When things go bump in the night, David Crider knows better than to go check it out.
As a matter of fact, Crider, of Southwest Expeditions, has had so many strange occurrences at the former Doña Ana Courthouse and Jail Annex in downtown Las Cruces, where his office is located, that it is hard to recall them all.
And it inspired him to add visitor experiences at the sites to his list of tours.
Seven years ago, his company was asked to move into the complex because the jail site will eventually be torn down to become a hotel and the owners thought it would be a nice benefit to have a local tour operator on site. “But as far as paranormal activity, I was on the fence about that,” Crider said. “I’m not anymore.”
Moving into a deserted space can be spooky enough, but add in a little unexplained phenomena and, well, it can stand your hair up in a heartbeat.
“The building had been empty, empty for decades until we came along and got it going,” he said. “We know that there are six or seven different entities that call this complex their home. I’ve encountered them all throughout the years.”
The courthouse was built in 1937 and one of the frequent apparitions appears to be that of a former judge, Crider said.
The other-worldly activity there is so prevalent that the complex has been visited by a number of “ghost-buster” type of investigators, he said, all of which have reported rampant unexplained activity.
“We’ve had numerous controlled investigations,” Crider said. “And we have a plethora of audio and video because of that. Voices, doors slamming, footsteps, jail doors opening and closing.”
As a matter of fact, one of the more popular experiences is letting groups loose in the complex on their own to do their own investigation.
“We call it a full-emergent paranormal investigation,” he said. “That is where we issue them ghost-hunting equipment like a K2 meter (to measure electro-magnetic fields), radios, REM pod (radiating electro-magnetic antenna), maps. They are in the building by themselves for two hours, going into any door they can find and exploring everywhere.”
Even after seven years there, working in the building is an eerie feeling, Crider said.
“It never ceases to amaze me, even now,” he said. “Most of the things happen during the day because I don’t normally come here at night anymore. I’ve heard the voices of men and women in the hallways and in the jail. I’ve heard my name called out three times, when know I am alone in the building. So they know who I am.”
Since beginning this supernatural journey, Crider said other locations have popped up, like the 1910-era schoolhouse that is now a museum of antique old dolls and mannequins. Here, the dolls, some posed on bicycles, cruise about the building, aided by, well, Crider isn’t actually sure what.
Fort Selden just outside of Las Cruces, also is gaining traction as a paranormal hub, said Alexandra McKinney, fort instructional coordinator and site historian.
“I personally never had any experiences with haunted things on the site but many visitors and former workers have seen things and experienced things,” she said. “I’ve seen things on photographs that I cannot explain.”
Built toward the end of the Civil War, Fort Selden was part of the westward expansion protection but soldiers from the fort rarely were involved in the suppression of Native Americans, McKinney said.
Instead, most of the soldiers’ ills were the result of their own misdeeds at local watering holes, she said.
The site, however, has been inhabited for centuries, dating to a thousand years pre-European contact.
So who knows what kind of spirits are lurking there, McKinney said.
In fact, the fort itself maintains something of a ghostly presence itself in the barren countryside.
“What makes Fort Selden unique is its ruins,” she said. “Even in that nature, with ghosts and people still remaining, it’s really haunting and spooky just to stand there in those ruins. The ruins themselves are ghosts in many ways. The buildings are ghosts still in the desert. I just love standing amongst them, standing amongst the history.”