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.

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.

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.


La Lorona sighting along Hwy 64

along-the-ditchWe just got an email from some visitors who asked if the road through Taos Canyon, especially right there in Cañon, was haunted. They said:

Email 1: Good morning, We just spent Sunday night in Taos and have a question. Is there a ‘ghost story’ involved with highway 64 – within the first few miles, leaving the plaza headed up to Eagle Nest? Or locals that may like to play tricks on people driving by? We saw something very interesting and are just curious.

Reply: There are lots and lots of ghost stories along Highway 64, which is understandable. When I first moved to the area in 1986, I lived 10 miles up the canyon, and that first year there were two road deaths right in front of my house in the short time I lived there. Another man who was well-known in the community committed suicide at the Shady Brook Inn in the late 1980s. Also, when I would drive into town, it sometimes looked like a man was trying to wave me down. I doubled back , but there was no one. Another time, I thought I saw a car off the road and signaling with headlights for help. I called the Taos County Sheriff but there was nothing. I’m not even going to talk about the other creepy, weird things I used to hear at night. So … what did YOU see? :)

Email 2: Oh wow! We were going to turn around but decided that we didn’t want to know that nothing was there. We haven’t been able to shake the feeling yet. Something just wasn’t ‘right’ about it! We saw a woman with her hands up to her face on a curve just a few
miles out. She was wearing a lace dress that was blowing in the wind.

Reply: Oh my goodness! That sounds like La Llorona, or the Woman Who Weeps. Sounds like you had a classic sighting! Very exciting, but a good thing you didn’t stop!

Email 3: WOW, well I just got chills…..again! That is what we saw, both of us. The only difference in what my boyfriend (he was driving) and I saw was that I thought she was facing us and he thought her back was more towards us. The feeling we had was sad when we saw her. Both hands up to her face as if crying or screaming, black lace – long dress that was flowing in the wind. The dress was old, from another time period. Very strange and exciting! Thank you for sharing the information with us, I appreciate it very much! Maybe we can ‘shake’ the feeling a little bit now.

Our ghost / guest blogger post on gives us another good bump

IMG_2695We were asked to write a guest post for the popular tourism website – here it is for those unable to follow the link through Facebook (a quirky problem with social media and link shortening services)

The colorful alleyways and streets of Taos are cheerful in the daytime, but at night on a quiet Taos street, who is to say what might brush up against you in the dark?

I give paranormal walking tours from Taos Plaza. Many times people ask me if there are enough ghosts in the downtown area to warrant a tour and I say there are more than enough. There are so many stories and accounts of well-known spirits I can keep visitors busy for more than the usual two hours we spend on the tour – and that’s just in the downtown area alone.

Besides all the haunted sights to take in on the plaza and Kit Carson’s Memorial Park, there are historical accounts of hauntings to take in — along with local urban legends – although it is a great stretch of the imagination to use the words “urban” and “Taos” in the same sentence.

Kit Carson Memorial Park entrance from Dragoon LaneDuring the tours we poke around in the alleyways and byways of the downtown historical district, and there are few buildings that don’t have some sort of paranormal designation. There are accounts of odd calls to Central Dispatch in the wee hours of the morning to report a roving weeping woman who dodges headlights in the Bent Street parking area. There have been late-night complaints of a loud party in the Blumenschein Museum courtyard on Ledoux Street. And let’s not forget the story behind the three unmarked graves of in the cemetery.

Sometimes we’ll encounter locals on our walk and we’ll ask “have you had any paranormal experiences?” They are happy to relay what they have heard or perhaps even experienced for themselves.

There are even instances when we have had our own experiences on the tour.

Once we were sitting in the lobby of La Fonda – one of our favorite resting points. I was describing previous owners, including John Poole and his sudden demise by a disgruntled customer and then Karavas Family, who remodeled and renamed the hotel.

La Fonda on Taos Plaza at night time

As I mentioned former owner and ladies’ man Saki Karavas, fresh vanilla-laced cigar smoke wafted in from some unseen gallery. It was heaviest in the vestibule. The smell of burning cigars is one of the constant claims of the paranormal for those who visit, work or stay at La Fonda.

I don’t just give a standard tour. Depending on the ages and interests of the group on the tour, I slant the scope and detail to fit the audience. Recently one of the folks on the tour was actually a paranormal investigator from the Midwest. He was looking for in-depth information about the kinds of spirits that might haunt the downtown area. I was able to go into detail about some of the claims in the area.

If there are children on the tour, I make sure and check with their parents because I don’t want to be responsible for “marking someone for life” by relaying the grizzly details of the murder of Governor Charles Bent or by going into graphic depictions of the lives and deaths of those sold into slavery on the plaza before the priests were able to persuade traders to move their market north of town.

The thing about Taos is, for a town its size, it has had a very dramatic and turbulent past. Along with baggage like that come unsavory characters, unforgivable acts and a lot of misery. That’s a perfect recipe for ghosts and the paranormal.

People ask me if I am afraid to walk through the streets of Taos at night, and I have to say yes. I’d be a fool not to be afraid – but that isn’t going to keep me from studying what I’m sincerely interested in and from sharing what I know about Haunted Taos with anyone who is interested.

Sunset from the entrance to Governor Charles Bent's HouseFor more information about the Ghosts of Taos walking tours, visit







Video links:

Paranormal Taos Playlist (1 hour 6 min, 9 videos, includes promos and investigations)

Ghosts of Taos Promo