I mentioned that the Lodge at Cloudcroft kept their ghost stories secretive for over 60 years because the owner thought it could damage his business. Yet at the St. James, the ghost stories are in full swing within a year of its reopening. This is another red flag because many known examples point to the ghost stories as being fraudulent when the media exposure occurs so quickly. One of the more famous cases was the Amityville Horror, which was later revealed to be a hoax. Within two years of the alleged paranormal events that occurred, there is a book about the “haunting” and eventually a movie deal. Is the St James hotel trying to capitalize monetarily in a similar fashion? While this is just speculation, it is something that has to be considered.

Another oddity is the California surgeon who researches poltergeists. Anyone who is remotely familiar with poltergeist phenomena knows that it is not actually a ghost or a spirit, but an event that parapsychologists believe is caused by psychokinesis that is projected by a living person in the environment. This suggests that the surgeon only had an amateurish knowledge base of the phenomenon that he claims to be researching.

The next article of the haunting at the St. James Hotel is printed in the Albuquerque Journal on  December 30, 1988.

 

   “Things simply go bump in the night at the St James hotel. To people live here and admit an acquaintanceship with the second-floor supernatural, the spirits in this place are at once melancholy and mischievous, dealing mostly in the scent of old-timey perfume, petty theft, and minor pranks.

   All except the awful thing that is said to reside in Room 18, where the number is missing and the door is always locked. The transomed entry to this room is fronted by a vase with dead yucca blossoms, black and amber now, setting sentry on the floor. It is said that the being in room 18 seethes with menace.

   There is nothing subtle, nothing vague, about what can happen at the top of the stairs.

   True, only a thin outline defines the ghostly figure in an oil painting at the second-floor landing. But you don’t need special light to see it. The figure seems to be a man and he seems to be wearing a broad-brimmed hat. He is standing among a group of obviously mortal individuals, and it is said he becomes more discernible as the years go by.

   No one knows whether the artist intended to include the figure. Given the realistic nature of the painting, it seems unlikely that he is responsible for the addition of something so clearly at odds with the rest of the work.

   There are other, more vivid experiences that have lent this place its reputation for being haunted.

   Ghosts of an era past, presumably from the lawless years of the Western frontier, are said to inhabit this 108-year-old hotel, steeped in history and solidly adobe, located on a side street in Cimarron.

   In the lobby, just off the dining room with the 26 bullet holes in the tin ceiling, a magnificent rainbow macaw sets on a wooden perch.

   On a recent autumn afternoon, Pat Loree, who with her husband owns this hotel, tells of the haunting of the St. James. It is a narrative occasionally punctuated by squawks from the macaw.

   Loree and her husband, Ed Sitzberger, bought the St. James in July of 1985 and have restored it to its former elegance and historical stature. In those first months of ownership, as Sitzberger continued to work as a civil engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Loree came to live at a house behind the hotel.

   Before the restoration began and during a fierce summertime thunderstorm one night, Loree and a caretaker went to the hotel to check for leaks in the roof.

   “When I left, I turned off all of the lights,” she says.”After we locked up, I looked back and I could see through the window that the chandelier at the end of the hall was still on. I did it again, and the damned thing still came back on after I locked the door. The last time I went back and said “I don’t know who you are. We’d like to play, but another day.”

   One of the two harmless ghosts is believed to be Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the St. James. She died in the hotel and it is said that her perfume will suddenly waft through Room 17, and, just as suddenly evaporate.

   No one claims to have seen Mary, but a couple of people have caught a glimpse of Woody, a poltergeist who is the likely culprit in recalcitrant light switches, frozen door locks, shattered glasses and such missing items as bottles of juice, pens, silverware, and keys. Those who have seen him have given independent descriptions that are remarkably similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked.

   Sitzberger, whose life and work were built on logic, says he was stunned one evening to see the ghost sitting at a table just before the dining room opened. When he tried to get a closer look, the apparition vanished.

   A Cimarron teenager, hired to vacuum the carpet each morning before dawn, said he arrived for his first day of work and saw Woody setting on the bar, laughing uproariously. The youth who had not heard the St. James ghost stories, was so utterly terrified he ran home, got his mother, and persuaded her to return with him while he finished his work.

   “A friend of ours who is a nurse didn’t believe in any of this stuff,” Loree is saying. “About a month ago she was here and needed to use the restroom, but the door was locked and she could see a crack of light at the threshold. She decided to wait by the door. Pretty soon the light went off. She tried the door again and it was unlocked. There was no one in there.”

   “You hear noises up there,” says Earl Jones, who tends bar at the St. James. “You can smell perfume, but it’s not the kind of perfume they sell today. I believe there’s something up there, and I never believed anything like that in my life, till I came to livin here.”

   Loree is sipping iced tea and telling about these things in the lobby of the hotel. Reluctantly, she begins talking about Room 18.

   Suddenly, the rainbow macaw is out of control. He begins shrieking and squawking. The commotion is deafening, and some of this screaming sounds almost human. It is piercing and ceaseless. The seemingly coincidental outburst, coming as it did at the beginning of a narrative on Room 18, seems connected to the things Loree has not yet said.

   After the macaw has been banished to the ladies restroom, Loree says to merely talk about the spirit and Room 18 is to invite “bad things”. In the past, part of the retribution has been measured in the unexplained death of small valuable birds who are part of the aviary kept in the hotel.

   Her story of room 18 is halting, and for a moment it seems as if she will cry.

   From the beginning, she says, “Every time I went in that room the hair on the back of my neck stood up. But I was determined that nothing was going to stand in the way of renovation. I was trying to be this self-sufficient woman, and I can remember standing there with my hands on my hips and saying, “If you want to be positive you can stay but if you want to be negative you’ve got to go.'”

   She was to learn later, she says, that it was not a good thing to say.

   About a year ago a California surgeon came to stay at the hotel. Loree did not know him and did not know that he was a student of supernatural phenomena. Not long after he had checked in, and before anyone had spoken with him about the hotel, Loree says he came to her and said: “You have a real problem upstairs.”

   After some conversation, he persuaded her to unlock the door to Room 18. Loree says when she stepped into the room “there was a present swirling in the corner near the ceiling, and it came down and knocked me to my knees. I got up and it came back and knocked me down again.”

   She says the man from California told her to step backwards, and she escaped from the room.

   He sent her downstairs and he stayed in the room for another hour. Loree said he told her later the spirit in there should not be challenged, and that it did not like being talked about.

   She worries that potential guests may be dissuaded from staying at the St. James because of the spirit. She says none of the people who have stayed in the hotel has had a bad experience because of ghosts.

   Not long ago, Loree says, a self-proclaimed witch (a good witch) spent time at Room 18 and said she learned the spirit was “a James or Jesse Wright.” Loree looked back through the old guest registers and found a T.J. Wright had spent time at the hotel in the 1880’s, but the book offers no further information.

   “I’ll tell you one thing,” she says. ” I have a very healthy respect for the thing in Room 18. I don’t open the door anymore. Not for myself. Not for anyone.”

This article provides more information on the Imp and the strange occurrence with the surgeon in room 18. It seems rather odd that Loree would allow a complete stranger into Room 18 and after having such a terrifying event happen to her, she let that person stay in the room for a full hour afterward. It doesn’t make sense.

The “Imp” has now been given a name, Woody. Apparently, there have also been independent descriptions that are similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked. This is important to note as the description of this specter will soon change.

Finally, we get to the third article when a psychic, Jacque Littlejohn Cooley enters the picture. This will eventually define the present day ghost stories.

   “The car wasn’t yet through Taos, but Jacque Littlejohn Cooley said she sensed the presence in room 18 of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, 40 miles to the Northeast.

