The Coco Man, farm spirits and rude gestures

According to Wikipedia,

The myth of the Coco originated in Portugal and Galicia. According to the Real Academia Española, the word coco derives from the Galician and Portuguese côco, which referred to a ghost with a pumpkin head. The word coco is used in colloquial speech to refer to the human head in Portuguese and Spanish. Coco also means “skull”.

Many Latin American countries refer to the monster as el Cuco. In Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, where there is a large Hispanic population, it is referred to by its anglicized name, “the Coco Man.”

In fact, I have heard the Coco Man invoked to either scare children or to relate just how scary the idea of the Coco Man is to a fully-grown adult who has been raised under the stern influence of a boogeyman that will come to get you if you’re bad, and maybe even if you’re good.

The idea of the Pumpkin Head now meshed together with El Cuco sends a shiver down my spine.

I had originally ascribed the idea of pumpkin heads as some sort of farm spirit that had gained autonomous movement (Read my account of seeing pumpkin heads), but now I’m going to have to re-examine that line of thought.

I am also thinking about one of the local gestures of either extreme dislike or a male full-arm and hand greeting gesture with somewhat “affectionate” undertones, especially between young men who are friends. The position of the hand suggests helping someone to give the gesturer a blowjob, but since the gesture means “skull,” it suggests servitude until death, “you’re my bitch even in death,” etc.

I’m really not sure how all these symbolic ideas fit together, but somehow, I think they are related.

New and old ghosts

ledoux2Every time I walk down Ledoux Street in Taos I am reminded of my friend Tally Richards. Her gallery used to be at the top of the street. It’s harder and harder to keep track of what’s there now. Perhaps that’s the reason why us old timers tend to refer to places in terms of what has been there in the past – not what is there now.

This is a little excerpt from her memoirs – materials she left with me – maybe for safekeeping or for carrying a torch for what it was like to live in Taos as a transplant in the past. It’s an idea of Taos the way it used to be. Not what is here now.

11 October 1972

I learned from Fritz [Scholder] to think in terms of selling paintings for what I need. For instance, one day he said, “If you sell “Tired Indian” ($5,000) you can get a pickup.” Before he said that I would think, “Who’s going to help me now?” Crazy. My goals now are to pay all my bills, especially what I still owe to Wade, by October 31 and to have two thousand by January 1, 1973.

The new movie theater on the Plaza is finally in operation, plus a film club on Thursdays. There has been such a rash of good movies and I was so hungry for them that I’ve really been indulging myself.

A couple of weeks ago Daddy sent me a painting of a little boy kneeling by a brass bed with an old-fashioned quilt. Above the bed is one of those old-fashioned plaques that says: “Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.” Below the painting is written: “Dear Lord please make Mamma and Papa stop fightin’ ’cause it’s hard to take sides when you love them both an’ besides I’m ashamed to face the kids.” On the outside of the package Daddy had written, “Explanation follows.” I’ve received no explanation so I still don’t know whether it’s a personal statement, apology or whether he thinks I should represent the person who painted it. If it’s a personal statement then I’m deeply touched.

I had no money to repair the adobe fireplace in my office, so one morning it was cold and rainy and I decided to do it myself. I scooped up some adobe that had washed off the walls, added some straw and slapped it on. I was so proud of myself when the smoke went up the chimney.

Gearing up for the season

It’s not our imagination! The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. that means it will be Halloween soon! Be sure and plan your autumnal vacation in Taos to include a ghost tour! We need 24-hours notice, and there is one evening during the Halloween weekend we will not be available — the Friday, the 27th of Oct. Wednesdays are also not available, but everything else is open as of today.

Sunset from the entrance to Governor Charles Bent's House

Michaelmas in Taos


Saint Michael the Archangel is called upon to help those wrestling with demons, both real and imagined. He is the Patron Saint of Paranormal Investigators.

Today, September 29, is Michaelmas. We set up our tripod as the sun came up and once the sun started to rise over the peaks of the mountains, the colors really fired up.

