New Mexico Lodge Haunted By Murdered Chambermaid

The sunlight was so clear that when each beam found a place to rest it reflected the most vibrant colors. As my photographer Sarah and I were gently driving up the winding road to an altitude of 8,600 feet, I could not help but smile at the rays of yellow sunlight darting out of the pine trees so they could dance on my moving car. Our destination on this picturesque Saturday afternoon was an equally beautiful lodge located high in the Lincoln National Forest in Cloudcroft, N.M.

Curiously there were not many clouds in Cloudcroft that Saturday, just a few to dot the otherwise sapphire sky. The Lodge at Cloudcroft was originally built in 1899, but was destroyed in a fire and was rebuilt, as it is today, in 1911. The globe light fixtures, peeling paint and brass window frames of the lodge immediately gave its age away.

If this lodge were even new enough to have a "no vacancy" sign out front it would have been flashing on and off because the lodge was filled to the brim with guests. Several families were gathered around tables in the bar sharing stories, and the lodge, usually sounded like a very happy place. The scenic beauty, the antique and classy resort and the blissful visitors almost made me forget why I came to visit. I was there to meet Rebecca Potter. Normally it would have been a routine interview; however, Rebecca Potter is a ghost.

She was a chambermaid murdered by her jealous lumberjack boyfriend sometime during the 1930s. Her boyfriend, apparently not happy about Rebecca's love affair with another man, killed Rebecca out in the woods and then carried her bloody body back to the lodge. Which is where, some say, a tall and beautiful young woman with red hair, blue eyes and wearing a long dress haunts the rooms and hallways.

So I asked myself, "Why would a person who does not believe in ghosts end up in a haunted hotel to write a ghost story?" I wanted proof, either way, concerning the existence of ghosts. Lisa Ward, the kitchen manager at the hotel, cordially invited us to the lodge, knowing about my skepticism.

Lisa and I sat down, in the main lobby, on a huge crimson leather couch that had those bubbly cushions all over the ones that were buttoned down in the middle, and overhead hung a huge metal chandelier (only now its "candles" were made of glass) and the head of some unfortunate wild beast. There was an even more ill-fated stuffed black bear nearby; above the bear hung a huge quilt that depicted Rebecca impishly observing the visitors and our interview.

As the kitchen manager, Lisa is one of the last staff members to leave late at night and she is often alone in the innards, kitchen and restaurants of the resort. These areas also happen to be the most visited by Rebecca. Having worked at the resort for more than 15 years, Lisa is one of the most seasoned staffers. If Rebecca were to have a human best friend it would most likely be Lisa.

When Lisa first began working at the lodge she told me she was an absolute skeptic and thought of Rebecca as nothing but a marketing ploy by the hotel. One night, while sitting in an employee lounge down below the hotel, she got into a conversation about Rebecca with a fellow trainee. (You should know that the underground part of the hotel is where the staff in Rebecca's time slept and lived.) "What do you make of this ghost story?" the trainee asked Lisa. And Lisa, the cynic, rudely answered, "Rebecca is nothing more than a story about a red-headed ****!" (Hint: it is a four-letter word that rhymes with mutt.) Immediately, the filter basket, full of coffee grounds from the coffee pot 14 feet away, flew toward Lisa and hit her right in the chest. She was covered in coffee grounds. I imagine she resembled a corpse that had just been dug up and was covered in soil. Lisa was a believer from that moment forward. As for the trainee, she ran up the stairs screaming and never came back. At that point I was holding my reporter's notebook quite tensely, and Sarah and I shared a moment of fear by exchanging looks of horror.

To comfort Sarah and me Lisa said, "Rebecca is a friendly ghost that likes to play tricks on people, that's all." She told us about Rebecca switching people's shoes from one room to another, about people hearing music from the piano in the dining room well after the doors have been locked and even about Rebecca handing an employee toilet paper under the stall door. No matter where I went, no matter whom I spoke to, I could not get away from stories about Rebecca. The stories were fairly convincing, but I wanted my own encounter.

We were told that the best place to bump into or "feel" Rebecca's presence was in the hotel's tower. So Lisa handed me the key and we headed up the five flights of stairs to the infamous tower for my interview with Rebecca. As we walked up the stairs, the tired building creaked and moaned, almost beckoning us to be content on the ground floor. Every step made an eerie low-pitched rasp. And as we climbed up it got a lot cooler. (Sarah later pointed out it was because of an open window.) We passed the signature of Judy Garland, a past guest of the hotel, which was etched into the stair wall. And there we were at the top of the tower waiting for Rebecca.

We waited for Miss Potter for about 30 minutes but she never showed. The only things up there besides Sarah and I were a beautiful view of White Sands and the wonderful smell of pine trees and crisp fall mountain air surely beats any air freshener.

The only strange thing that happened during our visit was the first two shots Sarah took with her digital camera had strange white blurs on them. She took the pictures while in the Red Dog Saloon, supposedly the most haunted area of the hotel. After the first two anomalies her camera worked fine, and she took many normal shots of the lodge. I never saw Rebecca. And nothing paranormal ever happened while we were at the lodge; however, for some reason I drove home less of a skeptic.

I was a tourist and ghost hunter that Saturday. It was a beautiful destination on a gorgeous day. The hotel was filled with relaxed guests not at all concerned with ghost stories. But the stories of the employees who spend each day at the lodge contrast with the obvious and realistic image. People like Lisa truly believe. And so that leaves me somewhere in between. I cannot decide to just believe in Rebecca or to simply remain a skeptic. I am stuck, somewhere in the middle I feel like a ghost. I was so taken with Rebecca's story I forget to ask about the other chambermaid buried in the basement.

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