author Garcez tells ghost stories
It’s the Halloween season and time to light a candle, lock
the doors, and tell ghost stories. Placitas author Antonio R. Garcez
offers a bookfull of shivers up the spine in New Mexico Ghost Stories.
He traveled throughout the state collecting first-hand accounts
of the paranormal. Garcez divides the stories regionally and introduces
each region with historical background information surrounding the
state’s many haunted houses, old graveyards, and other spooky
places. The author presents the stories in the words of eyewitnesses.
Garcez will be doing both a book-signing and storytelling at Art
Gallery 66, on October 27, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. and a book signing
on October 13, from noon to 2:00 p.m., at Treasure House Books and
Gifts, in Old Town Albuquerque. He is also the author of American
Indian Ghost Stories, Arizona Ghost Stories, New Mexico Ghost Stories,
and California & Yosemite Ghosts. For more information, visit
Here’s a sample from New Mexico Ghost Stories:
Sofita Becera’s Story
In 1921, I was 22 and had just married Daniel the previous summer.
We had a small house about two miles east of the Santa Fe Plaza.
In those days, two to five miles was not considered very far to
travel, and those of us without horses would walk, carrying supplies
of food or firewood. It was not an easy life, but the good times
made up for the bad. My good friend since childhood, Belinda Ortiz,
would join me at midday after I had done the cleaning and fed the
chickens and goats. Belinda and I passed the time talking about
what was going on in our neighborhood, things like who was romancing
who. During one of these afternoon visits, Belinda and I went outside
to rid my yard of a stray dog that was barking and chasing my chickens.
Three young neighborhood boys came by, saw our trouble, and started
throwing stones at the mongrel. Once rid of the dog, I asked the
boys why they were so covered in dirt. They explained that they
had been exploring in the nearby hills and had discovered a small
cave behind a grove of trees against the side of the mountain. They
had gathered some sticks to enlarge the opening and peered inside.
With the help of the afternoon sun, they saw several pots and a
quiver made out of fox pelts that contained arrows. I told them
they must have uncovered a burial site and should not have touched
or taken anything, because they must respect the dead. They listened
with wide eyes and then said they did not want to return, but were
afraid that others might disturb the cave. Belinda suggested they
take us to the cave and we could help them cover it up. The boys
agreed and off we went.
About six miles into the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, on the
eastern edge of the city, we crossed a small stream and entered
a grove of trees. There we found the cave. The opening was about
four feet high and three feet wide. We peered inside and saw the
small painted pots, a woven grass mat, and the quiver of arrows—just
as the boys had described. In the back of the cave, I saw a large
dark mass of fur and I knew this was a burial cave when I saw a
bony foot protruding from underneath the fur. I realized that the
corpse must have been a man and a hunter because he was wrapped
in a bear skin and had his hunting weapons with him, but I kept
this knowledge to myself and made the sign of the cross. I turned
to Belinda and the boys and said, “We will have to seal this
up, so go down to the stream and bring mud and stones.” While
they were all busy at the stream, I looked inside the cave again.
This time I noticed a roughly carved molcajete. I knew
that taking anything from the dead or a burial is very wrong. I
was raised knowing this, but mentally putting this knowledge aside,
I nervously reached in and grabbed the molcajete and the
small grinding stone that lay beside it. At the time it didn’t
seem wrong to take a stone tool, I thought this would fit in my
kitchen perfectly, so I carried it some distance away and covered
it with grass and leaves. I felt it was worthless compared to the
pots or the fox quiver. We diligently worked with our hastily gathered
adobe building materials, and soon the sun had caused a thin crust
to develop on the surface of the moistened mud. We placed large
branches with lots of leaves in front of the sealed entrance. We
all agreed that we had done a “good job.” I instructed
the boys to return home on their own, but Belinda and I stayed behind.
After they had gone, I told Belinda about the molcajate.
She was not very happy about what I had done, but after she saw
it, she agreed that it would do no harm to put it to use once in
a while, after all those years lying in the cave. I retrieved the
tool and we went home. I scrubbed the molcajete clean of
all mud and placed it on the kitchen table to surprise my husband.
When Daniel saw it, he admired its beauty, but asked nothing of
its origins. Instead, he suggested I grind some chile for the following
day’s dinner. So the next day, I did as he had suggested and
crushed some dried, red chile pods for dinner. The molcajete
performed very nicely, but later that night, while I was sleeping,
I was awakened by a loud banging sound. I shook my husband out of
his sleep and told him to listen, but the sound had stopped. The
next night, I was again awakened by the same sound, but this time
I recognized it as the sound one rock makes as it is hit against
another—a “click/click” sound. Immediately, I
knew it was the molcajete. I got goose bumps on my goose
bumps, but I kept still and eventually, after what seemed an eternity,
the sound stopped.
The next morning I told Belinda about the sounds in the night.
She said it was my own fault for taking what was not mine. I agreed
and asked her to return the molcajete to the cave. She
refused and insisted I do it myself. But I was too frightened, so
I carried the stone to the back of the house and left it there beside
the back door. From time to time, I would hear the familiar sound,
but I dared not tell Daniel where the molcajete came from.
I just endured the night poundings and the guilt that had overcome
me. Out of fear I could not bring myself to return the molcajete
to its rightful resting place. One November night, as a soft snow
dusted everything, I heard the molcajete again.
