by Tania Casselle
In our regular column, Tania Casselle introduces us to the people who make Taos hum. This Halloween month, we meet two ghost hunters on the prowl for things that go bump in the night.
Reyes Cisneros co-founded New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal (NMRIP) to find proof of the paranormal but also to provide rational explanations for spooky events. “About 75% of the time, that is the situation,” says Cisneros. “We’ll find bad plumbing or electrics, or the house foundation tends to shift, so cabinets are opening or shutting on their own.” NMRIP doesn’t charge to investigate homes or businesses, but it accepts donations. “We started the organization to help people, to shed light on whatever it is that they are experiencing.”
Cisneros and his team head into the haunt hunt with a battery of equipment including an electromagnetic field detector, infrared film, thermal imaging and laser grids to capture motion. They find ample mysteries to explore in historic Taos. “The John Dunn House Shops … there is indeed paranormal activity in there.”
While investigating Moby Dickens Bookshop, Cisneros was interrupted by an unexplained voice. “I was speaking into my recorder, and I said, ‘We are here at the old Long John Dunn House.’ Immediately the voice said, ‘John Dunn House.’ It was correcting me.” (He believes this energy is benevolent—as well being as a stickler for detail.) Cisneros often conducts “mock closings” to convince any spirits that a building is empty. The investigators depart but leave their equipment running. “We get a lot of spikes right after we shut down. Like they know everyone’s gone: ‘We can run around now!'”
Is Cisneros ever scared? “No. Even when I was in the military, we were put in positions where we were quite fearful and just had to face it and carry on.”
When he is not busy growing his web and graphic design business, Burning Star Design, the Taos-born Cisneros is building a family home on land inherited from his grandfather. “Designing is my first love,” he says. “The last three years have been really good. I moved from the dining room into a storefront!” He also does landscaping at El Monte Sagrado hotel.
Cisneros laughs when I ask about downtime activities. “What’s downtime? I watch cartoons with my kids when I get a chance. They’re my life; they’re why I’m doing what I do. I want them to see that if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish it. And if you don’t accomplish it, you’re just that bit closer, so don’t stop. A bit of hard work isn’t going to kill you.”
Find information on New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal at nmrip.com. Contact Reyes Cisneros at 575.613.2796 or burningstardesign.com.
Melody Elwell Romancito
If your spine can stand some tingling, meet Melody Elwell Romancito on the Taos Plaza at twilight and she’ll take you on a walking tour of haunted Taos, regaling you with ghost stories and uncanny tales. “There are so many stories that I’ve heard people tell,” says Romancito. “Some have been written up, and others are part of the urban legend of Taos. There’s a certain amount of showmanship involved. I’m not into scaring people, but some of the stories are a little unsettling.” (If kids are on the tour, she’ll tone down the creepiness factor.)
Her Ghosts of Taos walking tours run on request and take a leisurely couple of hours to explore the town’s historic district. “The old courthouse is chock full of goodies … and Ledoux Street and Dona Luz,” says Romancito, who believes that Taos has an especially spirited legacy of hauntings. “All places where humans have been leaves an imprint, and Taos has that historically, because a number of people have lived here over the centuries, way before the Europeans got here.”
Romancito moved from Los Angeles to Taos in 1986. “The minute I stepped out of the car here, I knew this was it, so I married a local boy and had a kid.” The local boy is Rick Romancito, long-time editor of Tempo, The Taos News’ arts and entertainment magazine. Melody herself was Tempo editor for two years, starting soon after she arrived in Taos. “That was a pretty good way to get to know a community,” she says. Her media background includes radio reporting and freelance magazine writing; now she specializes in video and audio editing and web development and design. She does videography, too, for New Mexico Research and Investigation of the Paranormal (and some places the organization has researched are included on her tour).
The combo of high-tech and tradition continues in Romancito’s passion for music. She sings with the Taos Gospel Choir but also creates electronic music; one of her compositions was used in a European bicycle commercial.
Many of Romancito’s tour customers like to trade their own eerie experiences and discuss theories about phantoms. “On a rainy night I’ve been booked just to sit in a bar and hear their ghost stories,” she says, “and I don’t mind!”
Book a Ghosts of Taos tour in advance, $20 per person with discounts for children and groups, ghostsoftaos.com. Contact Melody Elwell Romancito at 575.613.5330 or melodyromancito.com.
photos by Lenny Foster