First of all, and most importantly, T.J. Wright did not die at the St. James Hotel as the legends have suggested. While the 1880 census does show that he was there, the 1920 census show him to be in Albuquerque, way after the date of his supposed demise in Cimarron.
The first three articles are really important as they set up the foundation of the ghostly legends at the hotel.
Ed Sitzberger and Pat Loree bought the hotel in July of 1985. From reading the various newspaper articles, the “attack” on Loree in Room 18 occurred sometime in 1986. The first newspaper that mentions the building is haunted is also in 1986, however there are not any details.
“Only a few ruins outside of Eagle Nest stand where Elizabeth town once flourished, and Cimarron is capitalizing on its wild history with pictures and tours at the haunted St. James Hotel.”
The second mention in the media of ghosts at the St. James hotel occurs on December 6th, 1987 in a story that was written by Steve Brewer for the Albuquerque Journal. It is the first full account of the initial occurrences that are claimed to be paranormal.
“Cowboys and outlaws, wives and ladies of the evening gather occasionally in the ornate lobby of Northern New Mexico St. James Hotel, talking and drinking, toasting the past, say the hotel’s owners.
They describe the parties in whispered, uneasy tones, with just a touch of nervous laughter. The party-goers, they say, are invisible ghosts, poltergeist, spirits.
Pat Loree, who owns the St. James with her husband Ed Sitzberger, said she witnessed such a ghastly celebration one night while locking up the hotel.
” I came in through these double and I heard a party going on,” she recalled. ” I kid you not. I could hear people talking. I could hear glasses clinking. I thought, oh, now you’ve done it, you’ve finally flipped.”
Loree said she slowly crossed the expansive lobby thinking perhaps the sounds were coming from a furniture grouping at the far end. As she walked, the noises gradually diminished. The furniture was empty.
” I turned and I said, I’m glad you’re having a good time. I’m glad you’re here for a party. Please leave everything as good as you found it, if not better.”
As she walked back across the room, the party sounds resumed.
“I closed the double doors I ran upstairs and I called Ed and said,” there’s a party going on in the lobby and I can’t see it.”
Such paranormal occurrences are normal at the St. James, where, the owners say, at least three ghosts reside, and others occasionally visit.
“I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me,” Loree said.
Most of the hotel workers say they’ve had experiences with the ghosts, as has Sitzberger, a recently retired mechanical engineer, and self-described skeptic.
“There have been enough things happen that I am a believer, too, now,” he said.
It’s easy to believe the ghost stories at the St. James, which fairly reeks of the Old West. The hotel is as much museum as inn, what it’s antique decorated rooms, brocade wallpaper and hallways decorated with photographs of the famous and infamous who stayed there. The photos date from the days when Cimarron was the center of an untamed land rife with political intrigue, feuds, and fighting.
Historians say 26 people were killed at the hotel, gunned down by the likes of Clay Allison, the gentleman gunfighter,” and Bob Ford, the reputed killer of outlaw Jesse James.
The embossed metal ceiling of the dining room still bears bullet holes that speak of that more violent time. The action at the hotel these days comes from the spirit world rather than shoot em ups, the owners say. Some of it has been hilarious, they say, some has been sublime. Some has been outright terrifying. The couple trace most events to three resident ghosts (they prefer the term spirits) they call Mary, the Imp and “18”.
Mary, named after Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the hotel in 1880, lives in one room of the hotel and sporadically roams its halls. Usually, the only sign of her presence is her perfume.
“It’s a very, very fragrant odor,” said Kathy Jones, a 47-year-old clerk, and waitress at the hotel. “It does come on you like you’re walking towards someone and it gets stronger as you get close. It’s just all of a sudden it’s there, then all the sudden, it’s not.”
Recently, Mary was more assertive with a couple who opened the window to her room, said Sitzberger, 56.
“He said the window wasn’t stuck like by paint anything, but he had a heck of a time raising it,” he said.”It was like someone was pushing down on the window.”
