Route 66 News

The ghost of the Painted Desert Inn

I didn’t know this about the historic Painted Desert Inn, located in the Petrified Forest National Park. Apparently I have a new contender for the top ghost sites on Route 66 that I posted yesterday.

According to National Parks Traveler:

Almost 60 years ago, during the evening of April 9, 1953, the Painted Desert Inn caught fire. A park ranger broke down the locked door and crawled on his hands and knees into the smoke-filled building. He found Mrs. Marion Mace, the hotel manger, lying unconscious in her bedroom. The ranger carried the woman outside and laid her on the lawn. Then he returned to save the structure.

After putting out the flames with a fire extinguisher, the ranger returned to his damsel in distress only to learn that his heroic efforts had gone for naught. Mrs. Mace was dead from smoke inhalation.

No one knows for sure what caused the fire, but most people assumed the smoldering blaze had been ignited by a cigarette, for the flames had started in manager’s bedroom, and Mrs. Mace was rarely seen without a death stick between her fingers. […]

The ranger was working on the main level one afternoon when she heard someone coming up the stairs from the tap room below. “It was footsteps on stone,” she says, “but when I looked up to wave at the person coming up the stairs, no one was there.”

Other employees report hearing whispered conversations coming from unoccupied rooms, and some have wondered if Mrs. Marion Mace is still lingering around after closing time.

After locking up one evening, one park ranger looked back through the windows and saw someone inside the museum walking from one room to another. Slightly irritated at the wayward tourist, the ranger unlocked the door and stepped inside. As soon as she entered the doorway, the ranger detected the unmistakable odor of cigarette smoke. Now the ranger was royally peeved. Not only was this tourist in a closed government building; the person had the gall to smoke in a museum! The ranger rushed from room to room in hot pursuit of her cigarette-smoking miscreant, until she realized there was no one in the building but her.

The story also tells about a spiral on a boulder at the Puerco Pueblo ruins, where a beam of sunlight hits the center of the spiral on the boulder at exactly 9 a.m. No one is sure what is the purpose of this apparent solar calender.

On 5 p.m. Friday, the park will offer “Ghosts of the Past,” a park ranger-led tour complete with ghost stories, starting at the Painted Desert Inn. Participants can watch the sunset and then explore the historic inn by lantern light.

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