The Ghost of Guney
Before it was the Laguna Vista Lodge, it was
called the El Monte Hotel.
Vintage postcard courtesy Ann Tyer Walker.
Locals call the Laguna Vista Saloon, built
in 1898, the "Guney". The El Monte, as it was originally called,
was allegedly built with stolen railroad ties, which are still visible
in some of the rooms. A would-be innkeeper transported the
petrified railroad ties from Ute Park to
for two summers, but when he returned after the winter, the railroad
ties were missing and a new hotel had been built in Therma, which
later changed its name to
Nest. Behind the original saloon were a 17-foot deep hand
dug well and several icehouses.
The El Monte was one of the busiest saloons in the 1920's and 30's
when the politicians stopped over on their way to the horse races in
Mexico to partake of the many roulette, gaming tables and slot
machines offered in the saloons, inns, and businesses of
It was sometime during this period that the El Monte's
name was changed to the
Laguna Vista Lodge and was operated by a couple named Gene and
Pearl Wilson. At this time, the Wilson's often had to protect
their gambling profits when transporting them from the saloon to their
living quarters, by arming themselves with guns.
In the early 1950's, Bob and Edith
Sullivan purchased the property from the Wilson's, leasing the
restaurant to Walter Ragsdales, who operated it for several years. As
Eagle Nest Lake's
popularity began to grow with the tourists, the Sullivan's advertised
for college girls to help staff the lodge, restaurant, and saloon, as
the small village of
Nest could not provide the staffing needed for the popular tourist
destination*. In 1964, the "new" hotel was built next to the original
hotel for additional guests.
In 1971, Bert Clemens bought the property from the
Sullivan's and continues to operate it to this day. Bob and Edith
Sullivan's son, Robert, stayed on in
Eagle Nest for many years and
was honored for his 25+ years as fire chief, councilor and mayor. Edith Sullivan, who operated the Laguna Vista for some twenty years,
was honored as the Grand Marshall of the July 4th parade in 2003. Unfortunately, Mrs. Sullivan passed away on May 19, 2004.
So, does this old hotel and
has ghostly visitors similar to those at the
just a few miles down the road? Mr. Clemens says "yes," though
he has never personally encountered them. At one point, a
psychic visited the property who counted at least 22 spirits lingering
around the place. One employee reported to Mr. Clemens, that
while she was in the kitchen she heard the vacuum running in the
dining room, but when she went to investigate no one was there and the
vacuum was sitting still and silent.
A former manager, Jim, also told us that
eerie things happen, such as the piano in the dining room sometimes plays
when no one is there, and a dining table chair is pulled up next to the
piano. The staff will replace the chair next to one of the dining tables
only to find it later back in front of the piano again.
Customers and staff have reported that a woman
in dance-hall dress often appears, then vanishes toward the site of the
hidden staircase. This spirit is said be that of a woman on her
honeymoon with her husband, enjoying a stay at the hotel. Her
husband ventured out one day to go hunting and never returned. The
distraught young woman was left stuck and destitute and was said to have
become a saloon girl in order to provide for herself. Supposedly, it
is her spirit that lingers at the hotel in search of her long lost
In talking with a former employee of the
Vista, Kristi Dukes, who was a cook in the restaurant in 1999, she
stated that she encountered several spooky visits from a spirit that is
said to have once been a
saloon girl in the old lodge. According to
Kristi, both her and her mother Jane, who also worked in the restaurant,
would often encounter these visits whenever the music they were listening
to in the kitchen was anything other than classic rock or country music.
When Kristi, who often liked to listen to Rap, would change the music,
strange things would occur. On one such occasion a marble rolling
pin was thrown at Kristi, on other occasions pots and pans would fall off
of the walls. Once, when odd things were happening, Jane asked
Kristi to turn off the music but when she switched the stereo to the "off"
position, the music continued to play. She then unplugged the stereo
and, though it had no batteries, the music played on. Frightened,
the two left at the end of the evening only to return the following day to
a silent stereo.
Laguna Vista Restaurant Dining Room. It is in
this room, which was once the hotel lobby that held the
hidden staircase to the upstairs rooms, that the ghost is
most often encountered. Photo courtesy of the
The spookiest story actually occurred when
Kristi brought her daughter Rayni, who was 2 years old at the time, to
work one day. She had placed little jingle bells on her
daughter's shoes so that she could keep track of her while she was
working. Suddenly, Rayni walked into the kitchen very gently and
slowly. Kristi said she looked very odd and when she asked Rayni
what was wrong, Rayni replied, "the lady told me to stop making
noise". When Kristi asked Rayni where the lady was, Rayni led
her mother into the dining room and pointed at "someone" saying "that
lady." Kristi saw no one but Rayni insisted that her mother
remove the bells from her shoes.
Today, the Frommer's Travel Guide rates the
Laguna Vista, as the best restaurant and hotel in the valley, and
in January, 2002, the restaurant and Lodge were featured in Sunset
Magazine. The Lodge and restaurant has been featured on the Late
Show with David Letterman around 2005, and more recently on the Travel
Channel's Resort Rescue.
Another spirit is said to reside at
Julio's across the street. Now a restaurant, Julio's was once
another popular gambling spot in
Eagle Nest days. Supposedly, a woman resided next door to Julio's
who was said to dislike men. Stories abound about pots and pans
being thrown about in the restaurant and items are often moved from
one place to another. Men appear to be her favorite
target, as she plays pranks on many of them that come through what was
once her front door.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander -
2004. Updated September, 2015.
P.O. Box 65
505-377-6522 or 800-821-2093
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