Historic Walks of Santa Fe

Walking tours with professional guides leave most of the major hotels every day.

Santa Fe Ghost Tour

Pointing dramatically across the St. Frances Hotel lobby to the Ore House on the Plaza Restaurant, Marilyn launched into her first tale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For an hour or so at twilight we took a short walk into Santa Fe’s less well known past, a past filled with mysteries, unanswered questions, and the not quite dead. It was a fun walk, including visits to many of the buildings and places where unexplainable things have happened, and are still happening, with the story behind the events. It was a lighthearted but thought provoking look into the inevitable result of 400 years of Spanish folklore, encircled by 1,700 years of Pueblo tradition, both surrounded by Apache, Navajo, and Comanche, topped off with the Wild West.

We met in the lobby of the St. Frances Hotel for the Aspook About, a Ghost Walking Tour of Santa Fe, when suddenly, a one-woman cyclone whirled into our midst. It was Marilyn, our guide.

Marilyn Adams, our “intrepid tour guide”, was quite something. An aging but spritely actress, she took great pleasure in leaping off the sidewalk whenever we came to a halt, waving her arms about, a clipboard firmly in her grasp. She must be a regular sight in these parts as passing cars seem to know to give her a wide berth. We trailed along behind her, hearing stories of bloodshed and trauma.

On the Old Santa Fe Trail. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pointing dramatically across the St. Frances Hotel lobby to the Ore House on the Plaza Restaurant, she launched into her first tale.

It seems a young couple had just seated when the guy stared wild-eyed at something just beyond his girlfriend’s shoulder and began screaming, “Tell that woman to get away from me! Tell her to get away!” His girlfriend began to panic as well and the guests at the surrounding tables reared back like spooked horses. Desperate, their waiter stood in the spot, passing his hand back and forth through the empty air. Immediately, as if awakened from a spell, the man’s face calmed and he said, “Well, I think we’ll have our menus now.”

Marilyn paused a beat. “Shall we be out the door?” she sweeps us down Burro Alley, recounting tales of burros once bustling there, there ghostly hooves echoing down the centuries, best heard “at that marvelous witching-hour time between three and four in the morning.”

On to the Palace Restaurant, our guide paints an enthusiastically vivid imagination of its original owner, La Doña Tulis, a garish dresser who smoked stubby little cigars and who, “well, wasn’t very ladylike.”

We troop into the restaurant behind Marilyn to gawk at Doña’s portrait, hear of her scandalous life and, eventually, her restaurant’s sad decline. “Nowadays, on certain cold, bitter nights—preferably nights with a little snow in the air—if you glance in, you just might see a woman looking very much like Doña sitting at the end of the bar, disappointedly nursing a drink—but don’t look directly at her! Or she’ll disappear.”

The city's most famous ghost is Julia Staab whose Victorian home, the Staab House, is now part of La Posada Hotel. Her painting still hangs in the hotel and Marilyn regales us with a first hand account of meeting Julia in what was her bedroom when she was alive. (Credit: legendsofamerica.com)

As we wended our way across the Plaza and beyond, more stories of the weird, the inexplicable, ensued: stories of echoing footsteps in the middle of the night that stop when you stop, stories of the unrequited love, of copious tears being cried into “a white linen serviette” at the corner table (“and now, quite often, someone finds a serviette upon its service. Crumpled. Dampish with tears.”)

I won’t give away Marilyn’s piece de resistance.

Hint: It involves the ghost of La Posada’s Julia Staab. And—Marilyn has actual photos.

Note: This is the final of a four-part series on Santa Fe, New Mexico

Part 1: The City Different: Santa Fe, NM

Part 2: Historically Significant Santa Fe

Part 3: The City of Holy Faith: Santa Fe

Worth Pondering…
For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to parts of the earth; and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.

—Alan Gussow

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