It’s 11:52pm and I’m sitting in the lobby of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico. This is the only place I can get a solid wifi signal. The front desk lady was very sweet and doesn’t mind me invading her quiet, empty lobby as I loudly bang away at my computer. I’m a notoriously loud typer.
We got here around 7pm, and when we walked into the famously haunted hotel that dates back to the outlaw days of the wild west, I was surprised to find the hotel bright, inviting, and yes, cozy. I don’t know why I was surprised, we make these things what they are. I had decided on the long drive from Dallas to not be (too much of) a weenie, and be a positive little ball Creepy Cornerista light while I was here.
Despite all the ghost stories that surround this place, and the rather eerie atmosphere I’m sitting in right now, I am feeling quite content. YAY CREEPY CORNER ROAD TRIP!
So what of those ghosts?
Well, the second floor (where I’m staying, in William F. Cody's room — that's Buffalo Bill to you!) is where much of the activity seems to be. Guests have reported that the original owner’s wife, Mary Lambert, walks the hall near her room and that sometimes her perfume can be smelled. In her room, the Mary Lambert room, guests and staff say that she does not like it when people open the window, and that she will tap on it until it's shut.
It soothes my anxious, creepy ol' self to know that Mary Lambert is known to be the protector of the hotel and its guests. Though I must admit that I feel very content right now at the St. James, I haven't turned off the lights in my room and tried to sleep yet, so I appreciate any warm vibes Mrs. Lambert can offer!
Here is a story from prairieghosts.com that I honestly feel a little guilty just quoting here, but it spooks me a bit so I really don't want to retell it (OK yes, now I'm being a weenie). The story comes from a staff member named Lisle who worked at the hotel:
When Lisle first came to the St. James Hotel she took the Kate Lambert room which is the last room on the right at the end of the 2nd floor family wing - directly across from the Mary Lambert room, and directly next to room 18. She told me that right from the start she had problems sleeping in the room. Many times every night she would awaken, although there was nothing specific, such as a noise, that would wake her. As time went on she found herself waking up more and more often to the point where she was exhausted the next day. Ghost hunters and psychics often visit the hotel, so she asked one of the psychics to come to her room. The psychic told her that TJ was trying to posses her and that she was lucky because Mary Lambert was protecting her from TJ. She said that this nightly spectral battle was what kept waking her up at night. Lisle liked the room and didn't want to move so she asked what would be the worst that could happen. The psychic told her that TJ could eventually succeed and posses her. Lisle moved to a different room that day and no longer wakes up numerous times at night.
Room 18 is a room on the second floor that nobody is allowed to stay in. In fact, it's padlocked at all times.
As the story goes, T.J. was a Mr. Thomas James Wright who was playing poker at the hotel in 1881 late into the night. He actually won the hotel at the end of the game.
After he won, he went up to his room on the second floor, but before he could make it, he was shot in the back by an unknown assailant. He was able to drag himself to his room, room 18, where he eventually bled to death.
Now, room 18 is considered the most haunted at the hotel. For a while people were allowed to stay in it, but bad things seemed to occur when there were guests in there. Some say there have been a few "mysterious deaths" in the room, but it's hard to confirm. Now the room is never rented, has been mostly stripped bare, and nobody is allowed inside.
I'm not going to lie, when my husband and I went to check out room 18, I kept my distance, snapped two hesitant pictures, then moved on to say hello to Mary Lambert's door.
"STOP IT WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" I barked at my husband when he walked right up to the door, and snapped several close up pictures of the locks. "LEAVE HIM IN PEACE!" I think I said. Better safe than sorry.
My husband and I continued to wander around the hotel in the evening. All the reviews online say that it is like stepping back in time when you step into the St. James, and it's very true. The floors creak, the wallpaper is old and peeling, and the bar still has 22 bullet holes in the ceiling from the hotel's saloon days in the 1870s — it was expanded to be a hotel on the Santa Fe Trail in 1880 by Henry Lambert. His family continued to live at the hotel through the 1880s and into the early 20th century; his son Fred was even taught to shoot a gun by none other than Buffalo Bill!
My room door has big gaps at the top and bottom where the door just doesn't close right, and I can hear everything going on in my hallway and even in the adjacent rooms. I'm actually ok with that, I like having light coming in from the hallway, as well as being able to hear other guests chatting. It comforts me.
The hotel is ALL atmosphere. It's lovely and tidy and smells like flowers (Mary Lambert? Some world class potpourri?), but it also feels like the past never quite died here. And while I am keeping my CREEPY SENSES tuned for things that go bump in the night, I admit I have an overwhelming sense of calm in the hotel — especially in my room. In fact, having been wrestling with some jet lag fueled anxiety for the past few days, this is the most relaxed I've felt since I've stepped onto American soil.
Yes, they dim the lights in the hallways at night and as I carried my laptop to the lobby to write to YOU Creepy Corneristas, I basically scurried/looked over my shoulder every three feet. But now, by the glow of the front desk, with the delightful night concierge and security guard chatting quietly over my shoulder, I feel right at home.
Breathing in the air here, touching the wooden bannister on the steep stairs, walking the old floors that creaked under the weight of Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, Mary Lambert, Henry Lambert, Bat Masterson, and Jesse James to name only a few, I am so humbled that I get to share a tiny bit of what all those people from so long ago experienced too.
Of course, the St. James has seen its share of death, loss (at least two of Mary Lambert's babies died in her room), and sadness, but I'm so impressed by the way the hotel seems to wear ALL its history on its sleeve. The good, the bad, and the ugly (and the creepy). It is human history here, more than a wild west show, it is how America was shaped.
I'm now going to gather myself up and head back up to my room to watch some episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I downloaded to keep myself company (Mr. Louise is NO HELP AT ALL, he's been asleep for hours). I have to traverse the downstairs dark hallway, then the upstairs dark hallway, but knowing there's a bright light on in the lobby, and a spirit of hospitality and kindness walking the halls, I actually feel quite tranquil.
Of course, I'll probably sprint the last few feet to my door and sleep with at least one light on, but who would I be if I didn't?
Thanks for following me on my road trip Creepy Corneristas! If you want more, check out the Creepy Corner Facebook Page for bonus pictures and my musings from the road (when the interweb permits).
EDIT: 1:12am — OK FINE. I left the lobby, went through the saloon doors into the hotel part of the building and my previously "tranquil" heart started POUNDING at the sight of the dark staircase. I left my computer open and chatted with my friend Joy as I my sweaty feet carried me up the staircase to the DARK SECOND FLOOR HALLWAY. As I turned the corner past room room 18, I glanced down the hallway, saw nothing, then BOOKED IT to my room at the END of the next DARK HALLWAY. I'm now at ease again in my room, chatting with Joy.
I am 34 years old. YAY CREEPY CORNER ROAD TRIP!