It had been several months since the last time I had heard it,
but as usual, the clicking sound awakened me from my sleep. I got
out of bed, went to the back door and carefully peered through the
window. I saw the freshly fallen snow glistening in the bright light
of a full moon. Then I looked down to where the molcajete
stood and was surprised to see the imprints of a barefooted person
in the snow. The footprints slowly moved away from the molcajete
until they disappeared behind a large cottonwood tree. Although
snow covered everything else in the yard, the exposed molcajete,
which was being used as a doorstop, had been brushed clean, and
the fresh human footprints surrounded the molcajete.
Since that night I have heard the clicking sounds of the molcajete
only twice: on the day that my good friend Belinda died and on the
day that Daniel was laid to rest. But I was no longer afraid. I
guess I’ve come to accept the spirit that dwells in or around
the grinding stone as something that I will have to live with. I
now consider the molcajete as if it were a chair or table,
something taken for granted but useful when needed. I believe this
“stone friend” will stay with me and provide companionship
until I leave this world.
Orlando Lucero, county commissioner
Orlando Lucero—public servant, lifelong educator, grounded
—JO ANNE FREDRIKSON
Sandoval County’s newest commissioner is Orlando Lucero, who
is a lifelong resident of the Las Cocinitas (the little kitchens)
Barrio of Bernalillo. This is one of several remaining barrios in
Bernalillo that is located in an area behind the Range Restaurant.
He attended Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School from kindergarten
through tenth grade before transferring to Bernalillo High School.
This school was in the El Zócalo Compound building across
from the church that is currently being renovated. He went on to
become a teacher at Bernalillo High School and taught many of the
county’s leading officials and tribal leaders during his twenty-plus
years there. He has been an educator for forty-three years, and
currently teaches seventh grade at John Adams Middle School on Albuquerque’s
west side. He is proud of the positive attributes of his students,
but saddened that most come from homes without fathers. He would
love to be the catalyst for a statewide mentoring program for youth.
While he was a student at Bernalillo High School, teachers recognized
his potential and helped him win “all kinds of scholarships.”
When he was first enrolled at the University of Albuquerque, he
changed a flat tire for an elderly instructor. The man was so grateful
that he saw to it that Orlando received a $10,000 scholarship from
a recent donation to the school. Orlando graduated from the University
of Albuquerque with a double major in biology and political science.
Bilingual Education was the focus of his Master’s Degree,
and he completed postgraduate work in Educational Administration
with a special interest in community colleges. His education career
includes being a Washington Policy Fellow assigned to East Los Angeles
College, where he worked on policy issues with leaders of a consortium
of California community colleges. He worked with the U.S. Department
of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and was an Albuquerque
Public Schools Loaned Executive.
As the youngest of six children, he fondly recalls the dichos,
or stories, his parents used to teach values as part of his upbringing.
He later realized that many of those riddles had their foundation
in the Bible. He learned construction with his father at age nine,
and built his mother a house when he was only fifteen. He is a proficient
adobe builder, and also does woodcarving and furniture making as
He credits the Christian brothers who operated Our Lady of Sorrows
School with teaching him to live with a constant life of prayer.
He operates a prison ministry monthly at the Sandoval County Correctional
Facility. He also practices traditions passed down from his father
of visiting one or two elderly people each Sunday. He has what he
refers to as his ‘Rosebud Ministry,’ whereby he distributes
a dozen roses on Sundays one at a time by ringing a doorbell, giving
the lady of the house a rose, a smile and a wave, and heads on to
the next stop. It is important to him that he not lose sight of
his roots. His father always taught him to respect his elders.
He is the divorced father of six grown children. He is proud of
their intelligence and their accomplishments. Two work for NASA,
one is an educator, one is involved in banking and real estate,
one operates a tanning salon, and one is a very content truck driver.
He says he brought his children into the world and they taught him
how to enjoy it. He has eleven grandchildren.
Orlando knew he wanted to be a county commissioner when he was
still in high school. His father Max Lucero was a magistrate judge.
An uncle, Ezequiel C. de Baca, was New Mexico’s second governor.
Many other relatives served in elected office. He says that his
father told him of a group of leaders meeting in 1927 in Bernalillo
as a “Mancomun,” or ‘Men’s Commons’
that was a predecessor to the City Council. His infectious enthusiasm
for people makes him a natural politician.
Orlando Lucero was elected to the Sandoval County Commission in
January 2007. His service area includes eighteen separate communities
with specific needs. His priority is the health and safety of residents
of the county. A current goal is to bring sewer service to residents
of Bernalillo’s bosque area. The land there is home to approximately
780 people and has been subdivided as it has passed down through
generations. The ground is saturated, and it may be necessary to
annex the area, and possibly create a special assessment district.
He encourages county residents to articulate their needs by inviting
him to a special meeting, voicing concerns at a Commission meeting,
or leaving him a message at the County Courthouse (867-7500). He
recognizes that the county is experiencing lots of growth, and there
are many issues of concern. He invites residents to give him a call
or write a letter. He will get back to you ASAP; however, he receives
about fifteen such phone calls per day, so it may take a while.
If you have a recommendation for a person to highlight
in “Real people,” please email a paragraph about the
individual and your contact information to: email@example.com
or mail it to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889, Placitas, NM 87043.