El Rancho Hotel

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Memorabilia has acted liked an
environmental trigger, drawing in spirits.

There is always one is every crowd – an over
enthusiastic spectral early morning lark!

The living guest’s possessions can be irresistible.

Living guests sometimes have spectral roommates!



“Charm of Yesterday, Convenience of Tomorrow.”

The 1936 El Rancho Hotel is described as “a large, rambling, rustic style building that revolves around a central three-story building containing the main lobby and early rooms. The El Rancho Hotel has a pitched wood shake roof, with several brick and stone chimneys. Below this is a smaller balcony on the flat roofed entry vestibule portion.”

Walking into the hotel is a real step back in time to another era. The visitor is impressed by the Southern Plantation Style feel. A large portico is over the lobby area and balcony. The El Rancho Hotel has a very dark but beautiful interior with vintage furniture. It is a fantastic example of a hotel with rustic, southwest lodge style and a 1940s’ feel. It is built of basket weave brick, random ashlar stone, and roughhewn wood, trimmed with dark wood wainscoting.

At the back of the lobby there is a glorious walk-in fireplace, made of brick and random ashlar stonework. On either side of the fireplace are two stairways made of split logs that lead up to the balcony that encircles the first floor.

Pictures of all the film stars and famous people that stayed here are proudly hanging on all the walls along the lobby balcony, enjoyed by present guests as well as spectral visitors apparently.



In the 1930s, the city of Gallup enjoyed an economic boom due to an influx of tourists and the fact that moviemakers had discovered areas nearby that were perfect for film making. A well-known director, D.W. “Griff” Griffith, fell in love with Gallup as a film destination for westerns. Gallup was out in the middle of nowhere. So, to accommodate his stars and other production people, Griff and his brother, R.E. Griffin built The El Rancho Hotel, using the skills of Architect Joe Massaglia to fulfill their dream.

This is how El Rancho Hotel became known as the luxury hotel of the movie stars and film production people; from the 1930s to the beginning of the 1960’s. Westerns filmed here include: The Bad Man (1940), Sundown (1941), The Desert Song (1942), Four Faces West & Colorado Territory (1947-1948), Streets of Laredo (1948), Rocky Mountain (1950), Raton Pass (1951), Fort Massacre (1957), A Distant Trumpet (1963) and The Hallelujah Trail (1964).

The El Rancho Hotel also benefitted from a large tourist boom. From the 1930s-1960s, a healthy amount of them as well stayed here because they were interested in native American events taking place just across the street.

However, two events happened in the mid-sixties that were disastrous for the economic well-being of the El Rancho Hotel; the new interstate highway and the discovery of other places to make movies. With the opening of Interstate 40, people didn’t use Route 66 much, causing a decline in tourists. Secondly, film makers discovered Colorado, and it became the favorite place to make films.

El Rancho Hotel lost a lot of business and the property became a fixer-upper opportunity. In the 1980s, The El Rancho Hotel went into bankruptcy and a date with the wrecking ball was being planned. Fortunately, mover and shaker Armand Ortega came to the rescue JIT, bought this woebegone property for $500,000. After spending another $500,000, he restored the property. Ortega was able to reopen The El Rancho Hotel in 1988. It got further protection after being added to The National Register of Historic Places in January 14, 1988.

Besides restoring the original hotel, Ortega built a separate motel with regular rooms on the property as well, which attracted new guests looking for a modern room.


Special items and pictures from the past can draw back their former owners wanting to remember their experiences and memories.

Custer House Museum, ND (The Custer House was rebuilt from scratch and has on display a lot of the Custer families artifacts, pictures and furniture).

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Park, NE (This ranch house and grounds were Buffalo Bill’s favorite place in this world! His spirit must be saying, “Oh Joy! All of my memorabilia of my life are on display not only in the house but in the livery barns!”).

Battle of Little Bighorn Museum, MT (There is a museum built on this famous battlefield where the Native Americans were victorious over Custer’s men whom they destroyed completely. Many artifacts, and information about this huge defeat for the Union side have drawn some spirits inside to try to forget their horrible deaths).

The El Rancho Hotel, NM (The walls on the 2nd floor landing of the original part of the hotel have pictures of all the celebrities who stayed here, which has encouraged spirits of these guests to visit and remember).

