How does one write about the dead? While they don’t give interviews, they certainly make themselves heard. Or seen.
Stories of hauntings, of contacting the dead, go hand-in-hand with human history. The oldest, most well-known ghost story is that of Shaul HaMelech (King Saul) who, with the help of a witch, summoned the deceased Shmuel HaNavi (Prophet Samuel) for help in defeating the Philistines.
So, the dead can very well still be out there, walking the Earth. Something touched upon by none other than Edgar Allan Poe, in his poem ‘Spirit of the Dead.’
The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—
And the stars shall look not down
From their high thrones in the heaven,
With light like Hope to mortals given—
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.
We all have something that has made us think we are not alone, that we are being watched, that something is not right. No matter what you feel, you try and dismiss it. Others, they embrace that feeling, chase it down, try to discover just what it is.
This article is about the latter. It’s about the ones who know, without a doubt, there is something there.
Have you ever found yourself walking down a hallway, maybe on the way to your bedroom from your kitchen, and thought you saw someone turn a corner just in front of you? You wonder how that could have been, you’re home alone, and you know there is no one there with you.
What about a time you may have been walking through a cemetery, and know for a fact someone is watching you? You look around and discover that, other than a few birds, you are the only one there.
You write it off as just being nervous about being in a graveyard close to sunset.
Or – in the case of my family and me – you walk out of your house only to hear a noise loud enough to make you think the place is falling apart. You walk back in and find the whole of the living room rearranged in all of five seconds.
Who knows? Who looks into things that people generally want to avoid at all costs?
The Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society is a group of individuals on a two-fold mission. The first, to discover and preserve the history of our area and share it with anyone and everyone willing to listen. Then, they also search for the paranormal.
“If you’ve ever heard Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, we are affiliated with both of those groups,” says Bonnie Juarez. “We are the only TAPS family member in El Paso.”
The Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society goes beyond the paranormal. They are a 501 (c)(3) that also seeks to preserve El Paso’s history, historic buildings, and locations. Something we are losing every day. Bonnie’s adventure began when she was living in a home that was, in her own words, “incredibly haunted.”
“Things would move, you would hear voices, conversations, full body apparitions, things like that,” recalls Bonnie.
This has led Bonnie, Peter, and a dedicated group of other individuals to explore just what may be. I first encountered the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society when Quentin – the son of some friends of mine – was having his birthday. He wanted to take the haunted tour of Concordia Cemetery. Chantilly and I were invited, and I’m glad we went.
It was during this tour that I witnessed, firsthand, the Society’s investigative work, as well as the preservation of history and its stories.
“I believe in El Paso, I believe in our history,” says Bonnie.
“I’ve learned a huge amount of the cities history,” Bonnie continues. “I think El Paso doesn’t have its own identity. We try to be something we are not. If we would learn about who we are and what we have, we can shine brilliantly.”
From that tour, I learned a great deal.
I learned that Concordia was once known as Rancho Concordia, and was built by Hugh and Juana Stephenson in the 1840’s. Before the tour, I was laboring under the assumption that it was founded as a Lutheran Cemetery.
Juana was the first person to be buried in what is now Concordia Cemetery. The exact location of her grave is unknown, but she is out there (or down there? Both are true). I learned that in 1859 a Catholic Church was built on the site, San Jose de Concordia el Alto. For a time,that church served as the center of Catholic worship for El Paso.
John Wesley Hardin is buried out there. The guy that killed him, John Selman is also buried there as well. Ernest “Diamond Dick” St. Leon is also buried out there. His is a story I am going to share in an article later this summer. You’ll not want to miss that!
I learned about the Chinese and their contribution to El Paso. I learned about the tunnels they may have constructed to move back and forth between El Paso and Mexico.
Then there are the Buffalo Soldiers. I learned that there are members of four regiments, who served out here after the end of the Civil War, are buried at Concordia. There is also an amazing memorial to them located in Concordia, and that alone is worth the visit.
Then there are the sixty-four members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who is buried at Concordia. These individuals lived in various tent cities and refuge centers from 1912-1918. They came to El Paso because of the Mexican Revolution. (I spoke with Robert Densmore about this, and the first LDS Chapel to be built in Texas.)
Most of this is history I learned and otherwise would have been ignorant of if it were not for Bonnie and the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society.
“But,” I can almost hear you asking, “what about the ghosts?”
I will tell you, without a doubt, that Concordia is haunted. Just because you’ve died, the soul’s journey is not over.
Growing up, I lived in a home that was haunted. Today, I live in a home that is about two-hundred years old, and even here I’ve seen things. Others have seen things. Like this guy walking around in an old cowboy had and bandoleers.
The Paso Del Norte Society of El Paso are the people to help hunt down the truth, or fiction of what may or may not be haunting you. The Society inhabits a space in Downtown El Paso that was once the Fashion Saloon, and later the Wigwam. At one point in its history, it was owned by John Wesley Hardin.
“Our building, in and of itself, is what we are talking about,” says Bonnie. “It became many different things, saloon, theatre.”
As Bonnie says, speaking again of history, many of us do now know the history of this one, unassuming building.
“People walk by it all the time,” she says. “You are not aware of it.” People are also not aware of the paranormal activity that happens there.
“Things do go bump in the night,” says Peter Stone, curator of the Wigwam Museum. “This building,” Peter says, “if you are downstairs in the basement where my girlfriend lives, she generally turns the corners for me.”
No one, physically, is in that basement. You still hear sounds, conversations, people walking. You hear all of this.
As part of this story, Chantilly and I had arranged to spend part of a night there, at the Wigwam. We set up cameras upstairs and downstairs. To know what we were doing, hearing, we stayed in a group.
Then, it began.
While we were downstairs, in the basement, in the dark, you could hear people walking up and down stairs. Not the stairs in the back where we went down, but on the far side of the basement.
As clear as day, as if we were standing right under them, we could hear them.
Over by the old furnace, one that is no longer used, we heard conversations; we heard people talking. You could see that no one was there. No one. Nothing. The conversation was clear as day.
Then, there are the strange instances. Things that just can’t be explained, like my camera equipment.
When I was first at the Wigwam, I recorded video and took photos. When all was said and done, my camera no longer worked. A brand-new camera, a Canon 80D. It just stopped working.
During our mini lock-in, I had a similar problem. Another camera, a different problem.
This time, the camera would not work while it was in the building. I had to walk outside to make it work again. It was strange. Very strange.
It scared the hell out of me, that night. The noise, the conversations, the unexplained lights that you would see in pitch black.
A touch on the shoulder, when there is absolutely no one in the basement with you.
– – –
Back to Bonnie Juarez and Peter Stone. I would like to invite you to watch the video above and hear their story.