Ghosts In Historic New Mexican Town Still Stir
The adobe home in which the Double
Eagle restaurant is located was built during the boom time for Mesilla in the 1840's and is acknowledged as the oldest building in Historic Old Mesilla. Although Mesilla was a well-known watering and
stop-over spot for trails east and west as well as north and south since ancient Indian times, the real founding of Mesilla was the late 1840's after the Mexican American War. Many Mexican citizens
resented the United States taking the northern half their country and refused the offer of United States citizenship moving south of the new border to Mesilla. The home was a private residence up until
the 1950's when it was abandoned for a time, was used as a cotton warehouse and became a series of shops until 1972. It was then purchased by Robert O. Anderson who hired internationally known John
Miegs to collect the museum quality antiques, paintings, sculptures, wood work and other things which make the Double Eagle unique. The building is a National and State Historic Landmark and is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
The current owner is a fifth generation New Mexican C. W. Buddy Ritter.
When Anderson purchased the building, he had no idea the place was haunted.
Haunted by, not one, but two ghosts! As strange things happened, investigations were launched. Like the game in which a story is whispered down a line of people, changing at each retelling, there are
wild and interesting stories about Armando and Inez, the ghostly lovers. But, here is the tale as best we can piece together.
The first owners of the house were the Maes family. They ran a freight
line importing/exporting goods. When their base in Santa Fe was taken over by the Americans after the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, they moved south to the spot called La Mesilla. From the grand size
of the house they built, one can see the family had big plans for the future. Especially the mother. She was very proud of her family, its prestige, power and connections. Her plans centered on her
eldest son, a teenager named Armando. She constantly reminded him of his duty to the family. One old-timer reports his grandmother said, choosing an old Spanish saying, that Senora Maes had stars in her
Such a large house required many servants. One of the servants was a teenage girl named Inez. Inez was said to be very beautiful with long, black hair reaching to her waist. Well, a teenage
boy and a teenage girl under one roof...they fell in love. Armando knew his mother would not approve and they tried to keep their love a secret. But, the shy touches, the 'chance meetings' in the house
and other signs of love blooming alerted the other servants to the secret. Soon, the servants were all in on the secret and worked to hide the romance from La Senora.
It was not long before most
of the village knew of the devotion the young people felt for each other and the villagers, knowing La Senora's snobbish ways, kept the secret. The shy young man and the beautiful maiden walking together
on a errand across the Plaza caused many an older heart to remember their own younger days and to smile. All was right with the world under the bright blue sky of La Mesilla.
La Senora discerned the lovesick Armando was paying too much attention to Inez. Confronting her son, Armando confessed his love but La Senora refused to accept this. She flew into a rage and ordered Inez
from the house. She reminded Armando of his station in life and of his duty to the family. She forbade Armando to see Inez. But, do teenage boys listen to their mother?
La Senora, concerned by her
discovery, decided to arrange her son's betrothal immediately. She set out on a trip to arrange a marriage proper for Armando and in keeping with his status - and that of the family. She struck a deal
quickly and returned to her home unexpectedly soon.
The reaction of the servants to the early return of La Senora raised her suspicions. She asked for Armando to attend her so she could give him
the good news but got conflicting answers about his location. She walked to Armando's room and, hearing voices within, opened the door. And there she found the beautiful Inez in the arms of Armando.
Shocked and enraged, La Senora stepped back into what is now the restuaurant's Patio area and, stumbling over her sewing basket, her hand fell onto her sewing shears. Seemingly in a trance, La Senora
returned to the bedroom where Armando and Inez were hastily dressing. Without a sound, the shears were raised and plunged into Inez's breast. Again, the shears were raised, but Armando screaming
"No, Mama! No!" rushed to shield his beloved and La Senora unseeing drove the shears into her own son's back. At Armando's cry of pain, La Senora came to her senses and, realizing what she had
done, uttered a cry - reports tell us - which was as stricken and grief-filled as was ever given voice.
La Senora stepped back to see Inez crumpled on the floor with blood gushing from a gaping
wound while Armando, himself bleeding from the hole torn in his back, cradled her, gently stroking her hair. The servants rushed to the room and witnessed a look of tender love exchanged between Armando
and Inez. As Armando bent to kiss her lips, he felt her last breath brush his cheeks now wet with tears. As Armando clung to her body, he raised his head as if someone had called him. Staring into an
empty corner, his surprized face suddenly burst into a brilliant smile. He seemed to be listening to someone speak. La Senora spoke his name and approached to care for his wound but, at her touch, he
collapsed, never looking at her.
Armando never regained consciouness and died there days later.
And, so, here ends our tale of woe...or does it?
The Maes family avoided legal
problems through their influence and wealth, almost immediately selling the house and moving into the interior of Mexico. It is not known for sure what happened after that but Mesilleros say La Senora
did not speak from the day of the murders. Her last spoken word had been her dying son's name.
Mesilleros honored the dead lovers for many years on the Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) but
slowly memories fade. Succeeding owners of the house reported strange events, sightings of a beautiful young girl, odd happenings, unexplained events. Reports of voices whispering and the smell of a
lavender perfume occured. The story of the lovers was passed on generation to generation but, slowly, people forgot. By the 1950's and 1960's even the Day of the Dead celebrations faded. New
things took the place of story telling - radio, television. The elders were not respected as in the past. Their words were not valued any more.
