The town of Cimarron was chartered in 1859 and was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. One of the oldest structures in the town is now known as the St. James Hotel. Over the years the adobe structure hosted a number of famous individuals and was the location where a number of people were killed. It acquired the reputation in local lore as being haunted by the spirits of the departed.
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The hotel was built by Henri Lambert and consisted of a saloon, restaurant and hotel rooms for residents. Lambert had previously been a White House chef during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and came west to find gold, first settling in Elizabethtown. Now a ghost town, Elizabethtown was once a gold rush village located almost halfway between Eagle Nest and Red River on what is known as the Enchanted Circle. The Enchanted Circle refers to the scenic loop centered around 13,161 foot high Wheeler Peak that includes Eagle Nest, Red River, Taos, Questa, Arroyo Hondo, El Prado and completes the circuit again at Eagle Nest. Cimarron is due east from Eagle Nest.
Construction of the hotel began around 1872 and the rooms were completed around 1880. The hotel was originally called the Lambert Inn and soon acquired a reputation in a location and a time period known for its lawlessness, as 26 people died from gunshot or stabbing wounds received in the saloon. The former saloon is now the dining room and still sports unrepaired bullet holes. Also, in the 1930s a chambermaid was reportedly murdered there by a jealous suitor.
Well known individuals of the day who are known to have frequented it include such Wild West names as Buffalo Bill Cody, outlaws Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Jesse James, James’ accused killer Bob Ford, Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, lawmen and gunslingers Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Pat Garrett, Gen. Phillip Sheridan, writers Gov. Lew Wallace and Zane Grey and artist Frederick Remington.
Once the railroads reached this part of the state, bypassing Cimarron, its location became less prominent and the hotel operation faltered. The name was changed after all the Lamberts died and the hotel changed hands.
No one knows when the ghostly legends and folklore began. The paranormal tales include that of a resident shot after a poker game who went to his room to die. The legend is that his spirit now inhabits tiny room 18, no longer rented. Other stories include tapping from unknown sources reportedly heard in the kitchen and in guest rooms, glassware that unaccountably falls from tables and breaks, telephones that ring in the middle of the night, ghostly images of men and women in darkened halls and in mirrors, birds that drop dead, objects that disappear or are mysteriously moved, water faucets that turn on or off without assistance, cameras that fail to work inside the building, voices and crys heard in the building.
The folklore and legends have led to the lure of the old hotel as a tourist attraction. Rooms are named for famous residents. Guests are encouraged to email their supernatural experiences to the owners. The hotel has been featured in specials on the Biography Channel and the SyFy Network, among others. From time to time, there have been local haunted hotel tours sponsored around Halloween by the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. News reports state that there is no guarantee that ghosts will actually appear, of course, but the legends live on.
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