   The Albuquerque psychic was in route to spend the night at the reportedly haunted hotel. It was Friday, the 13th of October.

   “I’m getting this feeling, this impression that he’s been injured or that he’s in pain,” Cooley said, momentarily distracted from the mountain scenery. Cooley had read stories about poltergeists that dwell in the old two-story building, including the menacing spirit in room 18. She also knew that a self-professed witch had visited the hotel and claimed to have made contact with the spirit, identifying it as the ghost of someone named James or Jesse Wright.

   The current owner of the hotel, Ed Sitzberger, a trim, soft-spoken man with a drink in hand, greeted Cooley in the lobby of the hotel. A large, multi-colored macaw lead a collection of other exotic birds in a cacophonous symphony. The noise reverberated off the lobby walls, where the mounted heads of game animals stared blankly with glass eyes.

   Cooley, a former school teacher and counselor in Phoenix and Espanola, spoke with an accent that hinted at her Texas and Oklahoma upbringing. Her parents, she said, we’re Welsh and Cherokee. She wore a long black dress. Her jet-black hair was gathered to the sides in Indian braid wraps, and she wore silver and turquoise jewelry. A quartz crystal dangled from her neck.

   Silver and turquoise are elements that give her power and protection, while the quartz crystal helps her gather and channel information, she said.

   Cooley carried a leather pouch and a crystal ball. From the pouch she removed a Sioux Indian Tobacco mix called Knic Knic. She sprinkled some of the tobacco in a nearby potted plant, an offering to the spirits and to purge negative energy, she said.

   She ordered her regular evening drinks, a cup of black coffee and a shot of scotch side by side. As she chain-smoked Camel non filter cigarettes and sipped her drinks, Sitzberger recounted the previous visit of the witch who identified the spirit of room 18. “The next day my former wife, Pat, went back into the hotel registers and found the name T.J. Wright three different times in 1881,” he said.

   Further, the witch told him Wright had won the hotel in a poker game and was shot to death when he tried to collect, he said.

   “You know, I thought it might have been something like that,” said Cooley, flashing back to the comment she made on the drive up.

  Sitzberger, formerly a mechanical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is firmly grounded in science and logic. Nevertheless, he said, “the accumulation of things that have happened here has led me to believe that something is going on here that is not ordinary.”

   He cited several phenomena, lights going on and off when no one is in the locked building. Papers disappearing and reappearing in locked offices. Napkins and silverware were being tossed about the dining room. Glasses of water overturned and spilling when no water had been in the glasses to begin with. The sounds of a party, complete with laughter and clinking cocktail glasses, emanating from empty rooms. Activation of a telephone ringing code known only to family members and the phone company, no one on the other end of the line.

   There is the brief appearance and suddenly vanishing of an imp identified by a medium two years ago as “Woody,” who is blamed for some of the more playful pranks in the hotel. People who have seen him including Sitzberger, have given remarkably similar descriptions of the apparition: about 4 feet tall, long blonde hair, blue eyes, pock-marked face.

   People also have encountered rooms that suddenly filled with the aroma of a musky rose perfume. The odor would just as suddenly vanish, only to visit another room. The scent is believed to be a signal from the spirit of one of two women, both named Mary, and both of whom had been married to Henry Lambert, the hotel’s original owner and builder, Sitzberger said.

   And there is the unseen force in room 18. Twice it knocked Sitzberger’s ex-wife to the floor when she confronted it, demanding that it behave or move out. Other times when the spirit had been disturbed, Sitzberger said, the entity took its anger out on pet birds kept in the hotel, some of which were found dead for no apparent reason, and some that were suddenly taken sick.

   Late at night, Sitzberger agreed to open room 18 for the Albuquerque psychic. The stained glass transom above the door was partially open, but a large base containing dead yucca clippings stood sentry in front of the locked door.

   The room had not been remodeled or cleaned. An old wooden bed frame was one of the few pieces of furniture inside. Floorboards creaked as Cooley walked around the room, hand outstretched, palm down, feeling for impressions, sensations and changes in temperature. She was drawn to a corner where red floral wallpaper met the hammered tin ceiling. “There was a lot of paranormal activity here, but nothing sinister,” she said.

    “I feel a terrible pain from him. He’s wounded and unhappy. He still locked into that timeless zone, a dimension, I don’t know that there is a name for it, but he’s locked in and any time another energy comes into this room it’s very threatening to him. He doesn’t know he’s dead.”

   They left the room for a few minutes, and Sitzberger carefully locked the door and replaced the vase. They talked about returning in the early morning hours when spirits tend to be the most active. But later, they both became uncomfortable with the idea and decided against it.

   Walking along a second-floor hallway, Cooley stopped. “Who got killed here? she asked. “I’m getting this impression of blood on the wall. And brains. I see brains on the wall. Somebody got it in the head here.”

   The poker room was just around the corner. “I don’t feel what I felt out there in the hall,” Cooley said. “There was a cardinal rule that you don’t mess up the poker game, so maybe they went out in the hall to do their dirty deeds. I feel a lot of intensity in this room.”

   She toyed with the notion that the man named Wright, who’s supposedly won the hotel in a card game, may have been dealt the winning hand in the hotel’s poker room, was ambushed in the hallway and staggered back to room 18, where he died and his spirit still lurks.

   “Could be, but I don’t get the feeling that the guy in 18 has a head wound,” she said. “I also sense that man named Walter was somehow involved. I think whatever happened in this hallway happened between 1 and 3 p.m. because of the different quality of the light I saw and the flashes.

   “It feels like a baby was born in this room,” Cooley said as she entered the Pancho Griego room, named after a local who was on the losing end of an argument with gunfighter Clay Allison.

   “Is this the honeymoon suite?” she asked inside the Bat Masterson room. “It feels like fun and games in here. Hanky panky. I don’t know how they turned out later, but they sure had a good time while they were here.”

   The Wyatt Earp room has an entirely different feel, Cooley said. “I sense there was a man who used to stay here a whole lot. He kept coming back and like this room. It was before World War 1, but not long before. He was kind of a quiet man. I feel that he may have had something like high blood pressure during his last visits. He wasn’t very tall. He was kind of portly, but the first time I see him in here he was a lot thinner. He had a little buggy. I think they used to call them whiskies.

   Cooley continued her wanderings and made her way back downstairs into the hotel’s dining room, the original St James Saloon and Gambling Hall. She stared into her crystal ball, which she had placed on the mantle of a bar back.

   “Somebody picked up one of them tables. They were gambling. I didn’t see the man’s face, but I saw these big hands, we picked up the table and dumped it with all the glasses and cards. People were scattering every which way. I think it was that one,” she said, walking over to the table where she slowly moved the outstretched palm of her hand over it. Another table caught her eye. “Somebody landed on their back in the middle of this one.” Cooley was drawn toward a corner of the dining nearest the entrance into the hotel lobby.

   “Something ended abruptly, whatever it was. I think it happened before the turn of the century. I want to move because I think I’m standing in blood.” she paused for a few moments lost within her own thoughts.

   “Somebody was in that fight that was named Clyde. I don’t know if that’s a first or last name. He shaved every now and then. He didn’t have a full beard. Maybe it was the time of year, but he had a lot of stubble. He smelled pretty rare. And I don’t know if he was the victim or the aggressor or what. I don’t get the feeling that Cimarron lost much.

   It was approaching 2 a.m. Cooley was tired, walkthrough nearly every room in the St. James and visited with as many denizens of the spirit world as would make themselves known to her. She sat on her bed in the Mary Lambert room laying out a deck of tarot cards.

