History Lessons — From a Ghost!
Updated: Jul 4, 2020
A Medium's Ghostly Encounter
Third Street Station in Roswell, New Mexico
You never know who you are going to meet at a local bar. That was the case on September 23, 2016, when my husband and I stopped at Third Street Station for a burger and brew while watching a band full of friends. I had been in this bar once before. It is an old cotton warehouse turned bar and barbecue joint creating an industrial look that maintains the buildings initial integrity. The last time I was here, I could feel a spirit—watching but not approaching. This time, however, that spirit decided to get my attention. Long and lean, the Black man wore a fedora hat upon his head; his shoes were of good quality but were worn down and dusty. His pants hung off his frame as if he had lost too much weight. A dirty white undershirt and a pair of suspenders completed his outfit. Just by looking at him, I could tell this was a man down on his luck—well, obviously—he's dead. Some mediums can see spirits as if they are flesh and blood. I see images mostly in my mind. That's how it was with Amos. He introduced himself to me. He told me that he died near this place. The smell of food attracted him. And the people. He loved watching the people. This is Roswell, New Mexico, so I was curious about how this cat ended up here. He spoke well and appeared to have been well dressed before falling on misfortune. I pressed him for his story. He was originally from the South, moving with his family as a teen to Chicago, where the pull of the jazz scene drew him into its loving arms. He learned to play the clarinet, and did so very well, making a good living that helped provide for his family. I knew that he had done something bad, knew his sister Kitty had been hurt and was afraid that he had been the culprit. I wrote down everything Amos told me.
Tracks across from Third Street Station
“My younger sister, Kitty, was starting to show too much interest in my friend Joe. Joe was bad news, but always fun to watch when we were out drinking. He was crazy. But not someone I would ever let Kitty get involved with. I lived for that girl. Joe one time had got ahold of Kitty, got her a little liquored up and was close to taking away her innocence. It might have been what she wanted, but I was not having it. They were in a car, I don’t even know whose car it was, it wasn’t Joe’s. Kitty screamed and screamed, she was so upset. But I practically ripped that car door off, pulled that ol’ Joe right out and beat him and beat him and beat him until my rage was out. ‘Not my baby sister, you bastard.’ And then I was spent. I sat back on my heels, wiped the sweat off my brow. That’s when Kitty started screaming all over again, ‘He’s dead! Oh my God, Amos, you kilt him! He’s dead, Amos! Oh my God!’ So, pretty quickly I got home to clean up. I packed up my bags. Mom was trying to get me to talk. Kitty was still screaming. Dad, as run down as he was, was ineffectual (see, I got a good vocabulary) in his cups and sorrow that never left him after my brother Jimmy died in a car accident. I just packed my cardboard suitcase and headed for the train yard. I knew what was coming. I knew I had to leave right then and there and not say a word to anyone." [Amos is very emotional now, tears seeping out of my own eyes and I record his story.] "I never saw any of them ever again and the sound of Kitty’s screams never left my days or my nightmares. I hopped trains, hopped as many as I could. I stole what food I could find. There were lots of people riding the rails back then. We would band together, fight to ride, keep each other safe. So hungry.
The Unwelcome Party
Third Street Station, Roswell, New Mexico
I was so hungry when I found myself in Roswell. The train was slow leaving, and I could smell food cooking nearby and I had to find it. I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. So, I sniffed out the food. It smelled like a root vegetable stew maybe with a hint of meat. My mouth was watering. I came up to a house, run down, dirty little White kids running around in the dirt. So much dirt and dust. It was those times, the Dust Bowl, they call it now. I could see into the back of the shabby house, shack really. A woman was cooking what she could. I even removed my hat. The children ran inside before me. The woman started hollering and the neighbors were roused, and that is how I ended up on the end of that rope. Roswell is sure a scary, violent place. Not a place I wanted to end up but here I have been for a very long time. I love smelling the food at that restaurant and listening to the music. I ignore a lot going on in there. But they do cause quite a racket. I am glad you came by and I am glad you took the time to listen, the time to care.”
I was very intrigued by Amos’s story. I can’t deny the need to verify the context, to make sure that I wasn’t just creating this from my imagination. And, indeed, I was able to nail down some very important corroborating details. Roswell, New Mexico is not the deep South by any means. We think of it as south west, Old West, really, one of the last holdouts of Wild West mentality, where most people treat others with respect, as you never know who is carrying a weapon. Roswell has always been a violent place, and the end of the 20s and into the 30s was no exception—especially for a man like Amos. The Ku Klux Klan, even though usually thought of as a Southern phenomenon, was actually widespread throughout the country at this time. This giant organization was politically powered, had a huge financial backing, and recruited over 5 million people to its cause. It was secret, violent, White supremacist, under the cloak of patriotism whose enemies were not only Negroes, but also Jews, Catholics, immigrants, bootleggers, habitual offenders, and anyone with a questionable moral standing (Alexander, 1965). Roswell had an active KKK chapter, and the New Mexico headquarters was located here in town (Sanchez, Spude, & Gomez, 2013).
Third Street Station, Roswell, NM
Learning about the KKK in Roswell was a major step in the right direction. Next, I looked into the train situation. The Third Street Station bar and grill is one block up from the railroad. The trains first came to Roswell in 1894 (Myrick, 1990), and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway passenger depot was only two blocks away on the corner of 5th Street. The freight station is one block further up on 6th Street. This also fits in with what Amos had told me. He would have been able to smell food a block or so down the street, as hungry as he was! It was also common at the time for people to hop the trains as Amos described himself doing. This started back when slaves were escaping to freedom and continued on from the Civil War era through the Depression where people of all types and color would hop the trains to search for jobs, searching for adventure, or escaping their fates, like Amos did (Grant, 2012).
All of this information, learning about the KKK in Roswell, the railroads, and even the Dust Bowl at the time that Amos was referring to all helped to establish his tale as plausible, indeed very possible. Each spirit story research that is done helps to bolster my confidence in what I am experiencing. Not only does it help to legitimize my experiences in the eyes of others, but it helps me trust in my own senses, even if they are different than what others may perceive. Or I could just be making it all up. Either way, I was touched by Amos and his plight. I felt I made a friend that night, even if it was someone no one else would see. References Alexander, C. (1965). The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. Grant, H. (2012). Railroads and the American People. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Myrick, D. (1990). New Mexico’s Railroads: A Historical Survey. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. Sanchez, J., Spude, R., & Gomez, A. (2013). New Mexico: A History. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Photos of Third Street Station, taken by author with permission of the owner.