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Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Cowboys around the campfire for an evening meal at round up, Eddy County — date unknown. Many cowboy stories of ghostriders, ghostly steers and houses started out around the campfire under starlit skies during a cattle drive.

Ghostly houses, heifers and cowboy stories

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

Just for fun, I thought I would share this story to start off the New Year. Clarence Adams, like Earnestine Williams, has written volumes of stories of growing up and living in and around Roswell. Following is a childhood story he shared about living in a ghost house out on the prairie. …

“I Lived In A Haunted House

“By Clarence S. Adams

“In 1931 my family lived on the old Wolf place on the north Berrendo Creek, located up near the old Ku Klux Klan Headquarters about 6 miles northeast of Roswell.

“How well I remember the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the Klan’s acreage, especially the lake and the huge cross which was lighted up — I believe it was every Wednesday night.

“However, we lived on the Wolf place for only about a year. We had about 300 white leghorn hens, 13 milk cows, a few hogs, and several horses, and we thought we had the world by the tail; then the owner announced that he was selling the place, so it left us with all that livestock and no place to move.

“Move we must, though. However, it looked hopeless; there was no place to go. Papa had looked everywhere, and there seemed to be nothing available. Then one evening he came home telling us about a place he had found. He had ridden horseback over all the backcountry east, between where we lived and the Pecos. ‘It’s a big old house ‘bout four miles east of here,’ he said. ‘Plenty of room, it has an upstairs and there’s lots of grass over the country for the cattle.’”

“I remember that mama looked kind of funny for a minute. She didn’t protest though. She knew that we had to move, and any place Papa found would have to do. So, during the next few days my brother and I stayed home from school, helping to load the wagon and the old Model T. Then Papa drove the team to the wagon with all our household goods and Mama drove the car, and J.B. and I drove the cattle and horses across the prairie to the ‘Big House.”’

“After moving in and getting back to school, it didn’t take us long to find out why Mama had looked so startled when Papa had told her where we were going to move. The kids at school had already heard — and they knew more about the old sinister looking, two-story house, than we did, because the first thing we heard when we arrived at school was, ‘Hey guys, how do you like livin’ in a haunted house? Seen any ghosts out there yet?’

“This rather upset J.B. and me at first. Our family had never been superstitious. But this! We boys had heard about the old ‘Haunted House’ but we’d never suspected that this was it. No wonder Mama and Papa had acted strange about moving out there.

“I don’t remember ever being really scared while we lived in the haunted house, although we heard — or thought we heard — strange noises in the attic above us. At night there were sounds such as the tinkle of a cowbell, rattle of a trace chain, the shuffle of paper, or a knock on the wall somewhere in the old building. Once or twice we thought we saw something white flit across the yard in the light of the moon.

“One night we had gone upstairs to bed and J.B. and I lay there and talked about the strange things that were happening in our haunted house. We had agreed that we were going to try and find out what was causing all the little disturbances. We had almost come to the conclusion that the place really was haunted — in spite of our conservative upbringing by old fashion parents. ‘Mama says, there’s no such thing as ghosts or haunted houses and I believe her,’ I would tell Jake as we talked. ‘Yeah, Mama knows that and you know that, but do the ghosts know that?’ J.B. was quick to point out.

“We talked far into the night, and as we talked we thought more about what had been happening. Suddenly I thought I heard a bucket drop on the floor in the attic over our heads. Then an owl hooted somewhere outside, and a bloodcurdling “meow” of a cat in the salt cedars out near the cistern almost made my hair stand up.

“I looked at J.B. I could tell by his breathing that he had gone to sleep. I slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the window. Although I was half scared to look out, I did anyway. At first I saw nothing, then I heard the drain pipe that led to the cistern rattle as though something or someone was climbing it. Dad-gum it! Climbing down the drain pipe? It couldn’t be! Then I really did see something — a white object flitting around in the pasture out near the corrals and it soon just faded away into the night. To top it off, about that time a couple of coyotes began to sing a duet in the mesquites out north of the barn.

“That did it! I wasn’t scared of coyotes or hoot owls, but whatever it was that had gone down the drain pipe, and that thing had run across the pasture, had sure stirred up my curiosity. I really don’t know why, but my heart seemed to be beating a little faster, and I noticed that I was trembling just a little as I crawled back into bed. But what the heck! Mama and Papa said there wasn’t any such thing as a haunted house or ghosts — or things like that — and I figured Mama and Papa were about the smartest people I knew. Trying to console myself with this thought I tried to go to sleep.

“I finally dozed off, but it was a troubled sleep. Once or twice I woke up thinking I heard a chain rattle in the attic above. I’ll get up there and look around tomorrow, I remember thinking.

“It must have been near morning when I woke up again; this time it was for real. The bed was shaking — almost moving on the floor! I could hear it — and I could feel it shake. In fact the whole house seemed to be shaking. Mama and Papa were wrong! The dad-gum house was haunted! We now had proof!

“I shook J.B. The commotion had died down by then, but I woke him anyway. ‘You hear that?’ I asked him. Still alarmed by what had happened. ‘Here what?’ He asked sleepily. ‘I ain’t heard nothin’. Go back to sleep! It’s your ‘magination.’

“‘You don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.” I told him. ‘The bed’s moved from where it was. Somebody pushed our bed! I know, because I could feel it. Somethin’ crazy’s  going on round here!’

“J.B. didn’t seem convinced. In fact, he didn’t seem to care, for he was soon asleep again. I tried to go to sleep, and finally — I reckon it was almost daylight — I dozed off, but not before I thought again about what a crazy night it had been.

“I said nothing to Mama or Papa the next morning about the night’s happenings, although I dreaded to think about spending another night upstairs in the haunted house. I didn’t want to upset them. Not yet anyway.

“About noon we had a visitor. It was one of the Neely boys who lived over the prairie east about a mile. After he had crawled off his horse, Papa invited him in for a cup of coffee which Mama kept hot on the cook stove. They passed the time of day and talked for a while about the weather, the grass, and the cattle. Then the Neely boy finally told us what his mission was. ‘You folks seen a big old white heifer come through your pasture the last day or so?’ he asked.

“Papa said no, he reckoned he didn’t. But already my wheels had started turning. And to top it all off just before the visitor left, he said,  ‘By the way, did y’all hear about the earthquake we had last night. Some people from Roswell stopped by the house this morning and told us about it. Some folks said they felt it — said it rattled the windows and even moved some of their furniture around. Papa said it rattled the windows at our house. I reckon I slept through it all, I didn’t hear a thing.’

“Well, I sure was glad the Neely boy had come by. Now that shed new light on the whole thing. I figured that I’d sure sleep better come night. Who’d ever thought it? A big old white heifer — and an earthquake — a real live old-fashioned haunted house. Well, how about that!

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.