Monday, February 11, 2013

Ghost hunt: Strange events in White Oaks - Ruidoso News

By Mike Curran

20130211__vam01ghost~1_GALLERYI have often wondered if the majority of mankind ever pauses to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, apparitions, strange phenomena, and of the obscure world to which they belong. I find most do not, for they, like me, are caught up in the conscious world of getting through the waking hours and making some sane sense of life. The easy way out is just to dismiss such metaphysical occurrences if they were to happen before your very eyes. Tuck them away in some dark hallway of your mind along with the other sealed and unmentionable happenings in your life. Don't speak to anyone of these things unless you would invite ridicule, mocking laughter or - even worse - seeing to it that your integrity becomes a casualty.

My name is Michael Curran and I am a writer of everyday, conscious-world events - a journalist, if you will. It is the only quasi-ability I seem to possess. Although my name is known to some of the readership of my newspaper, I am able for the most part, to move about the community in near anonymity. This suits me and is what I aspire to.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to write about paranormal activities in southern New Mexico and welcomed it as a respite from my usual assignments. I told the general manager of the Ruidoso News, Ross Barrett, "I will report the truth, as it is told to me, and not what I want to believe or think I see."

"That's what I want you to do," he replied.

Now, I will reveal to you that I have never seen a ghost, apparition, orb, UFO, or any other strange phenomena, which can be construed as otherworldly or inter-dimensional. However, I am open to the prospect in any case and try not to refute given beliefs unless I can definitely prove them incorrect. After all, wasn't it a scientist (Henri PoincarĊ½, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, 1854-1912) who once said (in the 19th century) "Need I remind you that it is so that all important discoveries have been made."
The first article was to be on the mysterious reports and anecdotal stories of strange sightings pertaining to the isolated, played-out hamlet of White Oaks. Barrett, and his wife Beth, took care of the arrangements and scheduled a meeting at the No Scum Allowed Saloon, now owned by Marlon and Teresa Coffman.

On a typical late January, late Saturday afternoon, I made the trek from Ruidoso on Rt. 380 to Carrizozo. A right turn onto Rt. 54 and then a few non-eventful miles up the road to the right-turn onto State Road 349 put me on the byway towards White Oaks. This proved to be a lonely, desolate, two-lane, paved pathway to the intended meeting place. Now I was traveling in the lowlands between mountains - a sort of "bowl" to my eyes. Nothing passed me either way, save for the occasional, forlorn tumbleweeds, which periodically moved across the front of my vehicle on their solitary journey to who knows where?

I kept my mind on the conscious world and the writing assignment that was at hand. I believe now, in the end, and to my detriment, that was a too-narrow view.

Shortly before one arrives in White Oaks, going the paved way, the traveler will pass by the Cedarvale cemetery on the right-hand side of the highway. Resting peacefully (?) here are such luminaries as New Mexico's first governor (1911-15), William C. McDonald (died April 11, 1918), Susan McSween (Barber), of the Lincoln County Wars fame and Deputy Bell, who Billy the Kid killed during his Lincoln jailbreak. A walk through the cemetery proves the once-hard environment of the area. Many of the headstones are of people who died in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Local resident and historian, Don Ward, who has studied the area in depth says, "White Oaks was discovered in 1879 (August) by Anglos. In the beginning, it was a tent city for about five years. About 1895, 1,200 people lived here mining gold. There was also a coalmine 1 1/2 miles away. In 1900 the town died out when the railroad chose not to come here but went to Carrizozo instead. In 1912, the town got a rebirth when a power plant was built here. It supplied power to Carrizozo, Nogal and up over into Parsons. But the plant burned down sometime in the 1930s.

According to Marlon Coffman, the dwelling first became a bar in the 1970s and its owner was Bud Crenshaw. At one point it was named the Cheyenne Social Club during that period.

Right before I pulled in to the No Scum Allowed Saloon, the Barrett's did likewise. They brought with them some of the latest paranormal-testing technology - a Zoom, for shooting high-definition video and possessing an EVP recorder (electronic voice phenomena). "This is a key pie___ce of equipment for this type of investigation," Beth Barrett explained. A K-II meter, which picks up EMF (electronic magnetic fields) signals, was included in the mix. "There are two theories to the K-II meter," Barrett said. "Dwellings with high EMF signals can cause nausea and hallucinations. Secondly, spirits are thought to feed off energy fluctuations. If possible, you should try to turn off all unnecessary electricity so you can establish a good baseline. A third technical piece of equipment - an IR camera - was with them, too. The infrared device has night-vision capabilities for obvious duties. A Ghost Box, which sweeps through AM and FM radio frequencies and attempts to pick up any abnormal or strange voices, was also included in the forthcoming investigations. Those were some, but not all, of the technologies used that night.

Before entering the well-known landmark, a cursory glance of the front of the building revealed its longevity. According to Marlon Coffman, the structure has been in White Oaks since 1898. First it was an attorney's office and then an assay office for the gold, silver and copper, which was being mined in the area and for which a tent city grew to a thriving town during its heyday.

I opened the old-time screen door, then the solid wood main door and entered. About eight or nine patrons sat talking in the bar area. I felt an air of history about the place. A smallish, well-used potbelly stove heated that area.

A narrow doorway opened out into a fairly large back room where a few more customers were seated along with six individuals from the Lincoln County Paranormal Society who were there doing technology-backed investigations, too.

I went about my task and began my interviews.

