Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Haunted New Mexico: La Fonda Hotel

Just east of historic downtown Santa Fe's sits a hotel with an old-world charm that is rare. 

The La Fonda building that sits on San Francisco Street is just one of a long line of inns that have been located on this corner for well over a hundred years. The original inn was a small adobe structure that served as the town courtroom. Within its lobby, more than one convicted criminal was hanged.

Once the Santa Fe Trail was opened this inn became a popular spot for mountain men, trappers, traders, soldiers, and politicians. 

By the time New Mexico became a U.S. Territory in 1848 Anglos who named it “U.S. Hotel” were running this inn. It boasted a very popular gambling hall--which resulted in several deaths. The first happened in 1857. A gambler lost his life when an angry lynch mod strung him up behind the hotel.

Ten years later a politician, Judge John P. Slough a member of the Territorial Supreme Court was shot to death in the inn’s lobby. Slough had called, Captain Rynerson, a member of the Dona Ana County Territorial Legislature a liar and thief. Rynerson offended by these slurs shot and killed Slough. He was tried for this murder but was acquitted.

The inn was sold once more and operated under the name, “The Exchange Hotel” for almost sixty years. During this time another gambler, a traveling salesman became distraught when he lost all of his company’s money in a card game. He leapt to his death into a deep well that was located behind the gambling hall.

The current hotel named “La Fonda” was built on this site in 1922. By 1925 the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad owned it. This railroad leased the property to Fred Harvey. The La Fonda then became one of the famous “Harvey Houses” from 1926-1968. 

This hotel today is known for its award-winning architecture, unique art, shops, and comfortable feel. It still is the place to stay while visiting Santa Fe. A favorite part of the building is a wonderful French Pastry Shop on its north side. The La Fonda Hotel is located just off Santa Fe’s Historic Plaza.

This hotel has several resident ghosts. Many witnesses have reported seeing an apparition that fits Judge Slough’s description. 

In the 1970s a hotel guest called down to the main desk to complain that someone was pacing up and down in the hallway, that passed his room. When an employee went to investigate he spotted a tall man dressed in a dark long coat walk into a stairwell when he followed this man he was surprised to see him disappear into thin air.

The ghost that is seen most often is the traveling salesman who jumped into the well. 

Today La Fonda’s main dining room called, La Plazuela is a beautiful atrium room located right over this old well. Guests and staff have seen a ghost of a man walking in the center of this room. He stops, appears to jump into the floor, and then disappears. Yet another male ghost is seen walking in the east hallway near the third-floor restaurant, La Terraza.

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