ghosts of taos
Taos’s colorful and sometimes violent history means that there are many locations where strange occurrences have been reported.
No town with the long and colorful history of Taos is able to escape its past without a few resident otherworldly spirits to enliven the scene. So naturally, Taos abounds with ghost stories and these are among its most famous…
• The Kit Carson House and Museum, 113 Kit Carson Road, www.kitcarsonhomeandmuseum.com and the Governor Bent House Museum, 117 Bent Street, are both said to be haunted by their eponymous owners. Governor Bent met an especially grisly end; he was repeatedly shot, stabbed and ultimately scalped at the outset of the Taos Massacre as a reaction against U.S. territorial rule.
• Mabel Dodge Luhan House (Los Gallos), 240 Morada Lane, www.mabeldodgeluhan.com
Although it has been rumored that Mabel and Tony have been seen about the premises from time to time, the real ghostly sightings are of a young Indian girl named Manuelita in the Rainbow Room in the Main House. When the fireplace in this room was replaced years ago, apparently Manuelita was quite disturbed by this and has occasionally been seen by guests hovering protectively nearby.
• La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”)
Watch out along Taos-area rivers after dark…La Llorona is a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who killed her children by drowning them, in order to be with the man she loved. When the man rejected her, she killed herself. Challenged at the gates of heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona”. She is said to claim any children wandering near the river at night. She puts her long, bony fingers on the child’s shoulder and says,”Aquí están mis hijos,” or in English, “Here are my children.”
• The Historic Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, www.taosinn.com
Because Arthur Rochford Manby’s former home shares a kitchen wall with what is now Doc Martin’s restaurant in the Taos Inn, a lot of unusual phenomena occur here. Pots, pans and kitchen appliances have been known to fly from their resting places and crash unexpectedly on the floor. Lights flash, doors open and close of their own accord, and chilly breezes that come out of nowhere have been known to whoosh past restaurant visitors and staff alike. Sightings of a man in a tall brown hat and faded leather jacket, matching Arthur Manby’s description, have been seen in the restaurant and the kitchen. A guest in Room 109, which also shares a common wall with the kitchen, was once awakened at 2:30am to find a man resembling Arthur Manby standing by her fireplace. Housekeepers regularly report this room is always cold. Room 102 has been known to often sport the scent of roses, without a source for the smell. Perhaps it’s because Arthur Manby and Doc Martin’s wife, Helen, both raised roses. The tall figure of a woman has been seen in the doorway to Room 106; she appears to leave through the mirror, leaving it askew in her wake. In one of the inn’s most curious stories, the fireplace in room 206 used to have painted figures on it. For some inexplicable reason, guests would regularly refuse to remain, giving no other reason than they “felt they could not stay there.” Once the fireplace was repainted, however, guests seem to have no problem with the room. In addition, apparitions have been seen in the Adobe Bar after closing and employees report hearing their names called when they are alone in the lobby at night. The Stables Gallery and Caffé Renato, both at 133 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte also share this same complex.
• Hacienda del Sol, 109 Mabel Dodge Lane, www.taoshaciendadelsol.com
Set amid towering, 300-year-old cottonwood trees, the Hacienda del Sol Bed and Breakfast Inn operates much like any other hospitality establishment. Every now and then though, guests run across something they may not experience at just any hotel. “One interesting thing that would happen is someone would put a key in their room door to open it but someone would push it back out,” Luellen Hertel says with a chuckle. The original structure was built in 1804 and some of the home’s more prominent residents have included Mabel Dodge Luhan and her fourth husband, Tony, who, Hertel believes, still inhabits certain parts of the house. Tony Luhan was a Taos Pueblo tribal member. The Inn sits just outside Pueblo land. “My housekeepers would tell me that they would be in Mabel’s room and would hear a drum beating,” Hertel states. “One of the most interesting things to happen was a woman from Wisconsin who said she saw a man sitting by the fireplace. She says she spoke with him and he told her to have certain Native American artifacts that were hanging on the wall as decoration removed. I later showed her a portrait of Tony and asked her if that was the man she saw and she said that it was.”
