Review: ‘Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos’: The other side of history

by Teresa Dovalpage for The Taos News

Anytime is a good time to share a scary story, but Christmas Eve has long been associated with los fantasmas, ghosts of times past — and present.

got reviewMelody Elwell Romancito has managed to capture some of the most prominent ethereal inhabitants of our town in her newly released book, “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos.”

It wasn’t difficult to write it, she said, because “Taos is loaded.”

“You can’t walk around the historic district without finding a scrap of history,” Romancito said. “Like most places that have been the setting of dramatic events (hangings, lynching, fires, you name it), Taos has an ecstatic field that allows certain entities to exist.”

She was inspired to write “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos” by the lack of similar books on the subject.

“There is one by Antonio Garcez about New Mexico ghosts, and it does have a bit about Taos, but the information is scant,” she said.

Romancito says that it took her about a year to complete the manuscript, but there were six months when she didn’t work on it much.

“I was busy gardening,” she said, laughing. “It’s hard to take care of the garden and write about ghosts — or anything else, for that matter — at the same time. But I had outlined the book and continued working on it until it was ready.”

Book signing

book-1000Romancito held a book signing Dec. 2 at the Hotel La Fonda — a very appropriate place because ghost sightings are common there, according to employees and guests. They say that the spirit of Noula Karavas, former La Fonda owner, shows up in the lobby from time to time.

The hotel, of course, is mentioned in the book as a haunted location.

During the event, Romancito talked about the secret underground of Taos. Melissa Serfling, owner of Casas de Melissa, shared some scary incidents that have taken place in her haunted cellar — two tunnels run under her property.

Romancito also mentioned a spirit she met by the side of the road.

“I was driving and saw a man waving at me, but when I turned around, there was no one,” she said.

She later learned that he was probably a desencarnado.

“Many of them can only move a few feet away from the place where they died,” she said.

Romancito admitted that, despite her many experiences with spirits, she has never encountered a famous ghost like Padre Martinez or Mabel Dodge Luhan.

“Yet,” her husband, Rick Romancito, Tempo editor, quipped.

Las Calabazas

The writer shared some stories that are not included in “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos,” though they may be part of upcoming books.

The story about Las Calabazas, elemental beings she saw during a lighting storm, was one of them.

“The lighting was very bright,” she said. “I could see these figures walking by the tree line; they were tall, their arms were swinging and their clothes looked like pajamas, but instead of heads, they had enormous vegetables over their shoulders … squash and beets. They were using the energy from the storm to move across the field.”

Such elementals aren’t necessarily evil, Romancito said; they simply belong to a different dimension.

“They look gentle, but just in case, I didn’t want them to notice me,” she said. “So I kept quiet until they went away.”

The series

“Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos” will be followed by at least two more volumes.

“The second one is about places that aren’t located in the Historic District, like Martinez Hacienda, Mabel Dodge Luhan House and a few lodges,” Romancito said. “The third one will be about archetypal forces, like El Viborón, La Llorona and elemental beings.”

Romancito is perhaps the most qualified person to pen these books, as she is very familiar with most haunted places of Taos.

For about four years, she has been leading walking tours around famous locations such as the Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery (the graves of the three witches with their unmarked stones is one of the creepiest places I’ve ever seen), John Dunn House and the Old Taos County Courthouse and Jail, among others.

“I am just scratching the surface with the tours,” she said. “That was another reason why I wrote this book: I wanted to share all this information with people who aren’t able to take the tours, but are interested in the subject. Of course, the book contains more stories than the ones that I share during my tours.”

Romancito says she learns something new every time she leads a tour, either from locals who know about the history of the area, or visitors from other cities who have experienced or heard about paranormal activities somewhere else.

“With them, I have discovered many new approaches to these phenomena,” she said.

New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal

Taos is home to an organization that investigates diverse unexplained activities throughout New Mexico and surrounding areas: New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal.

Reyes Cisneros, co-founder of the organization, and Romancito have been working together since 2006.

They have conducted investigations with special equipment that registers paranormal activities in the former Moby Dickens bookstore, buildings in Doña Luz Lane and Ledoux St. and many other places.

“I love working with Melody,” Cisneros said. “She is very knowledgeable about these issues … and she is like our den mother.”

Romancito intended to create a keepsake kind of book, so it hasn’t been distributed widely, at least for now.

At this point, “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos” can be bought directly from her or through her website.

“This is the perfect book for those who want to know about ‘the other side’ of Taos,” Rick Romancito said.

To learn more about the tours or buy the book, visit https://ghostsoftaos.com. A Kindle version of the book is available on Amazon.

Book signing scheduled

booksigning handout
Book signing for “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos”

Wed, 12/2/15 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Hotel La Fonda
South Plaza
Taos, NM

Book signing for new release by Taos resident M. Elwell Romancito, “Ghosts & Haunted Places of Taos,” at Hotel La Fonda. La Fonda is actually one of the haunted locations mentioned in the book. A resident of Taos since 1986, Romancito has written and edited for several publications in the Taos area, including a long-standing relationship with The Taos News, The Taos Historical Society, Taos Magazine, Taos Experience, Art Talk, Southwest Art and more. Romancito is a member of New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal.

Mini-investigation at the Taos Territorial Inn

I was called to do a mini paranormal investigation and demonstration at the old Territorial Inn on Padre Lane this October 31 by owner John Bradley. He said they’ve been having motion-detector alarms going off in the middle of the night when the property has been empty recently.

I came and set up some basic equipment, but I did not conduct a thorough three-hour investigation in the middle of the night, which is usually the way investigators with New Mexico Research and Investigation (NMRIP) work. I was asked to show guests of Mr. Bradley how NMRIP conducts its investigations and then I was to escort the guests from Padre Lane to Martyrs Steakhouse and their dinner reservation, telling stories about the Taos Historic District along the way.

One of the things that struck me right away as I was setting up equipment in the basement was that there seemed to be something just outside of what we could actually see in the basement, and that while the demonstration and investigation were going on, these energies seemed to be in the dark crawl spaces, waiting for us to clear out.

That being said, my equipment did not register any paranormal activity either during the demonstration or after, when the equipment was left rolling and the building was empty. I hope I can come back to the property to do a proper investigation and look further because I am certain there is something there.

Pink summer roses for Mabel

mabel doge luhan tidy grave When we took our visitors around to all our stops last evening, we were surprised to find someone had taken the time to tidy up Mabel Dodge Luhan’s grave at the Kit Carson Memorial Cemetery. Before, though interesting, it was starting to turn into a pile of rubbish. Besides clearing off the rubble, they were careful to keep the rocks and gifts. They also transplanted some clumps of native grass and there was also the gift of five, fully blossomed pink summer roses. Lovely.