By David Sheppard
Times staff writer
CLOUDCROFT- Tales abound of the mischievous ghost that for decades has lurked about the rooms and corridors of The Lodge.
Guest and employees of the rambling country inn tell of doors opening and closing on their own accord and of faucets turning themselves on. A bartender once watched flames erupt in the bar’s fireplace when no wood or paper was in it. And many a desk clerk has reported receiving strange telephone calls from Room 101 – the Governor’s Suite – when the room was unoccupied.
The odd but harmless occurrences have happened to several unsuspecting witnesses over the years. Most often, the antics are couched in considerable mystery and Rebecca is given credit for them.
But if Rebecca is the answer to such puzzling events, then more questions must be asked. Who was she? Where did she come from? Where is she now?
No one connected with The Lodge seems to know. That, perhaps, is the greatest mystery of all.
All stories about her say that Rebecca was a chambermaid who worked and lived at the inn during the 1930s. A stunning redhead with bright blue eyes, she took up with a burly lumberjack when logging was Cloudcroft’s major industry.
One day, Rebecca’s boyfriend returned to The Lodge and found her with another man. She abruptly disappeared from her quarters after she was caught. She never was seen again.
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.