On slow nights at the Luna Mansion it is said Josefita Otero swirls proudly through the grand house she loved and made so charmingly beautiful. “Everything that this house became is because of Josefita,” restaurant manager David Scovill says. Josefita, or “Pepe,” is dead, but Scovill and other employees of the restaurant insist Pepe still haunts the magnificent southern plantation style adobe that has graced Los Lunas since 1881. Bartender Jeanette Blaylock says she has seen the fastidious, artistic woman whose murals and original paintings adorn the restaurant’s walls. And other employees report unexplained phenomena, like moving cocktail glasses, lights that go back on after they’ve been turned off, dead-bolted doors that come open and unscrewed lightbulbs. “Pepe made this house so beautiful that we assumed she just didn’t want to leave it,” Blaylock says.
She notes Josefita supervised much of the 1920s remodeling, which saw the addition of the solarium, the front portico, and the ironwork which surrounds the building. Josefita and her husband moved into the house in 1912 and lived there about 20 years. She died in California. Pepe also painted the solarium’s murals of a peasant woman balancing a bowl of fruit on her head and of two singing Mexican mariachis. A large oil painting as she saw herself a shepherd girl tending her sheep dominates the main dining area that looks out a north bay window. Blaylock has worked at the mansion for five years. She says most of her sightings of Pepe happened on the second floor, former bedrooms that now make up the lounge. The restaurant opened in 1977 after the house had stood vacant for several years, Scovill says. Blaylock says Pepe seemed to be most active soon after the restaurant opened. “We assume she just wasn’t used to people going in and out of her home,” Blaylock says. “I don’t think she liked that idea.” Blaylock says she has seen the ghost” several times. “Usually, what I see is a little old lady walking around here in a long black dress, and it’s usually just for a second out of the corner of my eye, and usually when I’m alone.”
In the southeast corner of the upper room at the top of the stairs, an antique rocking chair sits next to a grandfather clock and decorative body-length mirror. It’s here Pepe sits and greets visitors, it is said. At the bottom of the stairs, Pepe’s black and white portrait hangs on a wall in the main entrance hallway, next to the photographs of other important Los Lunas residents of the early 1900s. : The ghost stories charm most customers, although they frighten some, Scovill says. “I don’t know how the ghosts feel about sharing this place with us, but they never get in the way,” Scovill says.
From the Albuquerque Journal, 23 Feb 1991