The Supernatural in New Mexico: Santa Fe, Taos (6/25/12)
The Loretto Chapel is an old one in Santa Fe. The story, as narrated on the video,. is that the chapel did not have a stairway to the choir loft. The cost and manufacture of such would cost the chapel more time and moeny than they had. They prayed on a religious holiday; on the final day a mysterious man came. He worked on the stairwell, according to legend, made without nails, for a period of time. The stairwell is 33 steps and makes 2 complete 360 degree turns. Its construction is unusual as it stands on its own. The carpenter did not charge for time or materials, nor were there any local charges for the material. He seems to have simply vanished. Some believe that the man was actually the nuns' patron saint -- St. Joseph the Carpenter. Now, yes, when I posted this story, naturally someone posted that they had a strong lead on who the man was (trying to disprove St. Joseph) and that the stariwell was not all that they said. However, I tend to believe that humankind needs miracles. We look for connections with the supernatural. And who is to say that this didn't have a supernatural core? It is a quaint story with a happy ending and a beautiful item of construction left behind.
This chapel does have a bit of a ghost story. Many years ago, the chapel also housed an all girls' school. The nuns taught the girls behind tall walls that blocked them away from prying eyes. One of these nuns took her job most seriously. A chain-cigar smoker, she was known for both her acidic aroma and her desire to teach anyone who asked for lessons (poor, challenged, old or young). After her death, this nun remains dedicated to the Santa Fe area. The school failed and the walls came down, but the cigar smoke that once filled them can still be smelled. At one time, a small dress shop was built in the courtyard. The owners smelled cigar smoke and often found their displays reworked. At least once, the nun so disapproved of the clothing in the display that after the owners left for the night she removed everything and piled it to the center of the room.The shop was later acquired to be a gift shop for the chapel. Allegedly, staff still smell the cigar smoke and find items in their offices moved around.
The St. Francis Cathedral Basilica
This beautiful French Romanesque styled church was built in the late 1880s. Oddly, it is pre-Adobe style architecture, which really came to Santa Fe as part of the 1920s. It is an absolutely beautiful place with arching ceilings, iconoclasts, and statuary that is well worth seeing.
In a rather unique twist, the cathedral also has a ghost story. When the city worked to install new underground power lines, they discovered a series of unmarked family graves. Without any documentation for the residents of these tombs, the city moved them into a mass grave beside the cathedral. On the day that the graveyard was dedicated the priest continued to hear crying. He thought it was from the handful of people who came to witness the dedication. When the service ended and he inquired as to who was crying, the parishoners also reported that they heard weeping but that none of them were crying. Some wonder if the sound originated from the moved graves.
The ghost tour added that one person claiming to be sensitive would hear sounds of fighting whenever he approached the area at night. Several times he traced the sounds to the mass graves, but could find no one there. At least one other reports that she felt a great deal of energy in the church but didn't know why.
La Fonda Santa Fe
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Of all of the places in New Mexico, I was able to study the La Fonda (Santa Fe) the most. I stayed there Sunday to Tuesday, then Thursday to Saturday.
The hotel has a long history. It was the original inn at the end of the Santa Fe Trail starting in 1610. The building, itself, is not original. Several versions have been standing over the years. During an early incarnation, the building served as both hotel and courthouse. The gallows were in the lobby.
As New Mexico grew, so did its need for entertainment. Another version of the La Fonda was an establishment of gambling and, on at least one heated night, one lucky winner incited a mob. He was lynched in the hotel's back yard in 1857.
In 1884 an American couple bought the place and named it the U.S. Hotel. During this time, Judge John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot to death in the lobby by an antagonist. He is said to continue to roam the halls.
It sold again and became the Exchange Hotel until 1907. This building was eventually demolished in 1919.
