ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The falling leaves signify not only the impending cold weather but a favorite time of year for fans of the supernatural.
In honor of Halloween, television stations host horror movie marathons, as do local theaters, haunted houses are erected and other spooky events take place the entire month.
Cody Polston, former president of the Southwest Ghost Hunters Association and author of several books including “Haunted New Mexico,” said New Mexico, like many other states, has its fair share of haunted lore for those hoping to have real ghost encounter during the Halloween season.
He said one of his favorite haunted places in Albuquerque is the Church Street Cafe in Old Town. If traveling out of town, he said the St. James Hotel in Cimarron and The Lodge in Cloudcroft are good destinations for those hunting ghosts. He said the history of each place makes them interesting.
“The Lodge is such a cool place,” he said. “You can let your imagination run wild.”
The Ghost Hunters association, he said, approaches each report of a ghost as a mystery they want to solve.
“Kind of like Scooby Doo,” he said. “We classify each case as solved or unsolved. If it’s solved, that means there is an explanation for what is going on. If it’s unsolved, that means we could not find a logical explanation.”
Following is a list of New Mexico places with a ghostly reputation.
The KiMo is home to some of the city’s best shows but rumor has it that the theater, built in 1927, is also home to a ghost. On Aug. 2, 1951, 1,000 people were in the theater watching an Abbott and Costello film. A water heater exploded sometime during the show, killing Robert (Bobby) Darnall Jr., who was 6 at the time. Larry Parker, KiMo manager, said it’s the ghost of Bobby Darnall people claim haunts the halls of the theater.
“Supposedly the story of Bobby goes back to the ’70s,” he said. “Technicians on a show said their doughnuts were missing. Various performances have not gone well supposedly because they did not pay tribute to him (Bobby).”
There is an alter dedicated to Darnall in the theater where people once left doughnuts for the young boy. Fear of attracting critters forced the theater to ban food from the alter but visitors can leave notes or trinkets. In honor of its ghostly history, the theater will host a Haunted KiMo Tour on Oct. 28 at 4 and 5 p.m. Tickets are $5 and available at kimotickets.com.
The tour is in conjunction with the theater’s tribute to horror actor Boris Karloff. The theater will play several of his movies the weekend before Halloween.
Farmers settled the valley that is now Corrales hundreds of years ago, erecting old adobe homes. One of those old homes still stands today and it’s rumored some of its former guests and residents never left. The house is appropriately named Casa Vieja (Old House).
The building was a home for decades before becoming a restaurant for 30 years. The most recent owners are mother and daughter Maria and Linda Socha. They opened the building as an events center in June 2016 and have embraced its haunted reputation.
Linda Socha said scientific tests date the house to about the 1840s but word of mouth says it could be at least a 100 years older. Socha said according to local history, the home was built in the 18th century by Salvador Martinez. The Harrington family purchased the home in the 1940s and restored it, giving it the name Casa Vieja.
It became a restaurant in the ’70s and it was during this time that Linda Socha said employees reported seeing a woman with white hair in the Blue Room, which some believe is the ghost of Cora Harrington. Employees said doors were opening and closing, and candles relighting. The Socha family has had psychics come to the building.
“They’ve never sensed anything negative or sinister,” she said. “It’s always positive. The ghosts are friendly.”
The venue is available for booking and the family also offers free tours. Call 363-5176 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Old Bernalillo County courthouse
The county constructed a building at 415 Tijeras NW in 1926 that served as offices and a courthouse. It’s what’s in the basement that some think created the supernatural happenings people have reported.
Beneath the street level, with no natural lighting, sits several jail cells and a former control room. It’s where prisoners were kept while waiting to go to court. The county built its current courthouse in 2001 and the old courthouse became an annex. The courtrooms are still there as are the holding cells, and they are often used by the film industry, according to Bernalillo County special projects coordinator Bernadette M. Miera.
Miera said one story goes that a community service group cleaning out the old courthouse in 2003 witnessed strange things. Some workers reported seeing a little girl with blond braids standing in one of the dark hallways. Other visitors have described cold spots, lights turning and off and on, and one time a low book that flew down the hallway. A sheriff died of a heart attack while at his desk in the basement.
The county will open the old jail for a tour on Halloween from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as a fundraiser for United Way. Admission is $3 per person.
Church Street Cafe
Old Town Albuquerque
This building spent most of its history as the private home of the Ruiz family. The final member of the family to live in the home was Rufina Ruiz, who was born at the turn of the century and lived in the home until her death in 1991 at the age of 91.
Owner Marie Coleman bought the home after the death of Ruiz and converted it into the Church Street Cafe. The cafe serves up New Mexican food with a side of ghosts.
The first reports of a ghost came from a contractor whom Coleman hired shortly after purchasing the place.
“One morning I came in and he was shaking his head,” she said. “He said ‘Marie can you just talk to her? Talk to your ghost. Her name is Sara.'”
Coleman began doing research and learned there was a Sara who had lived in the home at some point.
“She gets blamed for everything around here,” Sara joked. “She’s been accused of throwing silverware and dropping glasses of water.”
The restaurant is located at 2111 Church St. NW and is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 247-8522 for information or visit churchstreetcafe.com.
St. James Hotel
This 1872 hotel takes its ghosts very seriously.
The hotel in Cimarron sits along the Santa Fe Trail and has had some famous guests and outlaws sleeping under its roof, including Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley and Billy the Kid. Each room is named after one of the hotel’s famous visitors. Several popular television shows about ghosts have filmed at the hotel.
The owners have kept with it’s old west tradition while honoring its spooky reputation.
None of the rooms have televisions or telephones. The staircases are creaky, chandeliers are tilted and owners refuse to rent room #18, instead leaving it to the alleged ghost that haunts it. Many believe that ghost is T.J. Wright, who was shot in 1882 over a card game.
Another rumored ghost is Mary Lambert, the second wife of the original owner Henri Lambert, a chef by trade. Some say a strong smell of roses signifies Mary Lambert’s presence.
While the hotel encourages visitors to explore its ghostly lore, there is one thing owners do not allow. According to its website, Ouija Boards are forbidden.
“Ouija Boards are a potentially dangerous tool for inviting unpredictable spirits,” they said. “Experienced researchers advise against using them especially by those who do not clearly understand what may result from their actions.”
Visit exstjames.com or call 888-376-2664 to make a reservation.
Tucked away in the small mountain village of Cloudcroft is The Lodge, a hotel resort that dates back to 1899.
The Sacramento Mountain Railway company built the The Lodge. A fire destroyed the resort in 1909 but it was rebuilt and reopened by 1911. The now famous entrepreneur and San Antonio, N.M., native Conrad Hilton, who built the famous hotel chain, managed the resort in the 1930s. Famous guests include Judy Garland, Gilbert Roland, Clark Gable and Pancho Villa.
In the lounge hangs a picture of a beautiful woman with red hair. Her name is Rebecca, a former chambermaid of the hotel, and many believe it is her ghost that roams the halls of the resort. According to legend, Rebecca’s lumberjack boyfriend killed her after finding her in the arms of another man. Visitors have reported ashtrays sliding across tables, furniture being moved, lights turning off and on, and fire spontaneously lighting in the fireplace.
According to its website, The Lodge offers a unique experience for visitors.
“From the turn-of-the-century fire that destroyed the original structure to its ghostly inhabitants to its storied past, our resort offers a haunting presence that can be felt to your very core,” it says. “Inside its halls, magic moments live again and again – making this a place that never completely leaves your heart.”
Visit thelodgeresort.com or call 1-800-395-6343 to make reservations.