Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment

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Author: Benjamin Radford

New Mexico’s twin traditions of the scientific and the supernatural meet for the first time in this long-overdue book by a journalist known for investigating the unexplained. Strange tales of ghosts, monsters, miracles, lost treasure, UFOs, and much more can be found not far from the birthplace of the atomic bomb. Huge radio astronomy dishes search desert skies for alien life, and the world’s first spaceport can be found in this enchanted land; in many ways New Mexico truly is a portal to other worlds.

Mysterious New Mexico is the first book to apply scientific investigation methods to explain some of New Mexico’s most bizarre lore and legends. Using folklore, sociology, history, psychology, and forensic science–as well as good old-fashioned detective work–Radford reveals the truths and myths behind New Mexico’s greatest mysteries.

Review:

Let me start by saying I recommend this book highly no matter what level of interest one may have in paranormal legends and claimed experiences. Ben Radford’s writing style is conversational, taking the reader along for the ride as he researches the mysteries and cultures of this historically rich state.

I enjoyed all the accounts in this book, such as when a miracle staircase and its story are investigated with a critical eye. Analysis of the legends and scandals surrounding the “crystal skulls” is fascinating enough to be the start of another book. Those are just a couple of examples, as even more stories of UFO’s mystery birds, and alleged haunted locations are examined. New Mexico through Radford’s eyes is a land where mysteries are simply a window that, when opened, lead to facts that will hold a reader’s interest until the end.

For the skeptic, this will be a fresh look at analyzing claims of the extraordinary without succumbing to easy sensationalism. For the believer that is open to critical yet respectful examination of popular myths and hauntings, there is much to learn and appreciate. For this reader, my borderline cynicism about researching this area of interest has softened a bit. After reading this book, I now see that there are still true investigators into legends and perceived experiences. It is an excellent example of how research into such topics should be conducted–with an open, analytical mindset that references facts rather than “specialists” in fields that don’t exist. A genuine thumbs up.

Haunted Ireland: Dublin’s Haunted History Tour

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Dublin Street at Night

Dublin Street at Night

I am happy to report that I visited Ireland for the first time in November 2012.  I took a very short, action packed trip to Dublin, and of course, I had to hit up the local ghost tour.  Hidden Dublin Walks is the company that I patronized for my tour.  Their company offers a smorgasborg of historical and paranormal tours.  I was hoping to get two under my belt while I was there, but sadly only got to enjoy one.  Let me tell you a little about a couple of the tours that I missed before I highlight the tour that I did take, the Haunted History Tour.

Hidden Dublin is the only tour group that takes tour groups to the site of Dublin’s Hellfire Club annex.  In the 1700’s the Hellfire Club used to meet in a hunting lodge located a short jaunt out of Dublin in the Dublin Mountains.  (As mountains go, I don’t think they actually qualify, but they are still lovely.) As is common in the Hellfire Clubs that were once located throughout the UK, this branch is said to have participated in orgies, rapes, animal sacrifice and satanic rituals to name but a few of their “entertainments”. The building was mysteriously destroyed by fire whist the Hellfire Club still leased it.  Since then there have been all manners of disturbing paranormal occurrences that have taken place there.  I would tell you about them, but alas, the tour seems only to be offered on Thursdays and I was not in Ireland on a Thursday.  Otherwise I would have been “in like Flynn”, because of all the tours that Hidden Dublin offers, THIS one was the one I wanted to go on the most!

The Northside Ghost Walk takes you on a tour north of the River Liffey in the oldest part of Dublin, which was built on the site of the former Viking settlement. This tour seems to be pretty incredible. It tells you the tale of St. Michan’s church and its crypts filled with mummified corpses…now on display for the macabre-minded tourists.  (Funny side note here…when I was in Dublin, I was heading to the Jameson Distillery and St. Michan’s is a literal stone’s throw away from the Distillery.  I was very excited to get the chance to tour the famous crypts, but sadly the site was closed when we arrived. The mysteriously vague sign posted on the gate said “Closed due to unforeseen circumstances”…which of course had me envisioning the mummified corpses all rising up from their coffins to protest their post-mortem careers as tourist fodder.) During the Northside tour you also visit Croppie’s acre, the site of a mass grave filled with the bodies of hundreds of rebels who were put to death after trying unsuccessfully to fight for Irish independence during the 1798 Rebellion. Hanging judges, haunted hospitals, tales of murders and murderers all round out this walking tour, which is said to be the scariest tour in Dublin.  I still plan on taking this tour (and the Hellfire tour) when I go back to Dublin again!

