Ghosts of Santa Fe, Julia Staab, the gentle ghost

This post was updated in October 2015. See the bottom of the page under American Ghost for the updated material.

Santa Fe is full of ghosts. Some you hear about and some you don’t. One of the most famous is Julia Staab, who lives in, or more correctly, haunts the upscale hotel, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa.

Doorway to Staab House

The entrance to the original Staab House, now inside La Posada, photo/Billie Frank

The beautiful Julia was the wife of wealthy Santa Fe merchant, Abraham Staab. Because of a shortage of eligible Jewish brides, he imported her from Germany. Their opulent Palace Avenue residence, Staab House, was completed in 1882. Amazingly, the original building was incorporated into the hotel. Walk into the lobby and take a right just before the restaurant. You’ll be looking at the entrance to the Staab’s 19th century home. Walk up the steps and through the door; you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. Many of the original architectural details are intact or reproduced.

The Staab house, a Victorian mansion in Sant aFe NM as it looked before a 1920 fire destroyed the 3rd floor photo/courtesy La Posada de Santa Fe, a Luxury

The Staab house as it looked before a 1920 fire destroyed the 3rd floor photo/courtesy La Posada de Santa Fe, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa

The Staabs were prosperous and abundant. They had seven children. By all accounts, life was good. Things went downhill when the eighth child, a daughter, died soon after her birth. Reportedly, Julia went into a severe depression and may have even lost her sanity. Her hair is said to have turned white overnight. After several subsequent unsuccessful pregnancies, she took to her room and died in 1896 at the age of 52. There are unanswered questions about her death. Some say it was murder, some say suicide. There were rumors that Abraham was having an affair. We will never know. Julia is said to have loved her magnificent home and if you believe the stories, she is still there walking the halls.

Staab House library

The library of Staab House, photo Billie Frank

Julia’s presence was not noted until the 1970s. Where Julia was prior to that is anybody’s guess. Her first manifestation is said to have been when the hotel’s furnace quit working. The door to furnace room was mysteriously locked and no one could get in. A call came from Julia’s former room. “This is my house,” said the unidentified woman. “Why isn’t the furnace working? I’ll get it fixed!” Ten minutes later, the furnace was mysteriously working again.

Julia reportedly loved baths. Guests who have stayed in her room have reported hearing the bathtub running in the middle of the night. There are also reports of water going on and off in the hotel with no logical explanation. A hotel employee was reportedly giving a tour of the property and knocked on the door of Julia’s supposedly vacant former room. A woman’s voice responded, “Don’t come in, I’m dressing.” On another occasion, a couple who stayed in the infamous Julia Staab Room reported heavy breathing at 4:00 AM. They checked out shortly thereafter.

Stairway in Staab House

There have been reports of Julia Staab descending this stairway dressed in black, photo/Billie Frank

On occasion, Julia has supposedly been seen coming down the stairs, most often dressed in black. A bartender setting up for the day reportedly saw her sitting quietly in a chair in the bar area. During another bar sighting glasses went flying off the shelves. One day, a woman who was in the downstairs restroom put down her purse. Her make-up flew out of the upright bag and around the bathroom. Another time, an attendant cleaning the men’s room reported seeing a woman’s face in the mirror. He was alone in the room.

She’s said to be a gentle spirit and no one wants to get rid of her. Don’t worry about her getting lonely. There are rumors of another spirit guest, an old Indian man who died around 1096, to keep her company and there may be more. After all, it is Santa Fe.

Julia Update- October 2015: American Ghost

Julia Staab as a young bride circa 1865. Her home is now La Posada de Santa Fe photo/co c ourtesy La Posada de Santa Fe, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa

Julia Staab as a young bride circa 1865 photo/courtesy La Posada de Santa Fe, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa

It’s a week before Halloween and my thoughts turn to ghosts. Late last winter, Hannah Nordhaus’ book American Ghost, A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest, was released by HarperCollins. Nordhaus is Julia Staab’s great-great granddaughter. A writer and historian, delving into the spirit world was a challenge for her, a huge willing suspension of disbelief. She does it well. She tells her family’s (and Julia’s) story with intelligence, compassion and humor.

