All of the American West is wild, both the landscape and the people, so it’s not surprising that there are loads of haunted places here, just waiting to be discovered. Mining towns, such as Jerome, Arizona, grew men who struck it rich, men who tanked, and working girls who saved their money, hoping to land in San Francisco. Hotels and mansions are the center of haunted activity. Do you want to visit one? The spirits welcome you to do so. (Most do, anyway.)
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Have you seen the movie, “The Shining,” based on the novel by Stephen King? Then you’ve seen The Stanley Hotel. Built in 1909, the hotel, with its gorgeous Georgian architecture and beautiful whiskey bar, has attracted travelers for more than a century. It also attracts ghosts.
One tourist, from Houston, was particularly interested in ghost stories. He snapped a panoramic shot of the lobby, went to bed, and didn’t check his photos until the next day. There, at the top of the stairs, a figure stood, watching him. He posted it on Instagram. The television shows, “Ghost Hunters,” and “Ghost Adventures” have sent paranormal investigators to the Stanley. One investigator calls it, “Disneyland for ghosts.” We know one thing: If a hotel can put chills up Stephen King’s spine, it’s got something going for it!
The Grand Hotel, Jerome, Arizona
A hotel that once was a hospital is just asking for ghosts. Apparitions, ghostly-looking figures, sounds, and balls of light may make this the most haunted place in Arizona. (Which is saying a lot.) The 30,000 sq. ft. Grand Hotel began life as a hospital, stood untouched for years, and was bought in 1994 by manager Chris Altherr’s father and uncle. They opened with only six rooms, and began receiving reports from guests who heard voices in the hallways.
Scores of visitors sign guest books every year, detailing their experiences. “We fill a 300-page journal each year,” Altherr says. “We have four or five of them right now.”
The third floor, in particular, is a hot spot. (This used to be the operating room.) The sound of squeaking gurney wheels? Yes, even though they’ve changed the carpet, Chris says you can still hear them at 3:00 a.m. Guests also say they’ve seen the ghost of a cat on the third floor. Sometimes he looks like he’s jumping on a bed, other times he’s just cat-walking. Chris has heard about the cat, he says, “about a million times.”
The Travel Channel arrived and filmed an episode of “Ghost Adventures” at The Grand. They recorded voices, doors slamming, dark masses, and the camera crew felt numb in their arms and legs.
“We have the real deal up here,” Altherr says.
The Strater Hotel, Durango, Colorado
In the center of historic Durango, Colorado, stands a lovely Victorian, red-brick hotel. Several ghosts like it well enough to have become permanent residents. Noted as one of America’s 10 most haunted hotels, it was built in the 1880’s to serve railroad magnates and well-to-do mining professionals. Often seen is a railroad engineer walking the lobby in period clothes. People also report the ghostly figure of a man wearing a white shirt, standing on the railroad tracks, and suddenly disappearing.
A little girl, and a woman working the saloon, also wanders the beautifully appointed hotel. The Strater has a ghost diary in each room. Most sightings happen on the upper floor. One lodger took a picture of their room. In the photo she saw a blue orb that appeared on the headboard of the bed. All the spirits are going about their business, and none seem to have sad tales. They simply didn’t want to check out.
The Fonda Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico
One night a guest at the La Fonda called the lobby. They’d had it with the sound of pacing, back and forth, in the hall. It was keeping them wide awake. An employee went to investigate. When he arrived, he saw a man in a long, black coat walk into the stairwell. He followed the odd guest, and then? The man simply vanished. Judge John P. Slough got into a deadly argument back in 1867 in the lobby. More than one guest has seen the apparition, with the judge’s signature long coat, roaming the hallways.
Of course, Judge Slough isn’t the only spirit loitering at La Fonda. Any hotel, placed in a busy trade route for 400 years, has seen its share of gun fights and deadly brawls. The hotel, as it stands today, was established in 1922. But it was built in 1607 on the site of Santa Fe’s first inn. The lobby is lovely, and we believe any ghost who takes up residence there has good taste.
Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
This French chateau has 22 rooms, was built in 1909, and is now a public landmark. It was the dream home of Oregonian pioneers, Henry and Georgiana Pittock. The two didn’t live long after building it, but the scent of roses, Georgiana’s favorite flowers, still fills the empty rooms. And, there’s the strange case of a childhood painting of Henry moving, from place to place, inside the house. It rehangs itself.
There were no terrible or illicit events here, but since opened to the public in 1965, a myriad of oddball events have been reported. These include ghost sightings of floating little old ladies, boots walking without legs, portraits moving, windows that open and close themselves, and a tree with a face in it. More than one scary movie has been filmed in the Pittock Mansion!
Croke Patterson Mansion, Denver, CO
Legend has it that Thomas Croke built his mansion in 1892, only entered it once, and was so scared that he sold it two years later. Throughout the 20th century, it was bought and sold, bought and sold again. In the 1970’s, it was purchased to convert into office space. Contractors reported that when they’d come to work in the morning, their previous day’s efforts would be undone. They brought Dobermans to guard the site—they were of no help.
Workers then reported typewriters that worked without secretaries. A séance was held in the house. A spirit told the medium that a girl had been entombed in the basement. Excavators were sent to check it out. They found a secret passage, one that hadn’t been ordered by Mr. Croke. It led to a mysterious room that was filled with sea sand. No body was found. If you go there, and you can, take your ghost repellent!
Mile High Grill and Inn, The Clinksdale Building, Jerome, AZ
This historic Inn was built in 1899, has eight bedrooms, and is haunted by a number of spooky apparitions. It’s really no wonder. The Clinksdale Building was a brothel, which caught fire and burned, in its last incarnation. The current inn was built directly over the ashes. (How that fire started is a mystery.)
The ghost of Madame Jennie Banter moves furniture around—she has quite an eye for style, and she helps with the inn. Her cat has been seen peaking around corners in the living room. They are both friendly and welcome spirits. There’s also the ghost of a kind man, dressed in century-old work clothes, who is seen peering through the windows. There’s only one ghost here with a cranky personality. He sometimes pops into the restaurant or someone’s room. Of course, there is also strange music, voices, and phantom footsteps.
The Wild West is a paradise for those who love haunted places. We’re happy to help you check them out.