Durango has always been a drinking spot, but instead of breweries, there used to be old Western saloons and brothels, and if things got a little heated between you and a fellow townsman, you might both pull out your guns and duel. It makes sense that lost souls should wander our streets and establishments, desperate for human connection or one last glass of whiskey.
Strater Hotel, 699 Main Ave.Everyone has seen the majestic reddish-orange Strater Hotel looming historically on the corner of Main and West Seventh, and most of us have had a drink inside the Wild West-inspired Diamond Belle Saloon on the hotel’s first floor. The Strater was built directly on the railroad in the late 19th century, and is supposedly haunted by a variety of supernatural presences (not unusual in old buildings). People walking down the alley adjacent to the hotel have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a man in a white shirt standing on the railroad tracks. Others have noticed a railway engineer in period clothing traipsing through the hotel lobby. Each room has a “ghost diary” detailing tales of sightings through the years, most of them happening on the upper floor (and guests are invited to contribute). Many visitors have taken photos inside their rooms only to find ghostly orbs hovering in the shot, without explanation. The hotel’s timeworn structure means plenty of creaky floorboards – but enough people have suspected or felt a presence to merit a rich history of eerie rumors.
The Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave.Built in 1982, the Rochester is a quaint bed and breakfast a block off Main Avenue that’s decorated with Western movie posters and antiques. Across the street sits its sister property, the Leland House, a restored two-story brick apartment building built in 1927. The Rochester is on the register of the “100 Most Haunted Hotels in America.” Over the years, the hotel has collected similar reports from guests of a woman in Victorian garb, sometimes lingerie, who wanders the famous John Wayne suite (Room 204), named after the legendary Western actor/director. Apparently, people often call to rent out that room on Halloween, hoping to catch a ghostly glimpse. Owner Kirk Komick said he’s had no personal contact with the spirit, but the stories interest him because they always center on the same room; and guests have described only positive interactions with the feminine apparition.
El Moro Spirits and Tavern, 945 Main Ave. El Moro is a much newer business than our other two examples, but since opening in 2013, they’ve experienced their fair share of paranormal activity: objects moving without reason, shadows flitting about, doors swinging. El Moro is the site of one of Durango’s most famous shootings dating back to 1906, in which Durango Deputy Marshal Jesse Stansel and La Plata County Sheriff William Thompson dueled outside what is now El Moro, and Thompson died from inflicted wounds. Some employees believe their resident ghost to be Thompson himself, and they actually keep a bottle of whiskey and shot glass on top of the bar for Thompson’s particular use. Lucas Hess, bartender/manager, claims the shot mysteriously evaporates every week or two and needs to be refilled. Sadly, El Moro had a fire two weeks back that caused extensive smoke and water damage to the rear of the restaurant (but no human injuries). They’re closed for the next couple of months, so hopefully Thompson’s ghost can find somewhere else to get his whiskey fill.