Screaming spirits, unexplained voices and ghosts in the kitchen: Inside New Mexico’s haunted saloon
You might expect to find spirits in a bar – but they’re usually the kind that pour.
Patrons of the Legal Tender in Lamy, New Mexico, have long reported some kind of intangible ‘presence’ in the bar, which stands on the site of an old saloon dating back to 1881, but things reached a spooky peak one night earlier this month.
Cindy Lu Jednak and Phillip Heard were sitting with their spouses at a table when they heard the unmistakeable sound of a woman’s screams coming from the restaurant kitchen.
They checked the kitchen but it was deserted, with the back door locked.
Spooky Saloon: Mysterious screams in the night have been heard in the historic Legal Tender bar.
‘I don’t believe in ghosts,’ said Heard, who works at the Legal Tender. ‘There has to be an explanation for what that was. When I deal with something like this, I want to know the facts.’
Two other members of the bar’s staff, Dachin Frances and Avery Young say that there’s much more to the story than that one spine-chilling scream;
‘Even when you are alone in a room here’,says Avery, ‘you never feel alone.’
And Frances said at the end of one shift she was preparing to lock up when she and co-workers heard pots and pans rattling in the darkened kitchen. Discretion proving the better part of valour, they slammed the door, locked it and left.
Many staff refuse to stay in the joint past closing time.
Ghost of a chance: Christine Mackenzie, from Galisteo, left, Lewis Hawkins, from San Marcos, centre, and Mike McMillan, from Santa Fe, play a round of faro at the poker room at the Legal Tender
There’s too much evidence of a sepulchural presence to write the story off to a mixture of imagination and liquor,
Both staff and patrons have reported unexplained voices and what sounds like a heavy object being dragged across the floor of the main dining room. A chandelier hanging above that room has more than once started swinging wildly without the slightest breath of of wind.
To those that know the Legal Tender, it makes sense that some of its long-dead customers are still present.
A business first opened on the site of the Legal Tender in the early 1880s, catering to trade brought in by the newly-built Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway spur line. Somewhere along the way, the old saloon became known as the Pink Garter.
In the late 1960s, it was renamed the Legal Tender under the ownership of R.O. Anderson. ‘Wichita Lineman’ singer Glenn Campbell played there in his early days.
Rattle Those Pots And Pans: The kitchen has been at the centre of several of the ghostly happenings
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Over the years, a number of historic figures have passed through the Lamy area, including Teddy Roosevelt and Billy the Kid — the latter was reportedly on a train that stopped in Lamy on the way to doing some jail time in Santa Fe.
More obscure figures also found their way through the village, and perhaps never quite left — the frontier bystander reportedly shot by a stray bullet during a poker game gone sour and the female train passenger who supposedly died of appendicitis in one of the saloon’s back rooms, for instance.
Their spirits — known as the Man in Black and the Lady in White — have long been rumored to roam the Legal Tender.
The spirit of a young girl is also connected to the site, although no one has ever quite worked out her back story.
But Cindy recently met a woman in her 90s who lived in Lamy in the 1920s and recalls a female playmate from that period who died of tapeworm at age 7 or 8. The two girls would often visit the store that once stood on the site of the Legal Tender. Cindy also tells anecdotes of kitchen workers feeling the invisible poke of a finger in their sides and a presence tightening their apron strings.
Cindy Lu isn’t afraid of the Legal tender’s ghosts – but she still keeps a torch handy, just in case.
Cindy Lu’s Learning Mind nonprofit organization has joined with the Lamy Railroad and History Museum to revitalize the Legal Tender. She and other volunteer workers reopened the restaurant last spring. It serves food Thursday through Sunday, plus most holidays. Staff often sit around for a half-hour or so after closing to talk about work — and swap ghost stories .
Parapsychologist Joni Alm has conducted about five investigations in the Legal Tender over the past six months, utilizing a high-tech audio recorder and a ‘ghost-meter’, a device that registers changes in electromagnetic fields and might thus reveal paranormal energy.
That ghost-meter blinks red when it encounters inexplicable energy, and it just about went crazy during a recent late-night tour of the kitchen area, about the same time that a New Mexican photographer’s flashlight went dead. The batteries were new. The flashlight worked just fine when he left the restaurant.
A four-hour ghost hunt, one recent October evening,yielded a chorus of unexplained noises: although Cindy does admit that the ice machine sometimes makes a noise that sounds like a distant gunshot.
Alm’s ghost-meter lit up when Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata. was played – ”If anything is going to bring a ghost out, it’s that ,’ Heard said.
On her audio recorder, Alm captured strange sounds, including what seem to be ghostly whispering and, at one point, what seemed to be the the voice of a man saying ‘Go away.’
‘I feel strongly that there are several entities in there, at least three’ She says.
She has felt that child’s spirit in her presence at least twice, she said. She feels a male energy, too. ‘There is no fear at all. I actually feel a sense of impatience from the Man in Black spirit, like he wants his space back,’ she said with a laugh.
Cindy is doubtful that the Lady in White or the Man in Black are still around. She said that various ‘cleansings’ have occurred within the building over the past couple of decades in an effort to exorcise the spirits, and perhaps these two old-timers have faded away.
But Cindy’s certain that a feisty female energy clings to the site. She has reason to believe it is a more contemporary spirit, that of a young woman who went missing in the area not so long ago.
Cindy is loath to to describe what happens out at the Legal Tender as a haunting. ‘It’s just a presence, an energy, of someone or something that is here,’ she said. ‘It’s an energy from a different time; from a different dimension, even.’
And she said she’s s never afraid — not even when she hears unexplained whispering or her name being called by others when she is alone in the building.