Paranormal Hotspots and Mysteries of the Colorado New Mexico Borderlands
The strange geography of the Colorado/New Mexico border is the heartland of paranormal activities on the 37th parallel. Overwhelming numbers and kinds of unexplainable events, from black helicopters and ufos to bigfoot sightings, cattle mutilation, and dimensional portals, blend with Native American and Spanish colonial legends to establish the region as North America’s paranormal Disneyland.
The area is arguably one of the most beautiful in the U.S.; snowy 14,000 ft peaks stand sentinel over high deserts, and the Rio Grande River, called the ‘Silver Thread’ by locals, drops from mountain glaciers and rolls south across the border into New Mexico. Ute and Navajo reservation lands span the state line; New Mexico is home to the highest concentration of tribal lands in the country.
Magnificent, remote and empty, this landscape lends itself to things meant to stay hidden. Despite that, those that inhabit the region have stories to tell, and decades, even centuries of reports corroborate unexplainable phenomena.
Spain: First Europeans in North America
History says that Europeans first arrived on the Atlantic coast of North America; that timeline begins with the Virginia Jamestown Colony (1607) and the arrival of the Mayflower pilgrims (1620). In Canada, the French had established Port Royal and Quebec City by 1608.
But Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca travelled from Mexico to Florida in 1527, with Coronado following in 1540. The expedition’s escaped horses were ancestors to the wild mustangs that transformed native culture. More Spanish followed — in 1598, Juan de Õnate led 500 settlers and 7,000 head of cattle to a valley near the Rio Grande River in present day New Mexico. Santa Fe, the territorial capital, was established in 1610. Castilian colonials with land grants from King Philip III of Spain arrived and survived — in present-day Colorado and New Mexico, their descendants still speak a 17th century Castilian dialect now extinct in Spain.
But humans have inhabited the region for millennia; ancient arrowheads from the 15,000- year-old Folsom culture have been found in the San Luis Valley (SLV), and archaeologists theorize that the valley was part of a route from Asia, across the Bering Strait, to South America, bringing the first proto-indians to this continent. The native Tiwa people identify locations across the region, all within a relative stone’s throw of the 37th parallel, as “sipapu;” ancient portals to underground worlds from which their ancestors emerged.
Skirmishes and battles between the Spanish and the Native Pueblo, Hopi, Navajo and Ute began as soon as the Europeans arrived — the Spanish meant to take natives as slaves to work in their silver mines. Today the two cultures are distinct, but fuzzy edges of traditions overlap. And legends, myths, and rock art and petroglyphs, in the case of the Native Americans, independently confirm unexplainable phenomena still occuring today — and then some.
A Paranormal Tour of the Borderlands
After crossing the stark flats of Texas and Oklahoma, travellers abruptly find themselves at the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo (English: blood of christ) mountain range that runs from Southern Colorado into Northern New Mexico. The Spanish named the craggy peaks for blood-red alpenglow sunsets on the western flanks. While the 37th parallel to the east has a long history of strange events, the Sangre de Cristos mark the entrance to a zone of dramatically heightened activity.
The crown jewel of the range is Mount Blanca, 60 miles north of the New Mexico state line in the SLV. At 14,351 ft., Blanca Peak is the third highest in the American Rockies. To the Navajo, or Diné people, Blanca is the sacred mountain of the east. She is the northern boundary of a route into San Luis Valley from the eastern plains, La Veta Pass.
San Luis Valley (SLV)
Words fail to describe the frequency and variety of paranormal events, UFOs, bigfoot tracks and sightings, encounters with off-world beings, black helicopters, cattle mutilations, and quasi-military officials chasing hikers off mountains in the SLV.
An estimated 8,000 sq. miles, this is the world’s largest alpine valley, with altitudes between 7,500 and 8,000 ft. Surrounded by the San Juan range in the west and the Sangre de Cristos in the east, the valley floor is 60 miles across at the widest point. North to south, the valley stretches 120 miles, from Poncha Pass to the Taos plateau. A vast aquifer lies beneath the surface of the valley, thought to be one of the largest in North America.
The Great Sand Dunes Monument, on the western flank of Mt. Blanca, is an inexplicable, 40-sq. mile field of sand dunes rising as high as 700 ft. above the valley floor. The scientific explanation for the dunes’ presence is that the sand was blown from the Rio Grande riverbed to the west, where it was trapped by the Sangre de Cristo barrier wall accumulating of the valley floor. Geologists say that it’s as good a story as any as they really don’t know where the dunes came from, or what action caused them, as was shared by journalist and researcher Christopher O’Brien. The sand is the purest silica on earth, and in terms of geology, has no common mineral composition with local materials.
As many as 13 different native tribes inhabited the region, and at the base of the Sand Dunes National Monument, archaeologists have excavated some of the oldest artifacts of human existence in North America; evidence of paleo mastodon hunts. Native Americans called the region the “bloodless valley” because all tribes believed the lands were sacred, and warfare would be sacrilegious. The valley was rich with game and freshwater, and several sites were deemed holy and reserved for ceremony.