Last summer Marcia Sky, Marketing Manager at La Posada, loaned me her review copy of the book. It took me until last week to pick it up and read it. It’s a riveting book taking readers back to 19th century Santa Fe and New Mexico with side-trips to Germany and California. Nordhaus spent three years researching the book that was inspired by a family history compiled by Elizabeth Nordhaus Minces (“Aunt Lizzie”) one of Julia’s granddaughters. Hannah Nordhaus discovered her great-aunt’s book during a visit to a family home in the Sangre de Christo Mountains northeast of Santa Fe. The author spent three years following her ancestors’ trails.  She searched the Internet and archives, read books and interviewed family members and others. She travel to Germany and other places. She also communed with spiritualist and mediums, which I suspect, was the most difficult feat of all for this rationalist. But, how else do you contact a ghost?

While the book answers a lot of questions, despite the author’s three years of intensive and extensive research, there are blanks in the family history that the author wasn’t able to fill in. In the end, Nordhaus was unable to discover conclusively what happened to her grandmother and why she still wanders the halls at La Posada.

If you want to know more about Julia Staab, Jews in Santa Fe and New Mexico, German Jews, life in the New Mexico Territory, and the Staab family in general, read American Ghost. I found it riveting and was sorry that it came to an end. The extensive bibliography in her “Acknowledgements” section opened up a lot of avenues for researching Santa Fe in the late 1800s, a period that interests us. In our household, American Ghost gets four thumbs up. Let us know what you think,

Want to know more about the ghosts of Santa Fe. Read about La Llorona and Sister George.

Author’s note: We want to thank local tour guide and ghost expert, John Lorenzen for his assistance with this post. He was also interviewed for American Ghost.

We loved reading American Ghost, A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest. Buy it from our Amazon Affiliate site. We’ll earn a bit of money if you do.



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27 Responses to “Ghosts of Santa Fe, Julia Staab, the gentle ghost”

  1. Katrina
    October 8, 2019 at 4:54 pm #

    Gosh, I always thought of Santa Fe as a spiritual place, but in a more general way. It seems almost… spirit-ful instead. 😉

    • Billie Frank
      October 9, 2019 at 8:21 am #

      Santa Fe is a very spiritual place for many reasons. Celts and others believed the veils between the worlds thinned around the time we call Halloween (All Souls Day). Here they to always are always thin here. Makes life interesting. I love that term “spirit-ful”. It really nails it.

  2. Wendy Kapp
    October 9, 2019 at 8:03 am #

    I slept in Julias room once in La Pasada.I would tell you the story but you may not believe me. Alls I can tell you is her presence is defiantly still in that house!

    • Billie Frank
      October 9, 2019 at 8:14 am #

      I’d LOVE to hear that story! If you’re open to it, we can add it to the Julia story here. After all, I’ve encountered Sister George.

    • Christopher
      March 14, 2019 at 4:09 pm #

      Wendy I would like to hear your story I just got back from staying in her room and had an unbelievable experience there as well. you can email me at my listed email if you prefer.

  3. Traveling Ted
    October 9, 2019 at 8:03 pm #

    It sure looks kind of creepy there. Kind of like a Stephen King Shining type of atmosphere.

    • Billie Frank
      October 10, 2019 at 7:04 am #

      It’s actually not creepy, it’s quite elegant. You really feel like you’ve gone back in time when you enter that part of the hotel. Except perhaps, if you encounter Julia. That might be a tad creepy!

  4. Abby
    October 9, 2019 at 10:05 pm #

    I love ghost stories!! Kristin Luna just wrote an article on the ghosts of Memphis. Fascinating!

