he adobe home in which the Double Eagle restaurant is located was built during the boom time for Mesilla in the 1840’s and is acknowledged as the oldest building in Historic Old Mesilla. Although Mesilla was a well-known watering and stop-over spot for trails east and west as well as north and south since ancient Indian times, the real founding of Mesilla was the late 1840’s after the Mexican American War. Many Mexican citizens resented the United States taking the northern half their country and refused the offer of United States citizenship moving south of the new border to Mesilla. The home was a private residence up until the 1950’s when it was abandoned for a time, was used as a cotton warehouse and became a series of shops until 1972. It was then purchased by Robert O. Anderson who hired internationally known John Miegs to collect the museum quality antiques, paintings, sculptures, wood work and other things which make the Double Eagle unique. The building is a National and State Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The current owner is a fifth generation New Mexican C. W. Buddy Ritter.
When Anderson purchased the building, he had no idea the place was haunted. Haunted by, not one, but two ghosts! As strange things happened, investigations were launched. Like the game in which a story is whispered down a line of people, changing at each retelling, there are wild and interesting stories about Armando and Inez, the ghostly lovers. But, here is the tale as best we can piece together.
The first owners of the house were the Maes family. They ran a freight line importing/exporting goods. When their base in Santa Fe was taken over by the Americans after the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, they moved south to the spot called La Mesilla. From the grand size of the house they built, one can see the family had big plans for the future. Especially the mother. She was very proud of her family, its prestige, power and connections. Her plans centered on her eldest son, a teenager named Armando. She constantly reminded him of his duty to the family. One old-timer reports his grandmother said, choosing an old Spanish saying, that Senora Maes had stars in her eyes.
Such a large house required many servants. One of the servants was a teenage girl named Inez. Inez was said to be very beautiful with long, black hair reaching to her waist. Well, a teenage boy and a teenage girl under one roof…they fell in love. Armando knew his mother would not approve and they tried to keep their love a secret. But, the shy touches, the ‘chance meetings’ in the house and other signs of love blooming alerted the other servants to the secret. Soon, the servants were all in on the secret and worked to hide the romance from La Senora.
It was not long before most of the village knew of the devotion the young people felt for each other and the villagers, knowing La Senora’s snobbish ways, kept the secret. The shy young man and the beautiful maiden walking together on a errand across the Plaza caused many an older heart to remember their own younger days and to smile. All was right with the world under the bright blue sky of La Mesilla.
Finally, inevitably, La Senora discerned the lovesick Armando was paying too much attention to Inez. Confronting her son, Armando confessed his love but La Senora refused to accept this. She flew into a rage and ordered Inez from the house. She reminded Armando of his station in life and of his duty to the family. She forbade Armando to see Inez. But, do teenage boys listen to their mother?
La Senora, concerned by her discovery, decided to arrange her son’s betrothal immediately. She set out on a trip to arrange a marriage proper for Armando and in keeping with his status – and that of the family. She struck a deal quickly and returned to her home unexpectedly soon.
The reaction of the servants to the early return of La Senora raised her suspicions. She asked for Armando to attend her so she could give him the good news but got conflicting answers about his location. She walked to Armando’s room and, hearing voices within, opened the door. And there she found the beautiful Inez in the arms of Armando.
Shocked and enraged, La Senora stepped back into what is now the restaurant’s Patio area and, stumbling over her sewing basket, her hand fell onto her sewing shears. Seemingly in a trance, La Senora returned to the bedroom where Armando and Inez were hastily dressing. Without a sound, the shears were raised and plunged into Inez’s breast. Again, the shears were raised, but Armando screaming “No, Mama! No!” rushed to shield his beloved and La Senora unseeing drove the shears into her own son’s back. At Armando’s cry of pain, La Senora came to her senses and, realizing what she had done, uttered a cry – reports tell us – which was as stricken and grief-filled as was ever given voice.
La Senora stepped back to see Inez crumpled on the floor with blood gushing from a gaping wound while Armando, himself bleeding from the hole torn in his back, cradled her, gently stroking her hair. The servants rushed to the room and witnessed a look of tender love exchanged between Armando and Inez. As Armando bent to kiss her lips, he felt her last breath brush his cheeks now wet with tears. As Armando clung to her body, he raised his head as if someone had called him. Staring into an empty corner, his surprised face suddenly burst into a brilliant smile. He seemed to be listening to someone speak. La Senora spoke his name and approached to care for his wound but, at her touch, he collapsed, never looking at her.
Armando never regained consciousness and died there days later.
And, so, here ends our tale of woe…or does it?
The Maes family avoided legal problems through their influence and wealth, almost immediately selling the house and moving into the interior of Mexico. It is not known for sure what happened after that but Mesilleros say La Senora did not speak from the day of the murders. Her last spoken word had been her dying son’s name.
Mesilleros honored the dead lovers for many years on the Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) but slowly memories fade. Succeeding owners of the house reported strange events, sightings of a beautiful young girl, odd happenings, unexplained events. Reports of voices whispering and the smell of a lavender perfume occurred. The story of the lovers was passed on generation to generation but, slowly, people forgot. By the 1950’s and 1960’s even the Day of the Dead celebrations faded. New things took the place of story telling – radio, television. The elders were not respected as in the past. Their words were not valued any more.
Then, the Double Eagle restaurant came. The lively commerce of a busy business must have rejuvenated the two spirits because they became quite active with unexplained occurrences happening quite often. Never with malice or anger. More like high spirited pranks of a couple of teenagers.
Slowly, memories of stories their grandfathers had told returned to the old people of the village. The strange events at the restaurant were common talk and slowly the story of the two ghostly lovers was revealed. Old records were checked in Mesilla and El Paso. Even the records from the cathedral in Chihuahua were reviewed for details.