Spirits who enjoyed Hotels and Inns while alive, like to check in permanently or for just a visit.

Menger Hotel, TX (Spectral patrons still come to stay for free, as well as the spirits from the battle of the Alamo for a rest from their traumatic memories).

Geiser Grand Hotel, OR (Spirits who loved this hotel came back in droves when restoration work began, and stayed to enjoy it once more).

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, CA (Spirits of movie stars and regular spirits as well come back to enjoy this place, even swimming in the pool after hours).

The El Rancho Hotel, NM (Spirits of actors, actresses and crew members who filmed in areas around the hotel still stay here to enjoy their memories and the new luxuries provided as well. Perhaps the spirits of former tourists also like to visit as well).



Spirits have been seen and experienced both inside and outside of the hotel. They are not possessive of the rooms, and are good-natured.

The Spirit of John Wayne

The room named after him has had a variety of paranormal activity.

He has been seen walking across the front parking lot, dressed in a western outfit.

He apparently is still staying and going to work on a film set.

Unknown Spirits

Both staff and guests have seen strange, shadowy shapes of spirits going down the various hallways.

They are simply going about their business as they relive their memories here.

The Bridal Suite

The Bridal Suite is also a hot spot; considered to be the most active room.

Apparently, a female spirit likes to peruse the guests clothing, especially women’s.

Women’s clothing has been known to stand up by itself, as if a female presence is holding it up to see what it would look like on her.

The door opens and closes by itself.

Neighboring Rooms of The Bridal Suite

Guests have reported activity that suggests they are sharing a room with a spirit.

Objects move on their own. Doors have a will of their own.

Perhaps the lights go on and off, and perhaps the TV as well, caused by a spectral enthusiast who is fascinated by both.

Wake Up Call

Some rooms that were once occupied by film crew members or actors, offer an early morning wake up call with the curtains or blinds opening by themselves early in the morning.

If a living guest needs to get up early the next day, stay in 506.

Spirit of a crew member or movie star will provide a perk!

“Rise and shine! Its 6:00 AM! Get up!” Apparently a spirit in here likes to open the drapes to wake up sleeping guests.

Balcony Around the Lobby

The pictures of all the movie star and other notables are also a draw from past spectral guests; perhaps stars remembering all their good times.

Disembodied laughing, talking, and footsteps have been heard by both staff and guests.

Lobby Area

For many years, living guests and staff report hearing sounds of footsteps and laughter in a seemingly empty lobby.

Other paranormal activity includes doors opening and closing, objects flying around and the appearance of unexplained cold spots.


Throughout the years, many personal paranormal experiences have been reported by staff, maintenance folks and guests as well.

I was unable to find any hard evidence of activity that has been made public. A private investigation or two may have been done by management, but the results may be on a need-to-know basis.


Yes Indeed! While I couldn’t find any hard evidence made public, there have been plenty of personal experiences reported. The El Rancho Hotel is considered a haunted place that has made it onto many online publications and in books as well.

The El Rancho Hotel management know who the guest spirits are and don’t want to bother them with annoying ghost hunters. They care about both their living and spectral guests, and don’t want these peaceful spirits to become grumpy!



1000 E Hwy 66,
Gallup, NM 87301

(505) 863-9311 * route66hotels.org

This landmark hotel off Route 66 is 0.9 miles from the Gallup Cultural Center and 1 mile from downtown Gallup.



  • The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide, by Rich Newman, Llewelyn Publications, pg. 227, 2016 second edition.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrOKaMKpEr0
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg8joFIQ-hE
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH8VgrrYmbw
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgvd0CBDMmk
  • https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/e5a30445-b9f9-4f73-87bc-6476cf8f3578/
  • https://frightfind.com/el-rancho-hotel/
  • http://www.house-crazy.com/the-funky-sights-and-buildings-of-route-66/
  • http://route66hotels.org
  • http://www.hauntedplaces.org/gallup-nm/
  • http://wheninyourstate.com/new-mexico/these-haunted-places-in-new-mexico-will-send-chills-down-your-spine/
  • https://voicesfromthegrave.wordpress.com/tag/el-rancho/
  • https://feralchatsblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/in-praise-of-old-hotels-gallup-nm/ Jan 12th. 2016
Haunts in New Mexico