You might be able to see the face that was not necessarily apparent to the naked eye, but was there when the digital files were brought to the screen. This effect is called pareidolia. This is the brain filling in and contextually putting the visual data together and seeing a face.

And we all know, once pareidolia is in effect, it is hard to unsee the face that suddenly looms in our imaginations.

Whose face do you see in the clouds in the sunrise on this Michaelmas in the Taos Valley?

NOTE: The photos are from a series called “El Crepusculo,” which is Spanish for “The Dawning Light.” It is also the name Padre Martinez gave to his newspaper, the first in the region, and is the name of the parent company for the local newspapers of record in Taos and in Santa Fe.

Memoirs and ghosts

I have worked on a couple of books that have originated with friends that have passed away. While I am working on them I feel the presence of the person, not only through the papers and note we made while they were living, but I hear their voices as I read the words and compile all the steps it takes to get the manuscript through all of its phases.

memiorsI’ve had Tally Richard’s memoirs for ages – not the ultra limited edition printing she did a few years before she died, but the original manuscript. There is no end to the wisdom she had about the town and people.

Each time I delve into them, it is as if I can smell her cigarettes and the instant Nescafe she used to drink. Dear Tally, you are loved and missed. You were so fun to be around in those days. How wonderfully you took me under your wing.

In this journal entry, she is talking about Dennis Hopper and Tony Price.

From Tally’s Memoirs
October 5, 1970
(46 years ago)

It’s difficult to understand why in a brief meeting, one can feel such warmth and goodwill towards some and a coolness and reserve towards others. I suppose if one could figure that out and control it all wars would cease and man would discover the true meaning of brotherhood.

I also enclosed a catalog on Tony Price’s work. Though obviously not the most saleable work I’ve come across, it’s undoubtedly the most original. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of someone who will buy his sound sculptures, made from discarded parts from Los Alamos, or a place that would be right for them.

With 80 speakers atop Tony’s Piano Box, it seems the perfect place would be the natural echo amphitheater belonging to the government and north of Albuquerque – or is it south of Cibola? I think that Tony would even trade the piece for an isolated place to work – his sounds are drifting down the Rio Grande causing a little concern to some of the residents along the river banks.

Dennis Hopper has Tony’s Atomic Reject – an enormous thing that looks like a thirty-piece orchestra without men. It’s under Dennis’s grape arbor in his front yard.

I spent a very weird evening at Dennis’s house, which is still called the “Mabel Dodge Lujan House.” I find him very magnetic and feel lucky that his girlfriend, Michelle, arrived the next day. Gordon and Virginia Wagner took me over and Dennis seated me at the head of the table next to him! I was so embarrassed and felt so conspicuous. Later he took me outside and “played” Tony’s Atomic Reject, which made strange, mysterious sounds in the night. I suggested he borrow the Santa Fe Opera stage for a performance. I can see it all now Saki and I have made up and broken up a couple of times lately. He was in his glory in September with the D. H. Lawrence Festival since he has so many of Lawrence’s paintings. He didn’t even charge admission to his office to see them.

– Tally Richards

Paranormal distress?

A woman in the historic district in Taos is having trouble that she attributes to the paranormal.

Here is a list of the claims of activity:

  • objects that were supposed to be in one room found in another
  • strange light phenomena in photographs taken with an iPhone
  • toothpaste tube contents being squeezed out and other messes
  • loud, unexplained noises in empty rooms
  • chill areas

Ghosts of Taos has already visited the location and standard measures were taken to persuade the entities to leave. Nothing unusual happened during the time we were there, but we were not conducting an investigation. We were just interviewing the woman, checking out the building and smudging, etc. We did suggest any entities responsible for the activity should stop bothering the woman and move along.

We’ve uploaded photos taken by the woman and we’re curious as to what we might be dealing with, under the circumstances.

We’ve left the comment section open (at least for the time being), and we’re curious about your thoughts.