The guest returned to bed and heard several sharp raps on the second story window, Sitzberger said. Since the guests had been warned about Mary, the man closed the window part way to accommodate her and returned to bed. Again came the raps. He closed the window.
“She made it clear she wanted it closed,” Sitzberger said, adding the guests claimed the room then cooled on its own.
“The imp enjoys practical jokes and keeps employees busy adjusting lamps and searching for pens and calculators he hides, Loree said. Glasses in the kitchen explode occasionally through the imp’s efforts, and jars of pickles had been known to ease off floor level shelves and roll out of the room.
Once, the couple said, the imp even appeared to one employee. The worker, a 15-year-old boy, had just taken a job cleaning the lobby and dining room and the pre-dawn hours. On his first day, Sitzberger said, the owners came down from their suite to find him vacuuming while his mother watched. Earlier, he said, the boy had seen a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously at the started youth.
“The kid did what any red-blooded 15 year old would do, Sitzberger said. “He went home and got his mother. Needless to say, that was his last day on the job. He didn’t like the looks of it at all.”
The other ghost, the one who occupies Room 18, is such a hostile spirit that the owners now keep the room locked and a large base of dried flowers in front of the door. No one is allowed to enter.
The last time someone was shown the haunted room, a bird Sitzberger had given to Loree, a valuable golden finch, died the next morning, he said. A necropsy found no cause death, he said.
“The only connection we could make was that he didn’t take it out on us, but he did do one of our birds in,” Sitzberger said.
Another time, Loree, 44, was showing the room to a California surgeon who researches poltergeists. As she entered the room, “whatever it was came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.”
Ken Taylor, hotel’s 40-year-old chef has had several and encounters with “18”, including spending one night in a sleeping bag in the room to see if he could see the spirit. All night long, he said, he slept fitfully, bouncing around on the floor, dreaming about riding ponies.
Sometimes, Loree calls on the husky Taylor to convince “18” to return to his room. “My presence sort of mellows him out at times,” the chef said.
Like most of the spirits, “18” isn’t visible to those who encounter him.
“It’s like pressure,” Taylor said. “The hair stands up on the back of my neck and on my arms and I get goosebumps all over.”
Taylor said he also saw one ghost, however. He was leaving a room at the hotel on his way to the restroom when he spotted a human-like figure end of the hall.
“I stepped outside and there was this figure, sort of shimmering,” he said. “I went back to my room.”
Several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal have visited the hotel to interact with the spirits. Last July, television crews filmed a séance led by a self-proclaimed Albuquerque witch named Oz, but Taylor said the cameras and other distractions kept the session from being very productive. Oz also spent time chatting in Room 18, said Loree, and came away believing the spirit that died in the room was a man named James Wright. The witch said Wright was killed when he tried to claim the hotel as winnings in a poker game.
Loree said historians have no record of such an incident involving a man named James Wright. She said, however, she subsequently found the name of a “J. Wright” and three places in the hotel’s old ledger, all dating to 1881.
“There is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name,” Loree said.
Another television crew captured on film a door opening by itself in a curtain moving when there was no breeze. The hotel owners show copies of the videotapes to guests over a television in the lobby.
They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.
“We have a pretty good business going and I don’t want to scare the hell out of people coming here,” Loree said.
She expects, however, that the ghost stories, in the end, will have little effect on their business.
“I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t,” she said. “I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”
Despite the occasional fright, the owners say they are becoming accustomed to the ghosts.
“Pat’s even said if we ever get tired of running the hotel, we could just close it down and live here,” Sitzberger said with a laugh. “at least we’d never get lonely.”
The first article clearly identifies the three ghosts that are haunting the hotel. However, it is important to note that the spirit which the owners call Mary was merely named after Mary Lambert and in this version is not directly associated with her. It also gives us the first portrayal of the ghost they are calling the “imp.” The eyewitness’s description was that of a dwarf sitting on the hotel bar, his feet on a bar stool, laughing uproariously. And finally, there is the violent ghost they call “18”. However, the article also contains several controversial elements.