In 1920, the hotel was built again into its present pueblo style. In 1925 it became a part of the railroad, but when that failed it was leased to Fred Harvey. From 1926 to 1969 it was a Harvey House. The Harvey House empolyed young women at good wages. It provided housing for them. The only rule was that they could not marry a railroad man for at least 6 months to 1 year. One haunting reminder of this time comes from the basement floor, originally the Harvey Girl's dorm, where people hear giggling and the voices of young women.
Ghosts reported today include two related to the dining room. In a prior incarnation of the hotel, the fountain central to the room was a well. Over 100 years ago, a barbwire salesman lost all of his money, his client's money, and his company's money in a card game. Desperate, he was declined any form of loan by the hotel. He staggered out and threw himself down the well outside. Later, a bride also committed suicide in the same well. Waiting for her husband to finish his card game, she watched from the banister. When her new husband upset one of the gamblers, the gambler shot and killed him. Enraged, the bride pulled her own gun out of her nightgown (yes, this is how the story goes) and shot her husband's killer. In remorse and shock, she, too, jumped into the well and died. She is sometimes seen on the main stairwell in the lobby.
From the well-turned-fountain, there are two dining room ghosts. One is the salesman who sometimes walks through diners sitting at the table between the fountain and the front door. Others report a mysterious woman dressed in red walking by their table asking for help.
Another bride appears on the second floor, at least she did until they built a new ballroom on her spot. She was believed to have been a bride murdered on her wedding night by a jealous jilted ex-boyfriend.
Sounds of children are sometimes reported in the hallway, as are crying babies. Some doors allegedly open and shut on their own. Some report feeling a presence behind them, or something breathing down their necks. The Santa Fe room is also supposed to host a presence.
Initially, I had a great deal of trouble substantiating any ghostly activity. The EMF meter registered nothing (1.0 on the 0 - 3 scale). I even ate dinner with a fellow NEH scholar at the table near the fountain with no luck. There were a few spikes, but they were not in response to questions asked and appeared consistent with something turning on and off in the area. I spoke to 4 desk clerks with no results and two dining room employees, one who said he had been employed there since 1997. They saw or felt nothing. Finally, an employee of the gift shop offered these personal experience stories from the hotel:
*She reported that she knew an employee who saw a man wandering through the lobby early in the morning. The employee went to find out what this odd man wanted but as he walked up, the man vanished through a wall into the kitchen.
*The hotel plans to remodel a few of the hotel rooms. The person doing the survey of the area took several photographs of the rooms in question (which were not revealed to me). Though the rooms were empty, one photo came back showing an Asian woman reflected in the mirror.
*She revealed a personal experience that the gift shop had a friendly ghost. It likes to throw books off of the shelf and hit people in the head with them. Shop keeper believes that the shelves are tipped too far to the back for the books to fall forward.
*She also revealed that at one time, the store had a candy wrack at the front with similarly slanted (back) shelves. One day she watched as a piece of candy flew up from the shelf and slid across the room to land at her feet. She felt it was because she had ignored the ghost.
The ghost tour added another story. A retired bellhop reported a strange incident to the tour organizer. He was on the third floor when he saw a man in period clothing walk down the hall. The man stopped and waved at the bellhop before turning to walk down a stairwell. The bellhop followed, eventually knowing that the exit to the well was blocked. The man would have to turn around and go through him to get back upstairs -- which, apparently, he did. The bellhop reported seeing the ghost several times and each time the man waved and went down the stairwell.
On a personal note, one of my fellow NEH grant winners reported horrible dreams that their room was haunted on the first night. She was staying on the second floor where ghosts allegeldy roam the halls. It could have been altitude adjustment, but it is interesting. She had no idea that the hotel was alleged to be haunted and was actually a bit alarmed when she found out it was.
On the final night at the hotel, I stayed in the room next to the third floor elevator. Ghosts were alleged to roam the halls at night there, but I heard and saw nothing.
Ghost Tour (Santa Fe History Tours)
Old St. Vincent Hospital: There were a few stories with this. On the older side of the building (first image) people complain about a strange energy and coldness. The original morgue was housed here. Apparently, this building is being made into a hotel and spa at this time and there are major rennovations at this time.
