Is that a ga-ga-ga-ghost?! I sure hope so, Pigeon Handlers. When I started getting ideas about the neat stuff out and about in West Texas, I was excited. “Cool, natural wonders? I can probably find a way to make some funny story about this.” I said to myself. Hold the phone though, aside from the groundbreaking debut novella West Texas Swing I have yet to lay down much of anything in the way of sci-fi/fantasy. Sure, West Texas Swing is a breath of fresh air in the genre, but there had to be more. That’s when it hit me, what better way to get a little more fantastical, paranormal, supernatural into the fold than visiting the delightfully spooky and haunted places that the world has to offer?
There is only one issue with this plan. I am big ole friggin’ chicken when it comes to stuff like this. All the horror movies I have ever seen all looked like what ever pillow was closest to me that I covered my eyes with whenever the music told me what was about to happen. Well, there was one movie I saw when I was on a date and I had to be exceptionally manly and brave and fight every urge I could to keep my scrawny ass planted firmly in the seat. That was absolutely terrible. But alas, good friends, in an effort to bring you only the mediumest quality of entertainment I have dug down deep within myself to face fears and the like. That is why I made use of the google to find the closest haunted attraction I could. So, without any to do further, I present to you the Hotel Settles in Big Spring, Texas.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump from my little nest in Midessa, I arrive in Big Spring a little bit after 6 o’ clock. Right of the bat, I could tell that the Hotel was likely the real deal. I was having a conversation via cellular telecommunication device with my dad who had seen pictures of the joint.
“Oh man, there it is!” I shouted into the speakers of the Pissy Cricket.
“Yea, I always thought it had the look.”
Now the look can mean different things to different people. Pops stated that “the look” meant that the Hotel had the old mental hospital vibe to it. I on the other hand thought the tall building with the big red letters on the roof looked like the building where Connor MacLeod and The Kurgan had the final duel. From my point of view, haunted or not, the hotel was going to be the bee’s knees.
Being my first foray into, I’ll call it “Paranormal Research”, I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure of how to approach the whole process. However, in the spirit (get it…spirit? I crack myself up [cracks knuckles]) of trying new things, I walked up to the counter and after making my way through pleasantries I proceed to go full rookie. “Where is the best place to see the ghosts!” I asked the young lady.
She grinned and laughed a little. “Oh, there aren’t any ghosts.”
That caught me a bit off guard, but I’m nothing if not determined to terrify myself. “Really? That’s kinda the only reason I’m here.” I jested, though to be honest, well I was being honest.
“Some people say they get strange feelings or see some stuff, but none of the staff really experience anything.” I then convince myself that she is either trying to not lose the business or she is in fact a ghoul herself and is carefully plotting my demise. But she seemed sweet and sincere, so I doubt the latter (though not enough to let my guard down). I accept my room key to the twelfth floor, lament quietly to myself that I’m not on thirteen, and enter the elevator.
At this point, I note 3 important factors. 1) The elevator only goes to 14 in a 15-floor hotel. Either I am unaware of how old hotels work or there is some tom-foolery afoot. 2) The elevator is a square. The doors are typical elevator doors, but the remaining three walls are mirrors. More on this in a bit. 3) Use of the elevator requires the key card. I find myself having immense difficulty operating this simple task. Luckily, onlookers were all quick to offer advice as the doors repeated opening and closing whilst I struggled to perform trivial tasks. Finally, I was able to gain upwards access and the elevator ascends. And stops on the 7th Floor. Sitting for a moment, I ponder to myself if I had done something wrong. I know me well enough to know that that is a sound possibility. The elevator makes a return trip to the bottom floor and opens for the same onlookers to see my confusion as the doors open once again.
Not one to be embarrassed too easily, I think nothing of it. That is until I make my second attempt up. Is this normal, or is it…paranormal? Are the local restless spirits having a little fun with me before the real torment begins? Since this is an excursion into the supernatural, I’m calling this a win. The game is afoot.
The hotel itself is truly a spectacle and a beautiful sight. I’ve been to New York City where I’ve stayed in more expensive hotels that were fractions of the quality of this building. After I dropped my belongings off into the room, I return to the cursed elevator and make my way to the ground floor. The ambience of the place is set to a jazzy sound track that really gets you into the mood of a renovated hotel that was built long ago. I grabbed a bite to eat and friends I must admit that this was the first moment in the hotel where I had a fright. No, the Virgin de Guadalupe did not manifest in my chicken fried steak nor did a ghastly apparition make a motion in the historic photo I was gazing into. Nay, the waitress who obviously moonlights as a ninja assassin snuck up on me, causing me to nearly jump out of the booth as she asked if I needed a refill of Dr. Pepper.
