Uncovering haunted truths in Old Town Albuquerque

In 2012, my book Ghosts of Old Town Albuquerque was published. One featured topic was the infamous ghost stories surrounding La Hacienda restaurant. As a writer consumed by the supernatural, I found myself irresistibly drawn to the interesting stories told to me by the employees that worked there. However, I was told that there was one story based on a tragic event that occurred there.

One of the ghosts of the the La Hacienda restaurant is thought to be the ghost of Mary who had worked in the gift shop and restaurant around 1980. She was dating a local gangster when one day she decided to drop him and move on with her life. The boyfriend was outraged and showed up at the restaurant’s back door later that night. Banging on the door, he demanded to see Mary. The kitchen staff immediately called the police and sent a runner to the gift shop to inform Mary that boyfriend was outside and violently upset. Tragically, before the runner reached the gift shop, Mary clocked out and left the building, exiting out the rear door.

The irate boyfriend spotted her and shot her two times with a 38 special before shooting himself. They died together by the old tree behind the building. After her death, customers of the restaurant reported seeing the ghost of the dead girl around the building, as if she was still cleaning and serving drinks as she had done when she was alive. Through the years many people have seen Mary and have also seen their drinks move around their table while dining at the restaurant. Mary is also known to pull people’s hair, move objects around their table and sometimes people find fresh water rise up around the table while they are eating, as if someone had just cleaned their table with a dish rag!

Former waitress named Amanda said she was closing one night when lights started “flickering,” on the second floor. When she went to investigate, she looked in a mirror and to her horror the reflection wasn’t hers, but that of an old person. Needless to say, she ran for it.

“It scared me. The whole thing was just so eerie,” she said.

Even after I wrote my book about the ghost stories, my research did not cease. I was determined to uncover the truth behind the identity of “Mary” and the validity of the information provided by La Hacienda restaurant employees. It was important to remember that this information was not first-hand and could potentially be fabricated. Despite extensive searches through newspaper archives, I found no records of a woman named Mary’s death. After countless years of searching, I finally stumbled upon an article from 1985 in the Albuquerque Journal that revealed the true events. As it turns out, their information regarding Mary’s name was incorrect, but the tragic incident did indeed occur.

Albuquerque Journal, November 14, 1985: Love Quarrel ends two lives in Old Town

Apparently distraught because his teen-age sweetheart was breaking off their love affair, a young man shot his girlfriend to death on an Old Town street Wednesday and then turned the gun on himself. The bodies of Edna Olivas, 19, and Marcos Torres, 25, lay undiscovered for about an hour until a passerby on busy Old Town Road realized that the bodies he saw lying in a little garden beneath a catalpa tree were dead.

At least two other people saw the couple lying on the grass, their bodies partially hidden by a row of rose bushes. One of these later told detectives he did not notify anyone because he thought the couple were sleeping off a drunk. Another person said he did nothing because he thought the bodies were manikins. Albuquerque Police Sgt. Archie Lueras said the young man and woman probably died instantly.

Lueras said police were called at 11:37 a.m., about an hour after an Old Town merchant saw the couple arguing in an adjoining parking lot just south and west of the Albuquerque Museum.

The shopkeeper, whose identity police did not reveal, told investigators he watched as the couple got out of separate cars and began arguing.

“It didn’t seem anything more than an argument,” Lueras said, “so the man continued on to his store.”

Gladys Jenkins, working in the Yucca Art Gallery at 1919 Old Town Road NW, just south of the parking lot, said she was talking on the telephone about 10:45 a.m. when she was startled by gunfire.

“I heard what sounded like five shots. Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop,” she said, “One right after another. I went to the door and looked out, but all I saw were some other people on the street looking around like they couldn’t tell where the noise came from either.”

Although the gallery door is less than S50 feet from where the shootings occurred Mrs. Jenkins couldn’t see anything, also because of the rose bushes that shielded the bodies from view.

Lueras said his investigation bears out the premise that Torres was waiting for Miss Olivas in the parking lot across the street from La Hacienda Restaurant, where she worked as a clerk in the gift shop.

“She wanted to end their relationship and he wanted it to continue,” Lueras said.

He said Torres followed Miss Olivas from the parking lot across Old Town Road as the argument continued, to the grassy patch behind the restaurant whose front faces the Old Town Plaza.

There, the couple halted beneath the tree facing each other when Torres, armed with a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol, fired five times in quick succession. The first four bullets struck Miss Olivas in the chest and head. The last hit Torres in the head.

When police arrived on the scene, they found the pistol beneath Torres’s body Miss Olivas’s body was lying next to it.

For reasons yet to be determined, the young woman was carrying a pink box In it was a Care Bear doll.

 

I hesitated in revealing this tale, out of respect for the victims and their families. It’s one thing to hear a ghost story and another to discover its roots in a real, heartbreaking event. While some believe the ghost to be Sophie Blueher, if spirits do exist, there could be countless others who have met their end in that corner of Old Town.

However, this story has been recounted countless times and will likely continue to be told in the future. At least now, we have the real account of events.

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