Established just 23 years after the fall of the Alamo, the Menger Hotel has been up and running since Feb. 1, 1859, right next door to the Alamo’s remains. With its age and close proximity to the famous Texas battle site, the hotel is assumed to have its share of ghost stories.
Ernesto Malacara has been the public relations representative and resident historian at the Menger for almost 35 years. As a witness to several incidents, Malacara insists that the stories about the Menger being haunted are “absolutely true.”
Malacara is often asked if the spirits start acting up around Halloween and Thanksgiving. “There are no peak times in the year, nor are there any areas in the hotel that are more haunted than others,” he says. According to Malacara, the spirits are “all here, all the time.”
A wide range of historical figures who have stayed at the Menger can possibly point towards the identity of the spirits that haunt the location-including 13 different US presidents, writer Oscar Wilde, philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt and actress Mae West.
For the most part, however, the ghosts who haunt the Menger Hotel are relatively obscure characters who may have had strong connections to the building in the past. Sallie White, a housekeeper who was murdered in a room by her drunk husband, was buried at the hotel’s expense. Since then, she has been seen wandering the corridors, weeping.
A second sad figure in dated clothing has been rumored to stand in one of the elevators and ask passengers to take him to level B2-a level that never existed.
One incident in particular stands out in Malacara’s memory. A young Chinese girl walked through the closed door of an elevator in the lobby as he stared on, aghast.
A more commonly reported ghost is an elderly woman who stands combing her long, silvery-white hair in the restroom of the old lobby. According to witnesses, she has a sad look on her face and exudes a melancholy air.
A prevalent theory suggests many of the older apparitions originated from one of the three funeral pyres from the Battle of the Alamo, which was located where the Menger now stands. The other two pyres were under the Emily Morgan Hotel across the street and where the Rivercenter Mall’s food court now stands. Both places, as well as the majority of the surrounding area, are now thought to be heavily haunted.
Presently, six ghost tours make stops at the Menger Hotel, one of which includes dinner in the hotel’s dining room. With its well-known reputation as both a fine establishment and local haunt, the Menger is one of very few hotels that is relatively open about the paranormal activity within their walls. Malacara hints that surrounding hotels may have similar visitors, but the hotels’ managements are not quite as forthcoming, possibly in fear of losing patrons.