One of the crucial things that ghost hunters and investigators look for when they are interviewing witnesses are qualifying statements. This is because people who lie use convoluted sentence structure and qualifying language when giving you the details. Qualifying statements, like “to tell you the truth” or “Honestly,” “I swear to you” are used to overemphasize their truthfulness. When people use these bolstering statements to emphasize their honesty, there’s a good chance they are hiding something. There is no need to add them if they are really telling the truth. Loree makes several qualifying statements during this newspaper interview.
“I kid you not”, “I couldn’t make up anything this good, believe me” and “there is no earthly way Oz could have known or could have seen that name” (referring to the ghost of Room 18).
The slip up is by saying that “Oz could not have “seen” that name.” The qualifying statement here suggests that is precisely what happened. The sentence structure has too much detail which could indicate that she is untruthful.
The other odd thing is how quickly the ghost stories develop. The hotel reopens in December 1985 after Loree and Sitzberger finish their initial renovations. Yet within 2 years a television crew has been allowed in to film a séance as well as several psychics and other dabblers in the paranormal and a California surgeon who researches poltergeists conducted an investigation of sorts. During the surgeon’s visit, Loree claims that “whatever it was, came down beside me, passed me on the right and knocked me over. Needless to say, this scared me to death.” Naturally, the reporter asks the couple if they thought that the ghost stories would harm their business.
“They say they’re torn over the publicity the ghost have generated.” Loree continues by saying, “I think people are either receptive to it and believe it or they don’t. I think for the ones that don’t, it isn’t going to bother them that much. If they aren’t going to stay here, it’s because they maybe do really believe it and they’re afraid of it, and that’s a percentage that’s very small.”
This is a little suspicious as well. For example, in my book, I mentioned that the Lodge at Cloudcroft kept their ghost stories secretive for over 60 years because the owner thought it could damage his business. Yet at the St. James, the ghost stories are in full swing within a year of its reopening. This is another red flag because many known examples point to the ghost stories as being fraudulent when the media exposure occurs so quickly. One of the more famous cases was the Amityville Horror, which was later revealed to be a hoax. Within two years of the alleged paranormal events that occurred, there is a book about the “haunting” and eventually a movie deal. Is the St James hotel trying to capitalize monetarily in a similar fashion? While this is just speculation, it is something that has to be considered.
Another oddity is the California surgeon who researches poltergeists. Anyone who is remotely familiar with poltergeist phenomena knows that it is not actually a ghost or a spirit, but an event that parapsychologists believe is caused by psychokinesis that is projected by a living person in the environment. This suggests that the surgeon only had an amateurish knowledge base of the phenomenon that he claims to be researching.
The next article of the haunting at the St. James Hotel is printed in the Albuquerque Journal on December 30, 1988.
“Things simply go bump in the night at the St James hotel. To people live here and admit an acquaintanceship with the second-floor supernatural, the spirits in this place are at once melancholy and mischievous, dealing mostly in the scent of old-timey perfume, petty theft, and minor pranks.
All except the awful thing that is said to reside in Room 18, where the number is missing and the door is always locked. The transomed entry to this room is fronted by a vase with dead yucca blossoms, black and amber now, setting sentry on the floor. It is said that the being in room 18 seethes with menace.
There is nothing subtle, nothing vague, about what can happen at the top of the stairs.
True, only a thin outline defines the ghostly figure in an oil painting at the second-floor landing. But you don’t need special light to see it. The figure seems to be a man and he seems to be wearing a broad-brimmed hat. He is standing among a group of obviously mortal individuals, and it is said he becomes more discernible as the years go by.
No one knows whether the artist intended to include the figure. Given the realistic nature of the painting, it seems unlikely that he is responsible for the addition of something so clearly at odds with the rest of the work.
There are other, more vivid experiences that have lent this place its reputation for being haunted.
Ghosts of an era past, presumably from the lawless years of the Western frontier, are said to inhabit this 108-year-old hotel, steeped in history and solidly adobe, located on a side street in Cimarron.
