The St. Anthony Hotel has been a center of luxurious relaxation and adventure for more than a hundred years, delighting some of the biggest names of each passing decade with its sumptuous rooms and sophisticated ambiance. Whether you’ve come to seek out its darker spirits or opt to leave them be, you’re sure to have an unforgettable stay.
In the middle of Downtown San Antonio, overlooking the oasis of green that is Travis Park, the St. Anthony Hotel glimmers inside and out with the same exceptional magnificence it was built for over a century ago.
What was once a technologically cutting-edge establishment simply for its electric lights and telephones continues to be the epitome of comfort and glamour today, boasting an infinity pool, a fitness club, a varied room service menu, and high-speed internet service.
Guests can walk “Peacock Alley,” the elegant lobby adorned with Venetian tile mosaics and museum-worthy sculptures, on their way to any of the hotel’s upscale dining options, but beware, while lost in the glitz of their visits, many have seen things in the St. Anthony that may not be as they seem.
History of St. Anthony Hotel
No Expenses Spared
Founded in 1909 by three cattle ranchers with a dream, the St. Anthony Hotel was designed from day one for ultimate luxury, as a beacon to attract wealthy tourists to the growing city of San Antonio. With guest rooms equipped with telephones, automatic electric lighting, and private baths, its levels of convenience and technological advancement were unheard of for its time, and subsequent upgrades have kept it the lavish getaway it was always meant to be.
In the 1930s, after the end of Prohibition, selling alcohol by the drink was still illegal in public places in Texas. This was when the hotel opened the coveted and exclusive St. Anthony Club, an invitation-only lounge which, not being public, was one of the few places the wealthy could go out for a drink and a meal.
It was also during this period that the hotel’s original elevators were replaced with a massive air conditioning system, making it the first centrally air-conditioned hotel in the world. A new drive-thru check-in desk allowed guests to take the new elevators directly to their rooms to freshen up out of the Texas heat, before returning to the majestic lobby to mingle and strut down Peacock Alley.
Where the Stars Gather
Being the place to be in San Antonio, the St. Anthony Hotel has hosted shining talents across the decades, including Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers, and the rest of the cast of Wings, who stayed in the hotel during the filming of this first-ever Best Picture winner.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt have stayed in the presidential suite, as well as President Dwight Eisenhower. Other celebrity guests have included Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Jane Russell of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Olivia de Havilland of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Goldie Hawn, and, more recently, George Clooney.
Unfortunately, the guests who’ve lingered on past their check-out times tend to be of the more anonymous variety, or infamous rather than famous.
St. Anthony Hotel Ghosts
The Room-Crashing Couple
The most irritating of the hotel’s ghostly inhabitants, at least as far as the staff are concerned, are a young couple who like to squat in empty guest rooms. All the more inconvenient and perplexing for their willingness to move around the building, the couple is typically found embracing or sipping drinks with their arms interlocked, and they don’t like to be interrupted.
More than once, the front desk has received complaints of double-booking from living guests wanting to settle into their rooms. When staff arrive to investigate, the phantom couple disappears, leaving all as they found it.
The Man with the Crooked Toupee
Even though the tenth floor is one of the newest areas of the hotel, it’s regarded as the most actively haunted, in part due to the activities of this spirit. In addition to his unfortunate signature hairpiece, he can be recognized by his tall figure and shabby black suit.
While the tenth floor is a good choice if you’re trying to maximize your chances of witnessing the paranormal, it may not maximize your chances at a good night’s sleep. When he’s in a good mood, the man with the crooked toupee may only share your elevator ride up to his home floor and tap you on the shoulder before suddenly vanishing, but he’s better known for walking the hallways in the wee hours with his belt in his hand, loudly snapping it against the guestroom doors and radiating an icy chill throughout the floor.
Lady of Lavender, Lady in Red
Two lone women are believed to haunt their own small corners of the hotel, though one of them has never been seen. Rather, the Lavender Lady is named for the fragrance of her perfume, which alerts the staff to her invisible presence. She keeps mostly to the hotel library, where she tends to borrow and rearrange books, turn lights on and off, and give guests the distinct impression of someone reading of their shoulders.
The Lady in Red, on the other hand, is known mainly for her striking appearance. Wearing an elegant red sheath dress and stockings, she is usually seen entering the ground floor women’s bathroom, rushing into one of the stalls, and disappearing without a trace. Though no one knows her name, legend has it that she reluctantly ran out of a party early due to feeling ill and died of a heart attack, not to be found for several hours.
Whereas most reported ghosts only seem to want to be noticed or left alone, the St. Anthony is allegedly haunted by a bonafide monster.
One cold day in 1965, a man checked in alone and without luggage, specifically requesting Room 636. He was very upset to learn that this room was already taken, but reluctantly accepted Room 536 instead.
Contrary to the alias he signed in the guestbook, this man was Walter Emerick, and he had just murdered a woman in Room 636 of the Gunter Hotel a block away.
Police were still wading through the blood and fragments at the scene, searching for a body and an identity that would never be found, and trying to piece together what had happened in all the mess. All signs pointed to Emerick having butchered his unidentified traveling companion, forced her remains through a meat grinder, and washed them down the plumbing.
When the staff at the St. Anthony became concerned about Emerick’s erratic behavior and called the police to room 536, Emerick shot himself in the head before they could enter, taking with him all the missing pieces of this horrifically strange picture.
Though room 536 has since been split in two, some say Emerick still lingers where he died, waiting to brag about or repeat his gruesome claim to fame.
Even if you don’t end up seeing a spirit of the non-corporeal variety during your stay at the St. Anthony, there are plenty of spirits to be found in the Haunt Bar, many of them with names that hint playfully at the hotel’s haunted history, served by staff who are happy to share a tale or two.