The Paranormal Claims at Los Luceros (with skeptical commentary)

The ghost stories about Los Luceros appeared on a television show that was aired on the Learning Channel in 1998. The show was called “Hauntings in America”. After it aired, the show was eventually put on DVD and was released in 2007. The main house is in really bad shape and it shows in the program. It also creates and eerie backdrop to the content that was presented. The narrative from the show is provided below:

“New Mexico is known as the land of enchantment it is also a land of many spirits both malevolent and benign at the foot of black Mesa near the town of alcalde there once was a large Rancho, Los Luceros part of the first Spanish land grant in the New World.
At its center was this Grand Adobe Hacienda in the eighteen-hundreds this was the home powerful Spanish governor Julian Lucero it was also his Courthouse, jail and the giant imposing tree outside his window was his Gallows.
Today though the old Hacienda is abandoned, at least by the living and has become famed throughout the region as a repository for restless spirits.
Michael & Susan Wallace once came face-to-face with the spirits here. That was more than twenty years ago and now they have returned to see if they are still around.
The spirits of Los Luceros date back to the 1840s when the Hacienda was the center of a rich and thriving culture. At the time the large Spanish Rancho had been in the Lucero family for almost two hundred years and was about to be inherited by Maria Marta the governors eldest daughter.
It is only speculation but a fight is said to have started in the upstairs bedroom. At first there were harsh words then sudden violence. The argument spilled into the hallway, there was pushing, angry shoving. Maria Marta fell or was pushed down the wooden narrow staircase.
It was on the floor below they say where she died. It is here she has remained as the 1850s forever walking the stairs.

“Yes there is a haunting” (Jacobo de la Serna)

“There are definitely spirits in the house.” (Marie Clevenger)
“It’s not just not the voices you hear with your ears but the voices you hear inside your head when you walk through the door .” (Link Goeltz)

“We had wonderful experiences here and there were ghosts, I certainly encountered them.” (Dan Clevenger)

“And we did see the woman on the stairs, I did, several different times. just a fleeing apparition, it seemed that she walked the stairs with me.” (Marie Clevenger)

“I feel very strongly that it’s a female entity, at least the ghost that is, is the strongest or the spirit that is a strongest.” (Jacobo de la Serna)

“The energies that I’ve felt in here have been male energies ,malevolent criminal type energies.” (Link Goeltz)

” I was coming down stairway from the roof and large and very heavy door, doorway from roof came hurtling down right after barely missed me .” (Dan Clevenger)

“It was amazing because this trap door came flying down the stairs and it was up here so it would have fallen and bounced down normally but it didn’t it was thrown down.” (Marie Clevenger)

“From my understanding that this place was the territorial court house at one time a lot of criminals with bad energies toward other people were in this house I think that their negativity is what has predominated that the feelings that I’ve gotten about this place.” (Link Goeltz)

” I believe that when one passes on from this life and this, this body, this shell and goes on its Journey to the next they are operating at a different speed or a different level it’s very much like having a 45 RPM record we are the 45 RPM record and they are operating at a speed of 78 and every once in a while the grooves lineup and the revolution parallel each other and that is when you have your encounters that is when you recognize each other.” (Jacobo de la Serna)

The first problem with the accounts in the video is that they are not historically accurate. The dates indicate that the video is probably referring to Maria Marta, the wife of Elias T. Clark. However, there is no evidence that she died through an act of violence. In the 1880 census, Maria Marta is 60 years old and living in Socorro, so she did not die by getting thrown down the stairs.
The next serious issue is the stairs themselves which, according to the ghost story, Maria Marta was pushed down. The original staircase was located outside of the house, attached to the second story balcony. The interior stairs were added by Mary Wheelwright in the 1920’s. Therefore, you cannot have a woman being pushed down those interior stairs in the 1840’s because they did not exist at that time.

During my first investigation at Los Luceros, I met Marie Clevenger, who now divorced and uses her maiden name. She is now a historian and docent for Los Luceros and frequently gives talks and tours of the property. She is also one of the people that was interviewed for the television show.
I asked her about the ghost story presented in the television show and about the ghost of Maria Marta. Without hesitation she told me that it completely fabricated. The producer of the show persuaded her to say that she had seen the woman (apparition) on the stairs. However, she does believe that it is haunted and went on to tell me the same story that she and her ex-husband had told in the film;

“It was amazing because this trap door came flying down the stairs and it was up here so it would have fallen and bounced down normally but it didn’t it was thrown down.”

