Posts tagged ‘New Mexico’

I aint afraid o’ no ghosts…except in La Mesilla’s Double Eagle

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.”

The perks of being a Virgin Galactic Bransonaut

I’m on rutted, dirt roads in the Jornada del Muerto desert of southern New Mexico headed to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It’s adjacent to White Sands Missile Range where, for 70 some years, assorted rockets, nuclear bombs and other WMDs have been tested.

My useless GPS reports this 3,200 square miles of restricted air space as one monstrous black hole. I’d have never found Spaceport Operations Center (SOC, for short) or Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space if it wasn’t for Aaron Prescott, the rocket scientist whose college friends can’t help but break the tenth commandment: “Thou Shall Not Covet.”

They’re insanely jealous, he says, of his position as Business Operations Manager for New Mexico’s $209 million entry into global commercial spaceflight. He works with madcap entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson — whose left eye is on the security badge required to get into the New Mexico Space Authority (NMSA) — and other aerospace firms contracted to fly from this remote high desert location. Prescott calls it the Kitty Hawk of space travel.

Since 2006, 17 rockets have been launched here — “Unmanned, so far,” Prescott says. “We want to make sure people are buying roundtrip tickets.” — and 551 have slapped down $200,000 for Virgin Galactic’s three days of astronaut training and two hours in space. ‘Course, that’s chump change for the likes of Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Kate Winslett, to name a few of the already-paids who probably make that in, say 10 minutes of “Two and a Half Men.”

Mixing it up with celebrities is just one of the perks. Here are five more:

1. Free Drinks at the Astronauts Lounge. When you’re Katy Perry, another who forked over $200 grand, you tend to travel with an entourage. Minions are more than welcome to hang out at the Spaceport, clap when you blast off, even follow your every G-force on giant monitors — “We could probably configure the flights with an iPhone app,” Prescott says, “But you gotta put on a show.” — but the spacesuit dressing room and third-floor lounge with the free champagne? That’s for Bransonauts only.

2. Five minutes of being weightless. Much of the two-hour flight involves getting to the other side of the Karman Line, the line that divides earth’s atmosphere from outer space. But at 60 miles up, you can see 1,500 to 2,000 miles in all directions or, to put it in perspective, that’s a view of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.

3. No need to be a perfect specimen of humanity. Qualifying for NASA requires brains like Einstein, 1,000 hours of in-command flight time and the ability to pass a rigorous physical. Only an elite few make it in. As a Bransonaut, you don’t even need a pressure suit. “At three and a half to six Gs, it’s like a really awesome roller coaster,” Prescott says, adding that at nine Gs, you’d black out.

4. Bragging rights. Being the first to get your Boy Scout “Space Badge” is nothing compared to the VIP invitations to Branson’s private Caribbean island home or his South African game reserve. Last year, for example, he held an Astronaut Forum, a tour of the LEED Gold 110,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic terminal and dinner at Mesilla’s historic Double Eagle steakhouse.

5. 360-degree skies. I’d pit the sunset in southern New Mexico to any painting in any art museum anywhere.

For the rest of us, Follow the Sun offers a three-hour, $59 bus tour.

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. Find out more at