De Soto Hotel in El Paso Gutted by Fire Had a Haunted Reputation

WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

The notoriously haunted De Soto Hotel in downtown El Paso was gutted in a massive Condition 4 fire on February 4, 2022, that engulfed its interior and severely damaged its roof.

El Paso Fire Department

El Paso Fire Department

Photos and video of the burning building hit the internet almost immediately, with some in various Facebook groups that I follow commenting that the flames resembled the likeness of the infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez, who once used the De Soto as his crash pad, while others said they could make out a demon or a skull.

El Paso Ghost Tours

El Paso Ghost Tours

While I personally believe it is an example of what is known as facial pareidolia, which is a human tendency to see faces in inanimate objects, I understand why someone would be convinced it’s what they saw. After all, the De Soto Hotel has long been considered one of El Paso’s most haunted locations.

El Paso’s Most Haunted

I have been writing about El Paso’s Most Haunted locations for the KISS-FM website and interviewing El Paso’s paranormal group on the radio for over a decade, and there is no doubt in my mind the De Soto is full of sinister things that go bump in the night.

There’s just too much evidence to believe otherwise.

Its Haunted Reputation

Paranormal Research Investigations-PRI El Paso TX

Paranormal Research Investigations-PRI El Paso TX

The hotel has been a constant in the downtown El Paso scene since 1905 when it was known as the Great Norther Hotel. It had fallen into disrepair over the years and looked more rundown than historic of late, but up until October of 2021 was still home to a dozens or so living and breathing tenants.

And a few that weren’t.

It’s reputation of being super-haunted had grown over the years and so much paranormal activity inside its walls has been documented that when the popular paranormal television reality show Ghost Adventures came to El Paso in 2016 to film their annual Halloween episode, one of the two locations head ghost hunter Zak Bagans and his crew settled on was the De Soto.

Most recently the national web series The Paranormal Files came to town to look into its hauntings and deemed the paranormal investigation “one of the scariest we’ve ever experienced.”

The Basement

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

By far the spookiest and most active area in the place was the dark and foreboding basement.

It’s said that is where satanic rituals were once conducted, and where an angry spirit purported to be of a demonic nature resided. Leon Baker, owner of El Paso Ghost Tours, conducted weekly ghost tours and paranormal investigations at the hotel for many years.

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

“Our guests reported being touched, scratched, and having pebbles thrown in their direction,” Baker told me. “Guests [would] witness shadow figures, hear whispers in their ears, and sometimes a disembodied voice.”

El Paso Ghost Tours

El Paso Ghost Tours

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

El Paso Ghost Tours Facebook

The basement is also where the Ghost Adventures cameras caught an unseen force slide a ceiling fan across furniture and throwing it to the floor. The incident was named the most shocking piece of poltergeist activity by the GA crew.

Sara the Hallway Ghost

The hotel was also home to the spirit of a young girl who investigators determined was named Sara.

Sara’s presence has been documented over the years by photos and voice recordings. She was mostly seen and heard walking up and down the hallways, sometimes running and laughing, but always disappearing into thin air.

One of our listener’s sent me a photo in 2017 she said she took during a ghost tour in 2012 of what is believed to be the spirit of Sara.

Submitted by Jessica Hernandez (2017)

Submitted by Jessica Hernandez (2017)

There was no electricity in the hotel and nothing in the hallways in the 5 photos I snapped before getting this image. I had no idea I had captured anything, as i didn’t physically see anything when I snapped the pictures. It wasn’t till the tour was over and I was going through the pics that I noticed what looked like a female figure in a dress in the distance.

A voice recording captured by a local paranormal group during a 2010 investigation is thought to be that of Sara. As clear as the EVP is, the crew did not hear the whispered “who cares?” in real time, and only became aware of its capture when reviewing the evidence.

LISTS: ‘Who cares’ EVP recorded during a 2010 Paso del Norte Paranormal Society investigation.

LISTS: Slightly amplified with some noise reduced.

WATCH: Video of the 2010 De Soto Hotel investigation featuring the ‘who cares’ audio and a shadow.

What Will Become of the De Soto… and It’s Spirits?

The hotel was vacant at the time of the fire as the owner had relocated the remaining tenants fall of 2021 in the expectation of remodeling and restoring the property. Per the City of El Paso, they had entered into a historic preservation agreement with the goal of bringing the “blighted” hotel “back to life.”

There’s no word on the extent of the damage or what the owner plans to do with what is left of the building as of this writing. And what will become of the resident spirits? That too remains to be seen.

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