Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Haunted New Mexico: The PERA Building

The PERA (Public Employees Retirement Administration) building in Santa Fe, New Mexico was constructed in 1966. 

It was built on land that was initially St. Michaels High School * a Catholic boarding and day school for boys. 
PERA building.

Near this school, surrounded by an adobe wall, was an old Spanish-Indian Cemetery that dated from the early 1800s. ** 

With the PERA building was constructed, the school’s buildings were torn down. The old potter's field cemetery presented a more significant problem that some considered at best to be just a nuisance.

The PERA Building has five floors. Two of these floors were built underground. So the building has a basement and sub-basement. 

At the time of construction it is said because of financial and time constraints some bodies were removed to make way for the basements but others where left. 

So a large portion of this cemetery was just graded over and paved for the PERA parking lot. Considering this, it is not surprising that this area is haunted. ***

People flatly refuse to spend time in the PERA building's basements after dark. Unseen hands are said to reach out and trip people, as they walk down the staircases that lead to the basements. Loud cries and moans are also heard in this area. 

One janitor in the 1970s quit after he spotted a tall, thin woman appear in front of him, in the middle of the night. **** Even today many local residents will not walk past the PERA building at night. *****

Another active ghost is a woman dressed all in black. She has been seen on the property for many years. Old-timers in the area believe that this land was actually haunted before the PERA building was constructed. 

In the 1800s wealthy families from all over the Southwest and Mexico sent their sons to be educated at St. Michaels. 

It is stated that a tragedy struck two of these students in 1867 when they drank tainted water and died. Some accounts of their deaths mention they contracted cholera and died others state they actually died of smallpox.

In both versions of this legend, it is stated these boys were buried quickly in the old pauper’s graveyard in unmarked graves. 

This was done at the request of the city authorities. To avoid panic from spreading among the citizens of Santa Fe. 

The mother of one of these boys, Dona Maria Sanchez, heard the news and traveled to the city. When she arrived, she was disturbed to find that the authorities would not let her take her son’s remains home. They would not even tell her where he was buried in the cemetery. 

Mrs. Sanchez heart-broken with grief, remained in Santa Fe. For years she was seen every day walking to the adobe-walled cemetery with her rosary in her hand.

Unfortunately, it appears Dona Maria cannot rest in peace. Some state she is still looking for her son. 

Her ghost, a short woman, dressed all in black clutching her mantilla tightly to her face, is seen walking in the corridors of the PERA building. She is often seen walking through walls. 

But most witnesses, employees at PERA, state they see her walking quickly through the parking lot toward the area where the graves remain underneath. She appears so real, many of these witnesses have spoken to her, but she never acknowledges their greetings.

*   St. Michael’s High School, first known as El Colegio de San Miguel, was conceived by Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first bishop of Santa Fe. He brought four Christian Brothers from France to run the school in 1859. 

**  Written records were not kept for this cemetery, so it is not clear when it was first and last used.

***  To disturb these bodies is bad enough, but since it was done--all the bodies should have been removed with respect and given proper burials somewhere else. 

****  It is stated that another famous ghost in New Mexico La Llorona--The Weeping Woman-- also haunts this area, for the Santa Fe River runs by the building. 

*****  As recent as 2010 a Santa Fe utility crew digging near the PERA building unearthed some of these unsettled bones.

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