William Menger, a German immigrant who arrived in San Antonio in the early 1840’s, began building the hotel in 1858 and completed the first incarnation in 1859, 23 years after the fall of the Alamo and only steps from this famous structure. The Menger Hotel was begun as a 40 room extension to the boarding house business he ran in conjunction with his popular brewery and was intended to house those visitors who wanted to prolong their enjoyment of his excellent beer, or for those who had had perhaps a bit too much of it. The new hotel even featured a tunnel which opened off the basement and led through to the brewery, through which, Menger would lead select groups of visitors for private tours. When it was finished, it was said to be the finest hotel west of the Mississippi. It is still one of the best-known and oldest hotels in the state of Texas and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It still caters to descerning guests today as it has since it’s inception. The Menger has played host to a star-studded list of celebrities over the last 150 years: Sam Houston, General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant, Mae West, Presidents Taft, McKinley, and Eisenhower. Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, and Lillie Langtry all were guests. Teddy Roosevelt stayed there at least 3 times: in 1892 for a javelina hunt, in 1898 to recruit his Rough Riders, and for a banquet in 1905. William Menger died at the hotel in 1871 and the management of the property was taken over by his wife and son. The hotel has been enlarged, renovated and modernized several times over the last century and has retained it’s victorian elegance and charm throughout its 316 rooms and 25 suites, which are full of rare antiques. Some of these were purchased and shipped over from Europe by Menger himself.
In addition to its stellar reputation and roster of mortal lumiaries as guests, the Menger also has some immortal guests, and claims to be haunted by no less than 32 ghosts. The Menger has the unofficial title of “Most Haunted Hotel In Texas”. The most famous of the resident spirits is that of Teddy Roosevelt. He used the Menger’s bar to recuit tough cowboys who were fresh off the Chisholm trail, into his detachment of Rough Riders. He used a simple strategy of loosening them up with alcohol and many found themselves at Fort Sam Houston the next day as basic trainees, before they knew what had happened. Roosevelt has reportedly been seen in the dark, wood-paneled bar off the main lobby, enjoying a drink.
The spirit sighted most often is a woman named Sallie White. She was a chambermaid at the hotel. Her marriage was a rocky one and more than once, her husband had threatened to kill her. She had stayed at the hotel overnight on one occasion, after a particularly heated arguement. Sadly, he made good his threat on March 28, 1876 and attaced her at the hotel. She lingered for two days but died from the injuries he inflicted. She was well loved by the hotel owners who paid for her funeral at a cost of $32.00. Sallie still tries to perform her duties in the Victorian wing of the hotel. She has been seen there many times, wearing a long gray skirt and a bandana around her head. She appears mainly at night and walks along the hallways carrying clean towels for the guests.
Captain Richard King is another well-known entity said to inhabit the Menger. Capt. King was the owner of one of the largest ranches in the world at the time; the King Ranch in south Texas. He had a permanent suite at the hotel. When he learned of his impending death from his doctors, he spent the last months of his life in his suite, recieving friends to bid them goodbye and dispensing his huge estate. On April 15, 1885, his funeral was held in the Menger parlor. He is often seen entering his old room, which today is called “The King Ranch Room”, and passing right through the wall where the door had been before remodeling.
In the lobby, the spirit of a woman is frequently spotted wearing an old-fashioned blue dress, wire-rim glasses, and a tasseled beret. She sits quietly knitting but is not very friendly. It is said that once a hotel employee asked her if she was comfortable or needed anything and was answered with a rude “No!” Then she promptly disappeared right in front of him.
Once, a guest who was stepping out of a shower, reported seeing a man in a buckskin jacket busy having an animated conversation with an unseen companion. The spirit demanded to know, “Are you gonna stay or are you gonna go?” He repeated this question three times before vanishing. In the kitchens, utensils have been seen floating through the air.
Some of these spirits are attributed to those many men who died during the Battle of the Alamo, since the Alamo is steps away from the Menger. Heavy footsteps and kicking have been heard and old military boots seen.
Despite the high number of entities seemingly inhabiting the Menger, all seem content and harmless; doing no more than startling a guest. The Menger Hotel is included as part of several ghost hunts and tours offered to visitors in San Antonio. San Antonio is about 65 miles south of Austin, straight down IH-35 to downtown, where the Menger Hotel is located. Here are some links to ghost tour information. http://alamocityghosttours.com/ http://satxghosttour.com/ http://www.visitsanantonio.com/visitors/play/guided-tours/san-antonio-gh…
Enjoy and remember not to accept a drink from Mr. Roosevelt!