Santa Fe Ghosts: Part One

This is part one of a two part series on Santa Fe ghosts. Read Part Two.

Santa Fe has a lot of history and a lot of ghosts. And they don’t just walk on Halloween, they are around all year. On a ghost tour to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado we learned about ghost haunting versus residual haunting. A ghost is a spirit that is actually present and can and will interact with you. Residual hauntings are events or sounds that have imprinted because of the strong emotional energy surrounding them. The same event happens over and over again in exactly the same way.

While some of what you’ll experience in Santa Fe is residual, there are actual ghosts. I’ve met one, Sister George who inhabits the Inn and Spa at Loretto. And Steve had his own ghost experience. In 2005 he had a café in the basement of the PERA, one of the NM State office buildings. We’ll tell his story below.

If you’d like to meet the ghosts of Santa Fe, take a ghost tour. Here are some of the characters you may meet if you’re lucky.

Ghostly hi-jinks at the PERA Building? photo Steve Collins

Ghostly hi-jinks have been reported at the PERA Building? photo/Steve Collins

The very scary PERA Building

Start your tour at the PERA Building. The easiest way to get there is from Old Santa Fe Trail (just north of the Paseo de Peralta intersection) and walk to the furthest building in front of you in the parking lot The building was built atop the site of an old cemetery, reportedly dating to the early 1800s. The site also served as the playing fields for the old Saint Michaels’s High School. When the PERA was built, reportedly they were in a hurry and also had budget constraints so they built directly on top of graves without excavating and moving the bodies to another burial place; a sure recipe for hauntings. Most of the spirit activity takes place in the basement and it seems to get more active at night. It’s said that people refuse to go down to the basement once the sun sets. Here are a few of the PERA stories:

Steve’s story

One day when he and his partner were closing up, his partner left his wallet on top of the register and went into the kitchen. Steve left for a moment. When they came back the wallet was gone. Vanished. They continued their routine and eventually it reappeared on top of the register. At the time, they were unaware of the ghosts.

Other ghostly experiences have been reported

One of the café’s customers told this story: she’d been in the basement copier room making copies. She had finished and was on the other side of the room when all of a sudden the copier started spewing out copies. She said she’d never went back to that copy room again.
Unseen hands reaching out to trip people as they walk down the stairs to the basements.
Loud cries and moans frequently heard in the buildings’ nether regions.
A janitor in the 1970s allegedly quit after a tall, thin woman appeared in front of him in the middle of the night in one corridor on the third floor.

The ghost of Doña Maria Sanchez

The ghost of Doña Marin Sanchez dressed in black, clutching a mantilla to her face, walks the grounds at night searching for her son who she believed was buried here. Her ghost, a short woman dressed all in black clutching her mantilla tightly to her face. She’s also been seen walking the building’s halls and has been observed walking through walls. She appears so real that people have spoken to her but she doesn’t respond. She’s probably a residual haunting.

La Llorona is reported to live near the Santa Fe River, photo Steve Collins

La Llorona is reported to walk the banks of the Santa Fe River, photo/Steve Collins

La Llorona

Next, head north to the alley at the end of the parking lot (DeVargas Street) and make a left turn. This takes you to Old Santa Fe Trail. Continue to the next corner, and make a right. You are on East Alameda Street adjacent to the Santa Fe River. Walk along the river a bit heading east. On a moonless night, perhaps you’ll encounter La Llorona, the crying woman. She is an archetypal character in Latin American, Mexican and New Mexican folklore. She also appears in other Hispanic areas around the U.S.  She has left her mark on Santa Fe. There are stories told locally about children who have encountered this woman who weeps over her drowned children along this very river bank. Read the story of La Llorona.

Have you had a Sister George experience at the Inn and Spa  of Loretto, photo Steve Collins

Have you had a Sister George experience at the Inn and Spa of Loretto, photo Steve Collins

Sister George

From the river head to the Inn and Spa at Loretto (211 Old Santa Fe Trail), home to the above-mentioned Sister George. The nun, one of the Sisters of Loretto who ran a girls’ school on the site for over a hundred years, passed away in 1976. There have been many reported encounters with her. You may, as I did, encounter the aroma of her cigar as you walk down a hall. Read more about her here. Sister George definitely falls into the ghost category; she interacts.

This is the end of Part One. Meet more Santa Fe Ghosts in Part Two where we’ll a few ghosts from La Fonda (the oldest hotel in town) and the beloved Julia Staab. If you don’t subscribe to Santa Fe Travelers and want to make sure to post sent directly to your inbox, click here to subscribe.

Read Santa Fe ghosts Part Two.

Do you have any favorite Santa Fe Ghosts to share with us?

Editor’s note: If you want meet some Santa Fe ghosts, and learn more about them take a ghost tour. there are a few offered. In full disclosure, Santa Fe Travelers’ Steve Collins is an occasional fill-in for guide, for Peter Sinclaire’s Santa Fe ghost tours. You can contact Peter at (505) 983-7774 or  Historic Tours of Santa Fe also offers ghost tours.  You can also book a private Santa Fe ghost tour on our website The Santa Fe Traveler.


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7 Responses to “Santa Fe Ghosts: Part One”

  1. Cathy Sweeney
    October 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

    I’ve had a few experiences that got me pretty scared, so I never discount anyone’s ghost stories. Sister George actually sounds like a pretty cool ghost with that cigar.

    • Billie Frank
      October 20, 2019 at 10:21 am #

      I love Sister George. She sometimes would pat me on my shoulder as I sat at the concierge desk.

  2. Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    October 28, 2019 at 12:57 am #

    I suppose the fastest way to invite a ghost interaction is to say I don’t believe in them-right?
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) recently posted..Philadelphia Phriday – Wissahickon Valley ParkMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      October 28, 2019 at 9:32 am #

      Sometimes, sometimes not. Last night Steve did a ghost tour with some forensic people- skeptic, right? Well one woman had all sorts of eerie encounters. Ghost are definitely NOT predictable!

  3. Lorraine Evans
    July 3, 2019 at 10:57 pm #

    I attended Loretto Academy until 1967. I had sister George as a teacher. She was an angel. She did not smoke a cigar. There were several other nuns Sr. Ellen Maura, Sr Francis Borgia, Sr. Paula Mary, and many more. Where do you get the idea it is Sister George? It maybe someone else. Ghosts do not all of sudden start somking cigars. I have encountered ghosts in New Mexico, I am from Santa Fe. I am going to Loretto Inn and staying in that room where they say she hangs out. I will ask her, remember me Sister George? She was one of my favorite nuns, but come on smokes a cigar? Must be another ghost. Don’t bash her!

    • Billie Frank
      July 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm #

      Sister George may not have smoked a cigar, but according to Santa Fe’s ghost experts her spirit does. We’re not bashing her- just reporting local lore. And she seems to hang out all over the property.

  4. Lorraine Evans
    July 5, 2019 at 4:50 pm #

    Loretto Inn may have ghosts. I have my share of ghost stories from NM. I just wonder if there is another ghost that follows her around that does smell like cigar smoke, if it is her. I just can’t imagine my small 4ft 10in 80lb teacher smoking a cigar as a ghost. She did care about us students, she was very kind. Maybe the ghost experts may check if they encounter another entity. Like the one that turned Tony’s bed upside down and moved things up high in the closet, that does not sound like anything Sister George would do.

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