In the lobby, just off the dining room with the 26 bullet holes in the tin ceiling, a magnificent rainbow macaw sets on a wooden perch.
On a recent autumn afternoon, Pat Loree, who with her husband owns this hotel, tells of the haunting of the St. James. It is a narrative occasionally punctuated by squawks from the macaw.
Loree and her husband, Ed Sitzberger, bought the St. James in July of 1985 and have restored it to its former elegance and historical stature. In those first months of ownership, as Sitzberger continued to work as a civil engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Loree came to live at a house behind the hotel.
Before the restoration began and during a fierce summertime thunderstorm one night, Loree and a caretaker went to the hotel to check for leaks in the roof.
“When I left, I turned off all of the lights,” she says.”After we locked up, I looked back and I could see through the window that the chandelier at the end of the hall was still on. I did it again, and the damned thing still came back on after I locked the door. The last time I went back and said “I don’t know who you are. We’d like to play, but another day.”
One of the two harmless ghosts is believed to be Mary Lambert, wife of the man who built the St. James. She died in the hotel and it is said that her perfume will suddenly waft through Room 17, and, just as suddenly evaporate.
No one claims to have seen Mary, but a couple of people have caught a glimpse of Woody, a poltergeist who is the likely culprit in recalcitrant light switches, frozen door locks, shattered glasses and such missing items as bottles of juice, pens, silverware, and keys. Those who have seen him have given independent descriptions that are remarkably similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked.
Sitzberger, whose life and work were built on logic, says he was stunned one evening to see the ghost sitting at a table just before the dining room opened. When he tried to get a closer look, the apparition vanished.
A Cimarron teenager, hired to vacuum the carpet each morning before dawn, said he arrived for his first day of work and saw Woody setting on the bar, laughing uproariously. The youth who had not heard the St. James ghost stories, was so utterly terrified he ran home, got his mother, and persuaded her to return with him while he finished his work.
“A friend of ours who is a nurse didn’t believe in any of this stuff,” Loree is saying. “About a month ago she was here and needed to use the restroom, but the door was locked and she could see a crack of light at the threshold. She decided to wait by the door. Pretty soon the light went off. She tried the door again and it was unlocked. There was no one in there.”
“You hear noises up there,” says Earl Jones, who tends bar at the St. James. “You can smell perfume, but it’s not the kind of perfume they sell today. I believe there’s something up there, and I never believed anything like that in my life, till I came to livin here.”
Loree is sipping iced tea and telling about these things in the lobby of the hotel. Reluctantly, she begins talking about Room 18.
Suddenly, the rainbow macaw is out of control. He begins shrieking and squawking. The commotion is deafening, and some of this screaming sounds almost human. It is piercing and ceaseless. The seemingly coincidental outburst, coming as it did at the beginning of a narrative on Room 18, seems connected to the things Loree has not yet said.
After the macaw has been banished to the ladies restroom, Loree says to merely talk about the spirit and Room 18 is to invite “bad things”. In the past, part of the retribution has been measured in the unexplained death of small valuable birds who are part of the aviary kept in the hotel.
Her story of room 18 is halting, and for a moment it seems as if she will cry.
From the beginning, she says, “Every time I went in that room the hair on the back of my neck stood up. But I was determined that nothing was going to stand in the way of renovation. I was trying to be this self-sufficient woman, and I can remember standing there with my hands on my hips and saying, “If you want to be positive you can stay but if you want to be negative you’ve got to go.'”
She was to learn later, she says, that it was not a good thing to say.
About a year ago a California surgeon came to stay at the hotel. Loree did not know him and did not know that he was a student of supernatural phenomena. Not long after he had checked in, and before anyone had spoken with him about the hotel, Loree says he came to her and said: “You have a real problem upstairs.”
After some conversation, he persuaded her to unlock the door to Room 18. Loree says when she stepped into the room “there was a present swirling in the corner near the ceiling, and it came down and knocked me to my knees. I got up and it came back and knocked me down again.”
She says the man from California told her to step backwards, and she escaped from the room.
