Category Archives: History
The Valles Caldera is Only Dormant
By G G Collins (Copyright 2021)
Excerpt from Anasazi Medium, Chapter 8
Yellowstone isn’t the only supervolcano in the United States. The Valles Caldera is located in northern New Mexico in close proximity to the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) and the Rio Grande. An eruption from the dormant, but not extinct, volcano could cause significant interruptions to life or extinguish life depending on the force of the eruption. Some of you will recognize the Valles Caldera as the location of the Longmire sheriff’s ranch.
Images, except the above, are from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.
We pick up with an interview which journalist Rachel Blackstone is having with character Professor Axel Saxon at the University of New Mexico, Earth and Planetary Science. We join them with the interview already in progress.
“How dangerous is the Valles Caldera?” Rachel asked.
“It is considered a young supervolcano in that it erupted 1.25 million years ago. It’s geothermal and responsible for the hot springs that populate the area. We also know it is dormant, not extinct. The caldera is about 20 kilometres or 13 miles wide. A supervolcano isn’t one eruption, but multiple eruptions occurring at once. When the volcanic pressure cooker just can’t take anymore and it releases pent up energy in many places.”
He showed Rachel another map showing the resurgent lava dome, called Redondo Peak, and the smaller domes around it.
“If it were to erupt again,” Rachel asked. “What force are we talking about?”
“Supervolcanoes have an eruption of magnitude eight,” Saxon paused. “That’s the largest on the VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index.”
“So this type of eruption really isn’t within our experience in the near past?” Rachel asked.
“No. You’ve heard of Pinatubo, Krakatau and a U.S. volcano called Mount St. Helens?”
“These are inconsequential by comparison to the Valles Caldera. Even Crater Lake and Tambora are smaller. Only the Yellowstone supervolcano is larger.”
“Are you aware that the last time the Yellowstone erupted that ash and dead animal bones were found as far away as Nebraska? The three Yellowstone eruptions we know about produced enough ash to fill the Grand Canyon and were 2500 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Today, if Yellowstone went off it would immediately kill 90,000 people. Those not dead would be standing calf-deep in ash. The nuclear winter to follow could cause famine as the great breadbasket of the world, the States, would likely not be able to grow much.”
“What would the results be of a Valles Caldera eruption?” Rachel asked.
“First there would be the ash fallout to consider. Not only would any planes in the area be at risk of losing engine performance and therefore crash, but water contamination could result and rooftop collapse. That is especially a problem for flat roofs that can be found all over our area, but especially prominent in Santa Fe due to the Pueblo architecture.
Tent Rocks (Kasha-Katuwe) was created with volcanic ash fallout, perhaps 1/4 mile thick. Enough to have cooked a moderate-sized city.
“Agriculture would be adversely affected, maybe not even possible. Livestock would become ill and die from breathing the ash and gases.
“People would also experience health issues and some, maybe many, would die. It would depend on the size of the eruption.
Notice the proximity of Los Alamos (LANL) to the Valles Caldera.
“We don’t even know how it would affect power-producing plants. And yes, we don’t know if the damage to the LANL would be sufficient to release plutonium and other nuclear materials into the air. If so, that could be cataclysmic in terms of loss of life.
“As to the influence on the country and the world; again, depending on the size of eruption, it could bring about the nuclear winter where ash would block the sun and make agriculture impossible. And this brings me to the most lasting product of supervolcanoes: worldwide famine, millions—maybe billions—of refugees, satellite disruption and the crash of world financial markets.”
“Good god,” Rachel said. “All because a New Mexico volcano wakes up.”
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Thanks for reading.
Ghosts Haunting Santa Fe
Ghost at La Residencia
La Residencia, located at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta, has been a convent, hospital and nursing home. It was the location of the first St. Vincent’s Hospital prior to the “new” hospital being built south of downtown during the late 1970s. Now the Drury Plaza Hotel.