   “This is the tower card. It’s probably in response to room 18 across the hall,” she said. “I see in the tower card confusion and tyranny and weakness. Building on the wrong foundation. Bedlam. It might be just as well that we leave the spirit in 18 alone. If he has anything that he wants to share with us I’m sure he’ll let us know.”

   The death card appeared. “Could be one of two things,” Cooley said. “Could be the spirit in 18 saying keep your cotton-picking hands for my things, or it could represent the entity as being dead.”

   The remarkable thing about the metaphysical and paranormal, Cooley said, it’s not that she can tap into it, but that most people are unaware that they, too, can do it.”

So now the essential elements of the ghost story of T.J. Wright are in place. The witch named Oz first suggested that Wright died room 18 and now Cooley has added the aspects of the poker game and the subsequent shooting after he had won the hotel in a card game. But the question is was there really a poker room on the second floor. In many ways, this goes against the typical old west business practices. Saloons tolerated gambling because they made money by selling cigars and whiskey to the participants of the card games. Putting a poker room on the second floor really doesn’t sense because this would require a hotel employee to be always running up and down the stairs to check on the patrons involved in the card game. In Henry Lambert’s time, there was no such help. He ran the saloon by himself and even helped out in the kitchen at times.

It is also doubtful that Lambert would even allow gambling on the second floor to begin with. This is evident by the extra effort that he went through to ensure the safety of people sleeping upstairs. He had installed two additional planks of wood, over an inch thick, into the flooring that lies above the saloon to prevent bullets from inadvertently striking anyone upstairs. Historically it is very well-documented that all of the brawling and gunfights took place in the saloon, for why would Lambert want to take that element upstairs where his guests and family were staying and sleeping?

Of course, most of this can be verified historically by examining some of the floor plan drawings done in the early 1900s. The second floor only contained guest rooms and two small common areas. However, neither of the common areas were used for gambling. The present-day poker room was added in the 1940s by Mrs. Haegler who used it as a meeting place for her bridge club.

As the modern era approached, the need to renovate the old rooms became quite the necessity. The original rooms were actually quite small, about the size of the poker room and room 18 are today. Room sizes were expanded by taking down walls and converting other adjoining rooms into bathrooms. An excellent example of this can be seen from the bathroom of room 17. If you sit on the toilet and look to your right, you will see the transom of a doorway that is now completely blocked off. The area where you are sitting was once another guest room. A wall was built that split the room in half. On the other side of the wall is the bathroom for the adjoining room.

So the simple fact is there was no poker room on the second floor when T.J. Wright was there. It should also be noted that all of the violent deaths that have occurred in the St. James are very well documented in many sources. One of the primary sources was actually recorded by Henry’s son, Fred Lambert. Fred went through a great deal of effort to ensure that the murders that took place at the hotel and its saloon were accurately recorded. All the sources clearly indicate that there were no violent deaths on the second floor of the hotel. I have included his sketches and drawings in my book “New Mexico’s Most Haunted; Exposed” and this book for emphasis. So these parts of the ghost story are definitively busted.

You can buy the book here.

Casa Vieja Ghost Hunt for T J Trout (KKOB radio)

On Friday, Oct. 29 2021, was a guest on TJ Trout’s radio show. This year, they investigated Casa Vieja Brewery in Corrales. This is our 21st show where we go out to “haunted” locations and see what happens.

Note: The ghost hunts I do for radio are for entertainment purposes only. It is not a serious investigation.

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

The Legal Tender Saloon, Lamy, NM

History

The building in 2006 when we investigated it.

Pflueger General Merchandise Store and Annex Saloon was opened in 1818 and was the actual saloon where Billy The Kid was brought, in shackles, en-route to Santa Fe.
The former saloon and eatery had occupied a two-story Victorian building along the town’s main drag and was renamed The Pink Garter Saloon in 1950. Eventually, the building changed its name again to the Legal Tender in 1969.
In the Legal Tender, the electricity has been hooked up, boards removed from the windows, and a security system has been installed. The Legal Tender is on the National Register of Historic Places. Its roots extend back to 1881, when it was first opened as a mercantile company and general merchandise store. It has since gone through about ten owners. Before it closed eight years ago, it had been remodeled into a restaurant.
It’s a grand old place with a lot of history and a lot of memories. Inside, an old cherry wood bar from Germany still dominates the saloon. According to museum records, the bar was brought in by John and Louise Pflueger in the early 1900s when the building was the John Pflueger General Merchandise Store. The walls and the interior of the building are still in good shape. The red carpet and curtains still look new. Old-fashioned items such as mirrors from the 1800s, pictures, and furniture collected from various owners will be put into some of its rooms.

 

Ghost Stories and Paranormal Claims

This old saloon and vaudeville hall is haunted by several ghosts. A lady in white, dressed in an elegant white gown, is seen floating up the steps to the balcony in the Parlor Room.

The ghost of a little girl in a long dress sits alone on the stairs. A man in black, killed by a stray bullet in the rowdy gambling hall, has been seen helping himself to a drink at the bar. The building was constructed in 1881 and was called the Annex Saloon. In the 1950’s it was known as the Pink Garter. It became the Legal Tender in 1969.

Originally the ballroom had a second story balcony that now no longer exists. The apparition of a lady in white is seen frequently in the area where the stairs leading to the balcony used to be.

 

Research and Additional Information

SANTA FE, N.M. (Associated Press) — It was shortly after closing time one cool, dark night earlier this month at the Legal Tender. Cindy Lu and Phillip Heard were sitting with their spouses at a table at the Lamy restaurant when they heard the voice of a woman screaming. The sound was coming from the kitchen, but no one was there. And the back door was locked. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Heard, one of the volunteer workers at the restaurant/bar. “There has to be an explanation for what that was. When I deal with something like this, I want to know the facts.’ Employees Dachin Frances and Avery Young were not there to hear the cry of the terrorized woman. But, Young noted, “Even when you are alone in a room here, you never feel alone.’ And Frances said one recent night, she was headed out the back door of the darkened kitchen with some co-workers, about to lock the door, when some pots and pans began rattling inside. They slammed the door, locked it and left.
Others won’t stay in the joint after closing time, and at least one of Lu’s employees is afraid that whatever walks within the darkened halls of the old saloon might follow her home at night.

Staffers and patrons have heard unexplained voices and the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor of the main dining room. The chandelier hanging above that room has started swinging to and fro without any sign of wind.
To many who work at or frequent the Legal Tender, it makes sense that some of its long-dead denizens are still present.

The community, named after Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, has a population of about 220 people, according to the 2010 census. It’s a quiet village, particularly after the sun sets. A business first opened on the site of the Legal Tender in 1881 — about the same time the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built the spur line from Lamy to Santa Fe. The operation began as a combination mercantile store and saloon. Lemp’s Extra Pale Ale was apparently a favorite of patrons of the time, according to an old photo hanging in the restaurant.

Somewhere along the way, the old saloon became known as the Pink Garter. Glenn Campbell played there in his early days. In the late 1960s, it was renamed the Legal Tender under the ownership of R.O. Anderson. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Over the years, a number of historic figures have passed through the Lamy area, including Teddy Roosevelt and Billy the Kid — the latter was reportedly on a train that stopped in Lamy on the way to doing some jail time in Santa Fe.

