Seated in the center of historic San Antonio, the Sheraton Gunter Hotel is an impressive sight to behold: twelve-stories tall, beautiful tan brick, and a flare of elegance often found in old properties.
The Sheraton Gunter Hotel is a blend of old and new, modern amenities and timeless elegance, trendy cuisine at its restaurant and bar, Bar 414, and historical significance. On January 9, 2007, the US National Register of Historic Places listed The Sheraton Gunter Hotel as a property of historical importance.
Since the 1830s, the Gunter Hotel has almost always been a hotel under different management and names. It earned extreme notoriety in 1965 at no fault of its own.
Since 1837, just a year after the fall of the Alamo, a hotel, in some form or other, sat on current Sheraton Gunter Hotel Land. The first hotel was called The Settlement Inn and known as the Frontier Inn by some.
The Inn stood at the corner of El Paso and El Rincon Streets (changed to Houston and St. Mary’s Street some years later).
In 1851, the Settlement/Frontier Inn was purchased for $500 and demolished. Irish immigrant brothers William, John, and James Vance had a different venture in mind.
The Vance brothers erected a two-story building where the Inn once stood and rented it out to the US Army for the next decade. During that period, the property operated as the local Headquarters for the Army.
Texas seceded from the United States when the Civil War erupted and joined the Confederates like many other Southern states. The Union (or US Army) left, and the Confederates took their place.
When the Civil War ended, the Vance family lost possession when the Federal troops occupied the city. The Federal troops used the building until 1872 when the Vance family regained ownership.
The building reopened as the Vance House (or Vance Hotel)
San Antonio hit its stride by the turn of the twentieth century because of the railroad and tourism.
In the early 1900s, a group of investors formed the San Antonio Hotel Company. There were thirteen men in total, including rancher Jot Gunter, whose name would later be the hotel’s.
The Vance family relinquished ownership in 1907 when the newly formed San Antonio Hotel Company made its purchase.
The investors had a plan to tear down the hotel and replace it with a “palatial structure that would meet the demands of the state’s most progressive city.”
(Unfortunately, Joe Gunter did not live to see the day when his dream became a reality. He died soon after the purchase, but his co-investors decided to name the hotel in his honor.)
Upon completion in 1909, The Gunter was a gorgeous juxtaposition of luxury and modern amenities. Eight stories tall and 301 rooms in total—The Gunter Hotel blended steel, concrete, and tan brick to create a hotel that was one of the finest in the country. Also, The Gunter Hotel was the tallest building in San Antonio for many years to come
By 1979, Josef Seiterle bought The Gunter Hotel and invested $20 million in its restoration. The Gunter found a new home with the Sheraton hotel chain ten years later. However, the Gunter underwent various new ownerships for the next ten years.
In 1999, after an $8 million renovation, it once more became a member of the Sheraton hotel family and remains so today.
While The Sheraton Gunter today is one of the most stayed in hotels in San Antonio, it is also a building where ghosts also reside.
The Ghosts of The Sheraton Gunter Hotel
- Like many haunted locations in San Antonio, people staying at The Sheraton Gunter Hotel have seen the spirits of the fallen Alamo defenders. There are reports of dips in temperature, the kind where your hair stands up on end and a chill courses up your spine.
- Others report the sensation of being watched, of glancing over your shoulder with the expectation that someone is there—but they never are. Sometimes the sense dissipates, and in others, it persists for a much more extended period. Then, that feeling begins anew.
These are everyday paranormal phenomena experienced at The Sheraton Gunter Hotel. But there are more.
- Two flappers are said to haunt the halls of The Sheraton Gunter Hotel. Or, instead, they’re believed to be flappers from the 1920s. Others suggest that they were prostitutes of the same period.
The first spirit, given the name Ingrid, is often seen wearing a long white dress while she strolls the hotel’s upper floors. The second, alternatively, is nicknamed Peggy.
It seems these two ghostly figures do not like each other. Though the women are said to haunt opposing sections of the hotel, guests have reported hearing them argue. No one knows why they quarrel.
