Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hotel offers historic experience

Karl Terry

Do you believe in ghosts?

For me I guess the answer would be no but I do enjoy the stories and legends. If a ghost story helps put a person in a period of history and brings that history to life in some way that’s pretty cool whether you believe in ghosts or not.

Years ago we had stopped at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron for lunch and we learned a little about the history and reported paranormal activity at the establishment.

I told my wife we would have to book a room there some day. This month we scratched that item off our bucket list with a recent overnight stay there.

The hotel grew up along the Santa Fe Trail and was frequented by outlaws and colorful characters such as Frank and Jesse James, Clay Allison, Billy the Kid, Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley.

It’s said that at least 22 men lost their lives in gunfights on the property and the bullet holes in the dining room ceiling give testament to the rowdy times the place has seen. Some of the revelers maybe never left.

I wasn’t the least bit concerned about staying there even considering the coincidence of getting booked into the Bat Masterson Suite. He was also a writer but a bit faster with a gun than I am.

Back when we made the vow to stay there some night concerns about fitting into the antique furnishings wasn’t even a consideration.

Some 20-odd years later when we got a look at the actual room we would stay in there were doubts.

First, there was that double bed that was set so high we had to jump to get into it. Double beds weren’t a problem when we were first married and I loved to hold my sweetie tight all night. Our bodies have grown, however and I found myself holding my sweetie tight for fear I would fall out of bed if I let go.

The antique style chairs were extremely low and while they were comfortable getting arthritic knees to lift you out of them was a challenge.

The big old cast iron bathtub was the bright spot. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. For that matter they probably didn’t make ‘em like that in 1871 when the hotel was built. The only running water was likely carried from the kitchen stove, down the hall by the hotel staff.

The only oddity I noted was the propensity of a cabinet door beneath a lavatory to keep coming open. I closed it over and over only to have it pop back open. I think it was old hinges and an unlevel cabinet more than ghostly high jinx.

My wife claims she heard footsteps on the floor after she went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Actually I had slipped off the bed when she got up and the footsteps were just mine as I took a running jump back on the mattress.

No, I carefully examined all the digital photos I took inside the hotel and haven’t found any strange unexplained apparitions in any of them.

Learning more about the outlaws and characters that reportedly stayed at the hotel over the years left us in awe. The setting really helped put you back in the late 1800s and gave you an appreciation of our Southwest history.