Clayton residents hope haunted reputation attracts more tourists

Clayton residents hope haunted reputation attracts more tourists

CLAYTON, NM (KFDA) - The city of Clayton has recently been named the most haunted city in the state of New Mexico.

The Land of Enchantment has a steep wild west history, which is why it’s no surprise several of the state’s cities have some well-known ghost stories.

What may surprise you is that according to the New Mexico Department of Tourism, the city of Clayton has the most places considered haunted in the state.

“We’ve had several stories that [ghosts have] made us aware that they are here,” said Victoria Baker, executive director of the Herzstein Museum.

With exhibits from the Dust Bowl and rooms restored to look how they did in eras past- the museum is a must see for tourists.

It also has an attraction for thrill-seekers: confirmed ghost activity.

“I think that we do have some sort of unknown spirits here and you think about if every item carries energy, you never know what attaches to things here at the museum,” said Baker. “Who knows what we have. I know we do have investigators who recorded a little boy’s voice in the back bedroom and we also heard high heel steps in the kitchen area. Needless to say, I was scared to death.”

Baker said she’s uneasy about hosting a Halloween event because she doesn’t want too spook visitors.

“I don’t want people to actually freak out,” she said.

Another hot spot for spirits in Clayton is the Union County Courthouse... and not only because employees have reported hearing strange things.

“I guess theoretically it’s because of Jack Black Ketchum,” said Mary Lou Harkins, the county clerk. “The hanging was here on the property and there’s female spirits of sorts.”

Black Jack Ketchum was a famous train robber, and he just happened to be born on Halloween. He was hung in 1901 – the last official hanging in New Mexico.

“It was a very gruesome hanging,” said Harkins. “He was decapitated. There was many witnesses and children.”

When you visit Clayton’s cemetery, you’ll find his grave smack dab in the middle.

Baker said the cemetery was divided, and neither group wanted Blackjack’s remains in their half.

She said every Halloween someone puts flowers on his grave, but they never know who it is.

Finally, the Eklund Hotel is also infamous for paranormal activity.

“People just like the character of the place and the uniqueness,” said Keith Barras, owner of the hotel. “I mean, there’s not many places left like this anymore.”

Rumor has it that room 307 is haunted by the ghost of a maid named Irene.

The Barras said she hung herself because she was so distraught over a love situation. Visitors claim they’ve seen the woman walking these halls of the Eklund.

Haunted or not, the Barras and Baker hope it attracts more people to the city of Clayton.

“We have events here all the time,” said Baker. “We’re always trying to draw as much as we can and if it’s ghosts that help us become famous we’re willing to run with that.”

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