During its life as a hospital, a boy and his father were brought in for emergency treatment after a car accident. Sadly, both died. It is said the child died from his injuries in room 311. Reported phenomena include the sound of a crying child in this room. It was heard so often the hospital tried not to use the room.
When museum exhibits were stored in the building’s basement, unexplained sounds occurred there. Nurses described a strange phenomenon, which appeared to be blood oozing from a basement wall.
But it is the cries of a frightened young boy who haunt his third-floor room we find most disturbing.
Ghost of Julia at La Posada
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa has probably the most famous of the Santa Fe ghost stories. Julia Staab who
Abraham Staab had the three-story Staab House built in French-inspired styling which included a mansard roof and a ballroom on the top floor. It would become the hub of society in 19-century Santa Fe. But it would not last. The couple’s eighth child was ill and finally succumbed. Julia was never the same and took to her room, which became room 256 when the house was converted to a hotel.
During a construction project, a befuddled crew came to work one morning and found their building materials in disarray. An enlightened worker began leaving roses for Julia. The mischief ceased.
Other encounters have been more personal including sightings of a transparent woman in a long dress and hood. One man reported a woman’s image in the mirror of the men’s room. And in the basement, which retains its earthen floor and stone walls, an employee of the hotel has noticed a fragrance cloud of orange and rose blossoms.
Visitors to the six-acre resort still ask for room 256, but there was the case of one man who checked in, and returned to the front desk in minutes demanding another room.
Ghost Story at New Mexico State Penitentiary
Many people don’t realize the New Mexico State Penitentiary is near Santa Fe. It’s usually the last thing on anyone’s mind as they drive into Santa Fe enjoying the clear skies, high desert air and anticipating a few days of nonstop green chile and margaritas. But in February 1980 one of the worst prison riots in the US happened here. At least 33 people killed, but the total couldn’t be certain. Two hundred treated for their injuries. The convicts in Cell Block 4 were targeted because that was where the snitches were isolated from the general population.
Eighteen years later, former Gov. Johnson closed the prison due to “uncontrollable disturbances.” The inmates moved into new facilities. After that, the old prison became a filming location for movies as well as a training center for police. One movie extra decided to explore, walked into a cell, the door closed behind him. Once a guard let him out, he left the set and did not return. Other reports of cell doors opening or closing, apparently on their own, lights coming on or going off without reason, unexplained sounds and even shadowy figures that suddenly disappear. Most disturbing are the burn marks on the floors where inmates died that cannot be cleaned or painted away. The marks always return.
Other deserted prisons are considered haunted. Maybe life sentences extend into the afterlife.
Ghost Story at 122 Grant Avenue
This week we have another Santa Fe ghost story. In 1898 a rancher built a house at what is now 122 Grant Avenue, a few blocks from the Plaza. Seven years later a young family moved in. Their son was sickly and required a wheelchair to move about. Unhappy, he was known to beat the walls of his upstairs bedroom to get his mother’s attention. Despite her constant ministrations, the lad died and his parents moved on. When the house was vacant, the neighbors reported seeing lights in the boy’s former bedroom.
In l981 the property was bought and renovated. It became the Grant Corner Inn, a bed and breakfast which hosted such notables as Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan (in better days), and illustrator Garth Williams. It had a knockout breakfast which was open to the public. But the problems did not abate. In Antonio Garcez’s book Adobe Angels: Ghosts of Santa Fe and Taos,he related the experiences of the former caretaker. He told of hearing loud noises, sudden dips in the air temperature that could kill indoor plants and the stench of rancid meat.
Several years ago, the Andrew Smith Gallery bought the property and moved into the house. No further reports of disturbances have been disclosed. Perhaps the boy is now at peace.
Answer at end.
Ghost Story of the Weeping Woman
There are many ghost stories in Santa Fe. A few blocks from the St. Francis Cathedral, along the Santa Fe River, is a story that endures. I’m told there are more than 40 variations on this ghastly tale and it is a favorite throughout the southwest.
