Avid visitors of this site know that in addition to highlighting a fun location with a haunted history or just celebrating a unique moment in history that’s on the edge of being lost to time, this is absolutely a travel site too. There’s just nothing better than seeing haunted and/or mysterious locations around the world, close-up. One of my favorite videos I’ve posted was my LA to Vegas Haunted Road Trip and the much, much longer Tucson, AZ to Madison, WI Haunted Road Trip (part 1 & part 2) was full of haunted locations and fun roadside attractions.
This late spring I had to make a quick run out to AZ from the Midwest and, while I didn’t have the time luxury I would’ve wanted, I was still able to visit a couple interesting locations. As you’ll see, most of these stops are in the southwest. During my cross-country trips, I’ve found that Kansas is full of unique stops, but I wasn’t able to get any in on this run. Visiting sites in the famed wild west town of Dodge, KS is on my near-term wish list. Speaking of wish list locations, I am in the process of rolling out a selection of paranormal bucket list locations. That page will be updated frequently, but feel free to make suggestions of more sites I should consider.
Stops on our journey:
Corona, NM – Rosewell Crash
Little did we know when we stopped for gas, but this sleepy little town is actually the site of the famous Roswell crash. It’s geographically closer to the site of the Roswell crash and it’s where the first UFO crash reports were made that day. However, since Roswell is he bigger town (population of 25,000 vs just 500), the leaders of the investigation met there to do their investigation, leaving Corona somewhat out of the spotlight. Today Corona is a sleepy little town of under 200 residents that doesn’t get to enjoy nearly as many tourism dollars as Roswell. Had we been a little more savvy, I would’ve remembered that Stanton Friedman’s book about the crash is titled “Crash at Corona.” Advanced tip – we will have a Stanton Friendman post coming very soon.
Also, we just happened to notice a historical marker on the edge of this tiny town that pointed out the former site of a store and tavern where, in 1880, none other than Billy the Kid had a standoff with police that left one officer dead while Billy the Kid and his accomplices escaped. The location of this sign is in what is today very wild, undeveloped land. One has to wonder if the are any archaeological remains of that structure if we knew exactly where to look.
It’s a good lesson to not overlook even the tinest of towns on a road trip. Who woulda thought – everything from the most famous UFO story to Billy the Kid in this mostly empty one square mile town.
White Sands Missile Testing Range, Alamogordo, NM
In a lifetime of travel, I’ve seen a wide array of street signs, but I had never seen one warning me that, when these lights are flashing, missile tests in progress, expect delay. To co-opt a punchline from Brian Regan, “Shouldn’t that sign read Road Closed?“
No sooner did we interview Jessica Watkins, the stand-up comic who walked across the country, mentioning the eeriest part of her walk was through this area, and now I was here. My co-host on “The Fantastic Story Society” podcast tends to have more UFO & conspiracy theory knowledge than I and knew this place has an interesting history and, upon some research, he was very right.
Where to start?
First off, this location is around 3,200 square miles in size. There’s a lot of places to hide government secrets in restricted wasteland that’s LARGER than Rhode Island and Delaware COMBINED. Its history includes UFO sightings, now declassified secret government operations, some of the most important bomb testing in world history and, due to all of the rocket research here, a birthplace of NASA. I’ll try to cover this all relatively quickly in bulletpoints:
- 1884 – well before the military installations popped up in the area, Las Crucas was home to a cult-like community that believed aliens and humans have been cross-breeding since alien times. Their religious texts are the first time the word “starship” is ever recorded.
- 1945 – The first ever Atomic bomb in the world was successfully detonated here
- 1946 – 35 captured, former Nazi scientists were employed here as part of Operation Paperclip to develop rocket technology.
- 1946 – First firing of a Nike missile. The Nike missile project became a massive part of the US defense system with 265 launch sites across the country.
- 1949 – Aerojet employee Daniel Fry claimed to witness and board an alien craft at White Sands. He was able to communicate with the being telepathically. They were also able to make a round trip flight to New York within a half hour.
- 1964 – A local police officer reported seeing a UFO flying through the sky along with a descending landing craft. Upon further inspection, the officer was able to locate the landing site and saw two small humanoid beings outside of the craft. Scorch marks remained on the site as evidence for later examination. The military claim is that a lunar lander was being tested. The event is part of the Project Blue Book files. (a more detailed look at this even can be found in a link at the bottom of the article)
- 1970 – During a missile test where the launch location was Utah with the target location being White Sands, the missile missed its target, overshooting by hundreds of miles and exploding in Mexico’s “Zone of Silence.” This location is often considered Mexico’s Bermuda Triangle. Electronic items do not work here and an impressive number of meteorites land in this naturally magnetically charged piece of land.