He sent her downstairs and he stayed in the room for another hour. Loree said he told her later the spirit in there should not be challenged, and that it did not like being talked about.
She worries that potential guests may be dissuaded from staying at the St. James because of the spirit. She says none of the people who have stayed in the hotel has had a bad experience because of ghosts.
Not long ago, Loree says, a self-proclaimed witch (a good witch) spent time at Room 18 and said she learned the spirit was “a James or Jesse Wright.” Loree looked back through the old guest registers and found a T.J. Wright had spent time at the hotel in the 1880’s, but the book offers no further information.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” she says. ” I have a very healthy respect for the thing in Room 18. I don’t open the door anymore. Not for myself. Not for anyone.”
This article provides more information on the Imp and the strange occurrence with the surgeon in room 18. It seems rather odd that Loree would allow a complete stranger into Room 18 and after having such a terrifying event happen to her, she let that person stay in the room for a full hour afterward. It doesn’t make sense.
The “Imp” has now been given a name, Woody. Apparently, there have also been independent descriptions that are similar. Woody is said to be short, white-haired and pock-marked. This is important to note as the description of this specter will soon change.
Finally, we get to the third article when a psychic, Jacque Littlejohn Cooley enters the picture. This will eventually define the present day ghost stories.
“The car wasn’t yet through Taos, but Jacque Littlejohn Cooley said she sensed the presence in room 18 of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, 40 miles to the Northeast.
The Albuquerque psychic was in route to spend the night at the reportedly haunted hotel. It was Friday, the 13th of October.
“I’m getting this feeling, this impression that he’s been injured or that he’s in pain,” Cooley said, momentarily distracted from the mountain scenery. Cooley had read stories about poltergeists that dwell in the old two-story building, including the menacing spirit in room 18. She also knew that a self-professed witch had visited the hotel and claimed to have made contact with the spirit, identifying it as the ghost of someone named James or Jesse Wright.
The current owner of the hotel, Ed Sitzberger, a trim, soft-spoken man with a drink in hand, greeted Cooley in the lobby of the hotel. A large, multi-colored macaw lead a collection of other exotic birds in a cacophonous symphony. The noise reverberated off the lobby walls, where the mounted heads of game animals stared blankly with glass eyes.
Cooley, a former school teacher and counselor in Phoenix and Espanola, spoke with an accent that hinted at her Texas and Oklahoma upbringing. Her parents, she said, we’re Welsh and Cherokee. She wore a long black dress. Her jet-black hair was gathered to the sides in Indian braid wraps, and she wore silver and turquoise jewelry. A quartz crystal dangled from her neck.
Silver and turquoise are elements that give her power and protection, while the quartz crystal helps her gather and channel information, she said.
Cooley carried a leather pouch and a crystal ball. From the pouch she removed a Sioux Indian Tobacco mix called Knic Knic. She sprinkled some of the tobacco in a nearby potted plant, an offering to the spirits and to purge negative energy, she said.
She ordered her regular evening drinks, a cup of black coffee and a shot of scotch side by side. As she chain-smoked Camel non filter cigarettes and sipped her drinks, Sitzberger recounted the previous visit of the witch who identified the spirit of room 18. “The next day my former wife, Pat, went back into the hotel registers and found the name T.J. Wright three different times in 1881,” he said.
Further, the witch told him Wright had won the hotel in a poker game and was shot to death when he tried to collect, he said.
“You know, I thought it might have been something like that,” said Cooley, flashing back to the comment she made on the drive up.
Sitzberger, formerly a mechanical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is firmly grounded in science and logic. Nevertheless, he said, “the accumulation of things that have happened here has led me to believe that something is going on here that is not ordinary.”
He cited several phenomena, lights going on and off when no one is in the locked building. Papers disappearing and reappearing in locked offices. Napkins and silverware were being tossed about the dining room. Glasses of water overturned and spilling when no water had been in the glasses to begin with. The sounds of a party, complete with laughter and clinking cocktail glasses, emanating from empty rooms. Activation of a telephone ringing code known only to family members and the phone company, no one on the other end of the line.
