Ghosts of the St. James Hotel

Little did I realize when I arrived at Philmont Scout Ranch in 1967, but just a few short miles away in Cimarron, N.M., stood a spirited hotel. Not exactly like the Stanley Hotel used in The Shining, but haunted, very haunted “they say” in its own way.

Our Gray Lines (the actual company name) bus had driven right by the nondescript and dusty exterior to the building on the road to the scout ranch. I don’t remember the Saint James at all. But, then, I was 14 with my mind set on hitting the trail.

Worst of all, I never knew that many of the cowboy heroes, outlaws and historical figures I followed in television westerns and movies had all stayed there at one time or another.

The likes of Wyatt Earp, Jessie James and James’ killer Bob Ford, Bat Masterson, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Clay Allison, Kit Carson, Civil War General Phillip Sheridan, and train robber Black Jack Tom Ketchum.

Unknown to me had been how the writer Zane Grey began writing his novel, Fighting Caravans, while he stayed there. And New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace, a Civil War hero himself, worked on some of the novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) while staying there. While there, Buffalo Bill Cody began planning his “Wild West Show” which would include Annie Oakley.

But, it was no wonder so many famous people stayed there, being the only fancy lodging on the Santa Fe Trail.

Diane and I were there for one thing and one thing only. Well, we had to fit lunch in because it was noontime when we arrived. Our lunch was delicious, the service very good, and busy considering it was Sunday and they had a buffet working. Our server, though, who had only worked there a few months had never seen a ghost, but she had heard the stories.

But, I’m talking ghosts. It had been hard enough to keep Diane in the dining room. Since watching a story on Haunted Collector on the Syfy network recently about the St. James, Diane had said, “We will go through Cimarron!”

The John Zaffis family from Haunted Collector tracks down objects. Spirits can inhabit objects or remain in a location because of “items like paintings, guns, jewelry and dolls,” or so says the Haunted Collector Web site. Bullets, too! John Zaffis found no objects he could pinpoint, but he did focus on bullet holes from drunken gunfighter’s energy left in the ceiling of the dining room, which once was the saloon.

Legends account for 26 men dead from gunshot wounds in what began in 1872 as Lambert’s Saloon and Billiard Hall. Henry Lambert, a Frenchman, had been a personal chef to President Lincoln.

The saloon’s ceiling (now, it’s the dining room and bar area) is pock marketed with 22 original bullet holes. Fortunately, a double layer of hard wood flooring kept the bullets from passing through to do harm. Lambert also added 30 rooms to make the facility an official hotel. After all, his saloon, and the billiard and poker tables, attracted a wide assortment of travelers. .

Room 18 remains padlocked supposedly because of the guest who died in this room. The violent and mean-spirited Thomas James Wright, who had just won the hotel in a poker game, was shot in the back and made it into his room where he slowly bled to death. Nobody who enters this room can remain there for long. So they say!

Lambert’s second wife Mary Elizabeth lets her presence be known by her rose-scented perfume. If a certain window remains open a continuous tapping will remind hotel workers to close that window. The figure of a transparent woman has been reported moving around in the hallways for years.

“Little Imp,” a dwarf-like man, reportedly moves objects around to play tricks on the staff and then mysterious laughter can be heard, it has been reported.

We plan to return next summer to stay in one of the 12-original rooms (no telephones, radio, or television). Modern rooms have been added in an annex with modern conveniences, as well as refurbished dining rooms, kitchen and a patio.

Whether you believe in spirits or not, I can’t imagine there not being some kind of presence remaining due to the number of traders, trappers, cowboys, card sharps, gunfighters, well-known people of the day, and just regular folk who stopped there during the hotel’s raucous heyday.

The guest register from July 10, 2011 reads, “Nice Food. The ghosts are real!”.



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Posted by admin on Jul 20 2011. Filed under Kevin Gray, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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