Hotels with haunted histories

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A guest walks through the lobby and bar area Oct. 25 at The Emily Morgan Hotel, which is said to be haunted by spirits. The hotel was built in 1924 as a medical arts facility.  Zachary-Taylor Wright

A guest walks through the lobby and bar area Oct. 25 at The Emily Morgan Hotel, which is said to be haunted by spirits. The hotel was built in 1924 as a medical arts facility. Zachary-Taylor Wright

Downtown inns have some ghastly guests, workers say.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

The landmark Emily Morgan and Menger hotels harbor a century’s worth of memories; however, time is not the only thing trapped behind their historic walls.

The Emily Morgan is said to be haunted by the spirits of people who once roamed its halls. The building was constructed in 1924 and used as a medical arts facility, according to a front desk agent who asked to be identified as Savannah C.

The Gothic architecture incorporates women, men and children hunched in the fetal position expressing pain in various ways; these adornments were added to symbolize the array of illnesses the facility treated, Savannah C. said.

A local ghost-tour guide described one of the creepier spots in the hotel.

“One of the more notable places is the women’s restroom in the lobby, which originated as the hospital’s morgue. It’s downstairs and it’s haunted by a female ghost,” said Wolf Holt, owner of Bad Wolf Ghost Tours.

The top floor of the hotel was once used as the hospital’s operating room; according to Holt, the hotel has been unable to remove the odor of rubbing alcohol despite several attempts to mask the smell.

A bartender at the hotel’s Oro restaurant and bar described the paranormal activity he and coworkers encounter regularly.

“The cash register opened on me six times in a row, doors slam by themselves, you can see a little girl running around, there’s a ghost that lays down on the bed with single women and pictures fly off the wall,” he said.

The bartender said a door was slammed in his face and he has seen figures standing in the restaurant.

The bartender said these events no longer frighten him.

“I’ve been here for eight years. I’ve gotten used to it.”

While the ghosts don’t scare him, talking about them is actually a little scary.

The bartender didn’t provide his name in fear that he might get in trouble with management; employees have been reluctant to speak about the hotel’s paranormal activity since it became a part of The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel chain in 2012.

The front desk agent and the bartender said management advised them not to speak about the haunted nature of the hotel.

Originally designed by Ralph Cameron as a medical arts facility, the hotel was constructed to match the skyscrapers in other major cities around the United States at the time.

After its stint as a medical facility, the structure transitioned from office spaces to the Emily Morgan Hotel in 1984 after a private owner purchased the building.

The Emily Morgan isn’t the only hotel in this city that houses unchecked guests.

The Menger Hotel downtown is 157 years old, having opened in February 1859, and is believed to be home to several spirits.

Public relations director Ernesto Malacara said there isn’t a specific area in the hotel that paranormal activity is concentrated, but guests and visitors are likely to experience the supernatural anywhere within the hotel walls.

Malacara recalled a chilling incident he had while standing at the balcony of the second floor looking down on the lobby.

“I saw a large lady sitting in the lobby knitting,” Malacara said. “She wore a dress made out of denim. I came downstairs as quietly as I could and asked her if she was comfortable, thinking she was a guest. After five or six seconds she looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I am fine!’”

Malacara took this as a sign that the woman wanted him to leave her alone.

After a minute, Malacara remembered he had meant to ask if she was a guest and returned to the lobby to find the woman was gone.

He found this odd considering he never heard the elevator bell ring, and he didn’t see the woman in the courtyard.

The next day, Malacara’s friend said he saw a woman matching the same description in a different area of the hotel who disappeared without a third sighting.

He explained that employees of the Menger “have no knowledge of why they (ghosts) appear and who they are.”

Although ghostly sightings can be chilling, Malacara assures guests that “there’s nothing to be afraid of, that’s for sure. I’ve worked hotels for 50 years, to be exact, and this happens everywhere.”

According to Holt, those interested in hearing more about the Emily Morgan’s haunted history can take the Bad Wolf Ghost Tours’ flagship tour every day at 8 p.m., starting in front of The Alamo. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. The tour does not include the Menger.


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