Writer-photographer Bob Stinson, an aficionado of the Wild West and a believer in paranormal activity, recently ventured to a handful of Western hotels, armed only with a camera, in hopes of “shooting” a ghost at rest or otherwise. We don’t think he captured any spirit on film, except for the spirit of the Old West, but he gathered plenty of halfway solid information about apparitions. And we sure like his pictures of spooky lodges that were all operating by the tail end of the Western frontier.
Have you seen a ghost in a hotel or elsewhere? Share your story (50 words or less) online at www .historynet.com/ghoststory. (Somewhere in the West would be great, but we really aren’t all that particular.) Should you actually have a picture of a ghost, which no doubt would make Stinson extremely jealous, please post it at our ghostly gallery www.historynet.com/ghostpictures.
The Brown Palace Hotel
321 17th St., Denver, Colorado
Dates of Operation: Opened by Henry Cordes Brown on August 12, 1892, the hotel has been open every day since.
Musical Ghosts: Hotel staff members have reportedly heard—and sometimes seen—an old-fashioned string quartet in Ellyngton’s restaurant (formerly the San Marco Room). When an employee asked what they were doing there, one of the musicians responded, “We live here.”
Ghost Conductor: Visitors have reportedly seen the ghost of a 19th-century train conductor roaming the lobby, which once had a window where guests could purchase train tickets.
Ghost Waiter: Others have claimed seeing an apparition of a man in an old-style waiter’s uniform in or near the service elevator.
The Ghostly Sounds of Children: Guests have reported hearing children laughing and playing in the hallways during the early morning hours, when most good living children remain asleep. Spookier still are reports of a baby’s cries emanating from the basement boiler room.
The Eyes of a Ghost: A portrait of a woman in a Victorian dress hangs in a hallway off the main lobby. If you strike her as interesting, her eyes will follow you as you walk past.
Traveling Spirits: Across the street from the Brown Palace is Trinity United Methodist Church, which opened its doors on December 23, 1888. Some folks believe that spirits travel to and from the hotel and church in search of a portal that will take them from this world.
311 E. Congress St., Tucson, Arizona
Dates of Operation: Built in 1919 to serve railroad passengers and the cattle industry, it remains open to the public.
Stilwell Ghost: The hotel is across the street from the Tucson train depot, where Wyatt Earp killed Frank Stilwell. Does Stilwell’s ghost wander over to the hotel? Some say yes, claiming that a man dressed in old cowboy attire has looked at them and then vanished.
Room 242: A woman shot herself in this room years ago. Her ghost wanders the second floor, where visitors have reportedly heard her screams and cries in the middle of the night. While recently roaming that floor, Stinson was surprised to see a door swing open. He glanced inside the neatly made up room and took a few pictures. Only as he left did he notice the room number—242.
Pinstriped Spirit: The ghost of a man wearing an early 20th-century pinstriped suit is said to roam the halls of the hotel. He is reportedly a gentleman murdered long ago over a card game dispute.
St. James Hotel
Cimarron, New Mexico (On U.S. 64, 34 miles west of I-25)
Dates of Operation: Founded by Henri Lambert in 1872, it remains open to the public. Guests can stay in the historic haunted section (with bar and restaurant) or in a modern addition. Manager Steve Boyce and events coordinator Judy Kahlor strive to make your stay pleasant or a little creepy or both.
Famous Guests: The lengthy list includes Jesse James, Bob Ford, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Annie Oakley, Clay Allison, Frederic Remington, Lew Wallace, Zane Grey and Phil Sheridan. Allison and others sometimes wielded weapons in the hotel, reportedly the site of 26 killings. Bullet holes still mark the ceiling of the saloon.
Poker-Faced Ghost: In 1881 T.J. Wright won a high-stakes poker game (his winnings might have included the hotel itself) on the second floor, but he was shot in the back on the way to his room and soon died from his wounds. Subsequent guests in the same room (No. 18) have felt T.J.’s surly presence, and his ghost reportedly knocked one previous hotel owner to her knees twice when she asked him to vacate. The room remains so maliciously haunted that the staff keeps it locked and off-limits to guests. Stinson was allowed to take pictures inside and described the room as “eerie and extremely cold.”