- 1982 – After 8 days in orbit, the space shuttle Challenger landed here because Edwards Air Force Base was flooded
- 2021 – An American Airlines pilot claimed a missile flew over his aircraft as he passed through New Mexico about 400 feet from White Sands. White Sands claims there were no missile tests scheduled for that day. As of March 2021, this is still considered an open investigation.
While being at a literal ground zero for the start of the Manhattan Project may seem unsettling, the place certainly has a lot of mystique. While most of the grounds are (understandably) extremely off limits for safety and secrecy, there is a rocket museum open to the public (we will be stopping here at a later date) and there’s a great roadside overlook.
Horseshoe Cafe, Benson, AZ
I’ll order a cinnamon roll roughly the size of my head, a coffee and a paranormal experience, please. This is a place that loves history and serves as something of a local museum. The walls and shalves are delightfully cluttered with items and photos that harken back to the town’s roots and keep that connection to a simpler, harder way of life. Perhaps the best artifacts in the 1937-built Cafe are the three large pillars themselves, that support the structure. During construction, while the pillars were out in the open, local cattle ranchers would use their branding irons and leave their mark on the posts. These cattle branding ‘signatures’ are still evident on the posts today and their marks are also represented along the top of a large wild west mural on the exterior of the building.
The location was run by the Whaley family from its start in the 1930s up through 2010. The current matriarch of the cafe, a colorful, friendly character named Patty, is more than happy to chat with her customers, sharing tales and the news of the day. I asked her, “I’ve heard some rumors that this place has a ghost story.” Before she could even answer, a slew of bustling waitresses laughed and how understated the question was. “Oh yeah!” they said.
Patty guesses that it was the previous long term overseer of the location, Lorene Whaley who may still be keeping an eye on things. She also might not be completely pleased with how things are progressing, but even just believing that Patty is still there, loving the cafe provides a reassuring feeling. That’s all the more striking when you hear that one of the common occurrences is items being thrown off shelves, propelled by some unseen force.
One of the more striking visual claims was captured on security camera when a group of orbs manifested in the front room and then explored the building together, going room to room.
Other claims include doors flinging themselves open with no means to do so and even a ghost cat (or maybe it was a small dog – I’ll be honest, I waited too long between my visit and this write-up), which also ties in to being the Whaley family pet.
Even here while telling ghost stories, it wasn’t long before the conversation naturally turned to UFOs. In the southern New Mexico area Patty was stuck in traffic when she saw a floating, glowing spere hovering low, at about power line height. Soon, a spiral descended down towards the ground, spraying out a substance of some sort. According to her, a very similar sight was also observed a couple years later in Los Angeles.
Vail Children’s Cemetery, Vail, AZ
I looked at a map of the small southern Tucson suburb of Vail and happened to notice the listing for a children’s cemetery. I assumed this would be a modern cemetery, perhaps associated with a church or a separate part of a larger general cemetery. As I zoomed in on the map, I first noticed that it is a tiny location. Next, I was beyond surprised to see that the cemetery is on the grounds of a middle school!
Can you imagine the stories that would come out of having a cemetery on the grounds of a school? Of course, this is also the reality of UW-White Water and Barat College in Lake Forest, IL (now demolished), but I’ve never heard of a cemetery on the grounds of a school for younger children.
Very typical to this area, the Vail Children’s Cemetery is a small wild west style cemetery containing wooden crosses and stone-lined, marked, but unnamed individual gravesites, 22 in total. In the case of this cemetery, it came to be as a result of a smallpox outbreak, according to Find-a-Grave.
If visiting this cemetery, do note that since it’s on the grounds of a school, it is on private property, so you cannot enter it. However, it can be viewed from the train tracks that run alongside it.
Enjoy this little photo gallery of a unique location. The building in the photo is the town’s original post office building. While much of the town is growing (lots of new construction in the area), it’s nice to see that there is an effort for historical preservation here too):
Serial Grillers, Vail, AZ
No, no ghost stories associated with this location or even a horrific history, but if you’re in the middle of a paranormal road trip, you’ve gotta eat sometime and over at Serial Grillers, you can at least stay in-theme. While the overall decor has room for additional improvement, their wall of horror movie killers and horror movie themed menu is very fun. Bonus points – the food is delicious too.
Desert USA’s “Space Triangle” article
CNET’s article on a historic White Sands UFO sighting
From ABC News, More on the Feb 2021 Missile/UFO sighting by an American Airlines pilot