Many years ago, the poor would park their wagons along the Santa Fe River (more of a trickle most of the time). According to the story, a woman from one of those wagons met and fell in love with a Conquistador. After having two children with him, she found he had been unfaithful (isn’t that just always the way?). In her sorrow, she took her children, and drowned them in the river. There are two versions of the ending: either she rejoiced that they were gone, then fell and suffered a fatal injury, or she hung herself in regret.
There are reports from people walking in the river park that they heard a woman calling for her babies, but saw no one. She has been seen at the nearby PERA Building. Workers have reported she is a dark shape and messes with the lights in the building. This ghost is known as the Weeping Woman.
Answer at end.
Ghost Story of La Fonda
While La Fonda has stood the test of time, it has also racked up a good number of ghosts. There are so many that we’ll cover just a few this time.
During the 1800s a gambling hall was part of the hotel. As we all know, for every person who wins, there are many more who do not. In one particular incident, a man was hung in the courtyard (sometimes referred to as the backyard). Maybe it he was cheating, but whatever the reason, he was lynched. It has been reported that some guests to La Plazuela have seen the shadow of a man hanging.
The Hon. John P. Slough, who was a chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot in the lobby and later died of his wounds. He insulted Capt. Rynerson, also with Territorial government, calling him dishonest. Rynerson took offense and shot the judge. Guests say they’ve seen a man walking the hotel dressed in a long black coat (robes perhaps?).
And yet another man lost his life in what is now the restaurant (La Plazuela). Originally it
was the courtyard and in the center was a well. Apparently a businessman lost his company’s money in a round of cards. He was so distressed, he jumped into the well to his demise. Although the well was filled in long ago, you can still see where it was. Look at the fountain in the center of the restaurant. It even closely resembles the look of the well in the postcard shown. Hotel staff and guests have seen a ghostly figure cross the room to the site of the old well and watched as he disappeared into the floor.
The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association conducted an investigation into La Fonda in 1998 and found the strongest suggestion of paranormal activity in the parking garage. During its construction, human remains were found there. This happens from time to time in Santa Fe and environs. All work ceases until the remains can be recovered.
Answers to Questions:
A. What was stored in La Residencia’s basement that resulted in the bizarre noises? Indian Artifacts.
B. The man who demanded another room stayed in Julia Staab’s room 256 for how many minutes? 7 minutes. He was referred to as the “7-minute man.”
C. What movie was filmed at the abandoned state pen? The Longest Yard.
D. What kind of tree was cut down in front of the house at 122 Grant Avenue? Weeping Willow.
E. The name of the Weeping Woman was? La Llorona,
F. La Fonda has had several names over the years. Which of the following was one of them? The Exchange Hotel.
It’s Summer! Explore Museum Hill.
By G G Collins (Copyright 2017)
Four world-class museums to discover the Native American Southwest and all it has to offer: arts, culture and history. Lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe. Listen to music as it floats around the huge plaza, compete with its on contemporary labyrinth.
Museum Hill Mountain Spirit Dancer
And don’t forget the Santa Fe Botanical Garden just across the street. The Art Walk has changing exhibits.
Have a great day exploring Santa Fe’s Museum Hill!
Paranormal Mystery Writer G G Collins Blogs
Explosive Tale Pits Psychic Against Nazi Terrorists
Check out my guest blog and learn how Atomic Medium came to be. It’s a little bit supernatural, a little bit history and all fun. Join reporter Rachel Blackstone and friend Chloe for their latest adventure in the Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery Series. No lines at TSA for this trip, but no map or directions either. Travel back to 1945 when the most feared weapon of mass destruction was developed in Los Alamos. Will Rachel stop two evil men intent on changing history? It’s no small task for the two friends; just save the world!
