WALLACE – Nobody knows exactly what happened to a popular young lady named Maggie, who loved her long and frequent stays at the Jameson Hotel back in the 1920s.
Everybody agrees, however, her life came to some tragic, painful end.
Originally opened in the early 1890s, the Jameson Hotel building has gone through multiple transformations throughout the years. It has served as a saloon, bar and restaurant, billiards hall and various retail stores. When it first opened it was called Theodore Jameson’s Steak and Billiards Hall, named after the owner.
These days, the Jameson only opens for business when the town is packed with visitors for special festivals or events. The place remains in immaculate condition.
Trap doors in the floor lead to secret underground passageways between the Jameson and other buildings on the block.
“The basement is kind of like a dungeon” with really short ceilings, said Rick Shaffer, the longtime manager of the place.
The passageways were beneficial during prohibition. Today, the Jameson’s access point to the tunnels is mostly sealed off and looks like an abandoned mine. A cold breeze blows strongly through the crude seal, made of tarp and boards.
In the 1920s, the place was operated as a bar and restaurant with hotel rooms upstairs. It was at that time a woman named Maggie, who was in her mid-20s, would travel by train to Wallace from St. Louis, Shaffer said.
She would spend weeks, sometimes as long as a month, staying at the Jameson, according to his research.
“This went on for a number of years,” and people around Wallace got to know her pretty well, Shaffer said.
Then, one time, she left town and strangely never returned.
Then folks in Wallace heard Maggie “met her untimely death back in St. Louis” in the late 1920s, he said. “It had something to do with a train – either fell off, fell under, murdered or something.”
Oddly, as word spread of her tragic demise, the Jameson became a place where strange, inexplicable things started happening all the time.
At first, workers at the Jameson began seeing a female ghost. At times all the water would inexplicably turn ice-cold. Housekeepers would find indentations on a pillow in Maggie’s favorite suite, even though the room had been left empty.
Fast forward to the early 1990s, when Shaffer arrived.
One night around 2 a.m., Shaffer said he was sleeping alone in the dark, quiet hotel when his dog suddenly and uncharacteristically started barking and growling. Shaffer had been waiting for some late-arriving guests to appear, though they never did.
“The dog was going crazy,” he said.
A fan had been turned on in his suite and the door, which he had closed, had been opened. Awakened by the dog’s terror, he soon heard light footsteps just outside his room.
“There was somebody in the hallway,” he said.
He grabbed a robe and dashed downstairs to check the front door. No one was there. The place was still locked and empty.
Another time, when the hotel was temporarily closed during an off-season, Shaffer had been there alone checking the inventory in the cramped basement.
“And there is like a party going on, all of the sudden, upstairs,” he said. “Toilets are flushing, there’s people walking around, there’s noise going on.”
Alarmed, Shaffer rushed upstairs to investigate.
“Totally locked up and nobody is here,” he said, recalling what he found.
Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, some paranormal investigators from England came to do an investigation at the hotel. They quickly concluded there was a second ghost, too, a man named Ollie.
“He was kind of putting the moves on Maggie,” Shaffer said.
Nowadays, full-body apparitions of Maggie can be seen in the window of her favorite suite. Her face also can be spotted peering from a corner of the main-floor saloon window near the piano, Shaffer said.
Her favorite room, with two twin beds, is labeled as No. 1, but it was at one time listed as No. 3.
“The prior lessee moved the room numbers around,” Shaffer said.
“Every time I talk about the Jameson I get goosebumps,” said Ronikae Achord, who used to work there. She didn’t believe in ghosts until she worked there.
“I always smelled her when I first came in each morning,” said Achord, 30. “It was like an amber mist. Definitely like an old flowery perfume that my grandma would wear.”
She said the male ghost was a much different presence.
“There was definitely a man downstairs,” she said.
She said the male ghost tried to push her down the stairs a couple times and pulled her hair when she was in the basement.
One day she was terrified to see a “black mass” chasing her dog through the hotel. It was the only ghost she ever saw working there, back around 2007 or 2008. Her dog would never go back inside.
“She would just sit there and cry,” Achord said.
Author Bruce Raisch included the Jameson and Maggie in his book titled, “Haunted Hotels of the West.”
His voluminous research led him to reach different conclusions about who Maggie was and why she stayed at the Jameson after her death.
“She was a prostitute who fell in love with one of her clients,” Raisch told the Press in an interview in 2010. “He struck it rich and moved back East, and he was going to set up a house and send for her.”
Well, he never sent for her, Raisch said.
“She got tired of waiting and she got on a train,” he said. “Supposedly she died of a broken heart on the train, but her spirit came back to the hotel.”
Leslie Custer, a Coeur d’Alene woman who can speak to dead people, called a Press reporter a few weeks ago to say an elegant, well-off woman from “back East” who had regularly traveled by “railroad” and was named “Millie” needed to say something.
The reporter took the notes and didn’t know what to make of all that.
This week, the reporter called Custer back. Could it have been “Maggie” from the Jameson and not “Millie”? Maybe, Custer said.
On Wednesday night, the reporter called Custer again, reaching her at a Halloween costume shop. Custer said she knows this for sure: Maggie is definitely waiting for her love at the Jameson.
“When she’s looking out the window, she’s looking east to see if he’s come around,” Custer said.
Maggie would always stay in room number one so she could look out the window at the Jameson Hotel during her trips to Wallace, Idaho in the 1920’s. Staff and visitors at the Jameson have found imprints in the pillows in room number one.