In the captivatingly creepy new book American Ghost, author Hannah Nordhaus discovers that her great-great-grandmother, Julia Staab, is New Mexico’s most famous ghost, haunting a Santa Fe hotel called La Posada. Backed by an army of psychics and ghosthunters, a crumbling family diary, and a frontier-sized heap of curiosity, Nordhaus sets out to discover who Julia was—and why her spirit has stuck around for all these years.
When talked to Nordhaus about using psychics and mediums, and how to tell if a ghost is trying to get in touch with you from the world beyond.
When you started this project, what were you most afraid of?
HANNAH NORDHAUS: I guess two things. The first was not finding anything. I knew that there was some documentation of my family’s history in New Mexico, but I didn’t know if I’d find anything about Julia. And then I was definitely afraid of having an encounter with Julia’s ghost. The nights I spent in the haunted hotel, I did not sleep very well. As much as I waffle in the book about whether I believe or not—I’m scared of ghosts.
Do you have a favorite Julia ghost story?
My cousin grew up in Santa Fe, and she told me a story I never forgot. She was friends with the hotel’s bartenders, and they told her about a new bride who was staying at the hotel. When the bride came in, Julia started flinging glasses at her head. A lot of people have also said that when they slept in her room, Julia would rip the sheets off of them. I think that’s the one that freaks me out the most.