There is the brief appearance and suddenly vanishing of an imp identified by a medium two years ago as “Woody,” who is blamed for some of the more playful pranks in the hotel. People who have seen him including Sitzberger, have given remarkably similar descriptions of the apparition: about 4 feet tall, long blonde hair, blue eyes, pock-marked face.
People also have encountered rooms that suddenly filled with the aroma of a musky rose perfume. The odor would just as suddenly vanish, only to visit another room. The scent is believed to be a signal from the spirit of one of two women, both named Mary, and both of whom had been married to Henry Lambert, the hotel’s original owner and builder, Sitzberger said.
And there is the unseen force in room 18. Twice it knocked Sitzberger’s ex-wife to the floor when she confronted it, demanding that it behave or move out. Other times when the spirit had been disturbed, Sitzberger said, the entity took its anger out on pet birds kept in the hotel, some of which were found dead for no apparent reason, and some that were suddenly taken sick.
Late at night, Sitzberger agreed to open room 18 for the Albuquerque psychic. The stained glass transom above the door was partially open, but a large base containing dead yucca clippings stood sentry in front of the locked door.
The room had not been remodeled or cleaned. An old wooden bed frame was one of the few pieces of furniture inside. Floorboards creaked as Cooley walked around the room, hand outstretched, palm down, feeling for impressions, sensations and changes in temperature. She was drawn to a corner where red floral wallpaper met the hammered tin ceiling. “There was a lot of paranormal activity here, but nothing sinister,” she said.
“I feel a terrible pain from him. He’s wounded and unhappy. He still locked into that timeless zone, a dimension, I don’t know that there is a name for it, but he’s locked in and any time another energy comes into this room it’s very threatening to him. He doesn’t know he’s dead.”
They left the room for a few minutes, and Sitzberger carefully locked the door and replaced the vase. They talked about returning in the early morning hours when spirits tend to be the most active. But later, they both became uncomfortable with the idea and decided against it.
Walking along a second-floor hallway, Cooley stopped. “Who got killed here? she asked. “I’m getting this impression of blood on the wall. And brains. I see brains on the wall. Somebody got it in the head here.”
The poker room was just around the corner. “I don’t feel what I felt out there in the hall,” Cooley said. “There was a cardinal rule that you don’t mess up the poker game, so maybe they went out in the hall to do their dirty deeds. I feel a lot of intensity in this room.”
She toyed with the notion that the man named Wright, who’s supposedly won the hotel in a card game, may have been dealt the winning hand in the hotel’s poker room, was ambushed in the hallway and staggered back to room 18, where he died and his spirit still lurks.
“Could be, but I don’t get the feeling that the guy in 18 has a head wound,” she said. “I also sense that man named Walter was somehow involved. I think whatever happened in this hallway happened between 1 and 3 p.m. because of the different quality of the light I saw and the flashes.
“It feels like a baby was born in this room,” Cooley said as she entered the Pancho Griego room, named after a local who was on the losing end of an argument with gunfighter Clay Allison.
“Is this the honeymoon suite?” she asked inside the Bat Masterson room. “It feels like fun and games in here. Hanky panky. I don’t know how they turned out later, but they sure had a good time while they were here.”
The Wyatt Earp room has an entirely different feel, Cooley said. “I sense there was a man who used to stay here a whole lot. He kept coming back and like this room. It was before World War 1, but not long before. He was kind of a quiet man. I feel that he may have had something like high blood pressure during his last visits. He wasn’t very tall. He was kind of portly, but the first time I see him in here he was a lot thinner. He had a little buggy. I think they used to call them whiskies.
Cooley continued her wanderings and made her way back downstairs into the hotel’s dining room, the original St James Saloon and Gambling Hall. She stared into her crystal ball, which she had placed on the mantle of a bar back.
