New Mexico August 23, 2017
The Sinister Story Behind This Popular New Mexico Scout Camp Will Give You Chills
New Mexico is full of haunted and mysterious locations, particularly around Cimmaron, in northeast New Mexico. Cimmaron is known for its connection to the wild (and bawdy) West, not to mention ghosts. They hang out and taunt guests at the
St. James Hotel, where at least 20 people met a violent Old West end. While the St. James has a sinister past, it’s the picturesque Urraca Mesa at Philmont Scout Ranch, (just outside of Cimmaron), that wins the award for creepy. Don’t let this mesa’s beauty fool you. Despite its scenic vistas, Urraca’s history is deeper, darker and much more sinister.
Philmont Scout Ranch covers 214 square miles of rugged New Mexico wilderness.
According to the official Philmont website, more than one million scouts and adventurers have been through the camp. From stories of lost scouts to tales of eerie blue lights, many of the campers have heard dark tales about the mesa.
Urraca's history extends back to the time of the Anasazi.
Before becoming a scout ranch, Philmont was a stop along the Santa Fe Trail. It also was a prospecting camp after the Civil War. Then, after that, it was a working cattle ranch. Several native American tribes lived in the area too. However, long before the Apache, Ute, and Europeans came to the area, the Ancestral Puebloans called the region home -- until they all suddenly disappeared.
There are a bunch of creepy things about Urraca Mesa.
For one, the word
urraca means magpie in Spanish. Magpies are part of the cunning crow family. They are traditionally associated with deception. Plus, in some cultures, they are seen as messengers of death.
Compasses don't always work on Urraca.
They say the best ghost stories have an element of truth. Since Urraca has large deposits of naturally magnetic lodestone, it makes sense that a scout, unable to rely on his compass, could get lost. The lodestone also attracts lightning. As such, Urraca has more lightning strikes than anywhere else in New Mexico.
When modern-era tribes moved to the area, they sensed evil spirits.
The spirits were tracked back to Urraca Mesa. They say a medicine man studied the petroglyphs in the area and determined that the ancient ones had fought a great battle with evil on the mesa. To keep the dark forces at bay, the entire tribe entered a portal to the underworld. Once inside, a great shaman sealed the portal behind them.
Urraca Mesa looks a lot like a skull.
Even since the early days, people thought the north part of the mesa looked like a skull. An eye in the skull (to the west) is said to be the door to the underworld that the shaman sealed.
Cat totems guard the site.
The shaman placed cat totems around the mesa. The cats are said to scare away the magpies who can open the portal. Legend says that if all the totems are destroyed, the portal will open and evil will be unleashed. At last count, only two of the original totems remain.
Scouts see weird things on the mesa.
In one account, a scout hiking the mesa at night found himself near the eye. He heard an unusual noise. When he turned, he saw a dark-skinned hairless figure watching him.
Blue light glows from the mesa.
When the scout saw the dark figure watching him, he booked it down the mesa. About halfway down he stopped to catch his breath. He looked back up the trail and saw a different figure, awash in glowing blue light. Native people from the area (and many others) say the shaman stands watch on the mesa, making sure the portal to the underworld stays tightly shut.
So, up for a hike? Unfortunately, Urraca Mesa is privately owned by the Philmont Scout Ranch. Unless you are a scout or a guest, you are out of luck. But maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Any Philmont alumni out there? Did you experience anything out of the norm on the mesa? We’d love to hear about it.