The Lodge at Cloudcroft, History

The announcement of the construction of a new lodge was published in the Alamogordo News on February 17th, 1910. It read;

“Cloudcroft, the premier Resort of the Great Southwest will be rebuilt. That is now beyond controversy.
Mr. Simmons, General Manager of the El Paso and Southwestern route, which owns Cloudcroft, said some time since to the El Paso papers that Cloudcroft would be restored as a resort, but he was not then in a position to say when the actual construction work would be commenced.
The great Resort Hotel will be ready for occupancy by the opening of the season of 1911. The new structure will be one of the finest hotels in the Southwest, modern and architecture, furnishings and fittings, with no convenience or comfort lacking. Cloudcroft as a resort will be given the widest range of publicity possible. One of the handsomest booklets ever issued from a modern press will be used in the advertising and the railroad will do all that brains and money can accomplish to make it one of the most widely known and popular resorts in the Southwest.”

The new Lodge at Cloudcroft opened on June 1, 1911. The railroad commissioned a Chicago architectural firm design the new Lodge. The central building was designed with a tower element that was flanked by two lower sections of different size but equal mass. This part of the building was designed to contain the two-story lobby, a two story dining room, and kitchen facilities. The offices of the resident manager were located off of the mezzanine.
On the third floor was a large dormitory which could accommodate 75-80 men. Connected to the main building was a two story wing which contained fifty guest rooms, twelve private baths, and four guest baths. A basement was constructed only under the central portion of the building. The original exterior was of a grey stucco, which was described as “fireproof.” The three projecting bay windows gave light to the interior and spectacular views for the dining room guests. Although the main building, which contained the public spaces, was physically attached to the guest wing, which included the private areas, they were entirely separate visually. The roof, as well as fenestration and architectural elements, were entirely different on each section of the building; however, the original third-floor dormers and cupolas on the main building and the wing were identical.

During the following forty years the history of the Lodge was fairly uneventful. The depression years reduced the number of resort and vacationing Americans at Cloudcroft as well as across the United States as a whole. However, the Lodge offered gambling and alcohol as a way to help pay the bills. Several times the Lodge’s owners would get into trouble for selling alcohol during prohibition.
From 1932 to 1935 Conrad Hilton leased the Lodge from the railroad and operated both the hotel and dining room for three seasons.

In 1933 the manager at the lodge was a man named William Tooley. One of his employees was a gentleman known merely as Dixie. The gambling manager, Dave Lawson, would slip Dixie money to gamble with in hopes of increasing the profits of the gambling business that ran out of the Lodge’s basement. Gambling was a significant source of income for the Lodge for most of this decade.

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.

Changes to Rebecca’s ghost story. (The Lodge at Cloudcroft)

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.

Cloudcroft_mystery

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.

The Lodge at Cloudcroft, witness accounts

Having a ghostly encounter is predominantly a human experience. Therefore it is important to consider those experiences. If you want to investigate haunted places seriously, your best tools of the trade will be your ability to talk and draw information from your witnesses. I rely upon interviewing witnesses more than any other method of investigation. That is, I find it fruitful to talk with eyewitnesses to a haunting rather than bringing in psychics or staying in the location for a lengthy amount of time waiting for something unusual to happen. In the end, the testimony should add up. If one witness claims that mysterious steps have been heard walking about the location, other people should be complaining about similar manifestations. If they come up with different stories about what is going on this should alert you to the possibility that they are either making up stories, misperceiving something explainable as paranormal or only simply imagining that the place is haunted.

This can be quite difficult when you are dealing all of the ghostly accounts that span over 80 years. This is the issue with the Lodge in Cloudcroft. Listing every single one of them is well beyond the span of this book, however, I have listed several of the more significant accounts below that haven’t been recorded in the newspaper articles.

 

Lisa Thomassie, the general manager of the Lodge, talked about what she knew during a visit in 2010.

“We are at the highest point in Cloudcroft this is at an elevation of 9200 feet and it’s the tower it is where our Friendly Ghost Rebecca likes to be. Downstairs in the basement is where the chambermaids living quarters were and now it’s where our offices are. Some of her other favorite places is the governor suite and all of the governors of New Mexico have stayed there including Pancho Villa and Clark Gable and so she likes that area because all of the notable gentlemen have stayed there in the past.

