Haunted RGV: Chilling Tales of the San Juan Hotel

Local News

SAN JUAN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — According to UTRGV Associate Professor and Author of “Ghosts of the Rio Grande Valley”, David Bowles, the San Juan Hotel is the most haunted infrastructure in all of the Rio Grande Valley.

There are anywhere between “a dozen and hundreds” of souls trapped in the hotel, but one soul in particular that Bowles could recall was Tom Mayfield.

In 1915, Mayfield was a Deputy Sheriff with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department when a threat from south of the border was called into McAllen to stop Basilio Ramos.

Ramos was a Mexican national who was supposedly bringing a plan to the U.S. to get all Mexican-Americans to rise up against the government and kill all white men over the age of 18.

100,000 Texas troopers and officers were sent to the U.S.-Mexico border in preparation for this plan including Mayfield. His fear of being killed though drove him to kill any Mexican-American that he came across.

Mayfield is responsible for the deaths of multiple Mexican-Americans including 14 in the Alamo City Park just a few miles down the road from the hotel. “He hanged, shot, and then burned, and then buried. It was a horrible thing,” added Bowles.

Mayfield was shortly discharged from standing alongside the other troopers for the gruesome acts against those Mexican-Americans. He then traveled to Mexico where he was hired on as a security guard for an American patrolling company, but according to Bowles, Mayfield’s killing spree didn’t stop there.

“Because of his bad behavior and cruelty to Mexicans he ended up in front of a firing squad after being charged with murder,” said Bowles.

A placard outside of the hotel reads that Mayfield is a “local celebrity” that had made an “amazing escape” from the Mexican firing squad. After escaping, he made his way into a cantina where his throat was slit and his vocal cords were severed.

Mayfield then gained the nickname of ‘Whispering Tom’ for his raspy and low voice due to the damage on his vocal cords.

Bowles commented that eventually everyone in Mayfield’s life had vanished: his wife and children, and so Mayfield made his way back to the San Juan Hotel where he lived by himself for the last 30 years of his life, dying in 1966.

“His soul was trapped here as a result of all the people, especially those 14 men he had lynched, whose souls could not be free from this Earth until the horrible thing that had been done to them expiated, torture his soul here,” said Bowles. And so now Mayfield’s name and tale live on through word of mouth in the city of San Juan.

Bowles did go inside the hotel as he was writing his book and recalls an eerie feeling, chilly rooms when it was 99-100 degrees outside, and pieces of paper flowing through the room even where there was no air circulation. “It was just the oddest thing ever.”

The hotel has tried to reopen numerous times, but Bowles deemed it as a place of vengeance and justice on Mayfield and so he does not see it opening back up as a hotel for the foreseeable future.

Bowles hopes the city of San Juan will preserve the hotel and update the placard with the truth of what happened to Mayfield.

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