More obscure figures also found their way through the village, and they may still be around — the frontier bystander reportedly shot by a stray bullet during a poker game gone wrong and the female train passenger who supposedly died of appendicitis while convalescing in one of the saloon’s back rooms, for instance. Their spirits — known as the Man in Black and the Lady in White — have long been rumored to roam the Legal Tender. The ghost of a girl child is also connected to the site, although no one has ever quite figured out her back story. But Lu recently met a woman in her 90s who lived in Lamy in the 1920s and recalls a female playmate from that period who died of tapeworm at age 7 or 8. The two girls would often visit the store that stood on the site of the Legal Tender. Lu also tells anecdotes of kitchen workers feeling the invisible poke of a finger in their sides and a presence tightening their apron strings. Lu’s Learning Mind nonprofit organization has joined with the Lamy Railroad and History Museum to revitalize the Legal Tender. She and other volunteer workers reopened the restaurant last spring. It serves food Thursday through Sunday, plus most holidays. Staffers often sit around for a half-hour or so after closing to swap work — and ghost — stories.

 

 

 

Bibliography
Lamy saloon long rumored to be haunted, https://www.scdailypress.com/2012/11/02/lamy-saloon-long-rumored-to-be-haunted/

The “haunting” at the Wool Warehouse Theater

During performances a man in a cream-colored double-breasted suit has been known to have appeared on the stage. The spirit seems to be pleasant and is known to happily watch the productions from the side of the stage. However, the stairs behind the stage that leads to the basement are thought to hold a more malevolent spirit.

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The first reported occurrence happens in 1985. There are a few variants, but the basic story goes like this;

 

“During the first production presented in the theater, the Stage Manager, Vicki, kept seeing a cream-colored thing go past her. Then at intermission, she went to check something on the left side of the stage. Then suddenly she saw the apparition of an immaculate, charming looking man who was wearing a cream-colored, double-breasted suit. He was standing right next to the prop table, happily watching what was going on. According to Vicki, he appeared to be very pleased with the theater production.

 

In the following years, employees and guests have felt hot and cold spots, and have actually felt a presence among them, watching them. Things and objects in the theater have gone missing, only to reappear in other places in the building. Employees avoided going down the stairs behind the stage area to the basement unless they really had to go there. It was reported that employees have felt a push from unseen hands while attempting to go down the stairs and had something grab at their ankles. Strange sounds have been heard coming from the walls as well. Cold spots and an eerie presence have also been felt by customers and employees.”

 

The unidentified ghost of a man in a double-breasted, cream-colored suit has appeared near the stage during performances, thought to be one of the men in the Bond Family. Eventually, the apparitional figure wearing the cream-colored, double-breasted suit is believed, to be Frank Bond himself.

Unlike many of the haunted places that I investigated, I have not been able to locate any newspaper articles that have suggested that the theater is haunted or any ghost stories coming from the Wool Warehouse. However, in the early 1990’s, the building has also been used as a Halloween haunted attraction that was called the First Street Morgue, and in 1996 the haunted house was called Screamworks. There are several books that mention the haunting of the Wool Warehouse; however, they contain the same basic information that I have already provided.

The story behind the paranormal phenomena at the theater appears to be highly exaggerated. It seems that there are many witnesses to several different kinds of ghostly phenomena. However, during six separate investigations, conducted between April 1993 and May of 1999, I was only able to find seven witnesses that have claimed to have had a firsthand paranormal experience. All the other stories about the paranormal incidents at the theater were second or third-hand accounts. Out of those six witnesses, four were merely low grade in nature, consisting of the sense of an unexplained presence or feeling cold spots in the building. So, the focus of future investigations was focused solely on the remaining two accounts. Both witnesses requested to remain anonymous, so they were given aliases.

The interview with “Hugo” was very insightful and provided some helpful information. He was assigned to watch the curtain (exit) on the south side of the stage (stage left) after several customers had attempted to exit the theater through this area. This hallway leads backstage and will take you downstairs to the lower floor (sometimes mistakenly called a basement). He also informed us that a homeless man had managed to wedge a piece of wood into the locking mechanism of one of the old freight doors and was entering the theater at night until he was caught by a manager that was running a “haunted house” in the basement area. He suspected that the man was also stealing food as he would have had access to the kitchen.

Another interesting revelation that came from the witness interviews involved the origin of the “malevolent spirit” that supposedly exists on the stairs behind the stage. There has only been one account of someone having their ankles grabbed while going down the stairs. As it turns out that was explained soon after it happened. An extension cord had been run from the first floor up to the second, and the unfortunate stagehand had gotten tripped up on the extension cord. However, this did not stop the account from making its way into various versions of the ghost story. Again, this is another effect of myth building. As the stories continue to be told, new ghosts start being reported to account for the “new” paranormal activity.

Indeed, myth building was already rampant by my third visit in 1996. There were now twice as many stories and all of them were second or third-hand accounts. Also, this location was included in the book “The International Directory of Haunted Places” by William Hauck, which had recently been published. This would have a substantial effect on the myth building as the apparition seen near the stage was suddenly switching suits, often favoring a black tuxedo instead of the cream double-breasted one. When major details of apparition sightings change like this, it is usually an indication that the stories are just passing from one person to the next as there are no additional witnesses or encounters to add to the story.

The first paranormal claim I decided to address was the apparition of a man in a cream-colored double-breasted suit. We had a hypothesis that this apparition was a customer that went backstage through the south curtain that covers the hallway next to the stage. Without having an employee watching the south curtain, it is quite easy to move backstage without being noticed by the staff. This concept was also confirmed during some of the interviews with the employees. They told me that this was an on-going problem as customers often had mistaken the south curtain as an exit. They eventually placed an actual employee behind that curtain to keep people from wandering backstage inadvertently. This may also account for the change in apparition’s appearance from wearing the cream-colored suit to wearing a black suit. More than likely the person in the black suit was one of the employees who was guarding the hallway.

Another interesting thing to note is how the sightings of the cream-colored suit were eventually replaced in favor of the black one. This change is the result of the storytelling among the employees. The stories were ultimately picked up by authors who had published the account which describes the apparition wearing a black suit. The descriptions of the suit-wearing ghost also vary significantly in the details of his facial features. One describes the apparition having a full beard, yet another describes the figure as only having a mustache. Again, it is self-evident that the witnesses are not seeing the same thing, and this lies in stark contrast to the historical figure of Frank Bond, who in photos from the historical accounts, is always pictured as being cleanly shaven.

The next paranormal claim that was addressed was the noises and disembodied footsteps that many people have claimed to have heard on the stage. After sound mapping the location, we have determined that the noises are caused by two things. The footsteps are caused by the presence of ice around the vents because the condenser coils were dirty. The fan was hitting the ice when the cooler was on. The repetitive sound resembles footsteps. The compressor also shakes when it turns off creating a rather strange, loud noise. The location of the cooler is underneath the audience seating area; however, the sound travels through an access hallway that leads into the theater. Due to the acoustics of the theater, the sounds seem to originate from the stage area if you are seated in the audience or standing near the north entry. However, if the doors to the auditorium are closed, the noises are not that audible. More than likely, this is what creates the illusion that it is something paranormal. These noises are hardly noticeable during the busy hours due to background noise. They are noticeable if someone is alone in the quiet building at night.

Finally, there is the sighting of the apparition that was seen by an employee of one of the haunted house productions that had been set up on the first floor of the warehouse. The most plausible explanation for this event was that the apparition was the homeless man that had gained access to the theater. This was also confirmed during an interview with the manager of the haunted house. In fact, his employee’s account is what launched the investigation that discovered the vagrant.

So, I do not believe that this location is not haunted. The ghost stories are kept alive today because they are told on the Albucreepy Ghost Tour.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bond

Ghosts of Albuquerque, New Mexico – Legends of America. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/nm-albuquerqueghosts/

Wool Warehouse Theater, HauntedHouses.com, http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/nm/wool_warehouse_theater.htm

FHR-8-300 (11-78). https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/81000400.pdf

 

The paranormal claims of the St. James Hotel in 2003

The St. James Hotel in Cimarron is considered to be one of the most haunted places in New Mexico. This documentary about the paranormal activity that is reported at the hotel was shot in 2003. The differences between the reported activity in 2003 can be compared against the claims currently coming from this historic site. My opinions of the haunting are documented in the film as well.

