The following is a transcript from Michael Connelly’s Ghostvillage.com Ghost Chat.
JeffBelanger: Welcome to a special Ghost Chat with Michael Connelly, author of Riders in the Sky: The Ghosts and Legends of Philmont Scout Ranch. I ask that everyone wait until a question is answered before jumping in with the next question. Michael, where is the Philmont Scout Ranch?
Michael Connelly: Northeast New Mexico right outside of Cimarron.
JeffBelanger: How long have the Boy Scouts owned the ranch?
Michael Connelly: For almost 80 years. It was donated by Waite Phillips, the oil man.
JeffBelanger: Of Philips Petroleum fame? Michael, were you ever a Boy Scout?
Michael Connelly: That’s the guy. He donated the original 80,000 acres, plus his ranch house… Yes, I am an Eagle Scout as are my four sons. I was also a Scoutmaster.
JeffBelanger: Did you originally go there as a Scout?
Michael Connelly: No, I didn’t make my first trip until 1991 as a Scoutmaster.
secretsign: Is it used only by the Boy Scouts?
Michael Connelly: Yes, and by Explorers which are boys and girls. About 20,000 go backpacking there every summer.
JeffBelanger: What originally sparked your interest in the Philmont Scout Ranch?
mrsspookypants: I know that the scouts are fairly traditional, how did they feel about you writing this book?
Michael Connelly: The staff at the ranch was very cooperative. They liked the idea. The stories had been around for years, but no one had ever compiled them before. I had always heard about the ranch and heard the first stories in 1991. I heard more in 1993 and then my oldest son worked there for three summers and had several encounters. My wife and I went in the summer of 1999 and spent three weeks gathering material.
JeffBelanger: Do you think any of the ghost legends started as Boy Scout campfire folklore?
Michael Connelly: Some probably did, but we interviewed a lot of old timers in the area. They included the Apaches and Navajos, and they confirmed many of the stories were very old.
Rockhauler2k1: Sometimes it can be difficult to discern between folklore and actual events. Stories gain a lot through the translation over the years in some cases.
Michael Connelly: That’s very true, but I tried to confine the published stories to those confirmed by more than one person. Many of the incidents in the book have been seen by numerous people over the course of many years.
JeffBelanger: Why do you feel the area is so haunted?
secretsign: Did you encounter any paranormal activity first hand?
Rockhauler2k1: You gotta love that — its hard to have multiple hallucinations
Michael Connelly: Not until I got back and realized that we had a picture of one of the ghosts — T.J. He followed us back to our home and stayed around while I wrote the book.
Michael Connelly: I posted an article about that in the encounter section of Ghostvillage.
Rockhauler2k1: More spirit based than residual.
secretsign: Maybe a little help from him [T.J.]?
Michael Connelly: He’s [T.J.] quite a character, with a long history of sightings. My wife is more sensitive than I am and saw him several times. I only heard him and felt his presence.
Rockhauler2k1: Did she see him as a full bodied apparition?
Michael Connelly: Yes, and she also caught his full reflection in a mirror several times.
Rockhauler2k1: That’s quite a thing to experience.
JeffBelanger: Can you tell us more about the St. James Hotel?
Michael Connelly: We’ve both had other experiences at other sites, but T.J. was the most interesting. The St. James has been on Unsolved Mysteries and other shows several times. It is in Cimarron, and I devote a long chapter in the book to it. There are at least four spirits there — maybe more — including a small boy. The hotel had 26 people killed in gun fights in the saloon.
JeffBelanger: Wow, truly the wild West.
Michael Connelly: Hundreds of people have reported experiences there.
secretsign: That would be a good reason for hauntings.
Michael Connelly: In fact, T.J was gunned down after he won the hotel in a poker game. He died two days later in Room 18 which is the only room in the hotel they can’t rent. If they don’t keep it locked, he rampages up and down the hallways breaking things.
JeffBelanger: They don’t rent the room or no one wants to stay in it?
Michael Connelly: However, while they have to keep the room locked, they must change the linens every two weeks.
Michael Connelly: They also have to put in a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels every two weeks.
Rockhauler2k1: Sounds like they cater to him a bit. No wonder he breaks everything up drinking JD – lol — j/k. Does the whiskey disappear?
Michael Connelly: Yes, it does, even though the room is kept locked.
