Taos cemetery, at night
Originally published in The Taos News
Taos is known for its natural beauty—limpid skies, pure air and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that encircle it like a magic protection ring. But there is also the supernatural element, the unexplainable happenings that are now part and parcel of the town history. In the last episode I mentioned the Taos hum. Today, I am going a little deeper, from an invisible piano player in a museum to a mysterious grave in the Carson Memorial Cemetery.
By 2009 I had already moved to Taos and was working at the local UNM branch, teaching Spanish. In one of our first classes I overheard students talking about a sighting of La Llorona that had happened near Rio Lucero. It was not the kind of conversation that you usually find in academic settings, where folktales and legends are analyzed in a historical context. It was not a joke either. They were treating the topic seriously, in a matter-of-fact way.
“She was walking fast,” one of the students said. “Faster than usual. I couldn’t see her face this time.”
I wondered if “other times” he had had a closer encounter with La Llorona but I didn’t dare to ask.
A few days later I was enjoying an afternoon of museum-hopping with my friend Lucy, who suggested we visit the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. We were perusing the beautiful collections, delicate woodwork and antique furniture when the faint sound of a piano drifted from the second floor.
“Someone is playing upstairs,” I said. “Let’s go snoop.”
Lucy shook her head. “That’s nobody.”
I laughed. “Like in ‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?’”
“No, mija! There is a piano-playing ghost in the house.”
I hurried upstairs, convinced that she was kidding. Lucy stayed in the main room. The music was still playing but became less audible as I got to the second floor. Once there, I realized that indeed, nobody was playing the piano. What’s more, there was no piano around. I turned tail and ran.
These were the first of several paranormal incidents I heard about or personally experienced in Taos. Once I started paying attention and asking discreetly, the number of stories grew fast. Many people, young and old, were happy to share them. One was about a ghost horse that roamed Bent Street. It used to be stabled in that area and still favored the place. Jerry Padilla, the beloved El Crepúsculo editor, may he rest in peace, began the story like this: “Pues there was once a dragoon’s horse here…”
There must be something special in Bent Street because a woman wearing a Victorian-era dress has been spotted wandering there as well. Another tall woman, also attired in antiquated clothes, was seen by two of my former neighbors around the Old Blinking Light in El Prado.
Later I heard that Moby Dickens, the cozy bookstore in the John Dunn Shops, now op. cit. books, had its very own resident ghost, who was fond of making noises and throwing books around. It became so impertinent that, at the owner’s request, members of the New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal (NMRIP) brought in a device that detected electronic voice phenomena. It recorded footsteps, creaking floor sounds and voices while the store was empty. The same crew also researched La Hacienda de los Martinez, still haunted by a little kid called Severino who drowned in the nearby river.
Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting a member of New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal, Melody Romancito, who is also the organizer of the Ghost Tours of Taos. People said that her walking tours were fun and scary, and I was ready for some scary fun! The tour started very appropriately at twilight, at the gazebo on Taos Plaza. Melody gave each attendee a small flashlight, so we could navigate our way through the narrow lanes and alleys that we would be exploring that night.
The most impressive part, for me, was the visit to the Carson Memorial Cemetery. We began with three unnamed graves located near the Dragoon Lane entrance. Melody explained the gravestones had exploded and had been covered afterwards in a mix of asphalt and concrete. The three women buried there, whose deaths had happened around the same time, were suspected of being brujas (witches) and feared by their neighbors. Did someone use dynamite to deface the tombs? Or did they explode because of some mysterious reason? Nobody knows. The cemetery records don’t have these women’s names. They are just known collectively as the three witches of Taos.
We also visited the old Taos County courthouse, Teresina Lane, Bent Street, Ledoux Street, and Doña Luz Street. Though there weren’t any ghost sightings that night, the tour was entertaining and informative. Just Melody’s storytelling skills made it worthwhile!
For those interested in the paranormal, Melody Romancito is the author of Ghosts and Haunted Places of Taos, a wonderful, spooky book about ghostly legends and unexplainable Taos stories.