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.