AZTEC — Miss Gail's Inn on Aztec's Main Avenue seems to have a few guests who never checked out.

The property is owned by Gail and John Aspromonte, who both have witnessed apparitions that make occasional appearances.

"I'm generally not afraid of the ghosts," said Gail, who also manages Quilt It! Ya Ya, in Aztec. "It's more of a comforting feeling to know that they're there."

The property was the first hotel in Aztec, built to serve the newly constructed railroad. The building was completed in 1907, but the back portion dates to 1878.

First known as the American Hotel, in 1968 it became the Aztec Residence Hotel. The Aspromontes purchased it in 1992.

After completing extensive restoration of the property, the Aspromontes opened Miss Gail's Inn.

Because of health concerns and the declining tourism trade, for the past two years the Aspromontes have operated the building as a rental property, with 10 studio apartments equipped with bathrooms and small kitchenettes.

The couple recently and reluctantly decided to put the property up for sale.

"The original hotel had its own stagecoach, rail stop and orchards," John said. "The railroad ran right past the back of the hotel."

It also had the first telephone in town and a dining hall, he said.

"At the turn of the century, there obviously weren't a lot of stores and fast food places around, so people would get their meals at hotels," he said.

Early on, single cots were available for rent in the basement for railroad shift workers.

The hotel was the site of the last legal hanging in New Mexico, which took place right outside the kitchen door. Several other people have died in the building, including a man who was stabbed on the stairs and a man who died after shooting himself in the leg.

The Aspromontes first suspected they were hosting more than living guests shortly after opening.

A tourist passing through remarked to Gail, "You have a lot of entities here."

That tourist was a well-known psychic.

Paranormal experiences include the sound of a young boy crying on the second floor.

"This most often happens when we're talking about putting the building up for sale," Gail said. "We've heard it on several occasions, and we believe he's unhappy that the property may change owners."

Psychics told Gail the most protective spirit in the house is an "ancient" American Indian. This spirit likes the couple and wants to make sure they come to no harm, she said. Gail also has heard the building sits on the site of ancient ceremonial grounds.

Of Gail's supernatural experiences in the hotel, the most unnerving occurred just after they bought it.

"We had just bought the hotel, and its condition was horrible — trash and filth were everywhere," she said. "I was cleaning in room No. 5, and I kept hearing a door open in the hall. No one else was in the building, but I kept calling out hello?' I started to think maybe I was hearing things, so I went out to the hallway to see if I could identify where the sound was coming from. I felt a whoosh of cold air go past me, and I looked down and saw the tail end of a wedding dress going into room No. 5."

Gail was filled with fear, but realized she would have to face whatever was in the room as this was her business and home.

"I steeled myself and walked into the room," she said. "At first I didn't see anything, but then I spotted the end of the wedding dress trailing out of the open bathroom


Speaking to whatever was there, Gail said, "I just have to finish cleaning the room and the bathroom, then I'll be out of your way. Please let me finish, and I'll get out of your hair."

She then walked into the bathroom, and no one was there.

While Gail has seen what appears to be a female presence, John has experienced a male apparition.

One night, while having dinner in the bottom-floor dining room, John glanced up and saw a man in a black shirt and black western hat examining a picture of a turn-of-the-century woman lounging on a chair. This picture is located near the entrance of the inn.

"I was wondering who this was, as he wasn't one of our guests," he said. "He suddenly turned, looked at me, then walked right through the wall."

Hotel guests, also, have relayed numerous accounts of strange experiences they've encountered.

One guest staying in room No. 7 approached Gail in the morning and asked if she had visited his room the previous night. She assured him she had not.

He went on to say that a woman had knelt on his bed, and she had removed his covers, replacing only the sheet. He smelled the strong fragrance of old-fashioned lavender cologne at the same time.

"We get pretty regular reports of the cologne smell," Gail said. "In the spring it's lilac, and in the fall it's lavender."

In 1999, another guest, an oil field worker, reported that he woke up in the middle of the night and saw a very large man standing and looking at him. He asked to be moved to another room.

Another couple reported equally eerie but different experiences. The wife saw a female apparition, and the man saw a male. They also had a cat jump up on the bed.

"We do not have a cat," Gail said.

The incidents seem to be more prevalent in rooms 5 and 7, and also in the hallway outside the rooms.

Current tenants occasionally report objects being moved and seeing fleeting glimpses of figures passing through their rooms, but none of them have seemed particularly perturbed by the unusual happenings.

"Normally, when people see things, it's just like a quick glimpse out of the corner of your eye, and you're left wondering, Did I really see that?'" John said.

Mary McDonald, live-in manager for the past two years, has had glimpses of the end of a wedding dress disappearing around corners, and she occasionally catches a whiff of lavender perfume. She also hears someone say her name on the upstairs floor when no one is there and has witnessed objects flying off of shelves.

While McDonald takes these incidents in stride, she once had a more unnerving experience.

McDonald was sitting on the sofa in her living area. A door with an open window and counter separate this area from the main foyer and hallway leading to the front door.

McDonald looked up to see a small, dark-haired woman wrapped in material coming toward her from the direction of the front door. McDonald thought she was one of the upstairs tenants, but when the woman reached the counter, she suddenly turned to the right, held her arms out in front of her and backed out of view. McDonald quickly went to the window and looked in both directions, but no one was there.

"I'm not really bothered by most of the little things that happen, but the image of that woman coming toward me, then ducking out of sight and disappearing has never left me," she said. "That was not just a quick glimpse, and I know what I saw."

Lately, McDonald has heard the faint sound of drums beating in the middle of the night and her daughter has woken to see a tall figure standing over her.

Similar to reports of other hauntings, the strange phenomena seem to escalate when there is turmoil or potential change in the air.

"I think whatever spirits are here remain happy when things are calm and normal," John said. "They just want to be left alone."