“Somebody picked up one of them tables. They were gambling. I didn’t see the man’s face, but I saw these big hands, we picked up the table and dumped it with all the glasses and cards. People were scattering every which way. I think it was that one,” she said, walking over to the table where she slowly moved the outstretched palm of her hand over it. Another table caught her eye. “Somebody landed on their back in the middle of this one.” Cooley was drawn toward a corner of the dining nearest the entrance into the hotel lobby.
“Something ended abruptly, whatever it was. I think it happened before the turn of the century. I want to move because I think I’m standing in blood.” she paused for a few moments lost within her own thoughts.
“Somebody was in that fight that was named Clyde. I don’t know if that’s a first or last name. He shaved every now and then. He didn’t have a full beard. Maybe it was the time of year, but he had a lot of stubble. He smelled pretty rare. And I don’t know if he was the victim or the aggressor or what. I don’t get the feeling that Cimarron lost much.
It was approaching 2 a.m. Cooley was tired, walkthrough nearly every room in the St. James and visited with as many denizens of the spirit world as would make themselves known to her. She sat on her bed in the Mary Lambert room laying out a deck of tarot cards.
“This is the tower card. It’s probably in response to room 18 across the hall,” she said. “I see in the tower card confusion and tyranny and weakness. Building on the wrong foundation. Bedlam. It might be just as well that we leave the spirit in 18 alone. If he has anything that he wants to share with us I’m sure he’ll let us know.”
The death card appeared. “Could be one of two things,” Cooley said. “Could be the spirit in 18 saying keep your cotton-picking hands for my things, or it could represent the entity as being dead.”
The remarkable thing about the metaphysical and paranormal, Cooley said, it’s not that she can tap into it, but that most people are unaware that they, too, can do it.”
So now the essential elements of the ghost story of T.J. Wright are in place. The witch named Oz first suggested that Wright died room 18 and now Cooley has added the aspects of the poker game and the subsequent shooting after he had won the hotel in a card game. But the question is was there really a poker room on the second floor. In many ways, this goes against the typical old west business practices. Saloons tolerated gambling because they made money by selling cigars and whiskey to the participants of the card games. Putting a poker room on the second floor really doesn’t sense because this would require a hotel employee to be always running up and down the stairs to check on the patrons involved in the card game. In Henry Lambert’s time, there was no such help. He ran the saloon by himself and even helped out in the kitchen at times.
It is also doubtful that Lambert would even allow gambling on the second floor to begin with. This is evident by the extra effort that he went through to ensure the safety of people sleeping upstairs. He had installed two additional planks of wood, over an inch thick, into the flooring that lies above the saloon to prevent bullets from inadvertently striking anyone upstairs. Historically it is very well-documented that all of the brawling and gunfights took place in the saloon, for why would Lambert want to take that element upstairs where his guests and family were staying and sleeping?
Of course, most of this can be verified historically by examining some of the floor plan drawings done in the early 1900s. The second floor only contained guest rooms and two small common areas. However, neither of the common areas were used for gambling. The present-day poker room was added in the 1940s by Mrs. Haegler who used it as a meeting place for her bridge club.
As the modern era approached, the need to renovate the old rooms became quite the necessity. The original rooms were actually quite small, about the size of the poker room and room 18 are today. Room sizes were expanded by taking down walls and converting other adjoining rooms into bathrooms. An excellent example of this can be seen from the bathroom of room 17. If you sit on the toilet and look to your right, you will see the transom of a doorway that is now completely blocked off. The area where you are sitting was once another guest room. A wall was built that split the room in half. On the other side of the wall is the bathroom for the adjoining room.
So the simple fact is there was no poker room on the second floor when T.J. Wright was there. It should also be noted that all of the violent deaths that have occurred in the St. James are very well documented in many sources. One of the primary sources was actually recorded by Henry’s son, Fred Lambert. Fred went through a great deal of effort to ensure that the murders that took place at the hotel and its saloon were accurately recorded. All the sources clearly indicate that there were no violent deaths on the second floor of the hotel. I have included his sketches and drawings in my book “New Mexico’s Most Haunted; Exposed” and this book for emphasis. So these parts of the ghost story are definitively busted.
You can buy the book here.