Rockhauler2k1: Now that’s compelling.
Rockhauler2k1: Evaporation cant explain that one — every two weeks.
Michael Connelly: The manager has to service the room. No one else on the staff will go anywhere near it.
secretsign: I wonder if they ever thought of taping the room?
Rockhauler2k1: I’d set up visual cameras with infra red and sensors.
Michael Connelly: They’ve done that, and padlocked it with only one key. It makes no difference. The Unsolved Mysteries crew got several infrared images and saw an orb.
Rockhauler2k1: Not hard to believe at all.
Michael Connelly: In fact the orb knocked down the manager who let the crew in — T.J. was not happy.
Rockhauler2k1: Orbs are basic soul forms — (your telling me it physically knocked down the manager?) Wow!
secretsign: T.J sounds like a tough one.
Rockhauler2k1: Sure does.
Michael Connelly: Yes, the orb brought her to her knees. The investigators had never seen anything like it.
Rockhauler2k1: Physical encounters with orbs are rare to say the least — almost unheard of. That’s very interesting
Michael Connelly: That’s why everyone was so shocked, and T.J. is only one of the ghosts in the hotel.
JeffBelanger: Can you tell us why no one ventures in Pentiente Canyon?
Michael Connelly: Animals refuse to enter it. They can’t even be dragged in. It was apparently once a site where one of the ancient tribes practiced torture and human sacrifice.
Rockhauler2k1: They [the animals] know better. lol
JeffBelanger: Have you gone in?
Michael Connelly: The book reports on one such sighting in detail. No, I haven’t gone in. This particular site scares the hell out of me.
JeffBelanger: Do the Scouts ever camp there?
Michael Connelly: Some who have gone in have become disoriented and lost for days. Others have disappeared. The scouts don’t use it. There are not even any hiking trails through it.
JeffBelanger: What are some of the other famous ghost legends from the area?
Michael Connelly: The headless little girl at a place called Miranda in the camp. She was killed in the early 1900s when she wandered near a hydraulic mining machine. She was decapitated, and her grave is near the site. She is seen frequently and so is her mother — known as the Lady in White — who guards her grave.
secretsign: Too sad.
Michael Connelly: Another is Charlie Cypers, an old miner murdered years ago. The scouts have a staff camp at the mine and he will sometimes appear to listen to the nightly music. Unfortunately, people have also encountered his ghost in the cabin where he was killed. There, instead of seeing a friendly old miner, they see a man with his throat cut.
JeffBelanger: Do you know why he was killed?
Michael Connelly: The most famous ghost is the Navajo Shaman on Urraca Mesa. My son has seen him. The Indian tribes will not go near the mesa. They claim it is the gateway to the underworld.
JeffBelanger: What is the Shaman’s story?
Michael Connelly: The shaman was left there to guard four cat totems left to contain the demons.
JeffBelanger: Does your book have pictures in it?
wayne2241: I just moved from New Mexico about a month and a half ago, and there are plenty of stories around the Albuquerque area.
Michael Connelly: By the way Jeff, Charlie was killed by those trying to steal his gold, we think.
wayne2241: There are a lot of old mining towns that are supposed to be haunted.
Michael Connelly: There are some great illustrations in the book.
wayne2241: Would you ever consider doing a book about those?
JeffBelanger: Do you have any plans for future books right now?
Michael Connelly: I have been to many of the sites in that area, Wayne. Some of the stories will be in a new book.
Michael Connelly: However, my next book will be about my Father’s unit in WWII. It is called The Mortarmen and will be finished sometime next year.
JeffBelanger: Will The Mortarmen have a supernatural focus as well?
wayne2241: Sounds almost like a pseudo unit history
Michael Connelly: No, just a straight history of unit which served for the longest number of days in combat ever.
JeffBelanger: Sounds very interesting.
wayne2241: Sounds like another to put on my must-read list.
Michael Connelly: 326 consecutive days from D-Day on. After that one the publisher wants a new book of ghost stories.
JeffBelanger: Michael, thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us this evening. Does anyone have any other questions on the ghosts of Philmont Scout Ranch?
wayne2241: I don’t, thank you for your time. I’m glad you could join us, Michael and thank you. Good luck on your future books.
Michael Connelly: Thank you for inviting me. I enjoyed it, and by the way, Jeff, Congratulations on a great site.
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