The Haunted Golden Eagle
Just 18 miles southeast of Las Cruces lies the village of Mesilla, which was incorporated in 1848. During the days of the Old West, Mesilla became known for its saloons, wild festivals, bullfights, cockfights, theater and gunfights. The area attracted such figures as Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and Pancho Villa, and hustlers arrived as well, such as the future Judge Roy Bean. The village was also the crossroads of two major routes: the Butterfield Stagecoach and the Camino Real de Tierra
Adentro. The village of Mesilla was the most important city of the region until 1881 when the railroad bypassed the village in favor of nearby Las Cruces.
When lively Old West towns lose population, and the din of excitement goes away, sometimes the quiet reveals the previously hushed voices of ghosts of the past, wandering the creaky wooden floors of their former haunts.
One such place is the Double Eagle Restaurant, named for the 1850’s era 20 dollar gold coin, the "double eagle". This place is known as the most haunted restaurant in New Mexico. The restaurant is operated in the territorial-style home of the wealthy Maese fami- ly, who owned an import/ export business. It also served as the governor’s headquarters and the military hospital during the Civil War occupation of Mesilla.
To this day the restaurant retains its Victorian-era elegance, with dark paneled walls, textured gold leaf ceilings, elegant French chandeliers, and ornate mirrors and antiques.
La Señora Carlotta Maese was a snobby and wealthy woman who flaunted her power and prestige. She planned for her son, Armando, to marry into the aristocracy of Mexico City. Her son, however, had different plans.
He didn’t care about any aristocratic woman from Mexico City because he’d already fallen in love with a stunning teenage servant girl, Inez. Her dark brown eyes sparkled and her shimmering black hair hung to her waist. Armando could not contain his passion for her. All Mesilla whispered of young couple’s love, their frequent "secret" encounters.
La Señora learned of the affair, fired Inez and ordered her to stay away.
La Señora thought that was enough to put an end to things, but she was wrong. One fateful day, she discovered the young couple entwined in Armando’s bedroom. Mad with rage, she pulled a pair of scissors out of her purse and began wildly slashing at Inez. She stabbed Inez in the chest, and when Armando stepped between them to protect his love, his mother stabbed him too.
Armando held Inez tightly in his arms as she bled to death. Three days later, he also died from his injuries. La Señora never spoke another word, locked herself in her bedroom and lived the rest of her days in misery, weighed down by the two murders.
The spirits of Armando and Inez are said to have never left the room, and many people attest to feeling the presence of their spirits. It is said that Inez’s sweet perfume can still be noticed. If you listen carefully, you can hear the lovers whispering each other’s names. Sometimes, faint screams can be heard as the two relive the terror of that fateful stabbing, followed by the faint sounds of Armando weeping.
Now the main room, called the Carlotta Salon, is set in what was Armando’s old bedroom. It is a comfortable and welcoming restaurant of the most elegant sort. Should you visit, you’ll notice that the management always leaves two candles burning on the dining table below portraits of the two lovers. Keep your eyes on that table, because without warning the spirits might nudge the furniture or toss wine glasses to the floor.
When in Mesilla, also look for two other famously haunted locations, the Fountain Theater and the Old Mesilla Cemetery.
The famous Fountain Theater is reportedly haunted by the spirit of a long-dead, frustrated actress. The theater is just off the southeast corner of the plaza, on the site where the Confederates set up their regional military command during the Civil War.
The Albert Fountain family built the theater on the site as a vaudeville house in 1905. It now is a motion picture theater, showing movies with the audience sitting in rickety wooden seats, café tables and chairs, beneath historical wall murals. You can get the usual theater fare of popcorn, but they also serve coffee, pastries, beer and wine.
Old Mesilla Cemetery is said to be the current home of La Llorona, (see the October 2017 issue of the Catron Courier for a Tall Tale about the Weeping Woman). She is one of the most famed ghosts of New Mexico, and is said to haunt this cemetery, sometimes scaring the heck out of children who run among the graves at night on a dare. It is said that if you examine each and every grave marker, if you find a statue or carved figure that follows you with their eyes, that La Llorona is right behind you, and will soon leap on your back, and frighten you to death. ●●●