A look at five places around Albuquerque that go bump in the night

·5 min read

Oct. 24—Editor's note: The fourth Sunday of each month, Journal Arts Editor Adrian Gomez tells the stories behind some of the hidden gems you can see across the state in "Gimme Five."

Cody Polston has always been interested in history.

Since 1985, he's been investigating paranormal claims and is one of the founders of the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association.

"I've been fascinated by the unknown and ghosts and poltergiests all my life," he says. "I've always tried to use the science in my investigations."

Because of this, other ghost hunters gave him the nickname "Hitman" because he could rationally discover natural causes behind many hauntings.

This is why Polston took some time to write "Haunted Albuquerque," which was released on Aug. 23.

Polston says while there are plenty of stories of haunted places around New Mexico, he wanted to focus on the city.

"I've always been interested in those haunted stories," he says. "I had to whittle it down to 10 places for the book."

Meanwhile, he pinpointed five "haunted" places that should be visited during this time of year.

The iconic theater is also featured on the cover of "Haunted Albuquerque."

Polston says a lot of the official accounts of the KiMo have been lost and he had to do a lot of research for this story. He notes that this was one of the scariest stories he had heard when he first moved to New Mexico.

In the book, Polston writes of the Aug. 1, 1951, water heater explosion that injured several people and killed 6-year-old Bobby Darnall.

"Today, the ghost of Bobby Darnall is said to haunt the KiMo Theatre," Polston writes. "It is believed that Bobby is prone to playing tricks and pranks on the crew if they do not appease him by bribing him with doughnuts or other trinkets, leaving them out before performances so that he won't interfere with the show."

The theater was founded in 1930 by a group of civic-minded citizens led by Irene Fisher, who was a reporter for the New Mexico Tribune.

Polston says there are at least two ghosts that haunt the theater.

The first is Bernard Thomas, who was the executive director during the 1960s and '70s.

The second is Manuel Jaramillo, who was a custodian and master carpenter.

Polston spoke with Ronda Lewis from the theater, who says the ghosts aren't malicious in any way.

"It's like they are protecting the theater which they loved," Polston says. "It feels like the spirits are looking over the theater and those that are in the building. They've got unfinished business there."

Polston says he's gone on ghost hunts at the theater and it's been amazing to see what he's found.

"I'm not the only one who has experienced something there," he says.

Of course, this building would have a long storied history. The hotel opened on June 9, 1939, and was the fourth hotel New Mexico native Conrad Hilton managed and the first in New Mexico.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and comes with a history.

Polston says one story is that of Sandee Saunders, who was born in Hatch and was a singer. She would play at venues all across New Mexico, including Hotel Andaluz.

On Aug. 1, 1972, as she was driving back to Hatch from Santa Fe, her car veered off a bridge near Caballo Lake State Park.

"Her manager often saw apparitions of her until he died," Polston says. "She was decapitated in the accident and the original story has morphed over time. Some people see a woman in a ballroom. Some see her on the seventh floor or on the fourth floor in a pink nightgown."

The first recorded interment at the cemetery is August 1870.

Polston says the oldest section of the graveyard is where there is a specter that haunts the area.

"It is a shadowy apparition of a man who wears a hat and suit," Polston writes. "Stranger still, the ghost holds a tattered rope in its hands, which leads to a noose that is firmly attached to its neck."

Polston says there is a clue to who it might be, though. He says in 1883, Milt Yarberry, who was the first marshal of New Albuquerque, was set to hang for multiple murders. But he claimed he was innocent.

"This was also the last public execution," Polston says. "Milt was buried with hanging rope clenched around his neck because they couldn't take it off when he was hanged."

The structure was designed by Charles Whittlesey and built in 1903. For years, the house stood alone on the Highland hill. It became Albuquerque Press Club in the 1970s after changing hands a handful of times since being built.

"I remember going in there in 2003 and it's a neat building, especially if you're interested in architecture," Polston says. "It's right across the street from the old mental hospital."

Polston says the majority of the ghost activity is centered near the bar.

"A woman bartender heard the sound of footsteps and she saw an image of a woman in a black dress," he says. "Other bartenders have seen the mysterious woman in black."


Cody Polston's "Haunted Albuquerque" is available at bookstores in and around Albuquerque.

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