Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.


  • Updated
  • 0

Birds drop dead, things vanish, the dead bolt snaps shut on the front door, glassware floats, and Pat Loree says she was knocked to her knees by the ``presence' in Room 18.

It doesn't take a seer to see why Halloween's a busy time at the St. James Hotel.Twenty-six people died violently there in the late 1880s - five of them in one day, according to local legend. Bullet holes pock the dining room ceiling. Records show that gunfights claimed the most victims, though there were some stabbings, too.

The hallway upstairs is lined with the pictures and names of famous Wild West figures who stayed at the St. James, including Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Bat Masterson, Tom ``Black Jack' Ketchum, Doc Holliday and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Loree, a former co-owner, no longer works here. But one night in 1986, she says, she showed Room 18 to Dr. Kenneth Wright of Fresno, Calif., and encountered a not-so-friendly ghost.

``Swirling - that's too gentle. He was raging,' Wright, a gynecologist, said by telephone from Fresno.

``It came down at me and passed me on my right and I felt like I was being struck at,' Loree says.

Room 18, closed to the public, is hardly bigger than a walk-in closet. It holds a dusty oak bed frame without a mattress. Dead flies are scattered on a window sill.

``We've never had anybody sleep in here - not with the things that are going on,' said owner-manager Ed Sitzberger.

Sitzberger keeps talking birds in the lobby of the 120-year-old hotel and 15 smaller birds in a coffee shop aviary. He says two birds dropped dead after he showed Room 18 to five people in 1987.

Chefs and bartenders report that food and crockery disappears from under their noses and glassware floats and shatters.

The most recent incident occurred last month, as three people came to the front door. The first two got in, then the deadbolt snapped shut in front of the third, Sitzberger says.

Despite its lurid history, the St. James remains an elegant adobe landmark in this rustic northern New Mexico village. ``We have a Halloween party every year,' says Sitzberger.

The Lodge in Cloudcroft, 200 miles south of Albuquerque, also sees its occupancy surge around Halloween, thanks to a friendly apparition named Rebecca. In the early 1930s, Rebecca, a chambermaid, was reportedly murdered there by a jealous boyfriend.

``We get a lot of unexplainable incidents - telephones that ring ... water turning on at various times of the day and night,' Lodge manager Catherine Cullers says.

And to those skeptics who say ringing telephones and dripping faucets are not exactly inexplicable, Cullers responds: ``We have a lot of people who reportedly have woken up in the middle of the night and seen Rebecca. She's red-headed, young, goodlooking and very nice. She never does any bad things.'


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

Early Monday, the Union County school board voted 8-1 to immediately stop COVID-19 contact tracing and significantly curtail coronavirus quarantine requirements. Against advice of Union County’s health department as well as state and federal recommendations on reducing COVID-19 risks in classrooms, the school district will not require quarantine for students even if they’ve been in contact ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News