Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HGB Ep. 150 - St. James Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Daisy and Violet Hilton
Suggested by: Jill Phenix

Daisy and Violet Hilton were a couple of remarkable ladies and what makes them odd is that they were conjoined twins who managed to find a way to make a living from their difficult circumstances. The twins were not identical and they became fused to each other at the base of their spines in vitro. They were born in Brighton, England in 1908. Their mother was a barmaid and their father was a soldier. No one knows their names and it seemed that the mother died shortly after their birth and their father was killed in World War I. The midwife who delivered them was Mary Hilton and she would care for the twins and give them her name. Mary realized that displaying the girls could make her some good money, so she started touring them around to circuses and carnivals. She heard how well freak shows and vaudeville was doing in America, so she traveled to the US with the twins in 1916. Mary was a heartless woman and treated the girls horribly. They were malnourished and forced to participate in sideshows. The twins met Harry Houdini in the 1920s and he taught them how to do self-hypnosis, so that they could create their own solo spaces. It helped them to get rid of each other in their minds. The girls also decided to rid themselves of Mary and in 1929 they went to court and they were free. Once they could keep their earnings, the girls enjoyed the world of freakshows and vaudeville. They even appeared in the 1932 film "Freaks." They became headliners and their fame grew until the 1950s brought television and vaudeville went into the dustbin of history. They moved to Florida and worked in a grocery store. They were found dead at their home in 1969, having succumbed to influenza. Conjoined twins no longer are treated as bizarre oddities, but as an unique mutation and we can't help but think that the Hilton sisters had something to do with that.

This Day in History - The Beast of Gévaudan Killed by Antoine de Beauterne

On this day, September 21st, in 1765, the Beast of Gévaudan was killed by Antoine de Beauterne. The Beast of Gévaudan was a man-eating wolf that terrorized the former province of Gévaudan in France between the years 1764 and 1765. The wolf would kill its victims by ripping their throats out. The beast was reported to have an immense tail and massive teeth. Most reports have the wolf attaching 210 people and killing 113 of them. Over ninety of the victims were partially eaten. Antoine de Beauterne was employed by the King Louis XV as Gun-Bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt and it was his job to hunt the animal. On September 21st, an announcement was made that the wolf pack had been spotted in Pommier Woods. Antoine gathered his hunting party and he positioned himself at a place where the hunting hounds would scare the beast towards. It worked and Antoine encountered the wolf. He fired his musket that was loaded with no less than five charges of powder, a ball, and thirty to forty pieces of shrapnel known as "wolf shot." The blast knocked him off his feet and hit the beast in the right eye and shoulder. The wolf struggled to its feet and lunged at Antoine. Antoine's cousin fired his musket and hit the wolf again, which struggled for twenty-five more yards before falling over dead. The Beast of Gévaudan was dead.

St. James Hotel (Suggested by listener Richard Cutshall)

When one thinks of the Old West in America, cowboys and Native Americans, along with all varieties of gunslingers from sheriffs to outlaws come to mind. It was a time when a man could die in the streets with his boots on or at the poker table holding the Dead Man's Hand: a pair of aces and a pair of eights, all black. Cimarron, New Mexico was in the middle of all this and the St. James Hotel built there in 1872, exudes the faded Wild West. This was a wild town that played host to a veritable who's who of old west gunmen, lawmen, gangs and famous performers like Buffalo Bill Cody. The hotel itself was witness to at least twenty-six deaths. And now the hotel seems to be playing host to spirits. The hotel is reputed to be quite haunted with at least seven identified spirits. Our listener Richard Cutshall has stayed there and hunted for some of those ghosts. Join us as we share the history and hauntings of the St. James Hotel!