O’Brien has researched and written about the SLV for decades. Several volumes of his work are published; he’s the go-to authority on SLV native history and paranormal phenomena. His Google map of SLV events and sites is exhaustive, resembling a paranormal tourist guide. O’Brien’s map represents an insider’s knowledge of bigfoot sightings, light and atmospheric phenomena, areas of unusual electromagnetic activity, possible underground government facilities, cattle mutilations, and stories of Spanish brujos and brujas (witches) and their ceremonial sites.
A segment featuring O’Brien in Gaia’s Deep Space series examines the SLV’s anomalies, from strange electromagnetic readings, dimensional portals that are revered as sacred sites by native cultures, decades of epidemic cattle mutilations, a mysterious military presence, and persistent, long-term UFO activity.
The Aztec, New Mexico Crash
Two hundred miles west of the Great Sand Dunes Monument is the site of one of the most witnessed, well-documented UFO crashes that no one ever heard of; the 1948 Aztec crash.
In the early morning hours of March 25, 1948, eight months after the much-publicized Roswell incident, a New Mexico policeman, Manuel Sandoval, was headed north on Highway 550 toward the Colorado state line. He had been following something for several hours — an aircraft flying erratically, appearing to be in distress. Sandoval, being a Four Corners native, was accustomed to seeing unusual flying craft, but he had never seen one so obviously crippled.
At the same time, to the northwest, New Mexico highway patrolman Andy Andrews, who patrolled the Farmington, NM area, noticed a disc flying in an unusual way. It lacked the speed and agility of craft he had observed in the past.
Nearby, rancher Valentin Archuleta was putting his goats out to graze when he heard what he thought was a sonic boom. Some kind of craft was flying out of control toward a mesa near his property — it was wobbling about 100 ft. off the ground and seemed to have “skidded” off the top of the the mesa. Archuleta sped to the general store and phoned Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque to report what he had seen. He told the military dispatcher the craft was headed towards nearby Hart Canyon.
The mesa above Hart Canyon near the Archuleta ranch was surrounded by gas and oil fields and storage facilities. Located 12 miles south of Aztec on the New Mexico/Colorado state line, the wells and facilities were operated by the El Paso Oil Company, the largest employer in the Aztec/Farmington area.
Hart Canyon Road: The Crash Site
Early the same morning, workers were told a brush fire had broken out on the nearby Hart Canyon Road. They needed to determine whether the fire had reached nearby El Paso storage tanks. When they arrived, they found the fire was not near the tanks, but on the mesa. Climbing to the top, workers found a large craft surrounded by a brush fire. The craft had small portals; peering through them, the men saw small bodies slumped over what looked like a control panel.
More people arrived; a rancher who drove cattle on the open range near the mesa, drivers on 550 pulling over to see what the commotion was about, more El Paso employees, and law enforcement officers. And not long after, a few young men nobody knew. Another law enforcement officer arrived from Aztec and announced that the military was aware of the situation and had asked everyone to leave the area. A helicopter, rare in 1948, circled above.
The order to leave was ignored. One worker continued to examine the craft. When he poked at it with a fire pole, a door and walkway appeared. Inside were several bodies “charred dark brown.” Military vehicles and personnel arrived and immediately broke the witnesses into groups for interviews; no one could recall what military branch they were from. They were described as assertive, experienced, and not pleased that so many had seen the downed craft.
Those who witnessed the event found their lives changed forever. While the crash story was later proclaimed a hoax created by Variety columnist Frank Scully, many who were there were traumatized in very real ways. A Baptist minister from nearby Mancos, Colorado, Solon Brown, had been traveling home from Aztec that morning. He stopped at the crash site to offer assistance, and saw “little people.” When he got back to Mancos he called an emergency church meeting and told attendees what he had seen. The story was shared by the church deacon’s son Walt Sayer, a teenager at the time and now a Montana rancher. Not long after, Preacher Brown left his new church, Mancos, and Colorado, never to be heard from again. Sayer said that Brown was deeply shaken and disturbed by what he had seen, although he had offered prayers over the tiny bodies at the crash site.
Details of the above narrative were sourced from Scott and Suzanne Ramsey’s “The Aztec UFO Incident.” For decades, the authors meticulously researched and documented the incident; in the book, Scott Ramsey describes the crash and aftermath in detail. He explains that Highway 550, running through New Mexico north into the high Colorado Rockies was, heavily used by travelers to Albuquerque and back. While it’s unknown how many saw the crash, there’s no question that it was plainly visible from the highway. And the Ramseys discovered that 50 years later, witnesses, or their surviving friends and families, were willing to talk, even if it was “off the record.”