We had the Red Dog Saloon and that’s another favorite place of hers. She loves to dance and we have a jukebox and live entertainment playing there on the weekends. It was real popular area and of course the New Mexico law is that you have to close a 2:00 am so when it was time to close she still wanted to carry on and so we would have a night manager that would stay here called a night auditor and they do not stop her from still dancing after hours. The jukebox was still playing music, even though it was turned off and Rebecca was supposedly dancing in there and so they unplug it from the wall to make sure that there was no way that she can get the music on. Here we go again. She’s actually turning the Jukebox on. It was a concern because the noise transfers in the hotel and it would upset the guests sleeping on the second level right above where the Red Dog Saloon is located.”

There are several shops located inside of the Lodge. One of the employees there told of her unusual encounters with the ghost.

“Well, I’ve been here about 20 years and I have had numerous experiences with Rebecca in the stores and around in the hotel but one of my favorite ones that happened to me occurred probably a couple years ago. I was standing here at the counter and I had a catalog that I was looking through. Suddenly I have this little basket here that has baby bracelets in it and suddenly it just turned on its side like that, all by itself.

It’s got a pretty big solid base and there’s no reason for this thing to just suddenly tip over and it tipped over and all the little bracelets fell out. I picked them up and put them back in the basket and asked Rebecca to please leave my stuff alone. Rebecca is big on moving things around in the shop and on several occasions have hidden things from us.

Over in mercantile, we have a shelf that has books on it and one day I’ve gotten a big order of books, there was about 24 of them and I didn’t have time to put them all away. So I just stacked them up one on top of another on the shelf and the next morning when I came in about half of them were laying on the floor.

Well, that’s kind of unusual but I didn’t think anything of it and I picked them up and I put them back in. Later that morning, the man that was our night security man came by and he asked me asked if there was anything unusual in here this morning?  I thought about and then told him that I found the books lying on the floor.

He said last night late he was walking down the hall and he said that out of the corner of his eye he noticed some movement. We have a full glass door in the Mercantile and he said the books were falling off the shelf just one at a time like somebody was pushing them off. He watched this happen for a minute or so before leaving, not wanting to know what was really going on.”

Lisa Ward, the kitchen manager at the hotel

Lisa has worked at the resort for more than 15 years. When she first started working at the Lodge she was very skeptical about the ghost stories and regarded Rebecca as nothing but a marketing ploy that was created by the hotel. One night she was having a conversation with a fellow trainee.

“What do you make of this ghost story?” the trainee asked Lisa. Lisa, the cynic, spoke her mind and answered, “Rebecca is nothing more than a story about a red-headed slut!  Almost immediately, the filter basket of the coffee pot, which was full of coffee grounds, flew out from the coffee machine. It traveled 15 feet across the room, hitting Lisa in the chest, covering her in the damp coffee grounds. The event caused quite a stir and both employees became believers as a result.

The Lodge also keeps a large ledger for guests to record their own experiences with Rebecca. Within its pages are over a hundred different entries. Some of these are simply wishes from guests who are hoping to see the buildings famous ghost, while others are simply messages from children. Yet there are several which are quite fascinating. Some of the more significant ones have been included below.

 

In 1993 J.O. of Murchison, Texas described her experience at the Lodge.

” I went to the morning clerk and asked what to do to go up to the tower for pictures. She said she just needed my driver’s license and she would give me the key. We traded quickly and I walked to the top of the second floor to find the door was already opened. I look to my left and there was a pretty young maid polishing the doorknob to the first room on the left. She smiled at me and I smiled back and said hi. I went on about my business climbing up to the tower and found the door opened on the roof. Hmm? That seemed a little dangerous, so I called out but no one answered. I went on to the top, took some great pictures and headed back down return the key.

