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October 26, 2023

Ghosts, journalists haunt sacred ground at Menger Hotel

San Antonio’s Historic Menger hotel is home to over a century of rich history, and some believe the Menger is also home to ghostly spirits. Photo by Kristen Shepard.

By Kristen Shepard
Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO – At the historic Menger Hotel, it is Halloween all year long. Though guests will not always be in costumes, and you may get a confused look if you say “trick-or-treat”, the hotel’s many ghosts give the hotel a haunted feel year-round.

With its historic art and Victorian architecture, the Menger has been a landmark in this south Texas town since 1865. It is not just the beauty that attracts customers to the Menger. Dozens of ghost sightings have been reported to hotel staff, and videos of ghosts walking down the halls have blown up on YouTube, some with more than 50,000 views, leading many guests to believe the hotel is haunted.

According to the staff, no one knows more about the hotel’s ghosts than Ernesto Malacara, the hotel’s director of public relations. In his 36 years at the hotel, Malacara has seen his fair share of ghosts.

“Of course there are ghosts here at the hotel. They live here,” Malacara said. “But you stop being afraid of them when you realize that they can do you no harm. People don’t realize that the ghosts have died and are not malicious. The worst they can do is startle people, and I have seen many cases of maids or guests being startled.”

As the public relations director, Malacara spends three to four hours a week talking about the hotel’s ghosts to visitors. Several times a day, ghost tours exploring San Antonio walk through the hotel lobby. Even ghost hunters from all around the country stay at the Menger to try and spot the ghosts.

“At one point [the ghost hunt] got out of hand. One night we had over 40 ghost hunters roaming the hotel causing a ruckus and waking people up late at night,” Malacara said. “Because of this, we only give professionals full access nowadays.”

According to Malacara, the hotel’s most haunted areas are the gardens and the Victorian lobby, though ghosts have been spotted in the legendary Menger bar, parking garage and even the women’s bathroom. These ghosts come from all different times in the hotel’s past, some dressed as cowboys, wealthy railroad businessmen and even Confederate soldiers.

One couple visiting the Menger reported seeing the ghost of a little girl wearing torn clothes, who told them she died after being run over by a horse.

The Victorian Lobby of the Menger hotel is one of the hotel’s most popular areas to spot a ghost. Photo by Kristen Shepard.

One of the most recognizable ghosts reported to have walked the halls of the Menger is the ghost of Richard King, founder of the famous King Ranch, who died in the hotel in 1885. To guests, he appears in the clothing of his time period, and then disappears.

Malacara believes that each of these ghosts died in or near the hotel and have made it their home. Spirits are no recent addition to the hotel, as the hotel itself is built where the soldiers who proudly defended the Alamo were executed by the Mexican Army.

Malacara is not the only staff member at the Menger to advocate this theory. Merced Torres, who works at the front desk, has seen ghosts in his six years of working at the hotel as well.

“It is hard not to believe in ghosts when you work here,” Torres said. “When you hear so many stories from guests over the course of the year, that are so similar in nature, it is hard to prove they do not exist. I’ve seen them myself, plus if the stories were different, you could say, that’s obscure, but when they are so eerily similar, what can you say?”

This weekend, a variety of guests fill the Menger, from Korean Veterans to high school journalism students from around the country. It is safe to say that the ghost phenomenon is a lot less accepted among these students

A display case filled with Civil war memorabilia and other artifacts rests in the hallway of the Menger Hotel for visitors to admire. Photo by Kristen Shepard.

Eight Coppell High School media students and advisers Chase Wofford and SallyAnne Buckley are staying at the Menger as they attend the JEA/NSPA Fall National High School Convention.

“Frankly, I don’t buy into ghosts, but if I did, this place would be the place to be,” Ben Schaefer, a student from Lyons Township High School in Illinois, said. “If I saw one, I would probably have quite a few questions for him, and that would turn into one heck of a story.”

Over the years, numerous historical figures have stopped by the Menger. Thirteen presidents have visited or stayed in the Menger, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant. Other notable figures, such as railroad-guru Cornelius Vanderbilt, baseball legend Babe Ruth and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who supposedly rode his horse into the lobby, have spent the night at the Menger.

With a line-up as impressive as this, who would not be surprised if ghosts were among this week’s guests? Malacara and Torres sure would not be.


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