American Folklore

American Folklore: New Mexico

American Folklore: New Mexico

New Mexico has a long and storied history, beginning with the Native Americans, then the Spanish explorers, then Mexico, then the United States. It has plenty of its own intriguing folklore to share with the world. Here are some of the highlights of it.

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Admitted to the union in 1912 as the 47th state, New Mexico was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before the first European explorers showed up. When the Europeans came in the late 1500s, it was the Spanish who arrived first. They named the territory Nuevo Mexico, after the Valley of Mexico in the Aztec civilization. This naming was done more than 250 years before the modern-day country of Mexico was founded, so the state is not named after that country.

Mexico was a Spanish colony until 1824 when Mexico declared independence and took the territory for its own. It then transferred to the ownership of the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War and remained a U.S. territory until it was made a state. It has a lot of folklore associated with its long and storied history. Here are some of the highlights of it.


Naturally, the most famous folklore tale from New Mexico is the tale of Roswell. This is the name of the town in New Mexico where, in 1947, a UFO supposedly crashed down and was scavenged for parts by the US military. Depending on what version of the story you hear, alien bodies may have also been collected and experimented upon, and in some versions of the tale, the government even recovered a live alien from the crash (or more than one). The scraps, alien bodies, and/or aliens are supposedly being kept under guard at the beyond top secret Area 51 in Nevada.

There is no doubt something unusual crashed down on a farm in New Mexico on that infamous day in 1947. Plenty of people saw it, and newspapers at the time even reported it was a UFO. At first, the military was not sure what it was, and allowed reporters and onlookers from the public near enough they could see it and take pictures. However, the next day, the military closed off the area and confiscated any known photos that had been taken of the crash. Many nearby families reported being visited by members of the military and told to tell no one of what they saw (with thinly veiled or flat-out threats to their wellbeing and that of their families if they did). Newspapers were forced to retract the UFO stories, and the military issued a statement saying the wreckage was merely that of an experimental weather balloon.

So, what actually happened at Roswell, New Mexico? No one knows (or is allowed to say) for sure. Some have come forward over the decades who say they were there, and that the alien tale is the real thing. The military still maintains the wreckage at Roswell was merely a weather balloon. Either way, the small and almost forgotten town is now on the national map, having become a hotbed of UFO tourism that the locals really play up, and they seem to enjoy their notoriety. There have even been two fictional TV shows based on aliens who are descended from the aliens who crashed at Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico, and UFOs are now forever entwined in the consciousness of the public.

The Haunted Maria Teresa

Of course, New Mexico’s folklore isn’t all about Roswell, though that is the tale the state is perhaps best known for in modern times. It has plenty of other interesting stories to tell, though. For example, a historic building in Albuquerque, which was built in 1783, is considered the most haunted building in New Mexico. The building, called the Maria Teresa, is now known for fine dining, as well as ghosts. Up to four different ones have been spotted in and around the building.

Workers and visitors have reported being touched by invisible hands, seeing reflections of ghosts in mirrors, seeing objects move on their own, and hearing disembodied voices while in the building. The building also has a piano that plays itself on occasion… and it is not a player piano.

Gateway to Hell on the Philmont Scout Ranch

On the Urraca Mesa, the Philmont Scout Ranch sits, owned by the Boy Scouts of America). It is a creepy place with plenty of supernatural things associated with it. The Navajo Native Americans believed the Urraca Mesa was, once upon a time, a battleground where humans and the forces of darkness fought each other. The battle was so violent it opened a gate to hell on the property, and humans could only keep the gate closed by wearing protective cat totems.

It is true that weird things happen at the ranch and on the mesa around it. Compasses don’t work there, for example. It has also been struck by lightning more than any other location in the state. Visitors have reported seeing strange creatures in the distance there, hearing creepy disembodied voices, and seeing blue lights floating above the landscape.

Haunted Mansion in Las Lunas

There is a mansion in Las Lunas, New Mexico that is supposedly haunted. The mansion was built in 1880 by the wealthy and well-known Luna-Ortero family, and it stayed in that family for nearly a century, until 1970. It was shortly after the family sold the mansion and it was turned into a fine dining restaurant that guests began reporting ghostly things going on there.

First, a female ghost began appearing to guests of the restaurant. She appears wearing 1920’s-style clothing and is usually seen sitting in an antique rocking chair on the second floor of the building. Most people who have seen her say she appears to look quite real and is often mistaken for a living person at first. The building’s new owners believe the ghost is that of Josefina Ortero, a former owner of the mansion. She does not bother workers or guests, merely sits in the rocking chair or roams the halls, and avoids interacting with the living

Also seen at the mansion, but not as often as Josefina, is the ghost of a man named Cruz, who was a former groundskeeper there when the family owned it. Like Josefina, he seems to prefer keeping to himself, but unlike her, he does sometimes interact with the living. When he does, he is reported to be quite friendly. New Mexico has a long and storied history, beginning with the Native Americans, then the Spanish explorers, then Mexico, then the United States. It has plenty of its own intriguing folklore to share with the world. Here are some of the highlights of it.


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.