The newer part of the hospital, which became a nursing home later on, there are a number of unusual stories.
*On one of the middle floors (2nd or 3rd) people complain of strange orb lights that float around. They do not cast normal shadows or light, and when approached, vanish.
*The old morgue (sub-basement) had a very strange story. Apparently, this is where the hospital burned the discarded human remains from surgery. One orderly, who was ornery and rather disliked, was assigned the run the furnace at night. During one of his shifts, he abandoned his post and ran to the nurse's station, complaining that the floor had filled with blood and that, as he fled, he fell and was covered in it himself. However, he appeared with no blood on his person and his supervisor went back to the furnace with him. There was no blood. The man again stayed down there to add coal to the furnace, but a few hours later the supervisor noticed that the floor was growing cold. He went downstairs to discover that the man had abandoned his post again. He had fled the area and wound up in an all night bar. A few days later he moved from the area entirely. Later, the ghost tour guide said that as a teenager he had a job at the hospital. He was assigned to move the surgical waste to the furnace room to be burned. He noted that no one would go with him. On several instances he witnessed a strange oozing blood move into the room. On his first encounter with it, he tried to run. He slipped and his hand landed in what felt like a pool of liquid, but when he looked at it, there was nothing there. He grew used to the unnerving experience (learning how to move in and out of the area quickly to get the job done before the blood came in). One night, he asked why he was assigned to this duty and was told that he was the only one who didn't complain of the blood.
*One doctor is sometimes seen moving in the walkway between hospital sections. The tour guide saw him once and believed that he knew who the doctor was -- a former psychiatrist who was truly happy at the hospital -- and only at the hospital. Apparently, he continues to do his job even after he died.
*On the second floor of the hospital a child is sometimes seen looking out of a window. He and his father were in a terrible car accident in the 1950s. The father was killed on impact. The boy died during surgery and his spirit continues to hang around.
This is now a hotel and spa, but it was originally a house/dairy farm owned by Aaron Staub. The property was located at the end of the stagecoach run from Denver from Santa Fe. Aaron Staub, an up and comer in Santa Fe, wanted a society wife. He married Julia, who lived the life expected. The family hosted events and parties, and even had quite a number of children (12). Julia, however, went through bouts of depression. When their youngest child died, Julia went into seclusion for five years, eventually dying in her room. It is said that she still haunts not only her room, but the hotel itself.
*A mysterious hand sometimes grabs hotel employees as they walk up the stairwell.
*People have felt Julia move through them as a cold force.
*When upset, Julia has moved items in the bar area (downstairs) and even tripped hotel staff.
*She moves items in her bedroom. One of her more famous tricks is to take jewlery out of her guests' belongings (often left locked in the room) and to move it into another (usually locked) room.
*She sometimes appears staring out at guests from the vanity mirror.
Misc. stories, Santa Fe
*The Crying Woman: There is a (now nearly dry) river in Santa Fe where wagons were parked during the time of the Santa Fe Trail. It was here that a woman met her husband and they married. She later had two children. However, the husband was not faithful to her and when the wife found out, she took the two children and drown them in the river. She also jumped in and killed herself. As with a very familiar story from Mexico, her spirit is said to still walk the river banks crying for her children.
*The Governor's Palace and the Santa Fe Plaza: This interesting place has a rather blanket ghost story to it. Apparently there were tunnels that ran under the city. During the Native American uprising of 1680, a group of women and children fled into the tunnels. Part of the tunnels collapsed and either they feared to leave, or they were trapped by the fighting. The story goes that the tunnels were discovered much later with the skeletons of the trapped still inside. People claim to hear the wailing of the trapped waiting to die in the area of the plaza.
*The park in the center of Santa Fe, which claims to be the oldest continual park in America (dating to the 1600s) hosts a beautiful monument to peace. However, the monument allegedly replaced the gallows that once stood on the same spot. Justice and vigilante justice were carried out in those gallows. The dead may be some who haunt the stores around the plaza.