Exterior of La fonda on the Plaza

photo by: Jen Judge

October 21, 2015

Ghostly Encounters at La Fonda on the Plaza

The heavy footsteps paced the hallway of La Fonda on the Plaza, a landmark hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Back and forth, back and forth, the footsteps continued late into the night, loud enough to keep one guest wide awake. He called the lobby to report the disturbance.

A hotel employee was sent to investigate. When he arrived, he saw a man in a long, black coat walk into a stairwell and then … disappear. But when the employee followed him into the stairwell, there was no one there.

Could it be the ghost of the Honorable John P. Slough, a judge who got into a deadly argument in the hotel’s lobby with a member of the Territorial Legislature of Dona Ana County back in 1867? His signature accessory, after all, was a long, black coat. And numerous hotel guests have seen his apparition roaming the hallways and lobby.

Judge Slough isn’t the only spirit believed to be lingering at La Fonda on the Plaza. But any hotel that’s been around for 400-plus years -- and has been the site of violent gunfights and public hangings -- is bound to have its share of things that go bump in the night. While the hotel that stands today was built in 1922, official records show that it’s on the site of the city’s first inn, built back when the city was first established around 1607.

Hotel guest goes outside

photo by: Jen Judge

La Fonda on the Plaza offers 180 guest rooms and suites, some of which may have their own ghosts.

La Plazuela Restaurant

photo by: Jen Judge

At La Plazuela restaurant, diners and staff have seen the ghost of a businessman who jumped to his death in a well that once stood in the courtyard.

Today, La Fonda, a member of Historic Hotels of America, is popular among vacationers looking for a bit of history -- and perhaps a ghost sighting.

Dine at La Plazuela, a restaurant located in what was once the hotel’s inner courtyard, and you may see the ghost of a businessman who drank and gambled away his fortune at the hotel. Heavily in debt, and driven mad by his losses, he ran to that inner courtyard and jumped headfirst into a deep well.

Diners and staff have both reported seeing a ghostly figure that walks to the center of the restaurant and then disappears -- right at the spot where the old well once stood.

Bell hop on elevator

photo by: Jen Judge

The ghost of a young bride has been spotted in the hotel’s elevators.

And then there’s the ghost of the young bride who was murdered on her wedding night by an ex-lover. She is seen haunting the wedding suite -- Room 510 -- as well as the lobby, an elevator, and the basement.

You may hear of other ghostly encounters at La Fonda: the ghost of a cowboy haunting the bar, or a housekeeper who saw the outline of someone lying under the covers in the bed of an unoccupied room -- only to find no one there when she pulled back the sheets.

Come for the ghosts, but stay for the Pueblo-style architecture with the colorful tiles, hand-crafted chandeliers, and thick wooden beams. But maybe sleep with the lights on.

Bell Tower Bar

photo by: Jen Judge

Hotel guests enjoy the sunset at the hotel’s rooftop Bell Tower Bar.

Woman on balcony at La fonda

photo by: Jen Judge

La Fonda on the Plaza is close to Santa Fe’s most popular sites, including hiking trails, shopping on the Plaza, the galleries of Canyon Road, and museums.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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