In 2006, the Travel Channel aired episode 20 of “Weird Travels.” The show has the employees of the KiMo Theater and Albuquerque’s Mayor, Martin Chavez, telling the ghost story of Bobby. Below is the transcript of the television episode. It contains a slightly important clue that is vital to discovering the origin of the theater’s ghost story. I have transcribed the audio from the TV show below.
“Tourists looking for history in Albuquerque, New Mexico find it in Old Town. A few blocks of adobe homes and churches. But just outside of Old Town, where the city begins to look more like a modern Metropolis, there’s one structure that has remained the same. Its Albuquerque’s most beloved landmark KiMo theater.
Martin Chavez: “There is nobody in Albuquerque that doesn’t know about the KiMo theater and frankly there isn’t nobody from New Mexico that doesn’t know about this.”
The KiMo stands out amid its modern surroundings, and its strange decor carries on inside the theater. From skeletons hanging on the walls to a mischievous child ghost, this theater will not only entertain you, it will scare you to death.
Craig Rivera: “The building does have kind of a scary character, and there are some people who are quite moved. They feel a presence.”
Built in 1927, the KiMo theater was considered the area’s finest picture house.
Craig Rivera: ” It was built as the grandest movie palace in Albuquerque and people wanted to see it, and they did come and see it.”
And the unique native American Pueblo Deco architectural style continues to draw crowds.
Craig Rivera: “We have people from all over the world who just come to see the KiMo theater. Not to see what’s playing but they want to see the building itself.”
Deb Slaney: “The KiMo was special because it was the only theater that was dedicated to the Native American.”
The theater’s royal name is also Native American.
Dennis Potter: “The word KiMo is actually a combination of two Indian words that mean king of its kind or mountain lion depending on which way you’d like to interpret it.”
The 1950s brought cowboy flicks to the KiMo’s screen, making the theater more popular than ever.
Craig Rivera: “On a matinee, you might imagine over a thousand kids sitting in there watching anyone at the famous stars from that area.”
Deb Slaney: “We have a lot of photographs of children’s bicycles lined up in front of the KiMo.”
Craig Rivera: “They didn’t have to fear about anybody stealing their bikes back then. It was a different era.”
But one afternoon, a tragedy would bring an end to this peaceful time. That day, a group of unsuspecting kids went to the KiMo to watch a western.
Dennis Potter: “And at some point during the film, one of the young boys for whatever reason, decided he needed to go downstairs. And while he was on the staircase there was an unfortunate explosion.”
An aging boiler suddenly exploded having disastrous consequences.
Craig Rivera: “What took place was a boiler underneath the stairwell exploded, blowing out. We don’t have evidence where this young man was standing, but it did claim his life in many other people were injured in the explosion.”
A young boy named Bobby was the only fatality. His young life tragically cut short. It wasn’t long after he was laid to rest that strange things started happening. Things that continue to this day.
Dennis Potter: “As you go around and lock up at the end of the night there was definitely a feeling that there was someone or something in the building when no one was there.”
Recently while the KiMo was under renovation some nearby office workers got a fright they will never forget.
Dennis Potter: “There was a person in an office across the street called our business office and said there’s a young boy waving at me out of the window of your third-floor building that’s under construction.”
Craig Rivera: “So what I did immediately is I went up there. I knew we had some construction going on. The doors are locked I did a thorough investigation of the third floor. There’s nobody up there. There’s no way anybody could get in there.”
Perhaps the spirit of the ill-fated boy is as mischievous in death as he was in life.
Martin Chavez: “You can track which performances have gone well which ones have not gone well, and I would contend to the good relationship between those that have not gone well and what they’ve done in terms to Bobby. They have to take care of Bobby or Bobby doesn’t take care of them.”
Apparently like most children, Bobby has a sweet tooth that can’t go on satisfied for too long.
Dennis Potter: “When large productions set up usually there’s a coffee break in the morning. Nobody wants to be a pig and eat the last donut out of the box. So the last donut would usually hang around. Sometimes the donut would be gone, and there would have been no one in the building.”
Could Bobby’s playful spirit be the culprit? Many anxious actors and crew were sure of it and began leaving donuts backstage. But for those who don’t believe the punishment is severe.
Dennis Potter: “The director of this particular show saw a large number of donuts hanging across the back wall and made the crew take the donuts down. Their next performance was a complete and total disaster. Light bulbs exploded. Things fell out of the ceiling. Actors fell down on stage. Doors and windows on the set open and close by themselves.”
Concerned members of KiMo production constructed a shrine to appease the child’s specter.
Craig Rivera: “This is a shrine to our resident ghost. Performers since the 80s have left our ghost a little trinket.”
Nowadays, Bobby gets an otherworldly assortment of gifts. From guitar picks to lipstick stains in the walls, KiMo staff knows the importance of pleasing their specter.
Craig Rivera: “If you play the KiMo don’t mess with the ghost. You might want to leave a little trinket or something.”
In the end, those who work and perform at the KiMo enjoy having Bobby the Phantom prankster around.
Martin Chavez: “He also makes every single event a little more special not just for those attending but for those performing in particular because they know that there’s another present there.”
Did you see the clue? The majority of the ghostly encounters involve the theater staff or the production crew and actors. This usually occurs when the ghost of Bobby has not left some sort of offering. However, there is one deviation from this pattern. It is the story of a young boy waving at people from the window of the third floor while the building was under construction. From the theater’s history, it is known that there was construction on the third floor in 2002. I suspect that this may be the incident that Craig Rivera referred to in the television show. However, the story of a boy being seen in the window predates 2002. It was known by many of the theater’s staff and some of the local actors. I suspected that this may be the genesis of the ghost stories, but I could not find anything to back it up until October of 2005.
Recently, I was on the 94 Rock morning show talking about ghosts for the annual Halloween show. Towards the end of the broadcast, I told the listeners that we were looking into the haunting at the KiMo theater and if they had any information or stories, I would love to hear about them. The following morning I received an e-mail from a listener named Martin. The e-mail read;
“I heard you guys on 94 rock talking about the ghost of the KiMo theater where a boy had been seen in the second-floor window. I know that was not a ghost. In the late seventies, my high school had volunteers go to the theater to help clean it up. My friend Paul brought his little brother with him. He had to keep an eye on him, but after a couple of hours we were goofing around and lost him. Paul freaked out, and we searched all over for him. Eventually, we decided to check upstairs and found him in a room, waving at people on the street. I think this is what everybody is freaking out over, but it was not a ghost but a real boy.”
Martin’s story does check out historically. An article in the Albuquerque Journal (April 27, 1977) states that;
“Volunteers from Albuquerque Boys Club, Rio Grande High School, and the Downtown Exchange Club wiped into every nook and cranny as the dusty seats, and faded carpets began to reveal some of their former luster.”
I replied back to Martin and asked him for some more details. In particular, I wanted a description of the boy’s shirt and his hair color. He replied, telling me that it was a solid white collared shirt and that his friend’s brother had dark brown hair. This description matches the early accounts from 1978, so I am relatively confident that it is was actually a little boy, not a ghost. The descriptions are identical enough to suggest a rational explanation. The boy in the window is what provides the suggestion that the theater is haunted by the ghost of a small boy. As Wendy Jay pointed out, the specter was initially nameless. The doughnut tradition had started as a result of the suggestion, so when donuts went missing or appeared to have small bites taken out of them, it was related to the hungry ghost.