In the fall semester of 1976, I received a magazine for incoming cadets at New Mexico Military Institute. There was an article in the magazine boasting that the campus had as many as thirty eight ghosts on campus. It set a mind to wandering. How could a school have so many ghosts? What exactly happened that there are so many ghosts?
Fast forward nine years. After high school and a six year hitch in the Marines, I had returned to my alma mater to attend junior college. After an article I wrote for the school paper received rave reviews, I was green lighted to freelance stories for the paper. I decided that my first story would be to research all of those ghosts. I asked around school administration and was told that the architect of five of the buildings on campus was still living, and was in town. I was told that if anyone knew, he did.
I went to what is colloquially known as an old folk's home. There I found a man in his eighties. His body was failing him, but his mind was as sharp as a pin. He would say things like "I remember when I was given authorization on the building; it was May 22, 1920, at 2:38 in the afternoon."
It turned out that he was a fountain of information on the buildings and the history of the campus, but not much help on ghosts. Asking around, I was given the name of a local merchant, who was an alumnus. I went to see him. I decided that I would start with the most popular ghost story, "The Ghosts of Blood Tower".
I should preface this by explaining what "Blood Tower" is. The tower referred to is a three story tower on the front of the school gymnasium. It was intended to be an office area for coaches, but ended up just being storage. So, when I asked the merchant about the ghosts of Blood Tower, his face lit up and he got a knowing smile on his face.
He then explained that on every third Saturday morning, cadets had to face a rigorous uniform, room, and wall locker inspection. Everyone, that is, except for the athletes on the football and basketball teams. During the inspections, the athletes would hide in the tower. The science geeks decided to do something about it.
The night before the inspection, the geeks snuck up to the tower and rigged up a series of booby traps. At eight the next morning, as the inspection started, the booby traps started going off. He didn't specify what the booby traps were, but he did use the words sheets, a record player with ghost sounds, and red paint. The booby traps worked so well that the athletes ran outside, and right into the inspection party. Scratch one ghost.
The next ghost on the list was the First Sergeant who roamed the stoops of a certain barracks. The story went that either the First Sergeant hung a cadet, or a cadet hung the First Sergeant. Since the story involved violence, I went to the campus Police Department. First off, they assured me that no murders had ever occurred on the campus. Second, they inquired of the Police Officer who was the one and only campus Policeman during the time era of the incident. He relayed that a frightened cadet had reported the apparition, but to date, he was the only person to report the apparition over the decades. Scratch another ghost.
There was another ghost story involving the school Natatorium. Up until the 1960's, indoor swimming pools were referred to as Natatoriums. The Natatorium ghost story came about as an accident from the 1940 school prom, otherwise known as "Final Ball". The idea was to build a dancing platform around the pool. The theme of the party was "Atlantis, City Under The Sea". Several cadets, doing last minute touches for the party, had volunteered to place baskets of dry ice under the water.
Dry ice is made up of frozen carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air. The dry ice vapor that bubbled up went to the pool surface and stayed there. When the cadets surfaced for air, they received instead, a lungful of carbon dioxide and were asphyxiated. The ghost story was that, years and decades later, fresh wet footprints could be found coming from the pool. In the early 80's, a new pool was built for the school. The old pool was filled in and a museum now inhabits the building. Scratch another ghost.
The next ghost story involved another tragedy at the school. At one time, polo was a well attended event there. During a polo game, three cadets had died, involving collisions of horses in the middle of the field. To memorialize the tragedy, a bell tower was built. It stands fifteen feet tall and has an old locomotive bell on top. The architect told me that the bell was salvaged from a wrecked Santa Fe steam locomotive. The story goes that when the bell is heard ringing, that a cadet will die the next day. I can confirm, that twice, while attending school there that there were incidents. Cadets quartered near the bell reported it ringing the night before. Hours later, someone was dead. Needless to say, the tower is paid great respect.
The next ghost on the list involves the school auditorium. Built as a WPA project of the 1930's, it is a grand theater in the art deco school of design. The story mainly involves a troublesome seat on the first floor. Because the seat is located under the rim of the balcony, I don't have to tell you what the story is, but to reiterate that no murders ever took place there. Still, there is the issue with the seat. I went to see the head of maintenance.
When I first asked him about the seat, he became uncomfortable, then relayed it is because his workers are genuinely spooked by the seat. Time and again, the seat has been repaired, only to end up on the floor the next morning. He even showed me a stack of work orders, on that seat alone, repaired, and on the floor the next morning.
The campus Police are required to walk all of the buildings on campus. During my junior college years, the campus Police were all military vets with other types of Police experience in their backgrounds. On the auditorium, they would come in the front lobby and chain the doors from within. They would then move to a side door and lock that. Going outside, they would move to the back and chain the exterior doors shut from the outside. Because the building spooked the Police Officers so bad, they didn't bother with the backstage area, or the catacombs under the stage.
There is another building on campus that spooks the Police Officers. It is where I started the story, the gymnasium. Two of the Officers there relayed this story. Officer One stayed at the front doors, where he had a clear view of the basketball court. Officer Two entered the floor, walked it, and went down the back stairs and into the basement to check the locker rooms. While he was in the basement, Officer Two called Officer One, asking who was walking the main floor. Officer One assured Officer Two that no one was walking the main floor. Officer Two then beat feet out of the building. Like the auditorium, it's chained from the outside.
So, we started with thirty eight ghosts and have cut it down to three. Perhaps one of the ghosts is pulling double, or triple duty. I'm sure, if notified, the school would disavow any ghost stories. The folklore is passed down through generations of cadets as the school is over one hundred years old, and some buildings are near that age. This is meant to be an FYI story and I'm not advocating any ghost hunts there. Still, in the interests of full disclosure, I'm relaying my personal experience and I'll leave it at that.