She believes that it is paranormal because of the way the door fell. “It flew across the hall, like a Frisbee”. She also told me that that the stories of people being hung from the tree outside of the hacienda was probably more folklore than fact. There are not any historical records that indicate any one ever being hung there.
Again this piece of folklore is propagated as fact by the TV show:

“At its center was this Grand Adobe Hacienda in the eighteen-hundreds this was the home powerful Spanish governor Julian Lucero it was also his Courthouse, jail and the giant imposing tree outside his window was his Gallows.”

Julian Lucero was not a Spanish governor. He did not have a courthouse or a jail at Los Luceros. That would come later. His biggest claim to fame is that he married Barbara Antonia Sisneros, the daughter of Hemenigildo Sisneros whose father claimed to have been heir of the original grantee of the Sebastian Martin Land Grant when he brought Martin to trial before the governor in 1727. The Sisneros family was given a portion of the grant in order that they may “erect a house and plant grain.” However, discrepancies in the ownership claims and the vague boundary descriptions of these and other archival records of land transactions of that period make it impossible to determine the exact location of the Sisneros and Martin lands in relation to Los Luceros or establish certain ownership or settlement date or possible previous Spanish occupation of the site.
Some of the historical confusion in the ghost stories may come from Michael Wallis’ book ” Heaven’s Window: A Journey Through Northern New Mexico” that was published in 2001. He writes;

“Julian Lucero gives the main house and the orchard to his daughter Maria Marta, who the year before married Elias T Clark, an Irish born trader from Missouri. For the next decade the Clarks continued to enlarge their landholdings, while Clark ranched and farmed and operated a general merchandise store in the nearby village of Alcalde.
In 1851, Clark became clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Second Judicial District of the Territory of New Mexico. Two years later, the council of the legislative assembly in Santa Fe selected him as Rio Arriba County judge. For several years, Los Luceros served as the county seat and the ranch house as county courthouse. Throughout the 1850’s, Clark held court in the upstairs sala or parlor. He converted another building into a jail. A sturdy black locust tree with an obliging limb provided a gallows for criminals sentenced to capital punishment.”

Here are all the elements of the ghost stories. Maria Marta, the foreigner (an Irishman, not a Frenchman), the courthouse and the gallows are all contained within this paragraph. This also isolates the exact period in time, which allows for the investigation into the details that are told in the stories. The simple fact is that myth-building created the back story for the TV show.
In the spring of 2015 the old “hanging” tree became unstable and started falling. The groundskeepers cut the truck level with the ground, so it no longer exists. So an inevitable conclusion arises. In 1997 the Los Luceros Historical Property was in disrepair. While efforts were being made by the state of New Mexico to restore and protect the old hacienda and the surrounding buildings, it was listed as a potential film location by the New Mexico Film Commission. Christopher Lewis was looking for locations in New Mexico that were historical and had a spooky ambiance. Los Luceros fit the bill.

While there were a few people who believed that the old building was haunted, the production company decided to “elaborate” and created the story of Maria Marta and her untimely death on the stairs to make the location more appealing for their film “Hauntings in America”.
After the film was finished it aired on the Learning Channel. This is the modern genesis for “haunting” in Alcalde. After the television show, several different versions of the ghost stories started appearing on various websites.

Old Courthouse – A woman form Spain came to live in the house with her new husband that was picked for by the bride‚Äôs father. Soon after the newly weds settled in the husband became very abusive and through his bride down the stair case and she died. Soon after the bride was dead the French man commit suicide. A few years down the road the house was turned into a courthouse. People guilty of crimes were hung from a tree in front of the mansion. Today the house is locked up and no one lives in it. People have claimed to a see woman walking up and down that staircases and a man pacing back and forth in an upstairs bedroom. Other witnesses have since bodies hanging from the tree in front of the property. Lights go gone when there is no electricity hooked up etc…

Los Luceros (Alcalde) – There are numerous reports of haunting activities associated with this 400 year old building. There are numerous reports of ghosts haunting the house, the most prevalent being that of a woman who was murdered by her husband. The hanging trees out front are said to be haunted as well.


What is interesting is that these sites often break up the Los Luceros property into multiple places, indicating that they have never been there.

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