A Dark Night with Julia

I just received an email from a reader named Jennifer, who wrote me after a long, sleepless night. She had just started American Ghost, and it brought back to her “the horrible nightmare and experiences I had when my husband and I stayed in Julia’s room 5 years ago.” The experience, she said, foretold a death in her family, and “still haunts me to this day.”

She asked if I wanted to know more.

Of course I did. And this is the story she told. It is disturbing and also very sad:

Well, I’m not going to run through the platitudes of how crazy this may sound.  I’m just going to write what I experienced. 

We visited Jackson Hole 6 years ago and stayed at the Snake River Lodge owned by The Rock Resorts.  We had a great trip and really liked the resort.  When we decided to go to Santa Fe a year later, at the time La Posada was owned by The Rock Resorts and it was an easy decision to book there.  I didn’t read anything about ghosts in Santa Fe, let alone have any knowledge about Julia Staab.

We checked into La Posada and were led to a cute casita.  My husband, David, started having difficulty breathing as we walked through the property and up and down stairs.  He’s very fit, but suffers from mild asthma and the elevation was really affecting him.  The casita had low ceilings (David is 6’3”) and the bed pretty much took up the room.  It was claustrophobic.  After one night, I thought for sure I was going to have to book our flights back home because David was hyperventilating most of the night.  Morning time, I went down to concierge and explained the situation.  They said they had a room upstairs that I could take a look at.  I walked upstairs and the guy showed me a room next door to the Julia Staab Suite. It had high ceilings, a big bathroom and was just the opposite of where we were.  The guy said that the suite next door was even larger with a living room area and that they just needed to clean it and we could have it.  I was excited and said we’d take it. The guy was really friendly, but had a bit of a twinkle in his eye, but I only see this after the fact. 

As soon as we walked into our new room, David immediately said, “don’t start thinking this is an upgrade.”  He had a hard time believing this large suite just happened to be immediately available to us with no additional room charge.  He smelled a fish.  I didn’t think twice about it.  I was happy we could stay in Santa Fe and wanted to move on with the trip. 

The first night I had a true nightmare, more like a night terror.  I can’t go into the entire nightmare, but it was as if I were in someone else’s head with their memories that were completely foreign to me.  But they were really chilling memories – evil is the only way to describe them.  I had all of these little evil sounding voices, a chorus of them taunting and saying “the cancer’s back” over and over and over.  I couldn’t get away from them.  Then I remember looking at David and me in bed as if I was hovering on top of the ceiling.  I saw David’s back to me and my drenched body with the sheets twisted around me.  And then it felt like my own thoughts/reason were given back to me and I understood I was looking at myself in that bed – and knew it couldn’t be possible.  Suddenly, I was struck with sharp clarity that I wasn’t seeing myself, someone was watching us and it was evil and wanted me out.  That’s when I woke up yelling and in borderline hysteria.  My husband got up with me and had to keep me company and calm me down for an hour.  Even at that point, I didn’t think of the room as being haunted.  Just a really bad dream.

The next morning we moved on with our day.  We went day-hiking and came back early evening.  As we were walking through reception, we became friendly with one of the hotel staff.  I can’t remember his name.  He asked my husband if we saw anything last night.  I kept walking to our room and left my husband to chat.  When David came up, I asked him what he meant by that comment.  He was dismissive and brushed it off, “oh, he asked me if I saw any hot girls from our window.” (There was a wedding that weekend.)   I thought that was strange and kind of inappropriate to ask.  Backing up, when we got to our room, it was almost 90 degrees.  The a/c broke upstairs.  Dave went downstairs to report this and they apologized and said it was only in our room.  (Lucky us!)  We spent that night sweating our butts off and we were comped breakfast the next day.  They told David (unknown to me) that “it was probably Julia.”  The World Cup was going on and David said he’d go downstairs and have a beer in the bar while I showered.  I’m not a needy person at all.  But the thought of him leaving was something I couldn’t bear.  I pleaded with him to stay until after I showered and he looked at me like I was acting crazy.  I was so terrified to shower by myself in that room.     

For the rest of our stay little weird things happened and I don’t remember all of them.  There were clothes that I hung in the closet that just dropped or that weren’t in the order I put them in.  One dress I couldn’t find until the day we checked out.  I attributed it to me not paying attention.  There is also something that happened to the iron we were using – it would work one day and not the next.  Just lots of little things.

 I never felt comfortable in that room.  I felt like I was unwelcome, being watched.  I was careful to treat everything very cautiously, respectfully and formally.  Sitting down on the sofa softly with a straight back, not lying on it, etc.  I attributed it to Julia’s portrait.  It reminded me of the Haunted House in Disneyland where the eyes on the portrait move.  It was a childish memory that I dismissed as being silly.

So, our trip came to an end.  We checked out and were on the road just outside downtown center Santa Fe when David said:  “Okay, I have to come clean about something.”  I chilled and asked what it was, dreading what he would say.  “Supposedly our room is haunted.”  The hair on my body stood on end and my temperature dropped and all I said was “I know.”  It all made sense.  Then I got mad at him.  He told the guy downstairs not to say anything to be about the room being haunted because he didn’t want to switch rooms again. 

 When we got home a couple days later (Saturday evening), my sister Jessica called and told us to hurry and put on a show called Celebrity Ghost Stories.  There was a segment about Joey Pantoliano’s experience in that room with his girlfriend.  What a coincidence!  I believe they checked out in the middle of the night.  I then started searching for stories about Julia and that’s where I learned about the history. 

 This may not sound too terrifying or significant, but it’s only because I can’t put into words what I felt.  The next year, my sister was diagnosed with colon cancer (she had Hodgkin’s when she was 20 and had aggressive chemo which produces secondary cancers – one of them being in the colon).  She had persistent symptoms that her doctor wrongly attributed to fibroids for a long time.  If she had caught it a year earlier, she’d still be alive today.  She was 33.  I wonder if those voices about the cancer being back were just from my own thoughts.  Because once someone close to you has cancer, you know it can always come back.  That’s the rational explanation.  And maybe that’s the correct one.  I don’t know.