Whatever the case may be, it’s plain to see their fighting causes a lot of the paranormal activity at The Sheraton Gunter. Guests have taken photos with their ghostly forms caught on film, as though they too want to be part of the fun.
- There are sounds, and evidence, of furniture moving in guest rooms as well as in the public areas of the hotel when no one is around.
- Blues player, and one of the most notable celebrities to stay at The Sheraton Gunter, Robert Johnson, is said to haunt this hotel.
Johnson’s talent scout, H.C. Speir, had arranged for a recording session at the hotel on November 23, 1936, in Room 414. In a strange twist of fate, it would be only one of two recording sessions that Robert Johnson would ever have.
(An interesting note: Johnson was one of the most important (and influential) blues musicians of his day. He was so talented, many people thought Johnson made a bargain with the devil to earn all the success he had amassed in such a short time.)
In 1938, at the age of twenty-seven, Johnson was found dead near Greenwood, Mississippi. The cause of his death was unknown then and is still up for speculation today. Some believe the jealous husband of a woman he flirted with at a country dance club he’d played in for some weeks poisoned Johnson.
At The Sheraton Gunter Hotel, rumor is that Johnson’s spirit still lingers in Room 414, where he once held his first recording session. In 2009, musician John Mellencamp arrived at The Gunter to record a new album. He’d felt drawn to the hotel, Mellencamp once said, and Room 414 in particular.
Today, The Sheraton Gunter’s new bar is honored with the name Room 414, in reference to the room where Johnson stayed. If the ghost of Robert Johnson is at The Sheraton Gunter, it’s probably in Room 414.
- In February of 1965, San Antonio’s most notorious mystery took place in Room 636.
Albert Knox checked in on February 6. He was a blonde man, said to be quite handsome and exceptionally charming.
For two days, guests of The Gunter saw Albert Knox come and go with a tall woman.
On February 8, one of the hotel’s housekeepers brought some items to Knox’s hotel room. The housekeeper pushed open the door, only to stop dead in her tracks. Albert Knox stood at the foot of the bed with a bloody bundle in his arms. Blood splattered every inch of the guest room. In the face of the housekeeper’s horrified expression, Knox lifted one finger to his mouth. “Shhh.”
The housekeeper’s mouth started to scream, and Knox dashed past her and out of the room. It took forty minutes for management to receive a report of the incident. By that time, Albert Knox had disappeared.
The room provided little evidence to explain what happened there. A lipstick-smeared cigarette, brown paper bags, luggage from the San Antonio Trunk and Gift Company. The purchase suitcase was by check from John J. McCarthy . . . who happened to be the stepfather of thirty-seven-year-old Walter Emerick, who had disappeared on one of his “drinking bents.”
The police were sure someone was murdered in Room 636 and scoured the city for the woman’s body. They checked construction sites and even sections of streets with newly laid cement. They found nothing.
On February 9, a blond man walked into The St. Anthony Hotel, just one block away from The Gunter. He came with no luggage. And when he requested to book a room, he made it known that he wanted Room 636. That particular room was not available, and after some arguing, he settled for Room 536. He checked in under the name Roger Ashley.
The front desk attendants became suspicious, and after tipping the San Antonio Police that the murderer might have just checked in to their hotel, the detectives rushed over.
They hurried to Room 536. Banging on the door, the police tried to apprehend Walter Emerick (aka Roger Ashley) for the crimes. As they struggled to open the door, they heard a single gunshot. Ashley was dead, and there were no concrete answers to the mystery.
Many people claim to have witnessed the murder replay in the years since. Staff and guests both have reported such paranormal phenomena–one guest even saw a ghostly woman who held her hands out and stared at the guest with a gaze that appeared almost soulless.
Housekeeping staff has reported that new employees often quit after being assigned to clean the room. Others have said the image of a blonde woman inexplicably appears in photographs. Strange sounds of hammering have also been reported coming from the unoccupied Room 636.
Until Next Time,