The St. James Hotel
You can sleep in the bed Jesse James spent the night in, play poker at the same table as Pat Garret and have a drink at the same bar as Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp. At the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico, you can have the chance to not only see where your favorite historical Wild West figure spent their time, but you may be able to see their paranormal selves as well.
The hotel was built by Henry Lambert and his family in 1872 after Henry’s job as President Lincoln’s White House Chef abruptly ended with the president’s assassination. Henry went west to search for gold, but was waylaid by a wealthy Land Baron in New Mexico. He worked as a private chef to the baron for a few years while he built his own restaurant and saloon. His watering hole was so popular that he added 30 rooms to it and the Lambert Inn was born. The family was proud of the establishment, and by 1880, was considered one of the most gracious hotels west of the Mississippi.
The hotel was so popular that anyone who was taking the Santa Fe Trail spent time here. Take a look at the registry book and you will see the names of everyone who was anyone in the old west. Jesse James, using the alias RH Howard, always stayed in room 14. Wyatt Earp and his family stayed there for three days while traveling to Tombstone. Lew Wallace wrote part of the novel BEN HUR there and popular western novelist Zane Grey wrote all of FIGHTING CARAVANS in the hotel. Buffalo Bill not only met Annie Oakley here, but when they left to start their Wild West Show, they took an entire Native American village from the Cimarron area with them. Billy The Kid, Kit Carson, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday and ironically, the man who would later shoot and kill Jesse James, Robert Ford, all drank, slept, and were entertained at the St. James.
With so many different characters converging at a time when law enforcement was defined by who had the quicker draw, it is no wonder that in the hotel’s history there have been at least 26 deaths in the saloon, 43 rooms, and restaurant. In 1901, the 400 bullet holes in the roof were repaired. If you look up at the beautiful tin ceiling of the dining room, you can still see 22 bullet holes preserved by the hotel’s current proprietors. Henry had the forethought to build a 3 foot layer of wood between the first and second floors, preventing anyone upstairs getting accidentally shot. With so much death and anger, it is not surprising that there are, at last psychic count, three ghosts inhabiting the hotel. The ghosts’ personalities range from kind and caring to angry and destructive. This does not include the spirits of past patrons that still come to visit the hotel.
The most violent and prevalent ghost is that of a T. J. Wright who haunts room 18, where he was shot to death. It seems that Wright had just won the hotel in a poker game, but was never able to collect his winnings because as he was walking down the hall towards his room, he was shot in the back. Wright stumbled into his room, room 18, and slowly bled to death. The room is the epicenter of some physically violent episodes. Some of the natives of Cimarron say that there have been mysterious deaths linked with those that have entered the room, but that is just rumors. Whether rumor, truth, or a little bit of both, the room is closed off to everyone today.
For some firsthand experience, stay in room 17, the Mary Lambert room of the hotel. Mary was Henry’s wife and took over the hotel’s keeping after her husband’s death in 1913. It seems she has yet to stop, though she herself died in the hotel in December of 1926. She seems to be the protector of the hotel, watching out for it and everyone who stays. The signs that you have met Mary include a cloying floral scent in and outside of her room; tapping on the window of her room if it is left open, only to stop when someone closes it; and some have even witnessed a transparent figure walking the halls.
A spirit that haunts the entire hotel is a very short old man called “little imp”. He likes to play tricks of the employees by taking things and putting them in places where they absolutely do not belong. One story claims that he once stuck a knife in the floor between the two owners of the hotel. His presence seems to be that of the mischievous sort, laughing at those who are surprised or frustrated by his actions.
There are also many occurrences at the hotel that are the product of the many spirits that are just passing through. There are cold spots, the scent of cigar smoke permeates the second floor in the no smoking building, items falling, electronics behave strangely or stop working completely, feelings of being watched, lights turn on by themselves, and the eeriest of all, some have seen the apparitions of cowboys sitting in the saloon or playing cards upstairs.
Today, the hotel is and elegant reminder of the Wild West heyday, there are no phones, radios, or televisions in the original section of the hotel. The current owners annexed the original building with a modern set of rooms with every convenience, but that has not prevented it from some strange happenings. Those who stay in the newest part of the hotel have complained about doors opening and closing by themselves as well as hearing disembodied voices. Visiting the St. James Hotel, you will find crystal chandeliers, brocade wallpaper and velvet draperies if you stay the night, perhaps even a haunt or two.