But I can only say that that week at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio was one of the best of my life, as well as one of the most eventful. And I never told all you fellow Castaways about it. Shame on me.
The Menger is the oldest continuously-operated hotel in the country. It was where Teddy Roosevelt used to sit at the end of the bar and recruit his Rough Riders for the Spanish-American War. Carrie Nation burst through the door with a hatchet in another era and hacked a large chunk from the same bar (I sat at that same spot). The Menger is also one of the most haunted places in the US. It's literally a stone's throw from the Alamo, where 300 Texans held off Santa Ana's Army to the last man. It is said that night watchmen at the Alamo have seen shadowy figures dressed in buckskins and frock coats kneeling in a circle, as if in silent prayer, disappearing in a cloudy puff when approached.
Some of you don't believe ghosts exist, or that our understanding of them is so far off that we can't even define what they are. That's okay. I know what I've experienced throughout my life. I'm not bothered when someone wants to explain away what they have never experienced. I just know that ever since I was old enough to remember anything, I've had odd encounters with vague entities that behave with varying degrees of apparent intelligence. I don't bother trying to explain them anymore. I just know when they're around. And at the Menger, they're around.
The second I stepped over the threshold and into the lobby, I could feel something was there. Yeah, you could say I wanted it to be there, and so I manifested this feeling to fit my own paradigm. Okay, whatever. It's kind of a musty, empty feeling that floats right through me. I call it my RADAR. It only happens in certain places. Anyway, I walked into a wall of the stuff as soon as I walked in.
The first night I woke up at 4:15AM to a light, persistent tapping at my door. I got up and looked through the peephole at -- nothing. Okay, I thought. Old building, old pipes. No prob. Fifteen minutes later, it came back, and this time I shot out of bed and immediately focused on the source of the tapping. It was definitely someone's knuckles on the door. And, of course, I found nothing when I looked.
At 7AM, I got up for breakfast and went down my hall toward the elevator:
I took this pic just to show how long the hall is. But about fifteen steps down, I walked through an area about five feet long that felt like a sudden, overwhelming sadness, which lifted as soon as I walked through it. The dark area in this photo is just a dim zone between lights. That's important for later. Just bear with me.
Now, the most significant aspect of the visit belonged to one corner of one staircase right off the rotunda:
Now, this is where the important part comes in. Every time I walked around this corner, in either direction, I felt strangled, just briefly, in a not-quite-physical way. So I took a couple of shots here. As soon as I snapped the second one, a wall of energy hit me, like a sudden swell of static. In fact, I couldn't stay there anymore.
I found some of the other authors and editors attending the con, down in the courtyard. I shared what happened, and one of them, Doctor Ellen Spain, came back to the spot with me. I wasn't specific about what I felt when I told her what happened. I wanted to see how she reacted coming around the corner.
And sure enough, she stopped ten feet before she even got to the corner, looked at me, and said, "He doesn't like you." No s**t, Sherlock. Okay, I didn't say that to her then. But she took some shots herself of the area, and one of them was this one:
Now, let's talk about this. The parlor at the bottom of the stairs was just as brightly lit as the stairwell. Look at the fourth step down in the shot. It's several shades darker than the rest of the staircase. Others went back later and took photos from the same spot, and they all showed the brightly-lit parlor at the bottom.
There were a lot of other places in the hotel where I ran into other "things," and not all of them were neutral or kind. But I do count this week as one of the best, and not just because I won the EPPIE for my book (though that was enough in itself!)
Now, if you still need proof, there's only about a hundred YouTube videos taken at the Menger, and the ones that are faked are obvious. In spite of all I do believe, I am a bit of a skeptic, believe it or not. I can usually spot a fake. And it's hard to peg Doctor Spain's photo as anything but authentic, in part because I was there when she took it.
So believe what you will. I stand by my experiences. And this was one cool experience. Has anyone else run into someone they didn't know at the Menger? Let me know.