Marlon Coffman, the fifth owner of the saloon, proved to be hospitable and affable.

"There have been multiple strange sightings by some locals around here," he said. "Two visitors stepped out back of the saloon and saw orbs or lights floating down the ravine between the saloon and the old school house some 200-plus yards away. A few minutes later, when they came back into the saloon they reported what they saw in a matter-of-fact manner."

Visitors from Capitan and Lincoln have claimed to Coffman that they had seen the lights from where they lived through the mountains.

Coffman also reported, "Recently, the owner of the "Brown Building," a stone's throw to the west (towards Carrizozo), passed away. Before doing so he had been doing remodeling and repair work on the structure. Workers in the building told the owner of objects being 'mysteriously moved' without explanation.

"A previous team of paranormal investigators caught a woman's voice on a recorder in the rustic back room. It said, 'This is my bedroom.' I heard the recording."

Coffman's wife, Teresa, then subsequently added to the mystery with other reports.

"Betty, the wife of former owner Grady Stewart, was cleaning up the bar one night with another bartender and closing up," Teresa Coffman recounted. "They were the only two beings in the building - but not for long. They saw something move past the window. The door came open and they saw a man in a short-brimmed hat and overcoat standing there. Betty said to the figure, 'Can I help you?' Her co-worker said, 'Don't talk.'

The presence walked in front of the potbellied stove and stopped. He looked over at them and disintegrated before their very eyes."

Lest you might believe Teresa is given to flights of fancy, it is my belief she does not suffer from that affliction. Look into her eyes sometime, and tell me what you see. She claims to have seen a strange, unexplained light in the Cedarvale cemetery herself.

One evening, about four months ago, while in the bar area, by the stove, Teresa was having a conversation with a patron when she suddenly felt a firm tap on her left shoulder. She thought it was her husband and as she turned she said, "Marlon, don't interrupt me!"

By the time she had turned completely around she found there was nothing there. The customer she had been talking to - Mark Curtis Payne - said to her, "Well, you just had your first encounter."

Teresa believes that people really believe what they claim to have seen.

"They were genuine and adamant," she explained.

Reportedly, an apparition of a blonde-headed little girl has been seen inside and outside the white Victorian house, behind and to the right of the old school house, which was built in the 1890s by Benjamin Gumm, who owned lumber mills.

As for the schoolhouse, well, lights have claimed to have been seen moving across the row of five windows on the second floor. But that's nearly impossible as walls inside the building separate the rooms.

I finished my interviews by 7:30 p.m. and, feeling drained, decided to drive back to my home in Ruidoso. As I reversed my original path there, I was guided by the full moon of that evening, which made the journey even more memorable. Upon my arrival I felt drained and took - almost immediately - to my bed for the night.

And now, I must recount to you what then happened - realizing full well that by doing so I could jeopardize my current position and create a natural doubt as to the authenticity of my attempted, honest narrative.

During the night, I suffered the two-worst nightmares I have realized while living in New Mexico. They were vivid and horror-filled. I awoke three times to seek sanity. Decades ago I was afflicted with dark intrusions into my unconscious mind from real-life events. After a fitful period of time they subsided and I felt they were behind me - far behind.

When the morning thankfully came, I arose and went to the living room to have tea and hopefully regain my composure. I had a pounding headache and a case of irregular anxiety. Neither is normal for me.

I felt the necessity to reach out to someone who would understand and so I called a valued friend in the Northeast who is learned in these matters and quite well known in certain circles. I told him an abridged story of what happened the night before. Not knowing much about the specifics he told me immediately, "You were too focused on your interviews and, naturally, did not pick up on what was going on around you. And you didn't do what I suggested you do before you began, did you?"

"No, I'm sorry, I forgot," I sheepishly answered.

"Well, what happened, I feel Michael, is that there were four beings there, most likely flesh and blood, that invite negative energy. Some of that permeated to you and it was brought home with you. Next time, please do as I originally suggested. It should prove useful."

My friend then advised me how to rid myself of the malaise of melancholy I was experiencing. Sunday night I slept well.

So, was it as my friend implied, rather, was I affected by the full moon or was it coincidence and an isolated incident? I leave that to you.

Days later it was reported to me by Ross and Beth Barrett that they had picked up some interesting audio bits. I went to their house to actually hear them. The Zoom instrument picked up what could sound like a mine tool - a pick for instance - striking rock? The EVP, at about 1 a.m. recorded a feint voice, which Beth thinks, could sound like the word "demonic." Being a good investigator though, she can't be sure if someone nearby was whispering or was it really a residual sound from the past from a being not actually trying to communicate - a loop in time? She can't be sure - this time.

"We couldn't really conduct a fully professional investigation because of human distractions," she said. "A scientifically controlled environment is needed to prove or disprove a haunting. We picked up readings on two instruments but it is not considered ideal unless three-such devices record something in the same period of time. And so we can't say the area is truly haunted. But there are many stories to that effect here. Additionally - from the death records I have seen - there were killings by shooting, stabbing and poisoning. One person was crushed to death by a rock, as well as deaths caused by tonsillitis, indigestion and brain fever. Many infant deaths under the age of 1-year-old are listed. The causes of their passing were not listed."

And for now, the White Oaks area must remain as eerily spooky but not yet proven to be inhabited by ghosts or spirits. But one thing I fully believe - mystery attracts mystery.

Do you have something unusual going on in your home or business?

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