Wright’s angry, malevolent ghost continues to haunt the room and he does not like company. One former owner said she was pushed down while in the room and, on another occasion, saw a ball of angry orange light floating in the upper corner. The room holds only a bed frame without a mattress, a coat rack, a rocking chair and bureau which has been made a shrine to the Old West. Sitting atop the bureau is a Jack Daniels bottle, a basin and pitcher, a hand of cards, an Ace Copenhagen tin, and several shot glasses. On the wall is a bad painting of a half-naked woman.
This room is considered by the staff to be the most haunted and people are rarely allowed to enter the room, much less sleep in it. Rumors abound that when the room was rented, a number of mysterious deaths occurred there.
Room 17 is the epicenter of sightings of Henry’s second wife Mary Elizabeth, who is said to remain at the hotel as a protector. Mary gave birth to her children in the hotel and died there herself in December 1926. Allegedly, Mary’s rose-scented perfume can often be smelled in her old room. Sometimes, an insistent tapping is heard when the window is open and will not stop until the window is closed. On other occasions, a milky transparent woman can be seen in the hallways.
Another “dwarf-like” old man has also been seen at the hotel. Nicknamed the “Little Imp” by hotel staff, the spirit is said to be very mischievous, constantly playing tricks and laughing at the staff. On one occasion, he was said to have stuck a knife into the floor between two owners of the old inn. Most often, however, he is blamed for objects that mysteriously disappear, only to be found later in locations that they absolutely don’t belong.
Other, unknown entities are also said to roam the hotel, creating a host of paranormal activities. Staff report that items constantly fall off walls and shelves and electrical equipment at the front desk behaves unpredictably. Others have reported cold spots throughout the historic inn, lights that seemingly turn on by themselves, feelings of being watched by unseen eyes, and cameras that cease to work inside the hotel, strangely return to normal after leaving the St. James.
Kody Mutz, a college student, who has worked summers at the hotel, reported that in 2002, as he was working at the front desk, he heard a high pitched shriek coming from the far corner of the lobby.
Looking up abruptly from his work, he was dumbfounded to see absolutely no one on that side of the room. Quickly looking around, his eyes rested on three other quests mingling at the other side of the lobby, apparently having not heard the loud scream, they were completely unphased.
The hotel features 13 historic rooms, named for the famous and infamous people who once stayed there. An annex was also added to the hotel that houses an additional 10 rooms. The hotel retains its historic ambiance with antique chandeliers, velvet drapes, thick carpets covering its old wooden floors, brocade wallpaper, and many of the original furnishings of the hotel.
There are no phones, radios, or televisions in the 14 rooms of the main hotel; however, the 10 room annex has all the amenities of a modern hotel. The old saloon, which is now used as the hotel’s dining room, still holds the original antique bar, as well as twenty-two bullet holes in the pressed-tin ceiling.
In the hallway of the hotel is a plaque that commemorates Clay Allison and the roster of 19 men he was said to have killed, as well as photographs of the many famous guests that have stayed at the historic inn. Also in the hallway is the original headstone of Parson Franklin J. Tolby, the beloved minister of Cimarron, who was killed during the Colfax County War.
Checking into this historic place will make you feel as if you have stepped back in time, as mounted deer and buffalo stare down at you from the lobby walls, you view the old hotel ledgers signed by its many famous guests, and imagine the sound of tinny music coming from the antique piano in the corner. Perhaps you too will be lucky or unlucky enough, depending upon your point of view, to run into one of the hotel’s many unearthly guests.
“If a house was seated on some melancholy place, or built in some old romantic manner, or if any particular accident had happened in it, such as murder, sudden death or the like…. That house had a mark set on it, and was afterwards esteemed the habitation of a ghost.”
— Bournes’ Antiquities
Readers’ Stories of the St. James Hotel”
Though I had seen the St. James Hotel featured several times on the popular television show, “Unsolved Mysteries,” and was very impressed with the stories, I never thought I would have the opportunity to visit there, let alone spend the night.
However, in the late 1980s, I took a new job installing payphones all over the State of New Mexico. When I was given the task of installing several phones in the Cimarron area, I decided to spend the night at the St. James Hotel.
That first night, I stayed in the Zane Gray room and as I was getting ready to take a shower I noticed a small mirror hanging on the wall that was rocking back and forth. Click, click. Click, click. Though I tried to ignore it, the clicking sound persisted until I finally walked over to the mirror and felt the wall to see if it was vibrating. It wasn’t.