The Lodge at Cloudcroft, my opinions

The legend of Rebecca is built upon a foundation that is no more solid than the apparition that supposedly haunts the hotel. The biggest problem is the inability to link the supposed ghost to an actual person. Several years have been spent searching genealogical records, law enforcement records, and missing persons reports in an attempt to locate a woman named Rebecca Potter. During the 1930s there was a Rebecca Potter living in Silver City. However, she was 64 years old and married, a far cry from the sexy redhead that supposedly haunts the hotel.

Is important to note that many old legends like this often have a fraction of truth to them, something that served as a catalyst for the legend. One such event occurred in 1920. This story of a ghastly murder was printed by the Albuquerque Journal on September 5th.

 

   “Cloudcroft, N.M., Sept. 4 _Mrs. Jack Durham and her two children, 1 3 years of age and another 6 months old, together with Tom Martin, were shot and killed by Jack Durham seriously wounded.

 

The bodies of Mrs. Durham and Martin were first discovered by the roadside. Martin had been shot in the head, the bullet entering the eye, resulting in instant death. Mrs. Durham had been shot twice, in the head and breast. Going to the tent of the Durham’s, it was here that Durham was found wound. Ask where the children were, the officers were directed to the tent where they found both, each having been shot in the head.

 

The wounded man is now in jail under the care of Physicians McKinley and Gilbert. The bullet entered his chin, missing the tongue, continued in an upward course, but did not penetrate the brain. The cheek and nose bones are shattered.

 

Mrs. Durham was the daughter of S.P. Tipton, a Christian minister of the Weed section.

 

Durham admitted the killing but would give no reason for the deed.”

 

 

Two days later an updated report is printed in the Santa Fe New Mexican on September 7th, 1920.

 

   “Mrs. Jack Durham and her two children, one six months and the other three years of age, and Tom Martin were shot and killed, and Jack Durham seriously wounded in a gun battle which occurred in the Carr canyon, near the town of High Rolls late Sunday afternoon.

 

As soon as the message reached this city Sheriff, Snyder left at once for the scene of the shooting and found the bodies of Mrs. Durham and Martin near the roadside, both having been shot with a high-power rifle. After a short search both the little children were found in a tent near The Sawmill with bullets through their heads.

 

Wild the real cause of the shooting has not been learned it is said that Martin had a wood contract and that Durham was in his employee and that they had a quarrel over the terms of the contract.

 

In an interview, Durham admitted the killing but refused to give any reason for the deed.

 

While the real cause of the shooting has not been learned, it is said that Martin had a wood contract and that Durham was in his employee and that they had a quarrel over the terms of the contract.”

 

It is eventually discovered that this tragedy was the result of a love triangle. If we are taking the various variants of the legend into account in a chronological order, the oldest version has Rebecca being murdered by a railroad executive, and easterner or even by her boss. All of the elements for the earliest version of the Rebecca story are contained in these two articles. An affair with a manager (her husband’s) and the murder by a lumberjack, who happened to be her husband. This horrific murder would have been very well remembered by the small communities surrounding Cloudcroft. This may well be the genesis for the legend of Rebecca that has survived at the Lodge.

Sometimes realistic events can also shape and change legends. A good example of this is the story of Rebecca. As one researches the various ghost stories about Rebecca, you stumble across sudden changes in the myth as the story is told through the decades. The earliest variants say that Rebecca was buried in the dirt floor of the Red Dog Saloon. However, the current story suggests that she is buried “somewhere” on the property of the Lodge, perhaps even on the golf course.

 

“According to some, Rebecca’s body was found near what is now the Cloudcroft Lodge Golf course. It was determined she was murdered, but the crime was never solved. There are some who believe that Rebecca is in search of a new lover who appreciates her apparently flirtatious and mischievous ways.

 

Golfers who hit their shots into the forest on the Lodge golf course have often seen their golf balls miraculously shoot out of the trees and back into the fairway. It could be the ghost of Rebecca is sympathetic to golfers with bad aim?”

 

The change in her burial location is due to a tragic event that occurred in 1987 when a woman went missing in Alamogordo. When her body was discovered in 2004 the possibility of Rebecca’s body being buried somewhere other than the basement was readily accepted. Strangely, this almost validates the news story printed a year earlier when a psychic claims that Rebecca was taken into the woods and murdered. As a result, the myth changes. It is also important to note that the theme of a “maid killed by jealous lover”  is attached to many hotels.

The ghost story of Rebecca has longevity because the propagator is the Lodge itself. As a result, the story has been told and retold in numerous books and websites. This creates an awareness of “the haunting” which in turn creates suggestion and bias in the guests visiting the Lodge. It could be argued that this could prime visitors to having a “paranormal experience”. However, this experience is not actually paranormal in nature, is created through misperception and validated by bias.

The ghostly ledger contains many experiences that are clearly hypnopompic and hypnagogic in origin. These are mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. A hypnopompic state is the state of consciousness leading out of sleep. The hypnagogic state is the opposite and occurs at sleep onset. However, the two states are not identical. The hypnagogic state is rational waking cognition trying to make sense of non-linear images and associations while the hypnopompic state is emotional and credulous dreaming cognition trying to make sense of real-world stolidity. Here are a few examples out of dozens that are recorded in the ledger.

 

“Last night I think I saw a Rebecca. I woke at 2:30 and I saw a dark figure standing by the door [of room 246]. It just stared at me and I stared back. If it was Rebecca, I consider myself lucky to see her.”

 

“About 5 a.m. I awoke and felt my friend move over to my bed to be under the air conditioning vent. She was so quiet that I couldn’t believe she’d already book, magazines, purse, etc. that I’d left on the bed. I heard the whispering and movement of air as one moves quietly at night and then a sigh of a woman and the bed sinking on my left. Another sigh and whoosh and the pillow and mattress settled a bit lower.

I held still because I didn’t want her to know I was awake. But then I open my eyes and saw that my friend was still in her own bed. There were no further sensations. I vow I do not have sensations like this, in fact, this is perhaps my first experience.”

 

It is clear that the “public relations image” of Rebecca was started by Jerry Sanders when he purchased the hotel. In 1984, the El Paso Times published an article written by David Sheppard in which Sanders evens questions the reality of the legend.

 

” Jerry Sanders, who now owns The Lodge, says the story of Rebecca “is a charming legend,” but he isn’t sure she ever really existed.

 

“Some real interesting things have happened,” he said, but he considers a real, historic Rebecca immaterial.

 

“There is a presence – there’s no question about that,” and he calls that presence Rebecca “because that’s the story we inherited.”

 

Sanders first heard of Rebecca on his first trip to the hotel. During a tour of the buildings, the owner – Glynda Bonnell – told Jerry and his wife Carole that the Lodge had a friendly resident ghost named Rebecca.

 

“She told us she had red hair, blue eyes and was voluptuous,” Sanders said. From the description, the Sanderses had her portrait painted and hung it at the entrance to the restaurant – which they named “Rebecca’s.”

 

Bonnell said the legend was handed down to her from previous owners and employees. She doesn’t know how much truth is in the story, but for Bonnell, like so many others, Rebecca provided an explanation for a mysterious experience she had.

 

“I was in the Governor’s Suite redoing some drapes one day when I heard a knock on the door,” Bonnell said. Her back was to the door and her head partly was covered by the drapes. “I said, ‘Come in.’ There was no answer, but I heard the door open and footsteps coming in.