• The Alley Cantina, 121 Teresina Lane,
The Alley Cantina is one of the staple watering holes and eateries of Taos. The downtown property was purchased by Buzz and Ruth Waterhouse 15 years ago and their ownership began with a bit of renovation to the 400-year-old building that has seen its share of interesting people come and go. “Things really started happening during the time when we started knocking holes in the walls,” Ruth recalls. “Weird things would occur — we would set something down in one place and it would mysteriously be moved. One time we had bought some brand new candle holders and set them out around the bar. We left for the night and the next day when we came back, all the candles were lit! No one had been in the building since closing so that was very strange. And every now and then a customer will come up to me and ask if something is going on around the bathrooms,” Ruth explains. “Women especially, would claim that they would be waiting in line for the bathroom and they would mysteriously feel an arm wrap around their shoulder. When they looked around thinking it maybe their husband, there would be no one there.”
Legal, illegal…Taos Plaza seems to have been the focal point for hangings from the time of its founding in 1796 well into the late 1800’s. Hanging was the most common form of the death sentence in New Mexico until 1923, but ended in Taos far earlier.
• In 1841, eight individuals were executed in the area west of Moby Dickens Book Shop (the former John Dunn House) 120 Bent Street, possibly by hanging.
• During the Taos Massacre of 1847, 6 New Mexicans were hanged in the Plaza proper in front of the Hotel La Fonda, 108 S. Plaza, and 16 Pueblo Indians were hung near Bert Phillips House, now Michelle’s Clothing Boutique at 136 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
• Another seven Pueblo Indians were hung north of town near Pueblo Lands at the old Brooks House near present day Brooks Street.
• 1881, Jose Gonzales eas hung in the Plaza for what appears to be murder. This was possibly the last of two legal hangings in the town.
The years between Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 and 1846 were relatively peaceful ones.
But not for long. The transition, it seems, from a Mexican terri- tory to an American one would be anything but peaceful. That year, Col. Stephen Watts Kearney and his ‘Army of the West’ occupied New Mexico for the U.S., and Charles Bent, already a resident of Taos, was appointed the first Governor of New Mexico. This was not taken lightly by the locals who viewed this ‘intrusion’ as an occupation, and in January of 1847, the Taos Pueblo Indians, led by Tomasito Romero and a number of fiery Hispano nationalists led by Pablo Montoya revolted against both the government and its usurpation of Spanish land grants that had been in place since the early 1700’s. Governor Bent was murdered in his home (Governor Bent House and Museum), along with his brother-in-law Pablo Jaramillo, Taos Sheriff Stephen Lee, Judge Cornelio Vigil, attorney J.W. Leal and the 19 year old son of Charles Beaubien. In February, a military contingent led by Captain John Burgwin retaliated against the rebels hiding in Taos Pueblo. They had taken refuge in the church, but ignoring this traditional ‘safe haven’ Burgwin unleashed a barrage of cannon fire and firebrands, forcing the rebels to flee. Some 150 Indians and Hispanos died in the melee; many women and children were trapped in the burning church which stands in ruins as a monument to this day to the Taos Rebellion. The rebel leaders were captured that day and quickly put to death, along with 16 other rebels who were brought to court and convicted of either murder or treason and then hung on Taos Plaza — an irony not lost on history as these ‘traitors’ were not yet technically citizens of the United States.
In 1847 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo annexing New Mexico to the United States closed the chapter on this era of New Mexico’s history.
Among the most notorious unsolved murders in Taos history is that of Arthur Rocheford Manby. A consummate swindler, master of the Ponzi scheme and creator of a secret society that both terrorized and extorted money from the local residents, Manby stopped at nothing to realize his dream of owning vast tracts of Taos County between the late 1800’s and 1929. He reputedly murdered col- leagues, partners and those landowners who refused to sell from Taos to Colfax Counties — possibly some 12 in all — anyone who got in the way of his obsession. By 1929, old and infirm and losing his grip on his vast empire of lies, it appears he was overtaken by the very people he trusted most and murdered on the night of July 1st. Whether it was in his home (the current Stables Gallery and Caffé Renato), or elsewhere as rumored, his head was severed from his body. Although both were found in his home, the head was mangled beyond recognition by his dog. Because it was impossible to recognize, other rumors soon sprung up about sitings in Europe and South America and a possible substitution of another body. Investigations were undertaken, but nothing was ever proved. Manby’s body, if indeed it is Manby, is buried outside the Kit Carson Cemetery, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte at the rear of Kit Carson Park.
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