Witness: Michael Connelly
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Date of Encounter: Fall & Winter 1998-1999
When my wife and I visited Cimarron, New Mexico in the summer of 1999, it was to research my recently published book Riders in the Sky: The Ghosts and Legends of Philmont Scout Ranch. We planned on interviewing staff members at the ranch and local residents in Cimarron and visiting haunted sites, which we did. What we didn't plan on was bringing one of the ghosts home with us.
I'd heard of traveling ghosts before, but mostly in regard to spirits who will follow a particular family from one house to another. T. J. Wright on the other hand is different. He apparently followed us back to Baton Rouge, where we were living at the time, in order to make sure that I did right by him in the book.
T. J. is a cowboy who in the late 1800s won the famous St. James Hotel in a poker game. He was gun downed in the street the next day and died in room 18 in the hotel. He has been there ever since and has consistently been a rowdy, hell raising spirit. When I did the interviews at the hotel for the book, I got the story of T. J. and the other spirits which have caused the hotel to be featured on the TV series Unsolved Mysteries. I also took several pictures in the hotel including one of the door to T. J.'s room, Room 18, and another of a portrait in the lobby. When that picture was developed we were astonished to see what appears to be a likeness of T. J. in the portrait.
In any event, we returned to Baton Rouge and I immediately been working on the book. It took about a month before I got to the chapter on the St. James Hotel and Mr. Wright. That's when it started. As I sat at my desk one night typing the story there were two loud knocks on the wall behind my head. I jumped about a foot and immediately went to check on my wife, who was in the master bedroom watching TV. She had heard nothing.
However, the next night when I was in the office the same thing happened and this time my wife had seen T. J. coming down the hall toward my office. We had a large master bedroom and our chairs faced both the TV set and next to it a dresser with a big mirror. The stairs to the three upstairs bedrooms is right outside of our door. My wife, Kay, had clearly seen the figure of a tall, lanky man come down the stairs and head down the hallway. We searched the house, but found no one.
That same night we begin hearing noises in one of the upstairs bedrooms, which were all vacant since all of our six kids were either out on their own, or in college. The noises consisted of the opening and closing of doors, the sound of footsteps and banging on the walls. Our cocker spaniel immediately charged up the steps barking furiously and then just as quickly came back down again. She would never go upstairs again, but would stand at the base of the steps and bark.
T. J. became a regular after that. He was often seen by Kay, who on occasion would lose patience with our noisy companion. I heard her several times when T.J. was downstairs being particularly disruptive, yell out, T. J. Go to your room! Usually that would be followed by the sound of footsteps going down the hall, up the stairs, and then the slamming of our oldest daughters vacant bedroom door.
When our youngest daughter was home from college for the holidays she also had problems with T.J. who would wander the halls, his footsteps keeping her awake. She would also report smelling cigarette smoke, although there were no cigarettes in the house. I would also hear her fuss at the restless cowboy, telling him to be quiet.
He usually obeyed. Unfortunately, I was always ignored. Of course, we were not sure at first that our new boarder was actually the New Mexico cowhand, until I received a phone call from the artist illustrating the book for me. He is a high school teacher, and while sitting alone in his classroom after school one day he was doing the drawing of the door to Room 18 in the St. James Hotel. Suddenly a picture behind him flew off of the wall, past his head and crashed into the wall on the opposite side of the room. That night a light fixture fell out of the ceiling at his home and broke at his feet. The artist quickly finished the illustrations and got them to me.
He was not bothered after and we never figured out exactly what T.J. disliked about the picture. However, it does show the door to his room slightly ajar, and the staff at the St. James say they always keep it closed and locked. We only know that T.J. hung out in our home for about six months and then was never seen or heard from again once the book was completed and mailed to the publisher. We can only surmise that he was satisfied with the way his story was told.