  5. Christopher
    March 13, 2019 at 10:00 am #

    I just returned from a ski trip to Santa Fe with my fiancee last weekend 03/9/12 to 03/12/12. We stayed at La Posada and were originally booked in room 181 on the grounds of the property. Our first night there we asked if we could see Julia’s room and were taken up by one of the staff. Seeing the room empty I asked if we could stay there that night. The staff member said sure if it’s not booked and sure enough it wasn’t. We went on to spend some time up at 10,000 waves and then returned about 10:30. When we got back into room 100 we saw we had a message on the phone. The person said that if we had any problems in the room that we should not hesitate to call the desk and they would be happy to make any changes we like. They were basically dancing around what should have been said “your room is haunted and if you get scared or have any encounters and want to get out of it don’t hesitate to call the desk. Around 1:20 I suddenly felt as if there was a massive amount of energy flowing through me. It was like feeling an electric current in my body and a rapid almost violent shaking taking place at the same time. The shaking was like if someone were holding me from each arm and shaking me rapidly. I also felt like I was pulled up off my pillow as well. It was very strange because I felt all of these things but for some reason wasn’t able to open my eyes up immediately. I could hear myself making a moaning noise as the current was running through my body. After about 5 to 10 seconds of this it stopped and I rose up. Oddly enough my fiancee was still sleeping very heavily. I didn’t want to wake her because she would have immediately wanted to change rooms. At that point I was a little freaked. I laid back down and listened. Occasionally I would hear what sounded like a slap on the wall in the hall way. after awhile I started to fall asleep again and then I was hit rather hard on the side of my head. I sat up in bed and there was nothing around. For the rest of the night I was not bothered. It was definitely an experience I will never forget. If you are daring, I highly recommend trying to sleep in this room and see if you experience anything.

    • Billie Frank
      March 13, 2019 at 11:16 am #

      What a great story! Sounds like she was really being mean. Did you spend another night there or change rooms again? One of the best Julia stories I’ve heard.

      • Christopher
        March 14, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

        We had hoped to stay for three nights but they told us that it wasn’t available for the next two nights. Honestly, I’m not sure my fiancee would have allowed it after telling her of what happened during the night even though she was not affected by it. It was an incredible experience and definitely has me wanting to learn more about the paranormal. I lived in Santa Fe for 12 years and am very connected to it so I will definitely go back again and certainly spend more time at La Posada for sure. Thanks for the comment!

    • Kathy M
      May 1, 2019 at 3:49 pm #

      Cool story. If you’re ever in Northne New Mexico check out the St. James Hotel in Cimarron. Beautiful old hotel during the day / pretty spooky at night. It’s a lot of fun.

      • Billie Frank
        May 1, 2019 at 8:49 pm #

        I’ve heard there are ghosts there. Would love to get there at some point.

  6. Billie Frank
    March 14, 2019 at 8:30 pm #

    Christopher-let us know what happens if you go back. You can ask Wendy on Facebook at Two Casitas in case she doesn’t see this.
    Billie Frank recently posted..Santa Fe Tidbits: Georgia OKeeffe tours, Taos and moreMy Profile

    • Christopher
      November 13, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

      I should be there again next February. I’ll certainly ask to stay in her room again. I’ll post anything that happens here again as well.

  7. Roger Cerletti
    June 28, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

    Very cool story, I have heard many accounts of Julia’s ghost. I have even experienced a couple of paranormal events when I worked there as a security officer from 2001-2002. But way before that La Posada was my first home. My Father Mike Cerletti was the general manager and part owner of La Posada from 1977-1985. I grew up in a house in the rear of the property, it was called the “Otero House.” The current hotel parking garage now sits on the site where the house once stood. My dad had many stories of paranormal events at La Posada, some he experienced first hand, like when in the late fall of 1980, Julia Staab turned on the old boiler system in the basement. And my dad was the only one who had the key to the padlock to the basement. They had just changed the lock, because of a theft. Very cool stories, some of them from the guests themselves that he had talked to personally. He was interviewed by “Unsolved Mysteries” when they came to film. Santa Fe is a special place.

    • Billie Frank
      June 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm #

      I’ve heard that boiler story, Roger. We knew your dad when he was Tourism Secretary; what a great man. He is missed! I still sometimes quote him. What a place to have grown up in. I bet you have a lot more stories.