The Roswell, New Mexico crash, documented, researched and debated for decades, now serves as the archetypal “coverup” story. Eight months after Roswell, military and government agencies took the lessons learned from Roswell’s mistakes and successfully applied them to the Aztec crash. In 1948, WWII was fresh in the minds of Americans. Most, during the war, had been exposed propaganda admonishing citizens that national security was everyone’s responsibility; “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”
The Ramseys learned that witnesses were told they were personally responsible for national security in regard to the situation. The military interviewers warned them to say, if questioned, that they has seen nothing; that there had never been a military presence at Hart Canyon Road, only been a small brushfire on the mesa. Additionally, witnesses were warned to not speak of what they had seen for a minimum of 50 years.
Evidence of the crash remains to this day. Atop the mesa is a concrete footer with no apparent function. Scott Ramsey explained that it was poured to support the crane needed to remove the damaged craft.
Like the Roswell crash, the Aztec crash has its own following, albeit smaller than the Roswell cult. And like Roswell, this sparse border town appreciates the economic boost brought by tourism.
Four Corners Mysteries
The point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona borders meet is famously known as the “Four Corners.” In addition to all of the phenomena explored above, the region is also home to the vast Ute and Navajo reservation lands — the Four Corners monument is on the Navajo Reservation within sight of the famous Shiprock desert formation.
Traveling west from Aztec, a short 90-minute trip brings visitors to the western boundary of the Rockies and the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau. These valleys, canyons and mesas beyond the San Juans were home to a great “Pre-Puebloan” culture that mysteriously disappeared around 1200 AD; researchers continue to debate the reason for their departure, as well as the abandonment of the Chaco Canyon site to the south. Archeologists estimate that the 800 AD regional population was far larger than the 25,535 in Colorado’s Montezuma County as of 2010. Yes, there are plenty of UFO sightings, but most take them for granted. Mention UFOs to locals and they’ll yawn.
The north rim of Mesa Verde mesa is visible for 25 miles, from Mancos to the east to Cortez. The park has 52,482 acres; the boundaries were delineated in 1906 by the federal park system, but beyond, miles of mesas and canyons stretching into New Mexico contain ruins and rock art from the same people. Mesa Verde is surrounded on three sides by Ute and Navajo reservation lands, and outlying ruins, from small shelters to communal cliff dwellings, lie to the south and east. On the Ute Reservation lands are ruins even bigger than Mesa Verde. These sites are reached by a hard, hot hike through rough terrain; don’t go without a Ute guide as this is private tribal land. These ruins have been left untouched as the Ute believe they belong to the “ancients.” To change or exploit the sites would be an insult to the ancestors. Neither they, nor the nearby Navajo, know who those earlier people were.
The wider region straddling the 37th parallel, from Wild Horse Mesa on the northeast boundary of the SLV, to Four Corners and beyond, is littered with relics and artifacts left by the Pre-Puebloans who disappeared around 1200 AD. After a rain, ancient pottery sherds can be found with just a glance at the ground. Stone corn grinders, called “metate,” are common along creeks and riverbanks — some use them as hardscape boundaries for gardens. To the north, east, and west of Mesa Verde, small stone and adobe brick shelters in cliffsides and under natural overhangs litter the valley all the way to the Canyon of the Ancients in Utah.
Petroglyphs and Rock Paintings
One of the big Four Corners mysteries is prolific rock art and petroglyphs featuring puzzling depictions of semi-human figures. Amidst images of what are clearly horned sheep, buffalo, deer, handprints, spiral patterns, and even long-legged heron catching frogs, are enigmatic figures that tower over smaller (presumably) human figures. These beings wear strange headgear — possibly helmets with bilateral antenna components. Torsos are expressed using rectangle/triangle forms that some believe are “suits.”
There’s a difference between a petroglyph and a rock painting; glyphs are carved into rock surfaces with tools; paintings, called “pictographs,” are painted (charcoal, minerals or blood) on surfaces and are far less durable. Most that survive are found in caves or rock shelters.
Glyphs and rock paintings from the “archaic” period (3000 BC – 400 AD) to the “protohistoric” period (1300 – 1700 AD) are found in the region, but it is the archaic art left by the ancestral Puebloans that portrays non-human figures relative to others beings within compositions.
Tribal mythology throughout the world include stories of “star people.” The Hopi believe they originally came from the Pleiades star cluster, and the Lakota tell stories of beings that came “from above” and stole children.
Zuni Elder Clifford Mahooty speaks of an ancient relationship between the Zuni and star beings. “We have always had a connection with the supernatural, including ETs. I found out from the oral teaching of my people we have connections with outer and inner (earth) beings,” he said, adding that several prayers, rituals and ceremonies are linked to these relationships.
While social scientists and anthropologists interpret the figures as “mythic,” “archetypes,” etc., for the Native people of North America, they are, literally, the star brothers and sister.
NEXT: Utah, Nevada, and Area 51.