Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10-29 Happy Halloween

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- In this Halloween season it's a relief that every corner of New Mexico has enough scary ghost stories to help us forget all the creepy political ads we constantly are subjected to this time of year.
La Llorona turns up everywhere in the state as an eerie Hispanic warning to children not to play near ditches. But most of New Mexico's ghost stories are more localized, involving a death or some other tragic event that occurred in the area.
Today we'll focus on Santa Fe, our capital city, which has had 400 years to accumulate a body of strange tales that might help explain some of the laws and regulations that flow out of this city.
Santa Fe is one of the ghostliest towns in the nation, according to a national tourist publication, which notes that Santa Fe is one of the few places where ghost walks and tours are available any day of the year.
And many of those ghosts haunt buildings where state business is transacted or where lawmakers stay while in the Capital City doing their business.
One of the most popular spots on ghost tours is La Posada, where the spirit of Julia Staab has roamed the hallways for over 100 years. Tour groups are taken to room 256, where a knock on the door is said to sometimes bring an answer from Julia.
Mrs. Staab does not like her room to be disturbed. During renovations, workers find their tools and materials strewn about or missing and some even claim to have seen her.
Bar tenders say glasses mysteriously fall off shelves and waitresses tell of their trays sometimes mysteriously being knocked from their hands.
The story is that after the death of one of her babies, she became so despondent she confined herself to that room in what was then a palatial mansion where she fabulously entertained many guests for years.
"Unsolved Mysteries" and other TV shows have featured La Posada, along with stories from La Fonda, the St. Francis and Inn at Loretto -- all popular lawmaker hangouts.
Another popular stop on the ghost tours is the former ballroom in Sena Plaza on Palace Avenue, where the territorial Legislature met for several years after the state's second capitol building was torched in the late 18880s.
But the most famous Santa Fe ghost stories involve the state's two most recent capitol buildings. The first involves the ever-popular La Llorona.
According to the Santa Fe version of the legend, in the early days of the city, a beautiful woman grew tired of her children and threw them to their death in the Santa Fe River.
After an immediate change of heart, she chased along the riverbank trying to save them but tripped, hit her head on a rock and died also.
Because of her evil deed, the priest would not allow her to be buried in the church cemetery but ordered she be buried near the river where she died.
Unfortunately, the state of New Mexico later built its capitol on that spot. For many years custodians have reported sightings of La Llorona -- the crying woman -- as she leaves her resting place on the nightly search for her children.
Our newest capitol was built in 1967 and when the story is retold, somehow La Llorona has moved , along with the seat of government, to the new capitol.
When that capitol building was renovated in 1991, the governor and Legislature moved across the street to the Public Employees Retirement Association building. The massive structure, with two floors below ground, sits atop Santa Fe's first cemetery -- the one denied to La Llorona.
Ever since that state office building opened in the early 1960s, employees have reported elevators going up and down with no one in them, lights flicking on and off, doors opening and closing mysteriously, and drafts coming from nowhere in the windowless bottom floors.
Someday an enterprising state employee will ask for hazardous duty pay.
FRI, 10-29-10

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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