  8. MJ
    October 13, 2019 at 5:20 pm #

    I stayed at La Posada about a year ago, 11/2012, for my brothers wedding. My wife and I stayed there and we were in one of the rooms not too far from the main house. I didnt know the hotel was haunted until I got there and my brother filled me in about it. All he said was that a woman is sometimes spotted in the main stairwell. Well on the second nite there my wife and I were sleeping when I felt a massive pressure on my hips, as if someone was sitting on them. I tried to get up and couldn’t. I also tried to open my eyes and couldn’t. I then tried to yell to my wife and could only muster moaning sounds. After a few seconds, felt like an eternity, I was able to sit up and my wife adked if i had a bad dream. I told her what happened but she thought i was crazy. Basically, it was a similiar experience that Christopher had and thats why I wrote this. I still think about it and it was an experience that left an impression on me. Im not sure if it was a “ghost” experience but I know its unexplained. And I know I wasnt dreaming.

    • Billie Frank
      October 14, 2019 at 8:38 am #

      I wonder if it was Julia. She’s usually pretty gentle with people unless they upset her. May have been the Native American man ghost that’s been reported. We’re gearing up for a Santa Fe Ghost Tour post- will be up Wednesday. La Posada is included in it as well as some other ghostly places.

      • MJ
        October 18, 2019 at 7:47 am #

        I’m not sure what it was Billie. But I know it was something unexplained. While it was frightening, I would go back and stay at the hotel. It’s a beautiful place and the staff are very pleasant. As for it being Julia or a Native American ghost, who knows. Like I said, I’m not sure what it was but it was something unexplained. The thing that freaks me out the most was that I couldn’t move or yell. I vividly remember it like it was yesterday and cant believe that even with all my might I couldn’t get up or yell. I tried to get up but could only move my legs, from the knee down, back and forth. I couldn’t move my upper body and arms. Then trying to yell to my wife next to me but only being able to muster a horrible low groaning/moaning sound. It was strange. There’s definitely something unexplained at that hotel.

        • Billie Frank
          October 18, 2019 at 10:21 am #

          You’re braver than I am- I don’t think I’d go back!

  9. Agness
    October 17, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

    This place would definitely freak me out, no joke!!
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  10. John
    November 30, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

    My wife I stayed in the tower room for one night. The staff had given us some information about the tower being haunted. I don’t believe in ghosts so I challenged the ghost by leaving the top dresser drawer open prior to going to bed. I told my wife and she just shook her head. We fell fast to sleep and around one o’clock we both woke to the sound of the drawer being closed slowly. One of us whispered something about being visited and thence fell back to sleep. Sure enough in the morning we found the dresser drawer completely closed.

    • Billie Frank
      November 30, 2019 at 5:01 pm #

      Interesting story, thanks for sharing. I don’t think I would have gone back to sleep.

      • Chloe
        July 1, 2019 at 9:02 am #

        Yep, Las Posada is 100% haunted. Because everyone is sharing their paranormal experiences at Las Posada, I will share mine. My mom went to Las Posada with her boyfriend over the winter. They were sleeping in room 101, which is straight across from Julia’s bedroom. That night, my moms boyfriend woke up at 1 in the morning and walked to the bathroom. When he was in the bathroom, he saw Julia starring at him. This frightened him and she disappeared soon after he saw her. In the morning, my mom told him she had the worst nightmares all night. They changed rooms the next night, and all the water that was coming out of the sink and shower was burning hot, and they couldn’t turn it down. They went to the front desk to let them know, and they told them that all the water in the hotel has one heating source, and no one else had any complaints so it would be impossible for only their room to have burning hot water. After learning about my mom and her boyfriends experiences, I went to Las Posada with my spirit box to ghost hunt, and I got one solid reply. She told me the number of kids she had, which was correct. Because I ghost hunted in the day, I want to try it at night sometime so I may do it again soon!!

        • Billie Frank
          July 1, 2019 at 6:59 pm #

          Great story- thanks for sharing! Julia seems to have a mind of her own. Glad your mom’s boyfriend got to “meet” her.

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