There are many buildings and markers in Cimarron, New Mexico that reflect upon the town's heyday during the Old West days of the 1800s. Cimarron was originally home to the Native American tribes of the Ute, Jicarilla Apache and Anasazi. The town sits along the Cimarron River and before it was established, it was a place along the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail, which was established to avoid confrontations with the tribes in the area. A fur trapper named Lucien B. Maxwell came to northern New Mexico and stayed at a ranch there where he fell in love with one of the owner's six daughters. He eventually married her and inherited the ranch and built a mansion on the land. He built the Aztec Mill nearby. This area that would later become Cimarron and several other towns was known as the Maxwell Land Grant. It incorporated a total of 1.7 million acres. In 1870, Maxwell sold the land grant to a group of English financiers. Such a large holding is hard to keep squatters off of and by 1873, a range war known as the Colfax County War had broken out between Maxwell and squatters. It would continue until 1888.

Henry Lambert is the man who built the St. James Hotel and pinning down details on him is difficult as there are differing opinions and accounts on his life. Most agree that he was born in October of 1838 in Nantes, France and moved to Bourdeux as a child. He came to the United States in 1858 and joined the Northern Navy during the Civil War. Some accounts have him working as a steward  and then he was employed by Ulysses S. Grant as a field cook. This employment lasted for one month according to some reports. President Lincoln heard about Lambert's cooking, either from General Grant or through the grapevine and he became the White House Chef for Abraham Lincoln. But there is no official record that Lambert was a White House Chef. There is a story that he owned a restaurant in the area. Perhaps he cooked for the President, but not in an official capacity? The family passed down the story and the hotel maintains it, so maybe it is true. There's just no official proof.

Henry named the hotel after himself and called it The Lambert Inn. It opened in 1872 and the saloon became a big draw. Fur traders, miners, cowboys and explorers visited the saloon on their travel down the Santa Fe Trail. Bar fights were a regular occurrence in this rough and tumble place and there are claims that as many as 26 people lost their lives in the saloon in shoot-outs. The reputation for violence sparked expressions around town like, "It appears Lambert had himself another man for breakfast." Henry added rooms in 1880 and fashioned them in such a way that The Lambert Inn came to be known as one of the most elegant hotels west of the Mississippi. Many famous names stayed at the hotel including, Bob Ford who killed Jesse James, Jesse James himself, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan and Wyatt Earp and his brother Morgan.

Henry was married twice, first to a woman named Anna who died in 1881 and then to Mary in 1883. He had five sons with Mary: William, Frank, Johnnie, Fred and Eugene. Fred went on to become sheriff in Cimarron and he always told people that Buffalo Bill Cody taught him how to use a gun. Fred was also a member of the tribal police and a territorial marshal. Cody even gave Fred the nickname “Cyclone Dick” because he was born during a blizzard and he became his godfather. Cody loved Cimarron and he loved staying at the hotel. He met Annie Oakley at the hotel and invited her to join him in performing the Wild West Show. When the two took the show on the road, an entire village of Native Americans from the area joined them.

The roof was replaced in 1901 and more than 400 bullet holes were found in the ceiling above the saloon. Guests were prevented from being killed with an errant shot by a double layer of wood in the ceiling. There are still 22 bullet holes in the ceiling of the dining room to this day. The hotel did really well while the Santa Fe Trail was being used, but when the railroad came through, the trail died and soon the precious minerals that brought miners also dried up. The population moved out of Cimarron. Henry died in 1913 and his sons tried to maintain the hotel. Mary died in 1926 and the hotel fell into disrepair. The St. James passed through numerous owners and was occasionally closed.

In 1985, restoration was begun on the St. James and it was brought back to its former glory complete with antique chandeliers, brocade wallpaper, velvet drapes, mounted deer and buffalo and original furnishings. Old hotel ledgers are also available to peruse. As you will hear Richard share, the hotel is separated into two parts. There is the historic area where 14 rooms have been kept to their rustic, former nature with no televisions, phones or radios and then there is the Annex with 10 rooms that have all the modern amenities. The historic rooms are named for certain people who had stayed or owned the hotel at one time. For example, there is the Mary Lambert Room and the Annie Oakley Room. The old saloon is now the dining room and the original antique bar is still there.