 

“I said, ‘What do you want?’” still no answer, Bonnell tossed the drapes off her head, stepped down the ladder, turned and was walking toward the door when it closed. She reached the glass-paned door just as it clicked shut. She looked through the panes down the hallway to see who had just left and saw – nothing.

 

“That was it,” she said. “That was kind of startling, to say the least.”

 

Buddy Ritter another previous owner, said “many strange things” used to happen at The Lodge, but he never attributed them to Rebecca.

 

None of the recent owners traced Rebecca’s background. All they know about her is her name and the story of her disappearance. Sanders said she apparently was called both Rebecca and Becky, but he has yet to learn her last name.

 

If she did exist, evidence of her is hard to find. Otero County Sheriff Ricky Virden recently went through missing person’s reports through the 1930s and found none concerning a Rebecca or a Becky.

 

“I’ve never known the real story,” said Virden, who first heard the legend as a child growing up in the area.

 

The most prevalent account of Rebecca’s disappearance is that she was killed on Aug. 18 back in the 1930s. But no evidence can be found of an investigation into the murder.

 

Sanders acknowledges that Rebecca could be the character of a fanciful tale. But whether she’s fact or fiction doesn’t’ really matter, he said. Her presence is what counts.”

 

 

As with many legends, it may have a basis in fact but it originates from a completely different event. The legend gains notoriety through myth building and is sustained through misperception and continued story telling by the staff at the Lodge and the media who are always searching for a good story for Halloween.

Mary Lambert’s connection to Room 17, St. James Hotel

marylambertIn 1887 Charles Fred “Cyclone” Lambert was born to Henri and Mary Lambert in Room #31, now Room 17 of the St. James Hotel. It was a blustery winter night with a blizzard blowing outside and at the time of his birth so one of the hotel guests, and good friend of the Lambert family, laughingly commented that he should be named “Cyclone Dick,” much to Mary’s chagrin. However, she went along with it and the couple soon asked the guest to be Fred’s godfather, which he gladly accepted. The guest and Fred’s godfather was none other than Buffalo Bill Cody. Buffalo Bill would later give Fred instruction in the use of guns when he got older.

Mary also died in this room in 08 June 1926.

The Lodge at Cloudcroft, looking for answers

In the beginning, the ghost stories of Rebecca were not told outside of the Lodge because previous owners believed that having a ghost would be bad for business. Therefore they kept the stories quiet. Buddy Ritter, who owned the lodge between 1959 to 1973 is quoted and an El Paso Times article on October 31st, 1984 as saying many strange things used to happen at the Lodge but he never attributed them to Rebecca. “I knew of the Rebecca Legend, but I never played it up because I didn’t want to frighten anybody.” Although the ghost is not mentioned by Lodge historian Dorothy Neal in her 1969  book “The Lodge, 1899 – 1969”,  the flirtatious apparition has been seen by employees and guests alike over the years.

When Jerry Sanders purchased the Lodge in 1983, he saw the potential business a ghost might bring in and began to promote the red-haired, blue-eyed apparition, eventually naming the Lodge’s restaurant after her.

Rebecca

There are four basic variants of the Rebecca Legend. In the first, Rebecca is murdered by a railroad executive. After rejecting his advances he throws her from the tower and buries her body in the basement. A few early stories of this version also suggest that the executive is actually one of the owners or managers of the Lodge.

In the second variant, Rebecca was a chambermaid who worked at the Lodge in the 1930s. Her Lumberjack boyfriend returned unexpectedly to find her in the arms of another man. In a fit of rage and jealousy, he murdered her and buried her body somewhere in the basement.

The third variant is similar but identifies the Governor’s Suite as the site for the murder. The fourth variant is similar to the first

two except that her Lumberjack boyfriend drags her off into the woods where he kills her and the dismembers her body. The animals eat her remains, leaving no trace of her.

Typically when a ghost story has many versions, it is a strong indicator that myth building has taken place. This happens as a story is told from one person to the next. With each retelling, elements are added or deleted which creates the multiple versions. The most effective way to sort this out is to examine the stories in chronological order.

The oldest mention of the ghost that I could locate was reported in the Kokomo Tribune on October 28th, 2000. It describes a story that occurred in sometime in 1976.

 

“The Lodge has a spirit,” said Marty Mills, the hotel’s Recreation Director. ” I’m not just talking about Rebecca. I don’t know much about the paranormal, but there is a presence here.”

 

Mills, 49, has been feeling that presence at the Lodge and seeing things she can explain for a lot of years.

 

Her father managed The Lodge’s golf course in the 1960s, so she was playing in the hotel’s dimly lit and creaky corridors and searching for its rumored subterranean passageways when she was just 13 or so.

 

The stories Mills doesn’t know about the Lodge, and its ghost are the ones people have been too frightened to tell. And after thinking through all of the stories she has heard, she has come to one conclusion.

 

“If you believe in the spirit whether you call it Rebecca or whatever, the spirit will leave you alone,” Mills said. ” if you do good for the Lodge, you’re OK. But you better not push the spirit’s buttons.”

 

Somebody must be punching buttons now and again because hotel staff members and guests report seeing Rebecca’s ghostly manifestation, or tell about toilets that flush themselves, ashtrays that move by themselves and champagne glasses that shatter without apparent reason.

 

And then, of course, that was the case of mysterious mixed up golf carts.

 

“In 1976, I was 26 and had just started here as director of recreation,” Mills said. “My sister and I would come to work here in the morning, about dawn. There was the shed here about full of golf carts, and when we unlocked it, we would find that all the carts had been moved around and jammed together so tight you could hardly budge them. That wasn’t how we left them the night before.”

 

Mills was telling the story at her post in the Pro Shop at The Lodge’s Golf Course, which, at 9000 feet, is one of the highest in the world. The shop and the first tee are just a few yards out the back door of the hotel, built-in 1911.

 

It was a bright, warm Sunday morning, the kind of sunny, safe atmosphere in which even the most ardent believer can talk about things that go bump in the night and not get goosebumps while doing it.

 

Mills went on with her story, telling how she figured some prankster must have been at work and how she plugged up all the holes in the shed, bought a new lock for it, and left the golf carts lined up inside in an orderly fashion.

 

But when she arrived the next morning and unlocked the shed, she found the carts in the same jumbled mess she had found them in the day before. This happened every two or three nights for about two weeks.

 

“One morning, I went down to the shed and stared at it and said, “Look, I believe you’re here. I believe you exist. But you’re feeling my life with grief, and I’m getting tired of it. I’d rather you not mess with my carts.”

 

End of problem.”

 

The oldest printed reference of a ghost haunting the Lodge at Cloudcroft that I was able to find was an ad in the Alamogordo Daily News which was distributed on October 30th, 1981.  It is only a simple advertisement for a Halloween party being held the restaurant at the Lodge (then called the Golden Eagle restaurant). It states, “Enjoy an excellent meal which may be served by Dracula, Minnie Mouse or maybe by our famous resident ghost.”

A year later the same newspaper runs a short story on local events, this time giving the ghost’s name as Rebecca.

 

Alamogordo Daily News, June 6, 1982

“One of the activities planned for the July Jamboree to be held July 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. 4 p.m. each day will be the Village Tours. Elizabeth Earthman, chairman of the tours, stated that plans are to have a minibus for two tours on Saturday and three tours on Sunday. Some of the highlights of the tour will be the Texas Hotel with a brief history on it; the Lodge with “Rebecca” the believed ghost hopefully in attendance; the churches of Cloudcroft; the railroad trestle and a few residences.”

