Murders at Emily Morgan Hotel | Texas

Over the years, several homicides have occurred at the haunted Emily Morgan Hotel in Alamo Plaza. On April 4th, 2008, police officers were alerted to a disturbance call at Room 810 at 2 am in the morning. Upon reaching the scene, a violent argument can be heard by a man and a woman. They were later identified to be Juan Ignacio Gutierrez and Elvira Hernandez-Moreno respectively.

In the midst of the altercation, Hernandez-Moreno screamed “He’s stabbing me,” prompting officers to break down the door with a battering ram. Upon breaking in, officers shot Gutierrez several times in the chest; he was said to have been stabbing the lifeless body of Hernandez-Moreno when the police team broke in. Hernandez-Moreno was pronounced dead at the scene. Gutierrez was sent to the nearby Brooke Army Medical Center but was pronounced dead. Little is known about the relationship between the two. Gutierrez was a construction worker who was working on an ongoing renovation project at Emily Morgan Hotel while Hernandez-Moreno was a mother of three who was recently married.

Three months later on the 24th of April, Justin Cardenas accidentally discharged a loaded .45-caliber handgun on Justin Halsell, killing Halsell on the spot. The two were high-school best friends and had checked in to Emily Morgan Hotel for a get-together with their friends at night. In a foolish act, Halsell took out a handgun and placed the firearm to his head. There, he taunted Cardenas to squeeze the trigger. Believing that Halsell was joking and that the gun was unloaded, Cardenas stepped forward and pulled the trigger, killing Halsell on the spot. Cardenas was later charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Haunted History of Emily Morgan Hotel

The haunted Emily Morgan Hotel was built in 1924 by renown architect Ralph Cameron and served as a Medical Arts Building. The thirteen-story building was constructed in Gothic Revival architecture with its stone and brick structure, decorative patterns, cast iron ornaments and hooded moulds. The hospital was the country’s 25th medical art building and housed 50 beds and over 400 offices for doctors and dentists.

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Emily Morgan Hotel on the right | Image credits:

With the rapid modernisation of San Antonio and the development of medical centres around the city, the hospital saw declining usage. In 1976, the building was transformed into modern office spaces. A year later, the property was recognized as part of the Alamo Plaza Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places.

However, less than 10 years after its transformation, the building saw yet another reorganization. In 1984, it was remodeled into a hotel, offering upscale accommodation spots to guests visiting Alamo Plaza. While the exterior was kept mostly intact, the interior of the building was completely refurbished.

The hotel was aptly named Emily Morgan Hotel to recognize the efforts of the Texas heroine in the Texas Revolution (October 2, 1835 – April 21, 1836). The legend of Emily can be traced back to 1836 when she was captured and indentured to Colonel James Morgan. Originally named Emily D. West, Emily took up the full name Emily Morgan as dictated by traditions where servants are to take up the surname of their master.

Months into her contract with Colonel Morgan, Emily was kidnapped by Mexican politician and army leader General Santa Anna. Emily was said to have changed the outcome of Texas Revolution by distracting General Santa Anna during the Battle of San Jacinto, allowing the Texans to defeat the Mexican Army in just 18 minutes.

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Emily Morgan Hotel today | Image credits: The Historical Paranormal Podcast

After 26 years of operation, Emily Morgan Hotel received the San Antonio chapter of American Institute of Architects’ prestigious Twenty Five Year Distinguished Building Award in 2010. Two years later, on December 2012, the 177-bed hotel became a member of the DoubleTree brand of Hilton. Separately in 2015, the hotel became a part of the Historic Hotel Worldwide, a program initiated by National Trust for Historic Preservation that recognizes and celebrates some of the finest and most historic hotels from around the world.

Ghosts of Emily Morgan Hotel

Over the course of the hotel’s 38 years of history, several paranormal happenings have been reported by guests. In fact, in 2015, it was ranked by USA Today as the third most haunted hotel in the world. More recently, in October 2021, it was ranked by Historic Hotels of America as one of “2021 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Most Haunted Hotels”

Some of the hauntings include includes mysterious footsteps, dark shadows, and disembodied voices reverberating across the hotel’s hallways. Guests have also felt an unnerving sensation on the 7th, 12th, and the 14th floor. It is rumored that the floors were formerly the psychiatric ward, the surgical theatres, and the morgue respectively. The 13th floor was deliberately ‘skipped’ in the elevator due to the number’s longstanding association with unlucky events, making the 14th floor the hotel’s 13th and final floor. On the 14th floor, room 1408 was also removed as the numbers 1, 4,0, and 8 add up to the number 13.

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Alamo Plaza in the foreground and San Antonio’s Medical Arts Building (Emily Morgan Hotel) in the background on the right | Image credits:

“On the 14th floor, that’s where they used to do the surgeries, and so it smells sort of like an antiseptic type bandage smell up there. Throughout all the renovations it’s gone through over the years, it still smells that way,”

Interview with Emily Morgan Hotel General Manager Kole Siefken

The most haunted floor in Emily Morgan Hotel is none other than the 7th floor, which is said to be haunted by a bride who who committed suicide in one of the rooms. Apparitions have been spotted by guests darting through the walls of the hallways. The disembodied voice of a young woman can also be heard in the middle of the night. There have been numerous incidents of guests calling down to the front desk to report about the ghostly shrieks. However, the source of it can never be found.

Countless guests who have experienced paranormal incidents at Emily Morgan Hotel have took to the online community to post their terrifying encounters. In particular, many have posted their reviews on online travel company and review platform Tripadvisor. As of February 2022, over 400 of the 2,500 reviews posted on Emily Morgan Hotel’s Tripadvisor page have been related to the “haunted” and “ghosts”.

In February 2016, Justin C reported seeing “a black hand on the top left hand corner of the room on the 9th floor.” Nc71010 also reported paranormal events of children playing and crying sounds during his stay in the hotel in May 2016. In October 2021, user Amanda M wrote down a review stating that she had “heard the screaming lady ghost on the 7th floor on one of the nights.”

Why Is Emily Morgan Hotel Haunted?

The famous Emily Morgan hotel in Alamo Plaza is said to be haunted by patients who were nursed in the building when it was still a hospital. For the first 50 years of the building’s operation, it served as the Medical Arts Building, offering an array of healthcare services to citizens of San Antonio. As such, paranormal investigators and local historians believed that some of the resident ghosts were former patients who passed away during their time in the hospital.

On the 14th floor, guests claimed that the hallways and rooms linger a distinct smell of antiseptic that is reminiscent of a hospital. Separately on the 12th floor, guests report that their bathroom doors would open and shut on their own. Other paranormal happening include flickering lights and ghostly figures in the guest rooms. The most frightening incident ever reported by hotel guests is the manifestation of nurses pushing the rickety gurneys down the hotel hallways.

Some also believed that hotel is also haunted by soldiers who lost their life during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
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