The tour that I did take was the Haunted History tour, and it began just around the corner from Dublin Castle, which was the seat ofDublin Castle English rule in Ireland for almost eight hundred years.  As Americans, we recognize the name ‘Lord Cornwallis’ as the English General who surrendered to our General Washington in Yorktown, VA.  But some time after the American Revolution he was made Viceroy of Ireland, where he was King George’s regent during the aforementioned 1798 Rebellion.  Cornwallis had no sympathies with the rebels and oversaw the execution of so many of them, it is reported that the first floor windows of Dublin Castle had the light blocked out of them by the piles of corpses in the Castle’s courtyard. The amount of history in Dublin Castle is phenomenal…it was built upon the even older site of a Viking fortification, the remains of which can still be viewed in the lower regions of the Castle.  The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is held by Ireland at the moment, as of January 2013 and Dublin Castle continues to be used for official state affairs, adding to its already extensive historical dossier.

The tour guide wove us through the winding streets and alleys of Dublin, sharing tales of the Hellfire Club (which used to meet in town before they got wise and moved to the privacy of their mountainside hunting lodge), Jonathan Swift who, in addition to being a famous author, was the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the infamous fish monger Molly Malone who sold seafood by day…and perhaps something else by night.

I can’t retell all of the stories here, but I will light on two of my favorites. The first one had to do with a cryptkeeper of Christchurch Cathedral who was not so enamored of his job; he felt he didn’t make enough of a salary. During that time, Dublin had strict drinking laws, the pubs had to close around midnight and apparently there were a fair amount of Dubliners who wanted to keep carousing after the Witching Hour had passed. So the cryptkeeper got the ingenious idea to open a drinking club in the crypt. It worked great all summer….the authorities never suspected a thing and the subterranean club stayed nice and cool.  The inhabitants of the crypt didn’t complain about the after hours visitors and everyone was happy.  When the weather got colder though, the crypt wasn’t an enjoyable place to throw back a brew or two, and business was dead (pun intended).  The next year, the cryptkeeper got smart; he operated the afterhours bar all summer and closed up shop once the autumn started turning towards winter.  The last night of operations for the year he locked everything up nice and tight and left the crypt until the following spring (not a very attentive cryptkeeper, but as I said, he didn’t like his job very much). Come the spring, he opened the crypt to get place spruced back up for business and he was horrified to find a skeleton lying against the door.  Around the skeleton were the smaller skeletons of dozens of rats. The remains of a soldier’s uniform, lay chewed into bits among the man’s bones.  Apparently, the man had been a soldier at nearby Dublin Castle and had abandoned his post the last night of the bar’s operations the previous autumn to go tie one on amongst the coffins. He must have gotten dead drunk and passed out in the recesses of the crypt and didn’t hear the last call, or the bar being emptied for the season.  When he came to, he was in the pitch black, locked in with no way out.  His regiment at the Castle put out a warrant for his arrest, as he was considered AWOL, but he never turned up…until the next spring.  He had died during the winter either due to exposure or starvation and his corpse had been consumed by the hungry rats, thus leaving only the skeleton to greet the cryptkeeper at his return. The rats had in turn died from cold or starvation. To this day, there are reports of passerbys hearing desperate pounding and muffled calls coming from the crypt’s entrance in the wee hours of the morning. Poor man…in a roundabout way, he drank himself to death.

My second favorite story is not my favorite because of the tale.  Indeed, the tale is pretty gruesome and lacking the element of dark humor present in the cryptkeeper’s tale.  The story is about “Darky Kelly”, a beautiful prostitute turned madam who ran a highly successful bordello just a block or two up from the river.  The madam, who was after all the boss, didn’t need to turn tricks anymore, but she did have one regular client who was the sheriff, or at least some type of respected official.  She became pregnant with his child and he began to fear what would happen to his reputation and his career if it was discovered that he had a lovechild with a common prostitute.  So he started a rumor that Kelly was a witch, and that was how she was getting the good men of Dublin to leave their wives and patronize her scandalous bordello.  The rumor was spread with such virulence and hatred that it ultimately inflamed a group of church going women to raid the bordello, grab Kelly by her hair and drag her down the street to St. Audoen’s where they had an impromptu trial there in the churchyard.   Unsurprisingly, they found her guilty and burned her alive right there and then.  This is really a very tragic story and is only one of my favorites because as the guide was telling us the tale, I took a photograph from up on the churchyard steps, looking down towards the entrance gate through which they had dragged Darky Kelly.  There was an orb in the right corner next to the gate.  Not being a big believer in orbs, I disregarded it for the moment.  Very shortly after I took the picture, the tour guide went on to say that the apparition of Kelly was often spotted just inside the gate. One of the other participants of the tour remarked to the tour guide that he kept looking towards the corner on the right side of the gate, expecting to see someone there and the tour guide revealed that it was that specific corner to which the apparition was often seen retreating. Sooo, the orb picture has a little more meaning for me now.  I’m not saying that the orb I caught was poor Darky Kelly…but it sure is one of the coolest souvenirs I brought back from Ireland.Orb at St. Audoen's

Ireland is a land that is dripping with the paranormal.  My ancestry is there, so I love the country no matter what…but with all of its banshees, little people, faeries, elementals, ghosts and other spirit beings, I would love the country even if there wasn’t a drop of green blood running through my veins.  If you’re ever planning a trip to Dublin, check out the Hidden Dublin website and choose the tour that would most interest you!

