Route 66 - The Singing House Ghost

Near the Continental Divide along Route 66 in New Mexico
On a hill within sight of Route 66, west of Laguna, New Mexico and a little north toward the Continental Divide, lie the burned out ruins of a small adobe home and a close-by wooden-walled root cellar. Today, few people know the story.

Nobody knew for sure where the couple originally came from, but a few old-timers who claimed their parents knew them say Fort Smith, Arkansas. The truthfulness of this is in doubt though as even these folks cannot agree on their names. What is known however, is that a hard-working, but frail man and his beautiful wife were forced from their farm by the hard times of the early 1930's. Packing everything they owned in their ancient Willys flatbed, they picked up Route 66 in Oklahoma City heading west in search of a better life. In Santa Rosa, the old truck blew a rod and coasted to a stop alongside the road. With no money for a new engine, a few days later the man talked a mechanic into swapping the disabled Willys for an even older, barely running Reo. They made it as far as Albuquerque before it too died a junker's death.

The wife had a singing voice that was sweet as an angel's. She had sang in the small country church the couple attended, but she was very religious, totally devoted to her husband and wanted nothing to do with the seamy music business or fending off men's hands while working in smoke-filled dens of sin. In only a few days, however, the last of their money was gone and her husband was ill from walking the city in search of a job. Knowing their very survival was up to her, she dressed in her best and went from place to place until she found a club owner who would give her a one-night tryout.

That night, with the small club band playing behind her, she sang simple melodies in such a hauntingly clear, beautiful voice that the rowdy patrons hushed and actually applauded when she finished. The club's owner knew right away he had found a true talent and hired her right then and there.

It wasn't long before she had become the most popular singer in the region and she had earned enough money to move on. Her husband however, was still in ill health. Worse, he was demoralized by the fact he was still not working and was being supported by his wife, a most embarrassing situation for a man in those days. His wife, however, could tell the New Mexico air agreed with him as his color was better than she could remember and his persistent cough had almost vanished. He had also begun to whittle again, something he had given up several years before. He was very talented, rendering in exquisite detail the small desert animals he had seen while walking the edges of the city looking for a day's work for a day's wages.

One morning, the wife posed a question - why not build a home in the high country a few miles west? After all, he was handy with tools and could do a lot of the work himself. She could sing on weekends and help him during the week and maybe they could even find a market with the travelers on Route 66 for for his carvings.  Surprisingly, the husband liked the idea and they found a perfect building site on a hill with a view of the valley. They also found two Indian workers from the Pueblo who were experts working with adobe and the work of building a home soon began.

Every day, as the men worked and their home began to take shape, the wife sang to her husband and the workers as she worked alongside them. When the house was finished, the sound of her beautiful voice seemed to have become part of every brick and board. When the breezes blew, the windows which opened on opposite sides of the house, seemed to blow a soft, sweet trilling that rose and fell, changing timbre with the changes in the breeze. Their neighbors from the small homesteads around them often stopped by to visit and to listen to the house sing.

Winter arrived, but shortly before the first storm, the husband left his loving wife at home and drove off to deliver carvings to the souvenir shops along the highway. With a comfortable home and a great many carvings stored, the couple looked forward to a bright and happy future.

Accounts differ about the cause of the fire. Perhaps the wife tried to save her husband's carvings from a flash fire that engulfed their home; perhaps the fire was set by intruders. With no proof one way or another, it's a mystery which will never be solved. The only thing known for sure is the wife perished in the fire. The husband was beside himself with grief. After a few weeks, the poor distraught man simply wandered off alone, never to be seen again.

Only a few charred adobe bricks remain from the house that sang, but occasional visitors to the site swear  the sweet, clear voice embodied in the house can still be heard. Interestingly, when there is no wind at all, when it seems nothing in the world is moving, that's when it is most clearly heard. The soft notes do not seem to come from the ruins; they are simply there in the air, as if they always have been, and perhaps always will be.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
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