I am very pleased to share this guest post about Haunted Sante Fe’s La Posada Hotel from Lane and Juliet at Southwest Compass. I hope you enjoy reading about their jaunt in search of the ghost of Julia Staab as much as I did!
Walking through Santa Fe’s La Posada Hotel, which is decorated in the typical Southwestern style, you climb some marble stairs and find yourself in both a different house and time. The Staab house was built in 1882 and it shows – think glossy wood paneled walls and ornate chandeliers. The décor is not the only thing dating back to the nineteenth century. The ghost of Julia Staab is also rumored to be present. We wanted to track down this restless spirit.
The tale begins with Abraham Staab, a German Jew who immigrated to America in 1854. He and his brother set up a retail business, and were major suppliers for the U.S. army in New Mexico, during the Civil War. Their enterprise expanded, until it was the largest wholesale and merchandising company in the Southwest. The brothers scored profitable government contracts and, in 1882 alone, they made one million dollars!
However, Abraham Staab lacked one thing: a wife. He married Julia Schuster, who was living in Germany, when she was only fifteen. He brought her to Santa Fe, where he constructed their home: a three story, brick structure, in the Second French Empire style. The entire third floor was devoted to an enormous ballroom, which became the social hub of Santa Fe.
Everything seemed to be going well. Julia settled into her role as a socialite and Abraham had powerful friends – he entertained the likes of President Rutherford B. Hayes and Archbishop Lamy in the family home. Then Julia’s seventh child (or eighth, depending on the source), called Henriet, died when she was very young. Several more failed pregnancies followed and Julia was diagnosed with depression. She took to her room, where she remained until her death in 1896, at the age of fifty-two.
Although this is a sad ending to a life full of potential, it isn’t violent. So why would Julia’s spirit linger? There was a persistent rumor that Abraham was cheating on her. Other claims suggest that the whispers surrounding his wife’s sanity held Abraham back from political and social power. Some believed that he murdered Julia. After all, she never had an obituary, which was odd for a socialite of her standing.
When we walked into the Staab house, it was bustling with people, just like in the old days. Conference attendees mingled in the library, the bar was full, and there was nothing to suggest otherworldly activity.
The first recorded encounter with Julia’s ghost was by a maid, in 1979. Later a security guard saw the apparition and quit on the spot. There have been sightings in her bedroom, on the grand staircase and in the bar, where glasses have supposedly been thrown off the shelves. We decided to start there – where better to find a restless spirit?
We located a refreshing mint mojito, but there was no sign of Julia’s presence. We had hoped to elicit some information from the bartender about the flying glasses, but she was busy dealing with living customers. At that point, we decided to split up – as you are never supposed to do in horror movies.
Channeling Clue, Juliet headed for the library. She discovered beautiful, European furnishings and far too many conference attendees. No self-respecting spirit would show up here.
In the meantime, Lane was interrogating random staff members in the hopes of uncovering a sighting. She talked to a lady old enough to have been Julia Staab’s babysitter, who passed her off to a newly hired employee. Finally, three interrogations later, she tracked down a manager who was willing to discuss the one credible sighting he knew about.
A Scottish wedding reception was being held at La Posada. The photographer wanted to take some portraits of the bride and groom, so the manager allowed them to use the Julia Staab room. The photographer and groom entered the room. Then the door slammed shut in the bride’s face. She reported feeling someone tugging on her long, silk gloves. The manager concluded that Julia Staab didn’t want another beautiful woman in her bedroom. However, if her husband did in fact murder her, perhaps she was trying to save another young bride from a similar fate.
It was time to venture up to the second floor. We climbed the wooden staircase, feeling apprehensive, because it was steep and the bannister was bizarrely low. It would have been easy for an ‘accident’ to have occurred here. As soon as we reached the second floor, the atmosphere felt oppressive and it was extremely quiet, despite the conference downstairs.
Maybe it was because we knew about Julia, but this part of the Staab house was decidedly creepy. As an added bonus, we couldn’t explore the ballroom on the third floor, because it burned down in 1919, six years after Abraham’s death.
Perhaps we would have better luck at Julia’s final resting place, Fairview Cemetery. Her gravestone is hard to miss: an urn sits on a tall plinth, making this memorial one of the tallest in the place. Abraham, Julia and five of their children share the plot. However, this site actually felt less spooky than the landing outside Julia’s bedroom. The only activity at Fairview came from the prairie dogs that have invaded the cemetery, occasionally digging up human bones.
- La Posada hotel has grown up around the Staab house, due to extensions in the 1930s and 1950s. In order to reach it, you have to walk through the hotel.
- Fairview Cemetery is located at the intersection of Cordova Rd and Cerrillos Rd.