Whatever your belief about the existence of supernatural phenomena, unexplained happenings and ghost stories, there’s no denying that people’s imaginations run wild this time of year. To pay homage to the realm of the supernatural, we spoke to four local paranormal enthusiasts.
For local graphic novelist Ray Ramos, there’s no shortage of paranormal material.
“Well what do you want to know about?” he asked. “There’s the San Eli man-dog, the Smeltertown [Cemetery] beast, the Shawver Park Shadow.”
Several years back, he helped investigate some local urban legends, including the Horizon City Bigfoot. That story even garnered media coverage in 2003. He helped the team of investigators of the now-defunct, Juarez-based TV and radio show “El Mundo Paranormal Del Vane.”
“I also know some people who used to be rangers out at Hueco Tanks, and they told me about some cave paintings [depicting] really tall creatures and lizard people,” Ramos said. “They said some of the locals living out there used to see them.”
For Ramos, though, his favorite story is about the San Elizario man-dog, a creature that supposedly resulted from the violence of the area’s Salt Wars in the 1800s. Two opposing factions, both vying for control of the area’s salt-rich land, feuded. The result was the death of more than 10 people.
“The Texas Rangers were called in, and supposedly they tried to kill a shaman, but instead killed her daughter,” Ramos said. “A mob murdered some of the rangers, and the shaman cursed the one who killed her daughter to roam for eternity like a dog, looking for redemption.”
Ramos and company went out to San Elizario in search of the Man Dog. They picked up some “electronic voice phenomenon” (EVP) on a recording when someone in the group asked questions.
“When we listened to the recording of the girl who was asking questions, we heard something say, ‘hello,’” he said. “It wasn’t any of us.”
At the Smeltertown Cemetery, which is also known as “La Calavera,” spirits are alive and well. Ramos relayed an urban legend about a horned boy who chases you off if you encroach on the property.
For local psychic Diana Calamia, the amount of supernatural activity going on at the graveyard and the surrounding area is staggering.
“That area is very, very haunted,” she said. “There is a lot that goes on there.”
A few years ago, she was commissioned by Jackson Polk, co-host of “El Paso History Radio Show” on News Talk 690 KTSM, to check out the area for the show, “Ghost Stories of El Paso: Volume 4.”
She experienced an onslaught of light orbs while at the area. The orbs are likely the residual essence of the person who’s gone to the great beyond, she said. While not unusual for her, the presentation of the orbs is what shocked her.
“A lot of the orbs were very sick,” she recalled. “Some of them were square, some had pieces taken out. I had never seen that before, and I have never seen it since.”
Vane Hernandez is the creator of “El Mundo Paranormal Del Vane,” which ran for nearly ten years.
“With the show, we investigated places to try to find logical explanations,” Hernandez said. “I always remained neutral, because my definition of supernatural might be different from yours.”
His team has investigated reports of monks and buried treasure on Transmountain, cars being pushed uphill on Thunderbird Drive and alleged haunted establishments in the Five Points area. For him though, the conclusive evidence of paranormal happenings only occurred a couple of times, including a house in Juarez where a little girl was reported to haunt the place.
“That time, I did hear footsteps behind me, but there was nothing there,” he said. “I got really excited about that one.”
Recently, he’s received reports from a few different people about Thunderbird sightings in the area.
“A couple months ago I received messages about people seeing huge, two meter-long birds,” he said. “If you look back into the past, there have been reports of this for a very long time. The Native Americans reported the same exact thing.”
While area ghost hunters can’t say they’ve made full-time careers out of their paranormal searches, they still consider their experiences rewarding.
Bonnie Juarez, founder of the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society, has been investigating alleged hauntings and paranormal activities throughout the region for the last decade. She said she’s seen balls of light, objects moving for no reason and experienced unexplained temperature shifts.
“We’re very scientific in our approach and we try to disprove as much as we can,” she said. “We don’t assume everything is haunted or demonic; there are a lot of things that can cause people to hear and see things in their homes.”
Their work has even gained national attention from television shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” Juarez also uses devices like EVP recorders to pick up on eerie communication, but there’s only one type of equipment she considers most reliable, and its one that makes the search well worth the effort.
“Our favorite equipment is ourselves,” she said. “Goose bumps for no reason, your hair raising – that feeling someone’s watching you.”