Paranormal Activity Detected at Heartlands

There are fears that Cornwall’s newest visitor attraction and World Heritage Site Gateway could be haunted.

Strange audio recordings taken at Heartlands during a private paranormal investigation in the former tin mine last month have today been released to the public.

Investigators G.H.O.S.T. UK uncovered a number of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and other strange noises after leaving recording equipment running in Robinson’s Shaft engine house, visitor centre, mining exhibitions and the Red River Cafe (once the carpenter’s workshop) at the 19-acre attraction.

Full story

Heartlands Cornwall (so you know exactly what this place is)

Madrid, New Mexico

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Madrid, New Mexico is a non-ghost town about 27 miles southwest of the state capital, Santa Fe.  I call it a non-ghost town, because although the town tried hard to die, there were people who loved it enough to make sure it regained its health.  It’s now a quaint little town of roughly 400 full time residents, many of which are artists of one kind or another.

Mining has been a staple industry in the area for over 1,500 years, when the local Native Americans mined for turquoise and lead. Once the Spaniards came into the area, they discovered deposits of silver, which they greedily exhausted. Later, in the 1800’s gold was also found in the area and the population began to swell.  Soon the gold petered out, but large supplies of coal had also been discovered, so the town continued to grow.

It was the coal industry that really caused the little town of Madrid to blossom. The mining company that owned the vast majority of the town took care of its people, in contrast to most of the other mining companies of the day. By the 1920’s, the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company had their own electric plant, from which they supplied all their workers’ homes with free electricity.  The A&C provided schools, a hospital and even paved streets, a rarity in that area in those days. During prohibition, the company assisted their workers by providing places for them to brew their own liquor.

Eventually, coal lost its popularity as a heating source and the mining company slowly dwindled away to nothing. The town was a mere shadow of itself by the mid-1950’s. The former superintendent of the mining company ended up owning basically the entire town. For almost two decades, the poor little village struggled on. Finally, in the 1970’s, the superintendent’s son, Joseph Huber, started leasing the old buildings to artists, wood and metal workers and a whimsical artists colony started to emerge among the hills.

While today Madrid is a popular spot along the Turquoise Trail, where tourists stop to shop among its artistic boutiques and studios, there is a portion of a long-gone population that has stayed behind to mingle. Besides the local churches and private homes that are known to be haunted, the very roads that you drive and walk along have their own ghosts in Madrid. The specter of a cowboy and his Latin lady have been spotted many times drifting down the main street, arm and arm.  One can only speculate about the reason they still roam…perhaps a love affair cut short by a jealous suitor or a protective father?

Another ghostly hot spot (or should I say “cold spot”?) is the Mine Shaft Tavern. Though this historic watering hole suffered a devastating fire and was subsequently rebuilt, the old wooden bar is the original and is known for being the longest in New Mexico. Some of its original customers are still there to throw back a cold one every now and again. Glasses have been seen to go flying across the bar and smashing to the floor for no earthly reason. Doors open and close without visible cause. Ghostly apparitions have been witnessed reflected in the mirrors in the old building, and voices and sounds of merriment are heard even when the tavern is empty.

Even without its ghosts, Madrid sounds like a wonderfully historic spot to visit any time of the year. Summer is the high tourist season, but locals from the Santa Fe area especially love to visit the town during December when every building in the town is decorated with Christmas lights….a tradition dating back from the boon days of the mining town, when the A&C Mining Company used to provide its workers with free electricity. (If someone else was paying my electricity, I would be happy to thrown more lights on my house as well!)

If you’re ever in the Sandia Mountains, meandering along the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway, stop for the afternoon or spend the night in this tiny little mountain haven, with its history and its ghosts and then stop back here and tell us of your stay! And I’d love some pictures of the Christmas lights too!

Colfax Ghost Town

Remains of the schoolhouse/church

When one talks of ghost towns, they usually aren’t referring to a town that’s haunted, but rather an abandoned town somewhere in the West. A town whose glory and population peaked with the gold and silver rushes of the late 19th century, though there were many whose rise and fall had little to do with these precious metals. Colfax, New Mexico happens to be a town which actually fits both descriptions.
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