I got to the check-in counter and told the lady I didn’t need the key. She was somewhat puzzled and asked, ” why not?” I told her the door was already open, I guessed by the young maid that was polishing doorknob on that floor. She slowly back from me and started shaking. I smiled and asked what was the matter. She said,” I and the restaurant people are the only ones working at this hour.” (about 7:30am) I simply replied that there was a maid up there working on the brass. This was when I first heard of Rebecca. The Rebecca I met was not flashy and all dolled up as some of the pictures represent. She was a pretty young woman about 19 or 20. Her hair was pulled up as ladies do they are working. Being red-haired myself, I would have noticed if she had bright red hair. Although she may have had. Auburn colored hair. She was dressed simply in a white blouse, long black skirt, white apron, and probably, lace-up black shoes.”

What is significant about this particular report is that I have reports from two other individuals that are describing “Rebecca” in the exact same fashion. The auburn colored hair, which is tied up, wearing a white blouse, black skirt, and a white apron. Identifying similar elements are very important when you are interviewing witnesses. This is because when people are describing an experience, they are often telling a story. When telling a story, typically a person will use only one or two descriptors. They do not go into lengthy descriptions of the apparition itself. So when the details are similar, you can compare those details from witness to witness to see if the elements match. If they do and you are positive that these details have not been put out publicly, then you have something that is quite intriguing. The odds become astronomical that all three people could describe exactly the same things. The other interesting element is that all three reports directly go against one of the major identification features of the supposed ghost, her red hair. Since the other two accounts, which happened in 1987 and 1989, pre-date the recorded account in the Lodge’s ledger, they are considered a significant find.

T.B.

“About 11 years ago I was installing a new credit card system at the Lodge. I was training the bartender on the new terminal after hours, in the wee hours of the morning. During the course of the training, I asked about Rebecca and her story. The bartender and I were the only ones there, and the lounge was closed and mostly dark. On the bar, a few feet away or so from where we were standing, were some old-fashioned glasses. After the bartender told me Rebecca story, the glasses came crashing down, all on their own. Those glasses had stood, stacked perfectly for the entire time we’d been there, perhaps 30 minutes. For them to have fallen, without any reason and no physical stimuli was, though harmless, still pretty creepy. That was my first paranormal experience and it opened my mind to the possibility that not all Supernatural seeming occurrences are hogwash.”

 

M.McN.G, Texas

“We just wanted to express how very much we enjoyed our Lodge experience! We never saw anything but I think Rebecca likes the bathroom here in room 109. On at least 8 to 10 different occasions, the fan in the bathroom would turn on and off, completely untouched by human hands. It happened to each of us, sometimes when we were in the room completely alone. It’s possible it could be a short of some kind but it mainly happened when there was someone in the bathroom, whether or not anyone else was in the bathroom. Our first night here we heard footsteps in our bathroom in the wee hours of the night. So thank you, Rebecca, for giving us something to talk about once we get back home to Texas!”

 

M.McN.G, Texas (second entry)

“Well, this is our fourth night here, three different rooms later and it seems maybe Rebecca is feeling a little more comfortable around us as each night proves to be more eventful than the last! We are in room 229 tonight and around 11 p.m. the lamp and the alarm clock turned off in the bedroom as my mom painted her nails by that light. She, I, my three-year-old son and my 17-year-old niece all tried everything we could think of to get them to come back on with no luck. We thought maybe the light bulb burned out but both light bulbs in the lamp quit working at the exact same time. At about 12:10 am, as my mom was getting into bed, the lamp and alarm clock came back on. Untouched! It seems that Rebecca or one of her friends was enjoying playing with the electrical outlets to see how much they could spook us. Coincidence, maybe. But we all agree that too many little things have happened during our stay to be mere coincidence.”

 

“Room 104: (Down the hall from The Governor’s Suite, 101).Another male guest, while sleeping in bed, was awakened because he was too hot. As he rolled over lay on his left side, he felt a gentle, amiable, but cold hand on his shoulder, and heard a woman’s voice singing “Won’t You Be My True Love?” in his ear. When he could finally get up the nerve to turn around and see what was there, he felt a cool “whooshing movement,” but no one was there.”

