Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Loretto Chapel

Real Name: Loretto Chapel
Case: Unusual Phenomenon/Miracles/Scientific Mystery
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Date: 1878


Details: In 1852, the sisters of Loretto, a religious organization in Kentucky, sent seven nuns to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the way, one passed away due to cholera, and another had to return to Kentucky due to illness. When the five remaining nuns arrived in Santa Fe, they started a school and made plans to build a chapel.
In April 1878, the Chapel of Our Lady of Light (now known as Loretto Chapel) was completed in Santa Fe. It took more than five years to complete the construction of the chapel. The nuns were happy with the building, except for one problem: there was no staircase leading to the choir loft. Several carpenters were brought in, but none could think of a good way to create a staircase without removing too many pews.
The nuns decided to pray to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, for a miracle. They completed a novena, which involves praying for nine days. On the ninth day, a mysterious carpenter arrived at the chapel. He agreed to build the staircase for the nuns. After more than six months, his work was completed. The nuns were amazed at the spiral staircase that he had created. It was able to stand without any central support; instead, it rests by its own geometric design. Interestingly, there are thirty-three steps in the staircase, which is the same amount of years Jesus was alive for. The nuns planned to thank him with a dinner, but he vanished and was never identified.

Loretto chapel staircase

Loretto Mystery Staircase

The staircase stands to this day and many still wonder who the carpenter may have been. In 1965, a carpenter named Oscar Hadwiger visited the staircase and claimed that the mysterious carpenter was his grandfather, Johann Hadwiger. Johann had told his relatives that he had traveled throughout Colorado and New Mexico, building various things. He claimed that he had built the staircase back in 1878.
In 1970, Oscar found tools that he believes helped built the staircase, along with several design plans that may have been used for it. Thirty-three steps were included in the plans. In 1980, Oscar passed away, and the design plans and tools have since disappeared. Since so much time has passed, it is likely that the carpenter's identity will remain unknown along with how he was able to build it.
Extra Notes: The case first aired on the November 21, 1990 episode.
Results: Unsolved