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New Mexico has a well-earned reputation for the mysterious and the bizarre. It is a land of contradictions and stark contrasts, a place where the exceptional and the commonplace, the rational and the mystical, seem to mix freely.
Beyond the black-ribboned highways and the bustling cities lies the surreal New Mexico, where ancient riddles lurk amid the sunbaked desert. Sometimes the strangeness is well known—even world famous— such as the Roswell crash. Other stories of ghosts, monsters, miracles, and magic are told regionally in hushed whispers.
It is no accident that the forty-seventh state is dubbed the Land of Enchantment. Mystics, artists, outlaws, dreamers, explorers, and scientists have been drawn to New Mexico for centuries. Spanish conquistadores, the first Europeans to meet Native Americans, searched for seven mythical cities of gold; many died in that pursuit. Later, outlaws such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James were lured here by New Mexico’s reputation for lawlessness. Artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe sought out this part of the Southwest for its unique landscapes, natural beauty, and unusual light. Tens of thousands of New Agers and mystics have flocked to New Mexico, seeking the desert’s wisdom and earth energies. And, of course, countless UFO and alien buffs visit the most famous UFO crash site in the world at Roswell.
Yet while New Mexico is steeped in the strange and supernatural, science has played a big role in the state’s history. The world’s top scientists came to New Mexico in the mid-1940s, developing (and then exploding) the world’s first atomic bomb here. The New Mexican desert is also home to a huge array of radio astronomy dishes, studying the heavens and searching the skies for signs of intelligent alien life. A spaceport—the first of its kind—is being built in southern New Mexico, which will one day be used to take travelers into space. In many ways, New Mexico is truly a portal to other worlds.
Mysterious New Mexico is the first book to blend these two parallel traditions, using science and scientific methods to explore the mysterious and the bizarre. As a boy growing up in New Mexico not far from the Rio Grande, I was always fascinated by the world’s mysteries, especially those in my home state: local ghost stories, monster sightings, and UFO crashes; stories of miracles and mysteries, strange and wondrous events that seem to defy explanation.
My interest is in exploring these mysteries and, when possible, solving them. Everyone loves a good mystery—who doesn’t like to be intrigued and tantalized by the lure of the unknown? I certainly do. But as Mark Twain said, “Supposing is good, but finding out is better.” A story or legend may be fun and interesting, but is it also true? With this book I try to find out, to separate truth from myth where possible. Most authors who write about the mysterious and unexplained are content to merely repeat and rehash stories; I have taken a different approach. I have tried to bring an unprecedented level of research and scholarship—augmented with personal investigative experience—to these mysteries. I take them seriously and investigate them thoroughly because I believe that they deserve such attention. We can’t plausibly deem these strange events “unexplained” until we have tried our best to explain them.
I’ve investigated mysterious phenomena in sixteen countries on four continents, traveling the world in search of answers. With Mysterious New Mexico, I return to my home state to tackle some of its weird phenomena, including haunted hotels, healing waters, witchcraft, alien visits—and, of course, many legends of miracles and mayhem.
In nearly all the cases, I have done original research and firsthand field investigation. Other writers may give their readers an overview or analysis, but few can tell readers what it’s like to actually investigate these mysteries, to be there personally, because they research their books by going to the library (or, these days, by surfing the Internet). I do that too—there’s nothing wrong with scholarly and academic research—but to me that’s just the first step in investigating these mysteries, not the last step. Doing real investigation is not easy; it is time consuming, difficult, laborious, and often tedious. It’s much easier to read some articles and books, visit a few websites, and write it up than it is to dig a little deeper for real answers. I have never been content to repeat other people’s stories, to credulously accept other people’s word for what happened. I want to investigate; I want to interview eyewitnesses, go to the locations, see for myself what happened, and try to piece the mystery together.
Unlike most other books on mysteries in the Southwest and New Mexico, I have actually solved many of the mysteries, and this book is the first to publish the explanations. I give background information on the topics, drawing on folklore, sociology, history, and even forensic science investigation, while guiding the reader through truths and myths about each topic. So join me as I reexamine some old mysteries— and unearth some new ones—in the Land of Enchantment.
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