The following free article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the topic.
Let’s talk about the story behind the haunting at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel of San Antonio at 205 East Houston Street.
If I’m going to be honest, more than half the reason I’d like to spend the night in the Gunter Hotel is that this hotel is where Robert Johnson recorded one of his two only recording sessions. Now that I’ve admitted that, let’s get on with the spooky stuff.
The Gunter Hotel is the site of a pretty gruesome murder that took place Februrary 8, 1965 in room 636.
A chambermaid doing her rounds on the Gunter’s 6th floor unlocked room 636 despite the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. She encountered a man standing over the bed, which was covered in blood and gore.
The guy put his finger to his lips as though to shush the chambermaid and then ran past her carrying a bloody bundle. In the confusion and panic, the man escaped the Gunter.
The first police officer called to the scene said room 636 was the bloodiest place he’d seen at that early point in his law enforcement career. Blood was present all through the room, but the bathroom was the worst. The bathtub had a ring of blood around the interior of it, as though it had been full of blood at one point and then drained.
A K-9 unit came on the scene and tracked the suspected murderer to the fire escape but ultimately lost the scent. Registration records showed the room had been rented by an Albert Knox. No other identification was found in the room.
Who was Albert Knox?
Among the room’s contents was a new suitcase. Police traced the suitcase to the San Antonio Trunk and Gift company. There, they learned Albert Knox was a phony name. The name signed on the check used to purchase the suitcase was John J. McCarthy.
McCarthy was not a fake name. John J. McCarthy and his wife were able to give police a big hint as to the real identity of the the man masquerading as Albert Knox.
The number one murder suspect turned out to be a guy named Walter A. Emerick. Emerick was an unemployed accountant who lived with his mother and stepfather less than a mile from the Gunter Hotel. Emerick’s stepfather was none other than John J. McCarthy.
On January 17, 1965, Walter A. Emerick stole some checks from his mother and stepfather and used them to go on a spending and drinking binge. Emerick’s mother indicated that Emerick drank all the time but that he used hotels for his binges.
Around this time, a report came in from Sears and Roebuck about a man trying to purchase an industrial sized meat grinder. The Sears and Roebuck employee who spoke to the man identified Emerick from a mugshot.
For the record, Emerick did not purchase a meat grinder at that time. Sears needed to order one from their warehouse, and Emerick did not want to wait.
The Hunt for Walter Emerick
While police were busy uncovering the identity of and searching for Walter A. Emerick, Mr. Emerick had checked into the St. Anthony hotel under the name Robert Ashley.
It is interesting to note that the St. Anthony Hotel was one block east of the Gunter Hotel and that the man calling himself Robert Ashley checked in February 9, 1965—one day after the bloody mess was found at the Gunter Hotel.
At the time of Ashely’s check-in, St. Anthony employees found it suspicious that Ashely had no luggage and that he requested room 636. Room 636 was unavailable so Ashely/Emerick settled for room 536.
A security guard at the St. Anthony who had been following the Gunter hotel murder case tipped off police when the guest known as Robert Ashely refused room service several times in a row.
Police showed up at the door of Room 536 and knocked. Ashley/Emerick asked who was there. The police identified themselves, and they heard a gunshot. They forced their way into the room and found Emerick dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They asked him if he had killed anyone at the Gunter, but he did not answer.
Nothing police found in the room with Emerick or their follow up investigation ever gave any indication for the reason behind the murder or the identity of the murder victim. Of course, I am not a historian on this case by any means. The victim’s identity may have eventually been found.
Who was the victim?
I’ll note here that the body of Emerick’s victim was never found. All police were able to learn about her is that she had the blood type A negative, that she had small feet and long blonde hair, and that she was likely killed by a gunshot wound.
Police dragged the San Antonio river and looked in storm drains but found nothing. The body was never recovered and remains missing to this day. At that time in the 1960s, a lot of construction was taking place in downtown San Antonio.
It is possible that Emerick somehow hid the body in a construction site. A green substance believed to have been cement dye was found on Emerick’s shoes after he killed himself. The presence of the green substance backs up the possibility that Emerick hid his victim in one of the construction sites.
If you’re interested in watching a short video about the above information, click here.
I said at the beginning of this post that the Gunter Hotel is considered a haunted hotel. Right now, I’m going to switch from true crime mode into paranormal mode and share a rough overview of the hauntings.
First we’ll talk about the woman who was dismembered in Room 636
- Guests have taken pictures they claim show this woman’s ghost. (See my sources to view the pictures)
- Claims of a seeing the apparition of a woman extending her arms
- The sound of a woman screaming has been heard
- The sound of sawing has been heard (though I wonder how since the hotel has a lot of street noise)
- Temperature changes
- Feelings of not being alone and of being watched.
San Antonio Paranormal Investigations (SAPI)
San Antonio Paranormal Investigations has conducted several investigations. They’ve caught footage on video. One of their psychics was physically attacked. Another psychic saw the murder in a vision.The psychic who saw the murder take place learned information that was validated by the murder case file.
It is important to note here that Sheraton now owns the Gunter Hotel. They have done extensive renovations. The room 636 that existed in 1965 no longer exists in its original form.
So, if you do go to the Gunter Hotel and request room 636 (or 414, which is the room where Robert Johnson recorded), you won’t be getting the actual room where those events took place.
The Murder of Room 636 (The Book)
If the murder that happened in room 636 has caught your attention, a book has been written about the murder and the haunting. The title of the book is The Murder of Room 636 (A Haunting Truth). It was written by Guillermo Fuentes.
Here is the website: http://www.gunterhotelroom636.com/The_Book.php. The book is not available on Kindle right now, but I hope they do eventually make it available on Kindle.
The Gunter Hotel is also home to a more friendly ghost associated with the barber shop in the basement of the Gunter.
James Ellison was a WWII veteran who worked as a porter the Gunter barbershop from 1946 until just before his death in 2000. Ellison was a soft spoken man who liked for all his customers to feel important.
After Ellison’s death, his family came to gather his belongings. They left behind a brush of Ellison’s. It was old, and the barber shop staff threw it away at the day’s close. The next morning, the brush was back in the spot where they’d found it. No one has access to the barber shop after hours, so they believed James Ellison’s ghost had put the brush back in its place.
Soon, a new porter was hired. When one of the barbers who had worked with Ellison gave the new porter a compliment on a shoe shine, saying he didn’t think anybody could shine shoes as well as James Ellison, a hanger fell of the coat rack.
So perhaps that ends this overly long post on a more cheerful note.