 

The attached photograph for the article had the following caption;

 

“Cora Preslar and Sara Gilliam prepare to go up to the tower at the Lodge in Cloudcroft in hopes of finding “Rebecca” the believed ghost. The Village tour during the July Jamboree will feature the Lodge as one of the highlights of the event.”

 

The early accounts of a haunting at the Lodge are very vague. They contain only hints of the legend that is so well known today. The first detailed account of the haunting of the Lodge does not appear until  November 6, 1983, when the Alamogordo Daily News prints a story written by Al Stubbs who was the Daily News Editor. The article reads;

 

“A shimmering “cloud” with words appearing in its midst in Spanish. Doors opening and closing with no one about. Mysterious telephone antics from Room 101, the Governor’s Suite. Faucets that turn themselves on, stairs that lead to nowhere.

 

A number of people, some of which are visitors, others employees of The Lodge at Cloudcroft, swear that a mysterious presence occupies the dark rooms, halls and hidden places at the Lodge.

 

ETHEREAL REBECCA

 

That presence, they believe, is the ethereal Rebecca, who, the story goes, had a boyfriend who was a logger. But Rebecca strayed from the straight and narrow and took up with “the boss” at the Lodge. Her boyfriend, according to the undocumented story, found them in a compromising position; he shot and killed Rebecca possibly burying her beautiful body in the basement of the Lodge, probably sometime in the 1930s, and probably on August 18, whatever year.

 

VERY BEAUTIFUL

 

Rebecca reportedly was a very beautiful woman, red-haired, flamboyant, with perfect features and figure. She caused many a heart to stir. But, she met an untimely end. She almost always wore red.

 

There are those people, quite a number of them, who say or feel that Rebecca’s ghost, a lost soul so to speak, wanders about the Lodge, sometimes scaring the behootest out of employees and guests alike.

 

The Lodge is an old building, currently being restored beautifully by the new owners, Jerry and Carole Sanders. Jerry says, ” There is a mysterious force here.”

 

Ask Pancha Madrid, 1305 Canal, Alamogordo about Rebecca.

 

Her story:

 

“She is there. I didn’t see a shadow or a person,” the former head maid said recently. She told of an apparition, like a cloud, that appeared in the basement as she was washing and drying bedclothes. It appeared after she heard a door slam. In Spanish, words appeared within the cloud, “On the 18th of August there was a ghost in this place,” the words read. Pancha remembers them well, for a few moments later, she said, the same words appeared in on a shelf in the laundry room.

 

SHAKES LIKE A LEAF

 

” I ran upstairs, shaking like a leaf…” Her daughter, who worked with her, asked,” what’s the matter?”

 

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Pancha said. ” I felt like I was going to pass out. I started crying… I couldn’t sleep at night.

 

She said she asked her boss, Freddie, if she could put a straw cross on the door or call a priest. She said she went straight to the basement the next day.

 

” I did pray for her soul.” But, she said, she told “Rebecca,” ” I don’t want you to let me see you again.”

 

And Rebecca didn’t.

 

Much of Rebecca’s activity, so the stories go, centers on the Governor’s Suite, which, heavily draped, faces toward the White Sands and which is at the end of a long hallway.

 

Glenda Bonnell, who with her husband, Ken, were involved in the Lodge management and ownership for a time, tells of when she was hanging drapes in Room 101.

 

She was holding the drapes, which had just been cleaned, over her arm when she heard the door to the suite open. She called, thinking it was her husband. Silence. She heard Footsteps in the hall. She said she knew there was no person around. She felt her skin crawl.

 

“I dropped the drapes and came off the ladder,” she said. She felt the “presence.”

 

MYSTERIOUS CALLS

 

Ann Carney, who Sanders says is his ” right-hand girl,” and senior desk clerk for many years says that frequently and for days at a time calls would come to the switchboard from Room 101. She would answer, and there was always silence after the rings. Even after the switchboard was changed out, Mrs. Bonnell said, the mysterious calls continued. At one point, Ms. Carney said, she figured that because of the mix up on the switchboard, the calls might be coming from 103.

 

“We checked,” she said. “There was no one in 103 either.”

 

Ms. Carney said she often worked late into the night at the Lodge, keeping books and such. ” I would get the strangest feeling… there were chills up and down my back. The hair on my neck was “bristling,” “” she said.

 

The stories abound. The fireplace in the Red Dog Saloon, part of the Lodge, suddenly came alive, with flames flashing up the chimney. There was no fire in the fireplace at the time. There hadn’t been for some time. It was a summer day.

 

CANDLES LIT

 

Supposedly one group left the Red Dog empty; when they returned a short time later, candles on the tables were lit. There was no one who claimed to have accomplished the deed, except perhaps Becky.

 

Another time, the bartender, Woody Woodcock, is quoted by fellow workers as saying he saw “Rebecca” materialize out of a brick wall. She walked over and turned off the Jukebox, and he is quoted as saying.

 

Dr. Gene Shakely, of Colorado City, Texas, who has a townhouse near the Lodge, is quoted as saying “Rebecca” followed he and his wife from the Lodge to his townhouse one night.

 

Ashtrays float across a room. Faucets flow. The stories continue.

 

Sanders said he and his wife stored furniture in a large room in the basement when they were waiting for their house to be finished. They were working in that room when they suddenly heard “water splashing” from beyond. They went into a room that was formerly maid’s quarters and where two wash basins are located. There is no entrance to the room except through the door they entered. Four faucets were flowing full blast into the basins. Sanders can’t explain that.

 

MYSTERY ROOM

 

There is one other door into that room. It’s high on the wall, about the size of a large medicine cabinet. Behind that door a small room, complete with a door frame and heavy door, with the door leading down five steps “to nowhere.” The steps end in dirt, at an embankment. There is no other entrance to that mysterious room.

 

Recently a group of men, businessmen, were having dinner in the dining room, with the wind howling outside. A shutter was banging up against the wall, and Sanders came over to shut it to keep the noise level down.

 

About that time one of the men said something to the effect that ” there is no Rebecca.” Suddenly the shutter came loose again, knocking over a heavy flagpole with an eagle on top. The metal eagle barely missed one of the men’s head.

 

Now he’s not so sure about whether or not Rebecca still roams the Lodge. There are many other people who aren’t so sure. Talk to Pancha.”

 

 

The mystery room is located in the basement. The  doors to the Red Dog Saloon are straight in front of the staircase landing and the public bathrooms are on the left. The door immediately on the right is a service hallway for the boiler room. The next door to the right is the laundry room. It contains a couple of washing machines and dryers plus a big laundry sink in the back left corner with an electricians box above it. However it is not actually an electrical box. It conceals the partially bricked up “mystery room”, which contains the old servants staircase.

Another fascinating ghost story about Rebecca occurs in the Red Dog Saloon sometime in the 60’s or 70’s. It was rather late in the evening, and the bar was closed. The final customers of the night, a table of four men, sat at a table close to the bar finishing their drinks while the bartender cleaned up. As the bartender was washing glasses, he was facing the mirror on the back wall of the bar. He happened to glance up to see a woman who was swaying back and forth in the center of the dance floor as if she was dancing to a silent tune. He said,” I’m sorry ma’am. We’re closed.” The patrons could see her in the mirrors on the wall as well, but when they all turned to look at the dance floor, no one was there. Oddly enough when they turned back, she was no longer visible in any of the mirrors.

 

This was a famous story that is often retold in multiple magazine and newspaper articles in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. In 1993, country musician Michael Martin Murphey directed his video for the song “Dancing with a memory” on location in Cloudcroft at the Lodge. The song was inspired by the legend of Rebecca, and the accompanying video features Murphey dancing with Rebecca in the saloon and chasing her ghost through various rooms of the Lodge. With the celebrity attention, it is easy to see how the legend grows.

