CUCHILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - Hollywood phantoms, poltergeists, spirits, specters and spooks come in all shapes and sizes, but those ghosts aren't real. If it's reality you want, step up to the bar in Cuchillo.
"I couldn't ask for a better place to look for ghosts," Ben Radford said. "This is awesome. If this place isn't haunted it should be."
Welcome to the old Cuchillo Bar tucked away in the shadow of the Black Range about 15 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences. Relics documenting its 150-year history still line the adobe walls.
At different times the place was a trading post, stagecoach stop, hotel, post office and frontier saloon.
Josh Bond owns the Cuchillo Bar and might spend some time in it during daylight. But would he wander in late at night and take a seat?
"Absolutely not," Bond said. "I have so many unexplainable things happen that I have to believe it's haunted."
The bar served its last beer years ago and now stands locked and shuttered. Only the antique furnishings remain.
During the day it's just an old building. But after dark, locals say, things go bump in the night.
"A male's voice has been heard in this room several times, and I believe it to be an old cowboy that's sort of taken over this room," Bond said. "I've heard voices. I've heard things fall. I've heard a lot of whistling from the bar area."
There are rattling doorknobs, shadowy figures and cabinets that mysteriously unlatch. Professional ghost hunters reported they have evidence the place is haunted.
Radford, Managing Editor of the scientific journal Skeptical Inquirer, has spent 10 years investigating the paranormal and questions the findings of the Cuchillo ghost hunters.
"If the group has, in fact, scientifically proven paranormal activity, this needs to be in the New York Times because this is the first time in history this has ever happened," he said. "I can't come into this place and say there is definitely not a ghost here because there might be.
"But, nor for example can ghost hunters credibly come in here and say for a fact this place is haunted."
The cabinet door that seems to open on its own? There's a more logical explanation, and it has nothing to do with the supernatural.
And then there are the audio recordings--electronic voice phenomena--ghost hunters say are the voices of old Cuchillo's poltergeists.
"Do you wish to communicate with us?" a ghost hunter asks in one recording.
"No," a voice seemingly replies.
When the ghost hunter asks, "Are you a cowboy?" the response appears to be a single knock of some kind.
"This whole thing of the ghosts communicating through knocks and raps and murmurs and whispers, it's silly," Radford said. "I mean, come on. If the ghosts are here they should be able to show themselves far better than this."
Not all ghosts are anonymous spirits. The spook that some say haunts the historic Kimo Theater in downtown Albuquerque actually has a name. He's 6-year-old Bobby Darnall.
"It just seems to be sort of a mischievous little spirit," Dennis Potter said.
Bobby died when a water heater exploded in the Kimo lobby during a movie in 1951. Thirty-five years later, as the story goes, Bobby reappeared.
Apparently there was a dispute over some donuts during a local production of "A Christmas Carol." And that's when Bobby rose from the dead. Actors forgot their lines, pieces of the set fell and lights exploded
Potter was there.
"Lots of things went wrong during the show," he said. "All I can say is after they put the donuts back up for the show that evening the show went perfect."
It wasn't until nine years later that the Kimo ghost story first appeared in print. Today the spirit of Bobby Darnall is one of New Mexico's best known hauntings.
There's a shrine to the boy ghost in the Kimo basement. The theory is: keep Bobby happy so he doesn't get into mischief.
Radford spent months investigating the Kimo ghost story.
"It's a great story," he said. "It's just not true.
"There may be a ghost somewhere, but the likelihood of it being Bobby Darnall is zero."
The entire basis for this ghost story hinges on a single performance of "A Christmas Carol" 20 years ago, yet there is a problem. The only person who remembers it as a disaster is Potter.
"The director doesn't remember it, other cast and crew don't remember it, and nobody else remembers it," Radford said. "What you conclude from that is that it didn't happen."
Nevertheless, the spirit of Bobby Darnall, or some other spook, has been documented here by countless ghost hunters saying they have detected its electromagnetic field.
Paranormal detectives say the spirit world emits electromagnetic fields (EMF) that can be picked up on, of course, ghost meters.
"This is pure pseudoscience," Radford said. "There's not a shred of evidence that this detects ghosts at all, yet it is the main piece of equipment that ghost hunters use.
"They got that off TV. They got that out of misunderstanding science."
So if there's a ghost, does the EMF detector picking up a signal put him in Seat 9?
"If you were a ghost hunter you're going to suspect that this might be evidence of a ghost," Radford said.
Unless little Bobby Darnall's spirit is hiding in an electrical outlet underneath the seat, it's probably not evidence of a ghost.
"If ghosts want us to be aware of their presence they could do a hell of a lot better job than this," Radford continued. "I love ghost stories. Ghost stories are great, but you need to make the distinction between a story and what's real."
Radford isn't saying these places aren't haunted. However, he does say there's no evidence of it although he would welcome a meeting with the Kimo ghost.
"I want to see a ghost come up to me personally and say, 'Boo,'" Radford said. "Something more than what I've been given. More than just stories."
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