Friday, 26 July 2013 20:53

Black Mesa Mountain

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Black Mesa with Lightning Black Mesa with Lightning

 Black Mesa Mountain by San Ildefonso Pueblo

When I was in High School my friend and I would “go cruising” for old haunted places in the Española Valley since it is one of the oldest colonized places in the country. Once we decided to see how far we could get to Black Mesa before we were turned away. This was about 1967 when we had more water and the Rio Grande was a little higher. We drove a small car by the river until it spilled out onto the road. Afraid of getting stuck in the deep mud, we had to turn around. We were at the base of Black Mesa and there were huge boulders and rocky outcrops, standing like guards between the road and the mesa. I faintly remember not seeing these formations from the road. We were never stopped, but when I got back home, I could not find where we had been on the map. We had certainly been at Black Mesa, we both saw the road signs, and we knew where the river was located—but the map showed a much different terrain going to the top, no large and intimidating outcrops of rock. Later I would find out that Dueñde reportedly guards Black Mesa. Dueñde (Spanish) are small brownie- (or leprechaun) like spirits who often confuse visitors with misdirection and they are unpredictable about helping or tormenting individuals. Towa é is what the Indians call them. A giant also once lived there and on Buckman Mesa. This giant would sometimes help fight in battles. His name was Tsahveeyo or TuYo. He could stride between Black Mesa and Buckman Mesa in only a few steps.

On that same trip, my friend and I passed an old crumbling church. Since then, a new church has been built and I think the old one crumbled into non-existence. It was sunset and we were both tired and going home. My friend didn’t want to go in, but I wish I had persisted more. Ten years later I heard about a legend that a unicorn had once guarded the mesa. Someone discovered the skull of a horse with a horn (concentric spirals in shape) growing out of its head. It was half buried on someone’s land. For some reason it became a revered object and had hung in the old church. When the new church was built, this relic was taken by the elders and buried or hidden in a sacred place on Indian land. I have never heard this legend from more than one source, but it was so odd, I thought it worth a mention.

Now, for the cave. I have also heard about tunnels beneath most of the Española Valley and most seem to have something to do with Black Mesa. I’ve heard that one tunnel extends as far as Santa Fe. The north side cave may have been filled or altered because I have heard older stories about people entering the cave and going much deeper inside, sometimes leading into an unexplored tunnel. It is also a haunted cave. Some old time adventurers reported that while they were going deeper into the cave, their matches went out. They went back out to get their lanterns, but the lanterns went out at the same spot their matches went out. Finally, they tried flashlights and they also went out at the same spot. With that, the men became frightened and decided not to do any more exploring. When they left the cave the flashlights came back on.

I believe Black Mesa played a major role in the Pueblo Revolt but it has legends going back to the Conquistadors. I have heard that the early Spanish buried a lot of gold inside the mountain somewhere, along with many live Indians. I have heard the same about the Indians burying a lot of gold inside the mountain and killing many Conquistadors while doing so. Before it was San Ildefonso, Oñate first called this Pueblo area—Bove. Could Bove come from the Spanish word of bóveda? According to my Spanish dictionary bóveda means arched roof, vault, underground cellar, burial place. Is this a clue to the real structure of Black Mesa, underground caves, tunnels, or did it reference something else?

My neighbor told me that the last time she went, she saw a huge basin-type of bowl on the top. She said she couldn’t imagine how much work and how many people it would take to haul that very large and heavy thing up the mountain—but there it was—on the mesa top!

I once knew someone whose grandparents (maybe great-grandparents) were once passing in a horse-drawn wagon over the land at Black Mesa. It was at night and the grandmother saw a strange light coming out from under a large rock. They investigated and quietly moved the rock aside. Beneath the rock was a large cavern room that was brightly it up. Many people were moving below them, laughing and dancing. Afraid they might be caught seeing something they shouldn’t have, the grandparents quickly moved the rock back into place and left.

There are a lot more legends and stories about this place, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind for the moment.

At any rate, just remember Black Mesa is sacred to the Indians—so treat it nicely.

—Raven DeVille

Read 7085 times Last modified on Saturday, 21 September 2013 20:35
Raven Q. DeVille

Raven was born in the extreme SE corner of New Mexico, lived in the 4-corners region for 11 years, and has spent the last 50 years in Española, Santa Fe, and especially in the city of Los Alamos. She writes of her own various first-hand experiences, second-hand tales of friends, and various theories regarding ghost stories, legends and general oddness of Enchanted New Mexico.


  • Comment Link Raven Q. DeVille Sunday, 28 July 2013 08:53 posted by Raven Q. DeVille

    Glad you enjoyed the post.
    Going on Tribal land presents a lot of delicate policy issues, especially if you are also dragging along things like shovels and metal detectors. I understand the Indians do not even like for people to take photos from the top of Black Mesa. I would begin to look for tunnels or possible volcanic vents in other locations (maybe with a good geologist in tow) and see if there were navigable spaces and where they would lead. That might be the best approach. But understand that there have probably been a few hundred years of people searching after the same legends .

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Friday, 26 July 2013 22:54 posted by Mike Lord

    OK, then - let's go find the caves. Great story - I had no idea!

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