The 85th anniversary of the Lodge occurs in 1984, and several articles in various newspapers feature stories about Rebecca and the paranormal occurrences that have been reported at the mountain resort. One of the most notable appears in the New Mexican on October 30th. It was written by Marilyn Haddrill, a member of the El Paso Times Staff. The title of the article is ” There’s a presence at Cloudcroft Lodge” and is noteworthy because of the interview with owner Jerry Sanders.  It reads;

 

   “The owners of The Lodge at Cloudcroft say they have met their resident ghosts, Rebecca, shortly after they arrived.

 

Owner Jerry Sanders chuckles when he tells Rebecca stories. And he cheerfully admits to exploiting her, renaming his restaurant “Rebecca’s” for her.

 

But when he and his wife, Carol, recently took over the lodge, they had an experience that Sanders describes with more sobriety than usual.

 

He escorted the Rev Hal Banks, a Roswell psychic researcher, to the Lodge basement where he reenacted the events of that night more than a year ago.

 

Jerry and Carol Sanders have been living in the hotel until they could find a home. Furniture from their previous residence was stored in the basement, where the windows were barred. They had the only key to the lock on the only entrance.

 

Late each night, the couple would go to the basement to retrieve clothes they would wear the next day. The chests were arranged on one side so they could get in and out easily. When they went to the basement one night, they saw several chests had been moved. A light glowed from the adjoining cleaning sink area just around the corner. They stared, uneasily wondering if they had surprised a burglar.

 

Then a sound like a burst water pipe shattered the silence. Sanders ran to the cleaning sinks. Water was gushing from faucets that had been turned on in two of them. If the water had run for more than just a few seconds, the basins would have overflowed. But they were still only partially full.

 

Sanders stood in the same bathroom and pointed through a window in a wall. Beyond is a room now mostly walled-off. The room has a dirt floor and a stairway leading to nowhere.

 

Sanders told Banks that this was the room he had brought a psychic and that it “was one of the places she definitely felt an overwhelming sense of presence.”

 

A heavy musky smell, probably from the dirt floor of the room beyond, seeps through the open window. The basement once was the maid’s quarters in the Lodge. The present structure was built in 1911, although the original Lodge was constructed in 1899.

 

According to the stories Sanders has been told, Rebecca was a chambermaid in the early 1930s. She was a beautiful, red-haired blue-eyed woman whom her jealous lumberjack boyfriend ” caught in the arms of another.”

 

Afterward, Rebecca disappeared. Some say the jealous lover killed her with an ax or knife and buried her body at the Lodge.

 

The only place at the Lodge with a dirt floor is that room just beyond the basement.

 

Sanders emphatically refuses to dig it up.

 

“I think we don’t want to confirm or deny any of the strange goings-on,” Sanders said. “It would be a sad thing in my mind if I found something really there. It would be like I found the source of a mystery that I really don’t want to understand.”

 

Greg Adams, an employee, is nearby, completing maintenance work in the basement. He looks up as the group starts to leave.

 

” It’s not a bad ghost,” he says. “It’s a friendly ghost. I work down here all the time.”

 

Sanders leads the way to the nearby Red Dog Saloon, where many a bartender over the years has reported seeing or sensing Rebecca. The most famous story concerns a beautiful red-haired woman in a long gown dipping and moving gracefully in a dance.

 

And it was there that Sanders overheard a customer telling his friends huddled over drinks at a table about what he had witnessed in his room the night before:

 

“It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I looked over, and my watch was floating from my bed stand to my chest.”

 

Sanders is the first owner of the property to publicly acknowledge the ghost stories and the legend of the murdered chambermaid. It is also the basis for the second variant of the story where Rebecca’s body is buried in the basement.

His account of the ghostly activity offers several clues which are essential to note. The first is his unwillingness to have the “mystery room” excavated. If there was a human being buried there, shouldn’t that person be entitled to a proper burial? Or perhaps such a search would turn up nothing and jeopardize the Lodge’s new media gimmick?   One of the more uncomfortable elements that have to be considered is the possibility of a hoax. There is a monetary motive and solving the mystery could potentially harm that. It could also debunk the psychic that felt an overwhelming sense of presence there. However, on the believer end, if something were found and removed, would the haunting stop?

Although it is evident that the Lodge has monetized its ghost, from a business perspective it is best to just leave it alone.  Besides, others would soon come forward to question the validity of the legend.

The first occurs two years later in another article published by the Alamogordo Daily News in 1986.  Although the article repeats the various elements of the legend, it does contain a rather interesting piece of information.

 

“Legend has it that someone was killed there, a lover’s triangle, and that was Rebecca,” said Marie Wuersching of the Sacramento Mountains Historical Society.Mrs. Wuersching has researched Rebecca’s story, looking through newspapers and dusty records to document such a murder. “But as far as I know, it’s only a legend. I really wish I could find something on it.”

 

Mrs. Wuersching is not the only researcher that has come up empty-handed. The Otero County sheriff conducted a thorough search of missing person records in the early 1960’s. He went through all of the police and missing person files of the 1930’s but found no records on anyone named Rebecca or Becky. So the identity of the “ghost” remains unknown, and the ghost stories are looking more like an urban legend.

One of the most destructive things that Rebecca has ever supposedly done occurred in 1986.  An unnamed skeptic seated himself in the dining and was busy scoffing at the story of Rebecca’s ghost when, suddenly and inexplicably, an empty wine glass on his table exploded. The story was told by the restaurant manager Judy Montoya in the Albuquerque Journal on October 30th, 1988.

   “This gentleman and his wife were in the dining looking at the menu, and he read the little story about Rebecca,” Montoya says.” He called me over and said he thought it was terrible that a menu would include this piece of propaganda and that some people would do anything for publicity. He was very negative about it.

 

The table he was sitting at had been cleared, and he was getting ready to order dessert when the glass shattered. No one touched it, no one dropped anything on it, no one moved it. It was at least a foot away from the center of the table, setting where it had been the entire meal. The man did not order wine.

 

Every part of the glass broke into little pieces, the base, the stem, and the bowl. The man leaped up from the table and accused us of making this happen.

 

We were busy replacing dinners of the people who had been sitting near his table. We were concerned that some of the pieces of the glass had fallen into their food.

 

I bought the man a drink in the lounge and apologized, but I explained to him that neither I nor anyone on the restaurant staff had caused the glass to shatter.

 

None of the diners were injured but bits of glass shower the room. The restaurant had no choice but to entirely replace about half-a-dozen entrees.”

 

The explosion of the glass has several logical explanations and is actually quite common.  Glasses can develop “fatigue” as they are repeatedly washed due to the exposure of hot and cold during the cleaning process. Over time they can weaken. If the glass receives a small crack or chip, it can escalate the fatigue dramatically and is prone too shattering.  In its cold state, when it was placed on the table, the stresses and strains occur by random chance and are unfavorably high if a small crack was created by wear. The glass fractures without warning due to its brittle nature and the crack expands quickly to release the stresses that have been in it since being tempered, efficiently looking like an explosion.

Due to the timing of the conversation and the glass shattering, the event appears to have a paranormal origin. Incidents such as these are often attributed to the ghost as they are often a scapegoat for anything that seemingly occurs out of the ordinary.   Ghost hunters call these types of events quasi-normal as they are explainable phenomenon that happens rarely or under specific conditions. Due to their unusual nature, they create more ghostly experiences and help propagate the ghost stories, keeping the paranormal claims current and seemingly relevant. This is vital as the stories fade if they are not being told.  On occasion, the propagation of the claims come from sources that are related to the location of the claims but are not explicitly focused on the paranormal tales.