Ghost-hunting picks up with the approach of Halloween, but the spirits themselves don’t really care what time of year it is. They’re always around.
Ernesto Malacara is sure of it. The public relations director at San Antonio’s Menger Hotel has seen plenty in his 36 years at the hotel.
“I’m not talking about hatchets flying through the air or heads falling off,” he says, “but there are apparitions that cannot be explained.”
If you’re into ghosts, San Antonio’s the place you need to be, and the Menger’s a good haunt to choose. It doesn’t hurt that it overlooks the Alamo.
“The hotel has been here for 154 years, and only the good Lord knows what is buried under here,” says Malacara, who says he’s seen a large woman in a denim dress, clunky shoes and steel-rimmed glasses knitting in the hotel lobby. He asked her if he could get her anything, and she replied slowly, “I …am….fine.” He turned away for a moment, and when he looked back, she was gone.
Just an eccentric guest? He might have thought so until the next day, when a fellow employee looked down into the lobby from the second floor and said, “There she is!” Malacara could see nothing. His colleague described the knitting woman.
Malacara also speaks of eerie feelings in the hallways “like someone was looking holes in the back of my head.” Another employee saw a TV come on spontaneously, with a hand beckoning her. A guest reported his daughter sitting in the middle of the room on the rug, laughing and talking and saying, “Daddy, can’t you see my friends?” Guests in rooms overlooking the Alamo have reported seeing platoons of soldiers marching by and the sound of a trumpet playing.
There are hotels that embrace their ghosts, and those that don’t want to talk about them. The Menger falls into the former category. The Emily Morgan, a Doubletree hotel on the other side of the Alamo, isn’t quite sure.
One of the hotel’s web pages goes on and on about its ghosts, noting, “The psychic aura of the hotel is palpable for even the most skeptical of visitors.”
And, yet, when I e-mailed the hotel, sales coordinator Denise Smith wrote back tersely: “Any ghost stories about the hotel are all speculation and cannot be confirmed.”
Confirmed or not (and who can really confirm a ghost?), the 89-year-old Emily Morgan carries ample ghost fodder. It started out as a hospital, psychiatric facility and morgue, and guests report seeing patients in gowns wandering the hallway.
Other old San Antonio hotels have their spooks, as well. At the St. Anthony Riverwalk Wyndham, built in 1909, guests have reported cold spots and a ghostly woman dancing in the ballroom, as well as a woman weeping in the laundry room. A housekeeper is rumored to have quit after her name appeared repeatedly on a bathtub.
Also built in 1909, the Sheraton Gunter is said to have been the scene of a murder in the 1960s. Guests and workers have reported apparitions in what was then room 636 and throughout the sixth floor.
Once you check in, how do you find the ghosts? Don’t even try, Malacara says: “They’ll find you.”