There are dozens of reason to visit the Double Eagle in La Mesilla, New Mexico. It serves killer steaks (aged up to 80 days in a special aging room), boasts the world’s largest green chili cheeseburger (the bun alone is a foot wide) and whips up margaritas that would make even stone-faced John Boehner do the cha-cha. Just walking around this 1840’s adobe mansion with its 18- and 24-karat gold ceilings, baccarat chandeliers, 30-foot oak and walnut bar and Billy the Kid artifacts is a history lesson.
But the reason I can’t wait to go back to this national historic site near the Mexican border is I finally got requited proof that ghosts exist. I love hearing spooky stories, have always known there’s a lot more than this 70, 80-year span we call life. But I’m a skeptic. When it comes to believing the crazy episodes of Ghost Hunters or Most Haunted or whatever new ghost-busting show is out there, my response resembles a seventh grade girl reacting to her mother’s advice: “Whatever.”
But on a recent Saturday night, dining at the Double Eagle, I was thoroughly loving the stories about Armando and Inez, the star-crossed lovers who purportedly haunt the place, and decided to take the bait. Jerry Harrell, the manager, told us how Armando’s mother, a wealthy socialite, fired the enchanting Inez (she was their maid) after learning about their affair. But since teenage boys heed mom’s meddling in much the same way as teenage girls, Armando failed to break it off. One unfortunate day, the high and mighty senora found the sneaky teenagers in Armando’s bedroom, flew into a rage and murdered them both with a pair of sewing shears. To be fair, she didn’t intend to murder her son, but he was in love and gallant and well, he stepped in the way.
That’s the back story. More than 100 years later, after their sprawling home was turned into a restaurant, mysterious, unexplained things started happening: lavender perfume wafted down the halls, knives were stacked on the bedroom floor, chairs overturned and tables mysteriously moved overnight.
One of the employees, in fact, got so spooked that he insisted on a waiver in his contract promising he’d never be left in the restaurant alone. A short-lived assistant manager, who pooh-poohed the stories, jokingly left a bottle of wine and a couple glasses for the couple. He came back the next day, unhooked the security system and found an empty wine bottle and the glasses broken in the fire place. He threw the keys at the chef and said, “I quit. Mail my paycheck.”
Before starting desert, Jerry pointed us to the room, now called the Carlotta Salon, where the murder took place.
“Just don’t sit on their chairs,” he warned, explaining that “their chairs,” even after being newly-reupholstered, have indentations where the teenager lovers sit. “Inez and Armando are harmless, just normal teenage pranksters. Unless, you make them mad by sitting in their chairs.”
Even though I don’t hold a lot of stock in such stories, I figured I might as well, out of ghostful respect, steer clear. But Lindsey, my co-conspirator, plopped right down in Inez’s chair. (You can tell which is which because dresses make different indentations than pants). Far be it from me to wimp out, I gingerly crept towards Armando’s chair and quickly edged into his seat.
Not three seconds later, the nearby lamp’s hand-cut glass crystals began shaking violently. And, no, I didn’t touch it. The table on which it sat was a good three feet from me and even though I’m tall, further away than my arm span. I wasted no time. I jumped up, ran for the door and pulled Lindsey with me. She was busy snapping pictures with her I-Phone.
“You did see that, right?” I said.
“Oh, yeah!” she assured me, adding that the air around her turned ice cold the moment she sat down.
We rushed back to the dining room to inform our party about the weird phenomenon. Most of them laughed and parroted my old response.
“No really,” we insisted. “Look. Lindsey took pictures.”
She held out her I-phone and all 58 of her photos (I can verify. I heard her phone going click, click, click) were gone, completely wiped out.
“I told you,” Jerry said. “You shouldn’t have pissed them off.”