The St. James Hotel staff are not shy about their ghosts as you will hear from Richard. The sightings and reports are numerous about the ghosts at this location and it is considered one of the most haunted places in New Mexico. There are at least seven identified ghosts here. The second floor is the most haunted area. Nearly all the senses are affected from the scent of roses and cigar smoke to the feeling of cold spots to the sound of disembodied voices and haunting music to seeing full-bodied apparitions. Ghost Adventures has been here and the hotel has been featured on A Current Affair and Unsolved Mysteries.

Mary Lambert gave birth to all her children at the hotel. Her son Johnnie was born in 1889 and tragically, he was killed in an accident in 1892, inside the hotel. His spirit has been seen in the hotel. Mary died at the hotel as well and she seems to have remained behind to watch over Johnnie. The two are seen together often. The epicenter for hauntings by Mary seem to be in her room, Room 17. Her rose scented perfume is smelled in the room. If a guests open the window in the room, they will hear a tapping on the window until the window is closed. Her apparition is seen in the room and in the hallway outside the room and she usually has a milky white appearance.

Sometimes Johnnie’s ghost is witnessed playing with two ghosts of little girls who are said to have died at the hotel as well. The girls were 8 and 10 when their family stopped at the St. James Hotel. They had been traveling along the Santa Fe Trail and the girls became ill. Unfortunately, both died from their illness. They are most often seen playing in the hallway by the Governor’s Room. The spirit of a prostitute has been identified as Melissa because EVPs have been recorded of a female voice saying her name was Melissa. She probably died at the hotel. Ladies of the Evening were not really allowed by Mary, but they would sneak in late at night through a side door and then slip out in the mornings before Mary made her rounds. Melissa is playful and enjoys tugging at men’s hair, sitting in their laps and tickling their necks.

There is a room at the hotel that is so haunted and by such a negative entity, that no one is allowed to rent the room. The room is actually padlocked. That is Room 18 and it was a room that was rented by a Thomas James Wright, who was known as T.J. on March 31, 1882. He liked poker and he was playing a game in the poker room with Henry Lambert and a couple of other men. The game got heated and a legend about the game claims that Henry ended up putting the hotel into the pot. T.J. won the pot and the hotel. Another story just claims that T.J. won everybody’s money. Whatever the case, somebody was not happy about losing and shot T.J. in the back as he walked down the hallway to his room. He threw himself into his room and locked the door. He succumbed to his injuries during the night. No one was ever convicted for the murder. And now his angry spirit has remained in Room 18. T.J.’s ghost has violently pushed and shoved people, including an owner who decided to put the padlock on the room. She claimed to see an angry orange ball of light in the upper corner of the room once, also. None of the staff is brave enough to enter the room to clean it and the room is staged as though a gambling, drinking cowboy is still in the room. When guests were allowed in the room, they would report seeing a cowboy popping up in the window and one couple told a security guard, "A cowboy ghost was rocking, watching and grinning at us!"
Another peculiar entity may not be a ghost at all. This thing is called The Imp or Little Imp. He is a dwarf-like man who is very mischievous. He moves objects around and likes to take things and then return them later. He laughs at the staff and plays tricks on them as well. Other unknown entities are here and some think that spirits come and go because of the nearby Santa Fe Trail. It seems to be some kind of energy highway. These spirits knock things off the check-in area, pictures fall of walls, lights flick on and off and cold spots are felt. Cameras malfunction often inside the hotel. A college student named Kody Mutz worked at the hotel during summer breaks. In 2002, he was working the front desk when he was startled by a loud shriek coming from a far corner. His eyes darted about, looking for whoever who had screamed. There was no one in that corner. And guests on the other side of the lobby seemed to not have heard the noise.

Do members of the Lambert Family still remain at the hotel after death? Are some of the cowboys of old still here, roaming the halls? Is the St. James Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide!

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