It was my first ghost hunt and I didn’t know what to expect.  The site last night was the Kelly, New Mexico ghost town with focus on the church, graveyard and a 1000’ vertical shaft where it is said many miners perished when the town boomed at the turn of the century.  It was dark, starry and mountain crickets whined.

At dusk, Maggie, a seasoned huntress, placed a voice activated recorder atop a gravestone of two unnamed babies in the cemetery up the pined slope from the church, and snapped pictures with a digital camera for energy orbs.  ‘Babies can be heard crying a century after death,’ she said.  Schmidt, our ex-hippy leader, hoisted an infrared camera and scanned a nearby iron cross with ‘RIP 1907’ hoping to snatch on film, like the recorder, evidence of viable energy from the long dead indiscernible to our normal senses. Half the fun of ghost hunting is analyzing the data days later around a bottle of whisky, they claimed. I switched on an electromagnetic detector in one hand, and a laser point temperature variation recorder in the other, and listened for the moan of the first to screech indicating an electric or magnetic flux.  We also had a golf club because there had been cougar sightings.

There are three kinds of hauntings, it was explained as we sat on rocks around the babies’ grave:  The most common is ‘residual haunting’ where energy of the dead is unconscious and trapped in rocks like light in a crystal that repeats itself over and over (detectable by our instruments) and waning over the centuries.  The second is also unconscious but may be poltergeistic with knocks, rattles and needle moves. The third haunting is ‘active’ where an energy form with awareness interacts with people like us.

‘If you are here, we mean you no harm,’ uttered Maggie over the grave as if talking to a neighbor. ‘Please put your hand in front of the red light so we know you are here. It won’t hurt you.’  My readings held steady, and Schmidt’s camera rolled.  A cow bawled in night and we all jumped.  After thirty minutes it was a wrap, and Schmidt was anxious to climb to the mine on the theory that violent deaths produce greater radiation.

Kelly came to life in 1870 with the discovery of rich deposits of lead, silver, zinc and gold. Eventually the town had two hotels, the church, two dance halls, seven saloons and a freight line to whisk women and children out the mountains in the frequent event of Indian attacks.  Today nothing is left but ruins, shafts and, we hoped, spirits.

The 1000’ shaft and nearby building footings were beautiful under moonlight but a bust for active haunting.  Still, my companions were optimistic as they packed up the instruments and spoke of returning for an all-nighter. I took a walk up a lonely dirt road where moonlight reflected off something shiny in the pines. It was the tin roof of a standing shack for hundreds of core samples.  I stuck one 3’’ piece in my pocket and glanced into the corner of the structure.  A miner dummy that looked like me thirty years ago hung from the rafters in faded jeans, flannel shirt and a miner’s light (extinguished).

I dashed down the hill faster than anyone could follow and didn’t tell a soul until now.