Monday, November 16, 2015

The Ghost of Death at Santa Fe College

In Santa Fe, during WWII, a set of army barracks were set up on what is not the location of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design (formerly the College of Santa Fe).

I worked at the College for many years, and during the last two years, my offices were located in these barracks.  What an adventure. One of the offices was the former surgery -- or so the story went.  And wa-ay in the back, there was a storage room that had once been the recovery room.  A very spooky place to look for supplies and records.

We tutored students in our crusty office building, and, one afternoon, a young woman I'll call Esperanza, entered the former surgery and began to cry.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Someone died here," she said.  "And there's sadness everywhere."

I didn't contradict here, exactly, but I said that no one had died there recently -- we were all well and happy.

"No.  I can't be in here," she insisted.  So I took her out into one of the larger offices near the front.

She stopped crying.  "Okay," she said.  "This is fine."

After the student left, the staff all gathered around to discuss the incident.  We knew that office was supposed to be the former surgery room for the army barracks, and we wondered if "Esperanza" had sensed the presence of death there?

Several months later, I needed records from that room in the back of the barracks.  This room held dusty old notebooks full of paper forms -- the kind we used in the last century.  The door was locked, and the key tuned stiffly in the lock.  I was greeted with a puff of stale, mildewed laden air and the stench -- this is truly what I smelled -- blood.

Of course, I told myself it was all in my head, but that didn't help at all.  The room was packed with filing cabinets and old chairs and desks.  I could barely move next to the shelves where the record notebooks were lined up like stacked. 

I pulled out the notebook I needed, but I had to sit down on a dusty metal chair and try to breath.  I could not shake the sense that someone was dead right there in the room with me.  Finally, unable to find the records I needed, I loaded up my arms with about 5 notebooks and fled that place.  Immediately, I felt better. One of my co-workers and I dusted the books and found the papers we needed. 

I told her the story about smelling blood, so we stored the notebooks upfront.  We never needed records again while I worked there, but one time we did need an extra desk and some chairs.  I suggested the storeroom, but the janitor refused and we borrowed furniture from one of the main buildings and brought it by truck just to avoid going into the "death room."

Are there really ghosts in those barracks at the back of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design?  I think so -- the buildings are abandoned now, but I have a feeling the spirits who haunt it are not.