Article by Elena Valdez
In every town, every city, every state, and every country, there is a story unlike any other; a legend or folk tale of the supernatural. Whether they are true is up to you to decide. Stories change over time and are told differently among families but they all carry a message. Every story carries a different message either about a forbidden love, a horrific murder, or a warning, but no matter how many versions of a particular story evolve, the message stays the same. In our small town of Las Cruces we will find such stories told by our parents at night, by friends around a bonfire, or by locals who experienced something they simply couldn’t explain. There are many stories that circulate the area, but there are at least three famous hauntings that every native Las Crucen knows about.
A legend that flows with the river is a tale of a woman who haunts the Rio Grande. It is told in so many variations. All in all, the tale and her haunting are the same. Piecing together many versions the tale goes like this:
A young woman named Maria was born into a poor family, but was blessed with beauty. Many young men, wealthy and poor alike, sought after her day and night. She did not find any up to her standards until one day a wealthy and handsome man arrived. Immediately she knew he was the one. She flaunted her good looks to attract the man and of course he was instantly caught on her beauty. They were soon married and had two children (or possibly three). As time progressed, Maria’s husband began to neglect her more and more. He still gave his children much attention but less and less to Maria. He started to cheat on her with many women, and when Maria found out, her rage was so strong she took her children and drowned them in the river. Afterward, when the lifeless bodies of her offspring floated down the river, she realized what she had done. With extreme grief she chased after them hoping, to save them and undo what she had done. While running along the shore of the river she fell and her head landed on a sharp rock, killing her instantly. Not long after her tragic death, her restless spirit began to haunt the river, endlessly looking for her children. At night she appears in a white gown, floating above the river crying and crying for her children. Many people who have claimed to see her call her La Llorona, which means “The Weeping Woman.” Some say that if you hear the wails of La Llorona you are marked for death. Others have said that children who go out at night are in danger of La Llorona taking them and bringing them to a watery grave.
The story of La Llorona has many meanings, most of which warn children to not go out after dark or to not disobey their parents. Other variations warn that she will appear if you do not take care of your family.
La Llorona has been spotted along the entire river up and down New Mexico and other states in search of the children she will never find. La Llorona has become an old Mexican tale told from each generation to the next.
The Two Lovers at the Double Eagle
In old Mesilla you will find an abundance of history from store to store and some stores even have their own haunted tales, The most famous is at the Double Eagle. The Double Eagle was once an old mansion turned restaurant. Many employees and customers have reported strange activity such as tables being moved, wine glasses found broken, perfume smells, whispers, and many other unexplainable occurrences. It is not until you delve into the past that you learn about the family who lived there and the forbidden love that occurred behind those doors.
In the mid 1800s the Maes family moved down from Santa Fe to Old Mesilla. They were in the import-export business, and Señora Maes had big plans for the future and her teenage son, Armando. They built an extravagant mansion that had many servants. One of the servants was a very beautiful teenage girl named Inez. It didn’t take long for Armando and Inez to fall in love with each other. Armando, knowing his mother would not approve of his love for Inez, kept it secret. Soon, the other servants began to notice the love between the two, with their coincidental meetings and slight touches. The town even began to know of the two from the hand-in-hand walks around town and tender stares. Not many townspeople liked Señora Maes because of her snobbish attitude—so everyone kept the secret of the couple’s love. Armando was so deeply in love with Inez he was not doing the duties his mother wanted, and she eventually found out about the young couple’s relationship. She kicked Inez out of the house and scolded her son. She wanted Armando to marry a young woman from a good family in Mexico—not some peasant girl. So, Señora set out to Mexico City to find a proper match for her son. Returning home early from her travels with good news of a bride for Armando she noticed the surprised reactions of the servants. She knew they were hiding something from her and could not get a straight answer regarding the whereabouts of her son. She went to his room and heard noises within and when she opened the door Inez was in the arms of her son. Filled with rage, she stumbled upon her sewing shears in the room nearby. She came back to her son’s room as the two were dressing, raised her shears, and stabbed Inez in the chest. Her son ran over to protect Inez, and the Señora, blinded by rage, then stabbed her son in the back. It was not until Senora Maes heard her son’s cry that she snapped out of her trance. Armando, still holding Inez, kissed her as he felt her last breath brush across his wet cheek. He looked up in the corner of the room smiled and collapsed. Armando died a couple days later.
The spirits of the teenage lovers remained in the house and now play harmless pranks on the employees and owners of the Double Eagle.
The Witch’s Grave
Located in Mesilla’s San Albino Cemetery is the Witch’s Grave. If you follow the road Calle de Lupe, you will hit a dirt road and eventually arrive at the cemetery. Not many know the story behind the grave or the witch who is buried there. Hers is the only grave to have no name written on it and a giant black cross placed in the center of the grave. This is what others have claimed:
In the 1800s a woman who was claimed to be a witch – it is unknown to who made that claim – was buried in an unmarked grave. Locals have said that her spirit has been trying to escape the grave for many, many years. She has been looking for the slightest crack to get free. Even to this day, locals who live nearby go to the grave and repair any cracks to make sure that she doesn’t escape from her dirt prison. Legend says that if anyone dares sit on her grave for more than five minutes, the witch will curse them with sickness, disabilities, or even death.
Many people today still go to the grave to see if the witch will appear. There are rumors of people who sat on the grave and had an terrible incident happened to them. One girl slept on the grave as a dare and walked away fine but later developed scoliosis. One other rumor is of someone who sat on the grave for however long is unknown and had a seizure. When she was rushed to the hospital she entered into a coma. It is unclear if she ever woke from her endless sleep. Those who visit at night report feeling the creeps and vaguely uneasy. . Will you go and sit on her grave?