Many have told and retold the tale of Emily, a small child who died of cholera in the early 1900s at Buffalo, Wyoming’s Occidental Hotel, who is said to haunt its halls to this day.
But the employees who work in the Occidental Hotel can tell about a lot more ghostly encounters than just Emily.
“Sometimes I think things move there,” Joel Mera told Cowboy State Daily. Mera, who is from Italy, has been working at the Occidental this summer and plans to return home soon.
“I have my earplugs in listening to music while I’m cleaning,” he said. “And then it’s like something is moving or the chairs have strange shadows with the tail of the eye while I’m cleaning. And sometimes I think it’s the clerk coming to check on me, because she does that sometimes, but when I look, no one is there.”
Mera said when that happens, he just pretends he saw nothing at all.
“I go right back to cleaning and thank God I work with my headphones,” he said. “This way, I don’t hear anything else other than music.”
Penny Ramirez is a waitress at the incredibly busy Busy Bee Cafe, which is right next to the hotel, and is part of the string of businesses in the block that make up Occidental Row. She has at times stepped through what felt like cobwebs at the hotel, except that there are no actual cobwebs there.
“Usually, it’s on a Friday,” she said. “I think it’s all the energy from that jam session, because it’s almost always on Fridays.”
The Thursday night jam sessions brings musicians from all over for a bluegrass session that lasts until 9:30 p.m. The sounds from the jam session can be clearly heard all over the Occidental Hotel.
One time after a jam session, Ramirez came into the hotel lobby and she could hear a key go “ding” on the piano that’s sitting in front of the hotel desk.
At first she thought she was mistaken. Probably someone’s cell phone. Until it happened again.
When she asked a co-worker whether there was any kind of digital alarm or something like that which might go ding, she was told there was nothing like that in the lobby.
Later, she had a nightmare about being upstairs in the hotel, where she was running frantically and scared to death.
But that wasn’t the creepiest thing to happen, Ramirez said.
“So, there’s one of these, they call it a spirit box that you can download on your phone,” she said. “One of the girls had it on her phone and we were asking questions like “Hey, who are you,” etc. I thought I heard it say in there, “Richard.” Then it made this popping noise, really loud on both the phone and the radio.”
That was enough of that. The girls turned the app off and stopped asking who’s there.
But that hasn’t stopped ghostly occurrences, Ramirez said. Since then she’s heard someone call her name in the saloon, even though no one was in the saloon at the time.
A New Ghost
Vanessa Vann, who works in the bar, has seen bottles of whiskey and wine just pop off the shelves, or pop their corks.
“That’s the weirdest thing,” she said. “That just happened the other day.”
She’s also seen glasses just break for no reason.
“I’ve seen a wine glass where someone just set up to pour some wine and it breaks,” she said. “Just like that.”
Nancy Lehnert, meanwhile, who is a desk clerk, was told a new ghost story recently, one she’s never heard before while at the hotel.
“This husband and wife were in the Herbert Hoover room,” she said. “And they ended up, like, smelling a lady’s perfume, but she doesn’t wear perfume.”
Later that night, they each felt someone slide into the bed between them, while they were facing each other in the bed.
“When they checked out, they told me that story,” she said.
Lehnert hears the most ghost stories about the Prairie Cowboy room.
“I heard someone telling how his wife was sleeping but he woke up for no reason and he heard something and then he thought he saw like a whoosh, or something like a spirit going by,” she said. “He didn’t want to wake up his wife because he’d end up at his in-laws, so he just stayed quiet in the bedroom.”
Children Write Ghost Emily Notes
There have been touches in the bar, and sometimes even pinches. Others have heard a ball bouncing in the upstairs hallway, or a girl laughing, but
The latter was probably Emily, Ramirez suggested.
A stuffed orange tabby is kept near the room where Emily died. This is thought to help keep that particular spirit happy. The girl is said to have had an orange tabby cat while she was still alive.
Children have left notes to Emily in that same room. Many of those notes appear to be talking directly to Emily about how much fun it was playing with her. Ramirez finds those notes a little disquieting.
Ramirez remembered two Asian girls who came to work at the hotel one summer. They each separately recounted a story about seeing a girl hiding behind a door and trying to play hide and seek with them.
“They told their stories separately, not knowing about the other one’s story,” Ramirez said. “They did not want to clean that room any more after that.”
Then there was the incident in room 56 where an old-time, heavy iron was sitting in a particular corner of the room. A hotel guest laying in bed heard the iron move across the floor.
“The first time, he put it back,” Lehnert said. “But then he heard it move again, so he just told the spirit, “Really, it’s OK there if you’re fine with it there. Good night.’”
Lehnert isn’t afraid of the hotel’s ghosts.
“These are protective spirits,” she said, recounting a story about how one guy left in the middle of the night because Emily kept bouncing on his bed.
The folks at the Occidental later learned the man was a wanted felon.
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.