“American Ghost” – Book by Great-Great-Granddaughter of Julia Staab

Julia Staab, original owner of the historic estate that has become La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, so loved her home that she has reputedly never left it.

Her great-great-granddaughter, Hannah Nordhaus, has just written a fascinating book on Julia’s life and legacy.  “American Ghost, A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest”, comes out on March 10th.

Hannah Nordhaus will be our featured guest at La Posada on Friday, March 13th, for an on-site book signing and reception from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm.  Reservations are required – just email laposadaSF@gmail.com.

In the meantime,  this blog, and subsequent blogs, will feature excerpts from interviews with Hannah Nordhaus.  The first excerpt follows:

Question:  You write in the book that you’ve known about your great-great-grandmother Julia Staab your entire life. Why did you decide to write about her now?

“I had always found Julia interesting, of course, and I had even written about her when I was a young woman starting out as a journalist. But she was always more of an anecdote to me than a real person with a real story.

Shortly after I gave birth to my first child, however, I was poking around the dusty bookshelves in the house my great-grandfather built in the mountains east of Santa Fe, when I found a history my great-aunt Lizzie had written shortly before she died in 1980. I may have read it without much interest when I was a young girl. But this time around, I found it riveting: Lizzie told a tale of sadness and madness and forbidden love, of drug addictions and suicides, knives to the “bosom,” inheritance and disinheritance, penury, family feuds, brother against brother. There was, I realized, more to Julia’s story than just a ghost in an old hotel. Julia had actually been alive once; she had been dragged as a new bride across the Santa Fe Trail to an unfamiliar place; she had been a new mother, like me. I now wanted to learn more about her.”

Question: Do you see your book as a ghost story, a biography or something else?

“I think of this book as a history that is wrapped in a ghost story. The story—the legend—of Julia’s life and death and afterlife is what makes her interesting to most people and what keeps her alive to us so many years after her death. It is the reason people want to know about Julia in the first place.

But it’s also very much a device through which I was able to explore the other, equally intriguing stories of my family’s past, and all the different pasts that bear on Julia’s story—Jewish history in 18th and 19th century Germany; the settling of the Anglo-American Southwest; the European spas and séance rooms of the late 19th century; the fate of German Jews during the World War II era; and even the 1980s and 90s, when Julia’s ghost story first entered our cultural imagination.”

Continue to viist our blog and our website, laposadadesantafe.com for more of Hannah’s insights on Julia Staab.

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