The traditional celebration of Día de los Muertos is when the spirits of the dead are welcomed back to spend time with family. This story is about the ghosts that hang around all year long . . . without an invitation. New Mexico has plenty of places that are reputed to be haunted, and Halloween seems to be just the right time to tell spooky tales.
This story was inspired by a pair of books we received to review, both in the Spooky America series for young readers, about ages 8 to 12. They’re adapted from books in the Haunted America series for adults that tell, we assume, even scarier tales.
The Ghostly Tales of New Mexico
The Ghostly Tales of New Mexico by Shelli Timmons is a young-reader version of Haunted Hotels and Ghostly Getaways of New Mexico by Donna Blake Birchell. The Ghostly Tales of New Mexico highlights 10 communities in the Land of Enchantment reputed to be haunted, from Rodey in the south to Chama in the north. Many of the venues are hotels where guests are startled by unexplained phenomena, like odd lights and noises, disembodied voices, apparitions walking into rooms, or even their towels being hidden high above the floor.
Restaurants, especially those that were once homes, frequently host ghosts who may decide to toss things about and frighten the clientele and staff. Another place to find ghosts, of course, is a cemetery or nearby church. The author writes about the haunting of St. Francis de Sales Church in Rodey, north of Las Cruces, where visitors have experienced “flickering lights, rushes of cold air, and slamming doors,” which some attribute to the ghosts of two priests whose graves are under the church floor.
The ghost of a 15-year-old boy who was buried at the church cemetery in the late 1880s is said to peek through windows, slam doors, and move things about. Another ghost rocks his rocking chair on the porch of the casita while another — a man in priest’s robes — walks silently on the path to the church.
In Carlsbad, Timmons writes, the Trinity Hotel is the site of another haunting. The hotel was once the home of Charles Eddy, who founded the town, and later Sheriff Pat Garrett. Now, it is the eternal home of the ghost of Miss Ruby, who prefers to stay in a secret room on the second floor of the restaurant and is said to call staff by name. Why does she haunt the hotel? The hotel was once the office of the Carlsbad Irrigation District, and she was a secretary there. Now she watches over her former workplace. She’s the one who is blamed for hiding the towels — on a window ledge 19 feet above the floor! Other spirits haunt the area near the hotel, including cowboys on horseback and a little girl. You can find out more about them in the book!
Another ghost story is set in the one-street town of Lincoln, which President Rutherford B. Hayes called “the most dangerous street in America,” the author relates. James Dolan was one of the principal players in the Lincoln County War. He and his wife, Caroline, lost several children, and Caroline died while giving birth for the last time. She, in her heartbreak, is said to haunt the Dolan House. The Wortley Hotel in Lincoln also has its share of ghost stories to tell . . . if the walls could talk!
Read about these hauntings and many more in The Ghostly Tales of New Mexico.
The Ghostly Tales of the Haunted Southwest
Another book in this series tells scary stories about ghosts in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. The Ghostly Tales of the Haunted Southwest was written by Alan Brown and adapted from his book for adult readers, Haunted Southwest. New Mexico ghost stories in this book are from the KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque, Seven Rivers ghost town, and the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, in addition to one of our favorite ghost stories from the Double Eagle restaurant in Mesilla.
Diners who frequent the Double Eagle on the historic plaza in Old Mesilla are familiar with the tale. The Maese family, which was in the import-export business, first owned the building and had grand aspirations. Señora Carlotta Maese had plans for her teenage son, Armando, to marry into a wealthy Mexican family, but unbeknownst to her, he had fallen in love with their beautiful servant, Inez. One day she stumbled upon them together in his bedroom and, in anger and dismay, stabbed them to death with her sewing shears. Armando and Inez are said to haunt the Carlotta Room to this day. Fortunately, they are playful ghosts, appropriate for the star-crossed young lovers they were. It is thought they have caused the wear in a pair of chairs in the Carlotta Room — even though nobody sits in them!
Other ghostly tales include the sad story of young Bobby Darnall, Jr., who had gone to the KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque to watch an Abbott and Costello film. He was killed in a boiler explosion and is said to haunt the theater to this day. Read the book to find out how they keep his playful ghost from causing mischief!
The New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, founded in 1891, is said to be haunted by cadets who drowned in the swimming pool and one who hung himself in the bell tower. This story and many more are found in the pages of The Ghostly Tales of the Haunted Southwest.
If you have young readers who are hankering for spooky stories, they can satisfy their desire to be scared while learning some New Mexico history at the same time. Both young-reader books are published by Arcadia Children’s Books. Adult readers may prefer the original versions of the books in the Haunted America series, Haunted Hotels and Ghostly Getaways of New Mexico and Haunted Southwest.
Story and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
Additional photos courtesy
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com