Amazon 5-Star Review: “I loved that the suspense lasted right up to the last page.” — Mojo
Atomic Bomb Test Successful 70 Years Ago
The Trinity Test had to be pushed back to 5:30 a.m. due to rain at the Alamogordo Bombing Range at White Sands in New Mexico. The area was known as the Jornada del Muerto or Journey of Death. As early risers went about their ranch chores, sorted mail for delivery and stocked grocery selves, none knew their world would change drastically in minutes.
Those who would be watching this scientific achievement huddled in bunkers made for that purpose. Earth and sand covered the concrete bunkers on three sides and on top. There were viewing holes in the wall facing the test site.Welding goggles were handed out to protect eyes.
The atomic age began with a pinprick of light so bright it lit up the desert with the power of several midday suns. It could be seen for 180 miles. If you closed your eyes, you could still see the light. The energy sucked up tons of desert sand, the dust muddied the light as it rose and churned into a fireball.
Heat came next to those huddled in the bunkers. It was as if someone had opened an oven door. People dropped to the ground the heat was so intense. Then came the sound wave, as the earth beneath them shuddered with the force of 21,000 tons of TNT. This was followed by the now familiar mushroom cloud. The cloud created by fission rose and undulated to the substratosphere and spread across the heavens.
Some people were temporarily blinded by the light. Others who rode out the blast outside the bunkers had been knocked flat as the super wind rushed across the desert basin. Those who witnessed this first splitting of an atom had various reactions. Some slapped their knees and cheered; others laughed or cried. Still others showed the horror on their faces at what had been unleashed. Although no humans were harmed directly, livestock and wildlife did not fair as well.
The atomic bomb that The Manhattan Project developed was both an incredible human feat and the monster that would hide in children’s closets for generations to come. Although the bomb would end WWII, nothing would ever be the same. The era of fear had begun.
For more information: 109 East Palace by Jennet Conant, The Manhattan Project edited by Cynthia C. Kelly, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes, http://www.losalamoshistory.org, www.atomicheritage.org/bios, www.lanl.gov, https://www.osti.gov/opennet/manhattan-project-history/Resources/photo_gallery/photo_gallery.htm
Note on photos: From the U.S. Department of Energy. “To the best of our knowledge, all text and images on this web site are in the public domain. Almost all of the photographs were generated by government agencies, or by contractors working for the government, and as such are not subject to copyright. Most of these photographs were acquired from government web sites or government publications. In a handful of cases, photographs were used whose copyright had expired; these were acquired from the Library of Congress’s web site.”
New Release: Atomic Medium by G G Collins. Historical Fiction with a Twist.
Click on the book cover to read more about the new Kindle book. Takes the reader to 1945 Santa Fe, location of The Manhattan Project office, the Atomic City of Los Alamos and to White Sands, New Mexico to experience the Trinity Test. Third book in the Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery Series.
Santa Fe in Only One Day
by G G Collins (Copyright 2015)
THE SHED: Eat at The Shed! It’s on Palace Avenue a couple of blocks from the Plaza.The Shed is known for their New Mexican cuisine: such as Carne Adovado. Inside or out, it’s colorful and fun. The chocolate fudge sundae for dessert goes beyond decadent. For more on the restaurant’s history and how it came to be called The Shed:
SHOPPING: If you enjoy shopping until you drop, you can do that in Santa Fe. A good place to start is Rainbow Man. It’s on Palace too. Be sure to look for The Manhattan Project plaque dedication. It’s at the back of the courtyard under the portal (porch in Spanish). Despite being a historical site, there is no sign to indicate that. If you can’t find the plaque, ask someone at the store. They’re happy to point it out.
For more on The Manhattan Project:
At Wind River, you can enter on Palace, walk through the store (this may take a while with all the jewelry, Native American art and chickens, yes, chickens), and exit on San Francisco across from La Fonda. From top-of-the-line clothing to kitchen items to kitsch, it’s all on the Plaza. The Marcy Card Shop on Marcy Street (a couple of blocks from the Plaza and close to the convention center) has a lot more than cards!
