In the year 2018, Los Angeles or New York City could serve as the top filming and partying locations for Hollywood’s biggest celebrity names. Unmatched in both convenience and luxury, American’s two biggest cities are the pinnacle for the film industry’s elite. However, in 1939, the hottest location to film and party in was located neither in California or New York, but in the far-reaching and deserted northwest corner of New Mexico state. Over time, it has now given itself over to paranormal activity.
The History of the El Rancho
The El Rancho Hotel was constructed in 1937 by R.E. Griffith, brother to filmmaker and director D.W. Griffith. A theatre businessman by trade, Griffith got into the hotel construction business in the early 1930s and constructed many properties. Designed as a stylish western oasis with a real-life tagline constructed onto the building, “Charm of yesterday and convenience of tomorrow”, the hotel boasted over eighty rooms at the time, a full-sized bar called the 49er, dining room, and restaurant. Five-star accommodation service was guaranteed and employees were trained in hosting by the legendary Fred Harvey Company. Setting right off Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico, business from Tinseltown was about to pick up.
The most popular genre in filmmaking during the late 1930s and early 1940s was the western. Gallup had always been a small railway town and it wasn’t long before Hollywood’s most popular studios were vying for the location and booking rooms for their actors and actresses. Over the years such stars as Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, Joan Crawford, John Wayne, Doris Day, Jimmy Stewart, and even future President Ronald Reagan.
The combination of all the star power, mixed with the wild west atmosphere of the nearby shoots had the hotel being the number one destination to film and socially romp in. Tasmanian wildman actor Errol Flynn even once rode a horse straight from the set and into the hotel and gussied right up to the bar for a drink. Like all filmmaking waves, the western genre soon passed and was no longer popular to make. With the dwindling presence of Hollywood and its celebrities, the El Rancho’s limelight began to fade.
Falling into disrepair and suffering from the harsh southwestern weather element, the El Rancho was in dire need of saving. Businessman Armand Ortega stepped up in the early 1980s and bought the El Rancho for $500,000 and was given another loan from the state for $500,000 in repairs, thus giving the hotel a second life. Ready and open for business once again in 1988, the hotel began registering complaints of ghostly activities shortly after its reopening.
Is the El Rancho Hotel haunted?
Late night laughter, heavy footsteps, and wall tappings are among the chief complaints and reported as happening in most rooms and hallways in the hotel. Given over to the layout and design of the hotel, the most expensive room is the bridal suite and it coincidentally is the most haunted. A hotel housekeeper reportedly walked in once to clean the suite while the guests were out for the day and was terrified to see the dirty clothes on the bed actually begin to manifest a shape as if an invisible presence was wearing them! Dense cold spots, the bathroom door opening and closing unaided, and the mattress being pushed in are some of the more added activity to this room in particular.
What is the genesis of this paranormal activity? To date, there have been no confirmed murders or tragic history necessarily associated with the property itself. The most agreed upon explanation by paranormal enthusiasts is the area. Route 66 has a long and sordid history. During its construction, it ran right through Gallup, disrupting along its path many rumored Native American burial grounds.
Gallup itself has been dubbed “Heart of Indian Country” due to it’s former and sizable Native American populations. Southwestern New Mexico was the site of many fatal encounters against the ever-conquering, United State’s Cavalry. As a locale in the Southwest, the state of New Mexico is home to over four hundred ghost towns. The new Route 66 runs around a portion of these and now there are several ghost stories online posted by weary travelers who have encountered the unexplained on the actual road itself.
The El Rancho now stands as a popular, hotel attraction in Gallup. Rooms are all named after those stars of yesteryear who once graced the rooms there. 8×10 autographs also are posted all throughout the walls of the hotel, against it’s faded Southwestern painting motifs. The Restaurant at the El Rancho serves a wide array of Tex-Mex favorites including the most ordered being the fajitas. 49er Lounge and available banquet rooms still round business nonstop throughout the year. But when retiring after an evening of travel, fajitas, or revelry, guests can be nearly assured to hear the faint sound of laughter and exuberance being celebrated by…….the other side.