Spooks in the Duke City
Here's a handy guide to some of the most infamous Albuquerque haunts. (Hold my hand. I'm scared!)
Church Street Café, 2111Church NW: Stuff yourself with the homemade chicharrones, then stick around—you may see the ghost of Sara Ruiz. This deceased proprietress was born way back in 1880, and she was known to be a local curandera, or healer. An unconventional woman for her time, she's reported to have spooked out the current owner, Marie Coleman, by screaming at contractors, kicking around equipment and showing up to scare the waitstaff. This is the kind of thing that you don't hear about at the golden arches.
Maria Theresa Restaurant, 618 Rio Grande NW: This Old Town eatery has been closed for a while, but just because the living occupants are gone doesn't mean the dead ones moved out, too. Built in 1783, the building was originally a 12-room hacienda. It now houses ghosts that have frightened patrons and employees alike. A portrait of a woman in the Armijo room is known to exact payback from beyond. Guests used to report having their dinner/dessert orders taken by an unearthly woman in a white dress and mysterious piano music playing in empty rooms. Some even reported sharing a table with a spirit and seeing her reflected in an antique mirror in the Zamora room. I wonder if she likes red or green.
Wool Warehouse Theater, 201 Marquette NW: As if being a national historic landmark weren't enough, this hotel is chock full of eerie sounds and inexplicable cold spots. It also has a super-scary basement complete with grabbing phantom hands. The actual building was constructed in 1929 and was an office for the Bond family wool dealers until 1974. There have been reported sightings of a hunky man-ghost in a cream, double-breasted suit near the theater stage. The Doubletree Hotel is the current owner.
The Albuquerque Press Club, 201 Highland Park SE: High-heeled shoes tapping across the lobby and a phantom woman in a black shawl are this club's claims to ghostly fame. Built in 1903, it was purchased by Arthur B. Hall in 1920 because his ladylove would only agree to marry him if he did. The lovely couple occupied the place until true love ended in divorce in 1930, and she got the palace. She remarried to a bloke named McCallum in 1935, but that nuptial flame burned out in 1938. She kept the house, living there until 1960, after which it became a frat house, then a bar. But the spirit of the unlucky-in-love Mrs. M. remains. To pay homage, the bartenders leave her a shot of gin on the corner of the bar. Talk about one for the road!
Bottger Mansion, 110 San Felipe NW: Call Spengler and Venkman, because this place is something strange in the neighborhood. Built in the first decade of the 20th century, it's the last of four original Old Town mansions. Among the famous guests who have hung their hats, there are Elvis and mobster "Machine Gun" Kelly. But the resident paranormal pals are the main attraction, and there are plenty of 'em. A former owner reported up to six different ghosts, including a young woman who died of pneumonia, a "grandmother ghost" and the ghost of Charles Bottger, the first owner. But the best by far is the mysterious "lover ghost," who is reputed to lie down next to young women while they sleep, and then disappear when the lights come on.
The KiMo Theater, 423 Central NW: In 1951, a 6-year-old boy named Bobby Darnall was watching a show in the balcony section at the KiMo when he became frightened by something on the screen. He ran down the stairs to the lobby at the exact moment the boiler in the basement exploded. Part of the lobby was gone, and so was that poor kid. It's said that his ghost is sometimes seen playing on the lobby stairs wearing a striped shirt and jeans, and he has been known to pester showgoers, trip-up the performers and cause all sorts of minor mishaps unless donuts are left for him on the water pipe behind the stage.
The Ditch: There is a local legend, older than canyon dirt, that a ghost named La Llorona drowned her two children out of rage, and her spirit is often seen wandering by the river along the drainage ditch, searching for them. It's quite a scary fairy tale, so don't put the kiddies to bed with this one. Apparently, back in the conquistador-days there lived a beautiful peasant-class woman named Maria. She married a wealthy, adoring husband who gave her everything she wanted. They had two boys, but soon after he lost interest, and went out a-cheatin' and a-drinkin' and left her home alone. She saw her dirtbag hubbie in a carriage with another woman while she was out taking the children on a stroll. Enraged, she allegedly tossed her kids into the river. This old-school desperate housewife then starved herself to death and collapsed on the riverbank.
Desert Sands Motel, 5000 Central SE: This popular pad for poltergeists is the subject of several eyewitness accounts of otherworldly mayhem. So much for a good night's sleep. There have reportedly been weird noises in the bathroom, water taps that come on and shut off by themselves, and strange incidents involving the television sets. One weary traveler said she was lodged in Room 109 for the night and things got out of hand. She felt something watching her, the TV set stayed on after she unplugged it and something yanked her hair while she was in the shower.
Carrie Tingley Children's Hospital, 1127 University NE: Originally a children's polio hospital located in Truth or Consequences, Carrie Tingley Children's Hospital moved to its current location in 1981. Staff and patients have reported "glowing rooms" in unused portions of the hospital, as well as invisible "force fields" that keep people from walking through doors or hallways. There have been reported "hissing noises" when these obstructions are encountered. Voices and crying have been heard from nowhere, and on occasion the sound of heartbeats. Just when you thought it couldn't get any scarier, black-robed ghosties are sometimes seen wandering the dark hallways at night. You gotta ask: Are they ghosts or just ticked-off patients who have out-of-network hospital charges?
Haunted Hill: In the foothills at the end of Menaul, hikers have complained about hearing screaming, footsteps and the distinct sound of bodies being dragged. There is a local legend that an old man used to live in the caves at the top of the hills. He lured prostitutes there and whacked them when their business was over. Others have reported seeing the old man's ghost walking, or spotting a lantern swinging with no one carrying it.
Abandoned Insane Asylum, on the corner of Edith and Osuna: This local nut hut is rumored to have housed a patient so crazy that he diced up several patients and staff members. The murders were so gruesome they had to shut the place down permanently. Both a figurative and a literal dark cloud hangs over the place, and the few brave souls who have dared to penetrate its walls have reported that the cloud floated above them. But all you Goths and freakos beware: The current owners, the Banditos motorcycle gang, live next door and have no problem setting the dogs loose to keep out spectators. Is the possibility of seeing a ghost worth becoming doggie food?