Ghosts of Santa Fe, Sister George, the cigar-smoking nun

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.

Inn and Spa at Loretto exterior

Some say Sister George haunts the Inn and Spa at Loretto in Santa Fe, photo/Steve Collins

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 1953 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.

Luminaria at Inn and Spa at Loretto

Has Sister George been to the restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Loretto? Photo/courtesy Inn and Spa at Loretto

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.

Want to know more about the ghosts of Santa Fe. Read about La Llorona and Julia Staab, the ghost at La Posada de Santa Fe.

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

 

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11 Responses to “Ghosts of Santa Fe, Sister George, the cigar-smoking nun”

  1. stephanie Clark
    October 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    My sister and I were at Loretto spa. Before checking in I saw a black figure from corner of my eye floating down the hallway by courtyard toward spa. I turned and it was gone. While I had manicure the girls told me the history of hotel. When they mentioned nuns I looked at my sister and we both said. “That’s what you saw in the hall, a nun!”
    Upon hearing more about Sister George they mentioned she liked the # 336.
    That was our childhood address. Coincidence? Or was Sister saying Hi. We think so! :) Love Santa Fe!!!!

    • Billie Frank
      October 13, 2011 at 7:37 am #

      Thanks for sharing your experience with our us Stephanie. Not that many people have seen or at least admit to have seen the good sister,. Consider yourself lucky. She is really a benevolent spirit.

  2. Charu
    October 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Funny, I just recently wrote a post on Stranaham House in Ft Lauderdale, home to several ghosts. Mostly sightings and moans and groans of that nature. This cigar smoking sister sounds like a hoot. And the fact she gives out rosary beads…nice!

    Thank you for the wickedly good tale, Billie.

    • Billie Frank
      October 24, 2011 at 7:36 am #

      Thanks, Charu. She doesn’t so much give out beads as get them down from shelves-lol. Heading off the read your ghost-post.

  3. Tony
    October 27, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I stayed there last year with my sister before her wedding day. When we arrived at her room after having been away at the rehearsal dinner, her bed had been turned down, a candle was lit and some of her clothes that were on the bed had been put in the closet on the top shelf. When we called the front desk to ask about turn down service, they said they didn’t have it.

    • Billie Frank
      October 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      That’s a first! Sister George is not known for turn-down service, but you never know. Thanks for sharing that great story.

  4. Judi
    November 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Last weekend my husband, myself and Son stayed
    At the Inn at Loretto. I always bring my own
    Personal sound machine to drown out any
    Outside noise. Both nights, it turned off
    By itself an hour or more after going to bed.
    The first night as I was falling asleep,
    I saw a dark image walk across the room!
    I felt there was something else in the room with us
    During the nihht. I was Not aware of the Nun ghost until I
    returned home
    And looked it up on line!

    • Billie Frank
      December 1, 2011 at 11:03 am #

      Were you on the 4th floor by any chance? The good sister seems to hang out there a bunch. Hope she didn’t scare you- she’s really quite nice. She just likes hanging out. Maybe the white noise was bothering her.

  5. Lorraine Evans
    July 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm #

    I attended Loretto Academy until 1967. I had Sister George as a teacher. She did not smoke a cigar. She was a very nice nun. There were several nuns at that time. Sister Mary Magdalen, Sister Francis Borgia, Sr. Scholastica,Sr.Paula Mary,Sr.Joan Francis,Sr.Ellen Maura etc. Where do People get the idea the ghost is Sister George? She was an angel, but come on smokes a cigar? Maybe it is some one else? I will stay at Loretto Inn at that room and pray to see her. I will ask her Sister George remember me? I doubt it is her people. Besides the ghosts described do not even wear the habit. nor shoes nor long dress. I am from Santa Fe New Mexico.

    • Billie Frank
      July 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      Sister George may not have smoked a cigar, but according to Santa Fe’s ghost experts her spirit does. We’re just reporting local lore.

      • Lorraine Evans
        July 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

        I do not doubt that a nun or another ghost occupy the Inn. I have had encounters with ghosts in New Mexico. (Abiqui, Northern NM etc.)I just wonder if there is a male ghost that smells like cigar smoke and may follow her around.If anyone describes her as 4ft 10in about 80lbs with habit,shoes and long dress that is her. I am just trying to imagine her smoking a cigar, her small frail hands….

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