Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ghosts of Madrid, New Mexico

This former “ghost town” along Highway 14 known today as the Turquoise Trail is a must visit when in New Mexico.

Turquoise Trail

Madrid is a short drive north from Albuquerque or south from Santa Fe. The town today is a quaint art colony with 400 residents and about 40 shops, studios and galleries.

The little valley--known as “Coal Gulch” that Madrid is nestled within went through 3 mining booms. Over 1,500 years ago Native Americans mined the turquoise and lead in the area. When the Spaniards entered the valley they found rich deposits of silver--when this played out they moved on.

Madrid coal mine and
miners, 1935.
In the 1800’s gold was discovered at this point the population of Madrid grew rapidly. But when the gold petered out so did the people. Next, coal was mined--again the population swelled.

The coal boom lasted from 1869-1954 and during Madrid’s heyday produced 250,000 pounds of coal annually. The coal mining company in Madrid owned most of the town and they took care of their miners unlike many other mining companies that operated at that time.

The company had wooden frame houses brought in by train from Kansas to provide homes for the miners.

In the 1920s the Albuquerque and Cerrillos Coal Company had their own electric plant--they supplied free electricity to their employee’s homes. They also provided schools, a hospital and even paved roads--a rarity in small western towns at the turn of the century.

In the 1920s the town started a popular Christmas light display--today the local artists carry on this tradition. This and their wonderful small-town Christmas parade is a must see.

The town’s pride and joy in the 1930s was its successful baseball team, the Madrid Miners. All the other teams in the Central New Mexico League feared them. They were a prominent minor league farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Madrid’s population of 3,000 would increase to double this size during games. The town’s ballpark was named after the superintendent of the mines, Oscar Huber and was the first ballpark west of the Mississippi to have lights installed for night games.

During the early part of the coal boom Madrid--pronounced “Mad--rid” had a larger population than Albuquerque. By 1890, Albuquerque surpassed it with over 3,785 residents in New Town alone.

Madrid as ghost town.
This boom lasted until the popularity of coal as a heating source dwindled. By the mid 1950s the town was deserted. When my family visited Madrid in the early 1960s for picnics it was a “ghost town.”

In the 1970s, Oscar Huber’s son Joseph who owned the entire town started to lease the deserted old wood buildings to wood and metal artists. More artists came and today Madrid is thriving.

Madrid today.

Haunted Mine Shaft Tavern

Part of Madrid’s former population still lingers. Besides the local churches and homes that are known to be haunted--the main road--North 14-- that passes through Madrid has activity.

A friend saw one couple--a pair of ghosts--that are seen walking along this road. This couple, a cowboy and his fancy dressed Spanish lady can be seen drifting arm and arm down the street.

A haunted hot spot in Madrid is the Mine Shaft Tavern. The original tavern burned down in 1944 and Oscar Huber had it rebuilt. Many people have encountered the ghosts that reside in this building.

Mine Shaft Tavern
Click to enlarge
One waitress that used to work there was greeted by one of these entities every morning. This ghost would brush her cheek tenderly.

Other employees have spotted glasses flying across the bar and smashing to the floor, doors are opened or swing back and forth and unusual sounds of merriment are heard when the building is empty.

Furniture and other items are often found in new locations or misplaced. One common occurrence has startled more than one patron-- when they look into the restroom mirrors they see another face staring back at them.

Cold spots are felt and apparitions are also seen in this restaurant.

The Mind Shaft has its own paranormal team and they allow other teams to investigate. A small theatre in the back that puts on melodramas in the summer is also known to be haunted.

If you want to catch the true flavor of Madrid eat at this restaurant on a Friday night. Live music is performed and the crowd is fun and rowdy. 

The tavern is also known for being one of the few places in town that has flush toilets for visitor use. Water is scarce in Madrid--so Porta Potty’s are the norm.

Friends and I visit at more peaceful times during mid afternoons so we can pick up on the activity. The Mine Shaft Tavern serves wonderful food. I always order their green-chili cheeseburger--it is my second favorite in New Mexico.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for writing about Madrid. I haven't lived in New Mexico for about 30 yrs but am coming back to visit and was trying to remember the old ghost stories. I love that little place. And, yes, the green chili cheese burgers are wonderful.