 

Many employees and guests have reported seeing the apparition of a beautiful, red-haired woman, with brilliant blue eyes, moving around the halls. Late one evening as a guest was dozing off; he heard a scraping sound in the hallway. Angry about being woken up, he cracked his door open to see who was making all of the noise. He saw a woman with long red hair, in a 30’s style, floor-length nightgown, who was busy rearranging the flowers that were sitting in a vase, on top of an antique chest, that was in the hallway. For some reason, he assumed that it was an employee of the Lodge and went back to bed. The following morning he complained about the incident only to learn that no employees were working in the hallways that late in the evening.

There is also a rather interesting article that was written by Dr. Jeff Moore and published in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune on October 31st, 2017.  It reads;

 

   ” We had reservations that night at the historic Cloudcroft Lodge. I was driving a Chevette back then (not Corvette). We were not really prepared for the cold conditions. As my car climbed up the mountain, night fell. We entered the snowstorm. Despite pushing down on the accelerator all the way, my car went ever more slowly until it stopped as the engine died. I was scared to death but tried to look brave for Carolyn. I had no idea how close we were to Cloudcroft and thought we might have to walk.

An old truck stopped, and a dark figure came to my window. Snow blew in as I rolled the window down to reveal a young woman with red hair barely concealed by her hat. She said her name was Becky Potter and offered to help. I thought we were going to get in her truck; but placing her hand on the hood of my car, she thought it would start after a little rest. We had almost made it to the Lodge. If it wasn’t dark and stormy I would have seen the abandoned train trestle to my right. My car started. She asked me to follow her into Cloudcroft. I thanked her as we reached the final turn to the Lodge. She worked at the Lodge but did not live there. We followed a snow plow to the top of the road and checked into the Lodge.

The sun was out the next morning, and the world was beautiful blanketed in white. We had a delightful gabled room on the third floor without phone or TV but with a claw foot bath tub and a noisy radiator. We climbed to the top of the tower and saw the carved initials of Clark Gable and Judy Garland. We peeked into the Red Dog Saloon in the basement.

We had a late breakfast at Rebecca’s Restaurant. My chair faced the famous picture windows overlooking White Sands down on the desert floor. Sitting opposite me was Carolyn facing the entrance of the restaurant.

The color left my wife’s pretty face as she was reading a brief history of the Lodge printed on the Menu. She pointed over my shoulder with her mouth agape. Turning around, I saw the larger than life portrait of a stunning redheaded woman in a flowing dress. It was Rebecca Potter, the namesake of the restaurant and the very image of the good Samaritan that had rescued us the night before. She had been a chamber maid at the Lodge in the 1930′s. Caught flirting with a man in the Red Dog Saloon, her jealous boyfriend had murdered her in the woods just outside of the Lodge. She is the famous ghost of the Lodge!”

 

So is this yet another witness account or just another ghost story printed for Halloween?

Still looking for the genesis story, the Lodge at Cloudcroft

In 1993 the Alamogordo Daily News ran an article entitled” Alamogordo native reflects on past, present, and future of his 90-year life”. The article is about Paul Hernandez who spent most of his life as an employee of the Lodge, working continuously there for 61 years. He has many fond memories of working for Mr. Hutchins, who was the manager of the Lodge from 1915 to 1932.

At that time the Lodge was only open during the summer and would be shut down during the cold winter months. Paul Hernandez was 15 years old at the time and was given the job of closing down and opening up the facility each year. The article continues with Hernandez talking about the ghost at the Lodge.

“I can’t say that we had a ghost living at the Lodge when I worked there but I did have one peculiar experience. Once, while staying in the place to watch it for the winter, I thought for a moment, perhaps, that the spirit that some say inhabits the place was really there,” he said.

Hearing music coming from the downstairs bar, Hernandez took a light along with him and went down to check things out. He laughs as he recalls finding the source of the music to be a tiny mouse that seemed just as frightened of him as he had made the young lad.”

What makes the article interesting is that it supports both arguments. On the one hand, you have an employee who has been at the Lodge for an extended period of time who doesn’t think that a ghost was there. On the other hand, his amusing story does validate that a ghost was rumored to be at the Lodge in the 1920’s or early 1930’s. However, this is a man who was employed at the Lodge when the back-story of the Rebecca legend takes place. If there would have been a grisly murder or a chambermaid had mysteriously vanished, he would have known about it and mentioned it during this interview when he was asked about the ghost.