In historic downtown Durango, Colorado stands a four-story red brick Victorian era hotel. The Strater Hotel, built on the rail line, is a popular overnight destination for railroad buffs looking forward to a ride on the scenic Durango & Silverton narrow-gauge steam excursion train. You can easily walk from the hotel to the train station. I had the pleasure of being hosted by the hotel and railroad last year at about this time.
Fall is an ideal time to take a trip on the Durango and Silverton Railroad. The temperatures are mild and the leaves are turning. If you are lucky you will hit the season just right to be able to enjoy the fluttering golden aspens. Traveling first class is the way to go. Opt for a glass-domed car with narration and beverage service. You won’t be sorry. A stay at the historic Strater Hotel is often part of a first class package tour.
The outside of this often-photographed hotel is highlighted by original white stone cornices and ornamental brickwork. Once inside, you will be transported back to the early days of Durango. The lobby and guestrooms are decorated with elegant Victorian antiques. The hotel has a rambling lobby and two bars, one of which, The Diamond Belle Saloon, offers ragtime music, costumed bartenders and dance hall girls. Breakfast is served in an elegant dining room.
It is no wonder that such a stately hotel with a long history is also rumored to be home to some ghosts. According to HauntedPlaces.org the Strater Hotel, built directly on the railroad line in the late nineteenth century, is believed to be haunted by many apparitions, including railroad figures. People walking through the alley adjacent to the hotel have seen the ghostly figure of a man in a white shirt standing on the railroad tracks who vanishes suddenly. The other apparition often seen is a railway engineer in period clothing walking through the hotel lobby.
VoyageVixens.com counts the Strater as one of America’s 10 Most Haunted Hotels. They report that guests and employees of the late 1880’s hotel have reported encounters with the ghosts of a little girl, a man in period costume and a bar girl. The Strater, according to Voyage Vixens has a “Ghost Diary” in each room. It’s said most of the sightings happen on the upper floor. The writer shared that “when we stayed there last winter, I took a picture of my room, and there was a ghostly blue orb that appeared on the bed’s wooden headboard – and I did NOT have the flash on! Spooky, indeed.”
While I was a guest at The Strater Hotel, I was part of a small group of journalists. One of our group members had an experience that would raise the hair on the back of your neck. She went up to her 2nd floor room after checking in. Her room, as was mine, was dark and decorated in period antiques. There was a portrait of a woman facing the bed. As the journalist unpacked, she had the unsettling feeling that she was being watched. She looked at the painting several times and each time, she felt as though the eyes were fixed on her…following her. Feeling increasingly anxious, the writer threw her clothes back into the suitcase and ran down the hall to a colleague’s room, banging on the door with her fists. The other writer was frightened after hearing the story and invited the shaken writer to spend the night in the extra bed in her room. Needless to say, the story was the topic of conversation the next morning.
Not knowing what was going on down on the second floor, I slept well in my Eastlake carved bed. I fell asleep looking up at the Victorian light fixture and decorated ceiling and the only thing I heard was the train whistle at dawn. Yes, the floors creaked and I could hear guests late at night on the elegant open stairway, but I couldn’t say anything felt or sounded like a ghost. Had I ventured to read the room’s “Ghost Diary, “ I might have had a less comfortable night!
The hotel is bustling in train season and is filled with busloads of tourists. Attentive staff ensure that guests and their luggage stay together and that everyone finds the dining room down a hall left of the lobby. But perhaps in a less busy time, when all is quiet, one will encounter signs of a Strater ghost.
This experience was part of a Grand Circle tour provided by Southwest Adventure Tours and hosted by the members of the Grand Circle Association. While this has not influenced this content, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.