Then, the Double Eagle restaurant came. The lively
commerce of a busy business must have rejuventated the two spirits because they became quite active with unexplained occurances happening quite often. Never with malice or anger. More like high spirited
pranks of a couple of teenagers.
Slowly, memories of stories their grandfathers had told returned to the old people of the village. The strange events at the restaurant were common talk and slowly
the story of the two ghostly lovers was revealed. Old records were checked in Mesilla and El Paso. Even the records from the cathedral in Chihuahua were reveiwed for details.
Today, the Day of the
Dead festival is revived and a special altar is set up in the Double Eagle restaurant honoring the two special guests.
More Recent Events:
Danny Villalpondo was finishing setting tables in the Maximillian Room about 11:30 PM. He and manager,
Jerry Harrell, were finishing closing the restaurant and were the only ones in the building. It had been a long day for Jerry so he gave the keys to Danny and said to lock up when he was finished. Jerry
said he would meet Danny in the morning to open and left. Not too much later, Danny realized someone was in the room with him. Danny's first thought was not of the ghosts but that Jerry had forgotten
to lock the front door and allowed someone to get in. Danny turned and saw a young Hispanic girl in a white linen shift walking out of the Maximillian Room and onto the Patio, going toward the Carlotta
Salon - the ghosts room. Danny still did not realize what was happening and called out that the restaurant was closed while walking toward the Patio himself. As he turned the corner into the Patio, he
could not find the girl. Danny checked all the doors. They were locked. No one could have gotten in. Danny was still not convinced and called out, "Inez? Is that you?". Danny heard a girl's
voice strongly accented say, "Danny". That was enough for Danny. He ran from the building and, the next day, made Jerry sign a written pledge never to leave him alone in the restaurant again.
Leslie Stailey, a server in the Double Eagle, was the opening
server for lunch. Other employees were in the back of the house but she was the only one in the front public area. As Leslie was going about opening duties, she heard a girl's voice, strongly
accented, say, "Leslie". Leslie raised her head and said, "Yes?" and looked around thinking one of the kitchen workers needed something. There was no one. Because the Double Eagle is
an old home, it has a series of connecting rooms. Leslie walked into the next room and looked around. Again, she heard, "Leslie" coming from the connecting room. Leslie followed the voice and
ended up hearing, "Leslie" coming from the Carlotta Salon - the ghost room. She did not enter but, thinking the kitchen employees were playing a joke, turned and entered the kitchen. There she
saw all the kitchen employees were working and all were male.
Jerry Harrell, manager of the restaurant, was at the restaurant early one Monday in September, 2003 before
the 9:30 AM kitchen crew arrives to prepare for the 11:00 AM opening. Jerry received a phone call from a first grade teacher at Mesilla Elementary School. She said she was out on the plaza with 23 first
graders and the guide who was supposed to be there to talk about Mesilla history was a no show. She asked if Jerry could give a tour of the restaurant. Jerry said sure. come on over. Jerry had already
starting the opening procedures, checking all rooms, turning on lights, checking the alarm system. So, with 23 first graders and a relieved teacher in tow, Jerry walked from room to room and explained
the history of various pieces of art, talked about the chandeliers, the gold ceiling, the Billy the Kid artifacts. Finally, Jerry said this is the way to the ghost room. Jerry backed in motioning for the
kids to follow. Suddenly Jerry was staring at the ceiling. A dining chair was no longer tucked under the table but pulled right out into the walkway and Jerry had backed right over the chair. Jerry had
checked the room and the chair was in it's proper place not 30 minutes earlier. There were no other people in the building. Jerry received a thank you note from the class with artistic first grade
renditions of a ghost pulling the chair out for Jerry.
October 5, 2004
A gentleman who worked for the City of Las Cruces was entertaining some guests for lunch in the Carlotta Room (the
ghost's room). The gentleman thought the room was getting colder. Colder and colder he felt but continued talking to his guests and wondering why no one else commented on the cold. Suddenly, he saw the
curtains over the window moving with strong gusts of wind coming into the room. He realized now why the room was cold and got up to shut the window. As he brushed the curtain aside to get to the window
sash, he realized the wall actually had no window opening in it. The wall was solid. A window frame and curtains had been hung on the wall to give the appearance of a window. As he stepped back in shock,
he heard a young girl's laughter and turned around to see all his guest staring at him.
A new Assistant Manager was hired at the Double Eagle. Much time was spent in
training and the ghost story was mentioned briefly. The gentleman was a skeptic and said he thought it was all a bunch of bunk, just a story to sell the restaurant. The Manager at the time said no one
was asking him to believe anything, just to be aware of the story in case anyone asked. After working here a week, it was the Assistant Manager's time to close the building up at night without
supervision for the first time. A customer had left about 2 glasses of wine in a bottle and the Assistant Manager told the server that he knew what to do with it. He took the bottle and two clean glasses
into the Carlotta Room (the ghost room) and set them on the table. He said to the ghosts, "Here! I've brought you some wine so you can enjoy the night." Laughing, he turned to the one remaining
server and said,"We'll see in the morning if they had a good time." They walked to the back door, set the alarm system including the motion detectors and left for the night. Returning the next
morning, the Assistant Manager disconnected the alarm system and walked directly to the Carlotta. He was stunned to see the bottle empty and on its side. The two wine glasses were shattered in the
fireplace. As he walked out the back door, he tossed the keys to the Executive Chef Larry Campos who was coming in and said, "I'm not working here. Just mail me my check." And we did.