I’m going to deviate from the ghost hunt for a bit because at this point, the sun is still high in the sky and everyone knows that what goes bump in the night, only goes bump in the night. I’ll say that I am a much more seasoned travel buff than I am a Paranormal Researcher, so while the time allowed I took to the pavement under my Redwings and went exploring downtown. Walking through the small proximity to the hotel, I am immediately enamored with Big Spring. I absolutely LOVE towns like this. Big Spring has the feel that in one decade or era, it just sort of halted. I am admittedly too young to know which season of time this town seems to be frozen in, but I find myself eating up every moment of it. So much so that I wish I hadn’t signed an apartment in the shithole that is Midessa. If that offends you, fight me about it. Midland/Odessa is a horrible fucking place. I digress.
If it weren’t for the steady yet calm flow of traffic passing me as I meander down the sidewalk, I would have the feeling that Big Spring is somewhat deserted. The buildings that were likely once part of a bustling main street USA are abandoned. There is graffiti painted on the sides of the brick shops, though not in the sense you would think. Beautifully artistic murals are canvased all throughout a stretch of the town, bringing color and vibrant light to the streets. I came upon a painting in the works, and again in the spirit of getting out of my comfort zone, I struck up a conversation. Michael Deanda of Artistic Adventures was nearly finishing up his work and was kind enough to give me a small rundown of the town, especially regarding the haunted hotel I would be spending the evening in. “Oh yea, lots of crazy stories about that place.” This was a much-needed boost to moral for my adventure.
So, I strolled on and continued my walk admiring the city. I tend to lean on the nostalgic side when it comes to towns. Stockdale, that little community just north of North Kosciusko, has the vibe. My time with my sister in Monahans shared it as well. Sunray in the panhandle was another good example. I reckon I am just fond of the places that haven’t seemed to grow up and grow out of their peak. I can’t speak for the rest of the city of Big Spring, but the little part that I explored was enough to earn my seal of approval on just awesome places. As the sun began to settle down into the horizon, I made the trip back to the hotel. Which is probably good for you, because a haunted hotel and not a look back in time is probably why you are reading this. Nevertheless, check out my instabuela for some snapshots of my romp downtown as well as the photos of the hotel.
The Hotel Settles paints a different picture once the light fades away. Structurally, not much is different. But the feel noticeably changes. The big letters that spell out the name on the roof glow a bright red across the night sky. After a full day of work and a hearty jaunt though, I can feel myself becoming tired. I make a quick pass through the ground floor, but with the absence of spirits, I decide to make my way to the room. This leads to a revisiting of point number 2 from earlier.
I’m not sure if you have experienced this but two, level mirrors facing each other is just a neat trip. As you stare into one side, the world is reflected almost endlessly as it curves upwards. The other side offers the same view. Now, it’s often hard to stare into a mirror for too long. I’ve read a study where some really disturbing psychological magic takes place if you were to stare at your reflection for an extended period, but as I’ve stated previously I’m a big chicken and haven’t never conducted a field test. Have at that one yourselves, Pigeon Handlers. Anywho, I’m stuck in a twelve-story trip in a slow-moving elevator surrounded by mirrors. Thankfully, Candyman or La Llorona never revealed themselves and I made my way back to the room. Goodly and properly jittery.
Disclaimer: In addition to the rumored spirits of Depression era suicide jumpers that haunt the Hotel Settles, I now have a new irrational fear to contend with. In name dropping La Llorona, I had to do my proper research. I was almost 100% positive that La Llorona dwells by flowing bodies of water, or “rivers”, but I thought she sounded cool enough to add into the story. My studies proved my suspicions to this matter, but I now worry that the wailing woman is going to come out of my sink. Disclaimer within the disclaimer: I added the wailing woman to the list because I’m not sure if she is the same as La Llorona, but I don’t want the list to keep expanding as I failed to bring a change of clothes.
At this point in the night, 11:30PMish, I decided that it was time to turn out the lights and attempt to drift off….
Let me tell you something about the Haunted Hotel Settles in Big Spring, Tx: That’s about the best night of sleep I’ve had in a while. Comfy ass bed, nice cool room, etcetera and yada, yada. I didn’t even have ghostly dreams. I woke to my phone ringing and after laying for a while contemplating going back to sleep, I convince myself that I shall be a productive member of society today and get up.
Sad to say, I did not find any ghosts, ghouls, spirits or any sort of the Unatural* nature. Was the Hotel Settles spooky? Not really. Most of it was just imagination. But hey, an imagination is something that is taken for granted these days. And there are plenty of other Haunted Hotels, cursed elevators, and plenty of rivers out there and one of them is bound to be terrifying.
*Keen eyed observers will note that Unatural is misspelled. That could be explained by reading a novella that some critics are saying is “mediocre at best, but at least it’s free“.
Do you know of a true blue, bona fide haunted spot? The kind that will leave self-proclaimed “big ole chickens” shaking in their dainty little boots? If so, email them to email@example.com and the Interweb Carrier Pigeons will deliver it to my digital doorstep. I could use a good fright for your entertainment sake and I am trying to get out of the apartment more.
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