LA FONDA: Now, cross the street and walk through the lobby of La Fonda. This hotel has a loooong history in Santa Fe. Both the famous and the infamous have walked these Saltillo tiles. Look in the restaurant. See the fountain in the center? That used to be a well in an outdoor courtyard. A business man down on his luck threw himself in it and was killed. His ghost is said to still walk the halls. Oppenheimer and fellow scientists relaxed in the bar–under the close watch of federal agents. There is also a rooftop deck and bar for watching sunsets. Here’s more on La Fonda:
ST. FRANCIS CATHEDRAL: The St. Francis Cathedral is worth a look. It’s beautiful inside and out. There are usually members there to answer questions and give tours. And if you are a candle lighter, there are candle alcoves just inside the entry. A labyrinth is in front of the church for contemplation. More on the cathedral:
THE PLAZA: And don’t just walk through the Plaza. Take a few minutes and soak up the sun, be dazzled by the azure skies. The light, and the vibe, is the reason writers and artists have flocked to The City Different for years.
If you have time and are museum people, the Palace of the Governors is fascinating. There are holes in the floor and no one knows why (carefully covered in thick clear glass for a look-see). Wallace finished “Ben-Hur” at the Palace while governor. The Palace was on high alert and he covered his lamp to conceal the light as attack was imminent.
All of this is within a few blocks.
IF YOU HAVE A SECOND DAY:
JACKALOPE: Jackalope on Cerrillos Road is shopping, animals, oh heck, it’s a party. The owner’s story is a fascinating journey. The prairie dogs are a favorite with kids and adults alike. Check out Jackalope at:
MUSEUM HILL: Is so worth a good look. If you’re not up to the museum crawl, just go out and look at the outdoor art, eat at the restaurant and listen to the music drift on a breeze.The new Santa Fe Botanical Garden is just across the street. Great views of the Sangre de Cristos. Here’s more on both attractions:
TENT ROCKS: If you’d like a far-out hiking experience, go to Tent Rocks. Made of ash from a long ago volcano, the tent-shaped rocks are eerie and magical. It’s south of Santa Fe near the Cochiti Dam. You drive right by the dam and it’s a bit scary thinking about all that water behind the dam; so don’t. The car you’re in feels very small and insignificant. Now you can’t stop thinking about it.
NEED DOWN TIME: If you can’t take anymore and need to relax, it’s 10,000 Waves time. Massage, hot tubs, facials and a gorgeous Japanese style mountain retreat. It’s on the way up to the Ski Basin, only a few miles. It’s heavenly.
Whatever you do in Santa Fe, remember, it’s mañana time.
Atomic Medium Free One Day Only
“We’re three women from two different centuries, trying to save the world from oblivion. I don’t know about you, but that’s way above my pay grade.”
New release, Atomic Medium, will be a free Kindle download Saturday June 20, 2015. One day only! It is Book 3 in the Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series. You don’t need to read them in order. The stories are all separate adventures for new psychic, reporter Rachel Blackstone. But reading them in order does show Rachel’s growth as a Reluctant Medium and how she became one.
Rachel and friend Chloe are drawn into a paranormal mystery that leads them straight into a historic year, 1945, WWII and the Trinity Test. It is a world of subterfuge, secrets and danger. If they can’t stop the men intent on sabotage, history will be changed. For Rachel and Chloe, it’s no small task: just save the world.
In Atomic Medium we learn how Kiyiya became Rachel’s spirit animal and there is a surprise about Chloe–one I didn’t see coming either. Mari-Lynn is back as the pot dispensing crystal expert, a boy helps out much to Rachel’s chagrin and the two friends may move on from misdemeanors to higher crimes.
It’s all adventure with a few laughs along the way. Thank you for trying Atomic Medium.
