Once the most well-known lodging establishments in the Southwest, the was frequented by American Presidents, athletes, literary heroes, and movie stars. Theodore Roosevelt lodged here three times, and even used the hotel’s bar as a place to recruit Rough Riders—the first United States Volunteer Cavalry who fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Yet the hotel’s storied reputation possesses a dark side. Over the years, the Menger Hotel has been called one of the most haunted hotels in America—and given its place in history, it’s easy to believe.
German immigrant William Menger began building the hotel in 1858, adjacent to his boarding house and brewery—which also happened to be the first brewery in the state. Its neighbor was none other than the Alamo. The hotel’s quick success merited a 40-room extension, and by 1870 it was known as the best hotel in the Southwest. A-list names like Mae West, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, and Ulysses S. Grant crossed its lobby, and subsequent renovations were made to keep up with its glamorous status. The Colonial Dining Room—now called the Colonial Room Restaurant—became one of the finest dining options of the era, serving delicacies like mango ice cream, wild game, and snapper soup.
With such activity it’s no wonder a few guests still linger long after they check out. Of the 32 ghosts that allegedly haunt the halls of the Menger Hotel is Teddy Roosevelt, who’s been spotted enjoying a drink in the hotel bar. Texas ranch magnate Richard King lived out his final days in a Menger Hotel suite, where died in 1885. Present-day guests of the room claim to have watched with King’s ghost glide straight through the wall where the door once stood.
Yet another well-known Menger ghost is that of Sallie White, a former maid who died at the hotel in 1876 at the hands of her husband. Soon after her tragic death, reports surfaced of her ghostly presence wandering the third floor of the hotel where she once worked. Other eerie encounters include TVs turning on by themselves; doors opening and closing for no reason; noticeable changes in temperature; and a “lady in blue,” who some claimed to have spotted knitting, reading a newspaper, or entering the dining room.
Hotel employees, however, are largely unafraid of such spooky occurrences. They claim that the ghosts of the Menger Hotel are benevolent, and nothing to worry about. In a hotel brimming with historical significance, the paranormal may just be part of the package—and something you can experience yourself, if you so choose. While ownership has changed hands over the past century and a half, the Menger Hotel remains a thriving business, and is a fine place to encounter the ghosts of American history… though you may run the risk of a restless night’s sleep!
Photos (in order): Emily Cline / Flickr; Wikimedia Commons; Abe Novy / Flickr; Kent Kanouse / Flickr