Lambert Ghosts: Room 17 has long been associated with a mysterious floral scent (perhaps of roses). Lambert’s second wife, Mary, died in that room in 1926. Guests have also reported sightings of her son, Johnnie, who died in a hotel accident at age 2. His ghost wears a long white gown and is often heard laughing in the hallway with other unfortunate children who died early deaths.
Unseen Ghosts: The hotel is said to be replete with paranormal activity. Guests and staff have reported lights switching on and off by themselves, cold spots in the hallway, objects mysteriously disappearing and reappearing, electronic equipment and cameras behaving unpredictably, high-pitched shrieks and various items falling off walls and shelves for no apparent reason. On October 30, 1991, the TV show Unsolved.
526 Pine St., Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Dates of Operation: Founded in 1893 by Walter Devereux and his brothers, it was reputed to be the finest hotel between New York and San Francisco in its time. It remains open for business.
Famous Guests: Buffalo Bill Cody, President Theodore Roosevelt (who stayed here often when on hunting trips in Colorado), President William Taft, Molly Brown (Titanic survivor and member of Denver’s high society) and Tom Mix (Western film star and pallbearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral).
Ghostly Smells: The cigar smoke staff members smell in the absence of smokers is said to come from the ghost of hotel founder Walter Devereux. It sometimes competes with the smell of perfume, though no one knows whose perfume.
Smell of Death: Stinson recently detected a rotten odor at the entrance to the Devereux Room. Years earlier a gathering of police officers complained of the same odor, describing it as the smell of a dead body. Changes in the carpet and inspections of the ventilation system have not pinpointed the odor.
Female Ghosts: Long ago a young girl was reportedly killed in a fall from one of the hotel balconies. Guests claim to have seen her ghost playing with a ball in the hallways. Some male guests have awakened to the sight of a female ghost hovering over them.
What a Scream: The ghost of a woman reportedly murdered in one of the rooms (a room so haunted it is not rented to guests) screams a lot, usually on the third and fifth floors between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.
Doc Holliday Connection: The gambler-gunfighter died only a few blocks from the Hotel Colorado at the old Hotel Glenwood, where today a clock tower stands. Holliday is buried at Linwood Cemetery. Guests have yet to report a particularly pale ghost that coughs in the middle of the night.
Goldfield, Nevada (On U.S. 95, 194 miles north of Las Vegas)
Dates of Operation: Opened in 1908 and closed its doors in 1946. Current building owner Red Roberts has plans to reopen the hotel and put in a casino.
Elizabeth the Ghost: Hotel founder George Wingfield reportedly impregnated a prostitute named Elizabeth. The story goes she was kept a prisoner—tied to a radiator in Room 109—until she gave birth. Elizabeth either died in childbirth or was murdered soon after, and her baby was thrown down a mining shaft. It’s no surprise, then, that visitors have reported hearing both the mother’s screams and her baby’s cries throughout the hotel. Elizabeth’s apparition also roams the hotel in a white gown.
Suicidal Ghosts: Two ghosts—a woman who hanged herself and a man who jumped to his death—reportedly occupy the third floor. They apparently regretted their decisions to take their own lives, but not until it was too late. Well, perhaps it’s never too late—they’re back!
Playful Little Ghosts: The spirits of children and a dwarf seem to like sneaking up behind visitors and tapping them on the shoulder. On turning around, one might catch a glimpse of a wee ghost, but most often you’ll only hear giggles fading into the distance.
On the Outside Looking in: Stinson wasn’t able to get inside the hotel, but from the outside he saw an old bar and a piano. “It felt pretty creepy being there at this old hotel in a near ghost town,” he recalls. No sign of poor Elizabeth or even a happier ghost, but Stinson vows he shall return.
Earp Connection: Virgil Earp served as an Esmeralda County deputy sheriff in Goldfield from January 26, 1905, until his death from pneumonia there that October 19. Brother Wyatt reportedly visited him several times. The Earp ghosts have found no reason to come back. Mysteries taped a program on spiritual activity at the hotel.
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.