The veils between the worlds are said to become thinner at Halloween. In Santa Fe, there are scores of spirits every day. Some are anonymous and others are known by name. The cigar-smoking Sister George is reported to haunt the Inn and Spa at Loretto.
This contemporary ghost (she died in 1976) was a member of the order of the Sisters of Loretto. She taught at the Loretto Academy, a Catholic girls’ school located where the hotel is now from 1853 until 1968. The good sister passed away in El Paso but apparently made her way back to Santa Fe posthumously.
The first reports of her presence, according to local tour guide and ghost expert, John Lorenzen, were in the late 1970s. Owners of The Three Sisters Boutique, a shop located at the hotel, had some interesting experiences. Every morning, there was an extra ten-dollar bill in the cash drawer. One day, according to witnesses, a rack of clothing levitated. Reportedly, the lights would go on and off in the shop and the odor of cigar-smoke would permeate the air. No one knows if the corporal Sister George actually wielded a stogie. It is doubtful, but the ethereal one sure does.
I worked as a concierge at the hotel and have a few of my own Sister George stories to tell. One day I was walking into the restaurant and smelled cigar smoke. In those days, smoking was still allowed in Santa Fe so I didn’t give it much thought. When I came out, seconds later, the strong odor was gone. Sister George, I thought. Only ghostly cigar smoke would dissipate that fast.
Sister George likes to play with phones. At one time, rooms would receive phone calls with no one on the other end. When the fourth-floor was closed for renovation, the front-desk kept getting calls from phones on that floor, but there would be no one on the line. Some mornings I would come in and the voice mail light on the phone would be blinking. The calls were from the middle of the night. The message would play the hotel’s “hold” music back to me. I thought this was strange. One day, someone told me about Sister George’s affinity for phones and electronic equipment. The mysterious messages suddenly made sense.
Sometimes as I sat at my desk, I would feel a very light hand on my shoulder. I’d spin around in my chair but no one was there. The valets sometimes tapped me on the shoulder when they passed behind me, but I always caught them. My conclusion was that those pats were from the resident nun; a sort of “Hello”.
The best Sister George story came from a one of the Sales Managers at the hotel. She was in an office in the administration building, the school’s former chicken-coop, catching up on work one night. Her young son was with her. All of a sudden he appeared in her office with a broken set of beads in his hand. An employee’s necklace had recently broken and had been stored high up on a shelf. The mother, somewhat surprised knowing it had been out of his reach, asked her son how he got the necklace,. “Oh,” he said. “The nice lady gave it to me.” They left rather quickly and she never worked there alone at night again.
Sister George, from all reports, is a benevolent spirit. If you want to “meet” her when visiting Santa Fe, book a room at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. Maybe she’ll stop by.
Author’s note: We want to thank local tour guide and ghost expert, John Lorenzen, for his assistance with this post.