— G G Collins
The Building That Changed the World
By G G Collins Copyright 2015
On Palace Avenue just steps from the famous Santa Fe Plaza is a small building that changed the world. It was the headquarters for The Manhattan Project, the top secret mission to build the first atomic bomb and end WWII. Everyone, scientist and secretary alike, passed through this building. They came in the front door and left by the back door where they were secreted off to the Atomic City. No one left by the back door unless Dorothy McKibbin gave them a pass to “The Hill.”
McKibbin was looking for a job in March of 1943. She was offered employment at the First National Bank for $120 per month. Working at a bank wasn’t really what she wanted to do, but income was income. Then she met Joe Stevenson in an awkward conversation in the middle of the Plaza. He told her there was a secretarial position open that would pay $150 per month. But Stevenson was mysterious about what the job would entail.
She did accept the job and became the gatekeeper to one of the biggest discoveries of the last century. McKibbin kept that job until 1963 when she retired. She would remain a loyal friend to Robert Oppenheimer until his death in 1967.
The historic site, originally constructed in the 1600s as a Spanish hacienda, is now home to Rainbow Man. The shop is filled with Native American hand-made items, blankets, photos and folk art in vivid colors. The courtyard is beautiful rain or shine. Flowers brighten the entrance in vibrant hues. The old wagon only becomes more silvered with each passing year.
At the back of the courtyard, under the portal and behind the chile ristras is a plaque dedicated to those who split the first atom. Shoppers visit the store to take home a little bit of Santa Fe. Historians stop by for the history and wonder what it must have been like in the 1940s when The Manhattan Project was in full swing.
July 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the Trinity Test at White Sands, New Mexico.
New book, Atomic Medium, takes place in Santa Fe during 2015 and 1945. It is the third installment in the Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery Series. Get it at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1SWkjde
For more information, try these books:109 East Palace by Jennet Conant, The Manhattan Project edited by Cynthia C. Kelly, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.
Christmas Eve in Santa Fe
By G G Collins (Copyright 2013)
It’s Christmas Eve and you’re in Santa Fe. Sunset is fast approaching and the air is frosty. There’s only one thing to do: wrap up warmly and go to the Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk.
Forget trying to park. Stay at a nearby hotel or B & B. Otherwise prepare for frustration trying to park. There will be street closures and partial street closures. Last year Santa Fe Trails offered shuttles from the South Capitol Station for $2 round-trip. Check with them for service this year.
Notice the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand and a votive candle) lining the street and sidewalks. Now, in Santa Fe these are called farolitos, but much of New Mexico refers to them as luminarias. To further confuse the issue, in Santa Fe we call bonfires luminarias. Okay, don’t sweat the details; just enjoy.
This can be a shoulder-to-shoulder event with up to 30,000 people—and their dogs—descending on Canyon Road. Santa Fe’s art centre lives right here and many of the galleries will be open late; doorways of yellow light inviting you in. I absolutely love this yearly procession. You never know what surprise waits to delight you. Most of these are provided by the parade you are a part of; people and dogs draped in Christmas lights. Canine friends may be outfitted with antlers in addition to the brightly colored lights. They don’t seem to mind. There’s always a new take on costuming for the Farolito Walk.
Impromptu carolers burst into Christmas songs and spirituals. Music erupts as drummers pound their instruments marching the length of Canyon Road. Notes float across the cold air from a harp or flute gently reminding you of the season. The galleries, shops and restaurants along the narrow thread are decked out with festive lights and bright red bows. It’s a sensory experience of light, sound and delicious scents.
But don’t leave out taste. To warm up, stop and get a coffee, hot chocolate or cider. Usually one can find cookies for munching—you’ll need energy to walk uphill. Take a few moments and warm your hands at a nearby bonfire, and keep going.
When the lights fade and the music stops, just turn around and do it all over. And when you reach the end of Canyon Road, savor the experience, because it will be another whole year before it happens again. This is Christmas Eve in Santa Fe.
— G G Collins
Links to YouTube videos of the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road:
Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be happy and peaceful.