Black Jack Ketchum Lives
On! - A Ghost Story
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Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum's
grave in Clayton,
"Black Jack" Ketchum was the only person ever hanged in Clayton, New
Mexico. He was also the only man ever hanged for train robbery in
the entire state, a law that was later found to be unconstitutional. But, a little too late for poor Black Jack.
Remembering his experience long ago, a
gentleman tells a story of meeting
Black Jack Ketchum while camping at the Philmont Scout Ranch.
He and several other scouts were backpacking through the mountains,
visiting various historic sites, including an abandoned gold mine, a
town and one of
Black Jack Ketchum's outlaw hideouts.
The hideout was a large rock overhang and the scouts thought it would
be fun to camp there for the night. However, their leader
insisted that they stay at a nearby-designated site. Disappointed,
several of the scouts set their tents up several hundred feet away
from the leader's tent, hoping they would have a chance to sneak back
to the hideout later that night.
About 11:00 p.m., when the rest of the camp was fast asleep, five of
the scouts gathered their sleeping bags and quietly stole back to the
hideout. They set up camp under the overhang and built a fire,
where they sat around talking about their trip. When the fire
burned down to nothing more than red coals, the scouts settled down in
their sleeping bags. The storyteller drifted off to sleep
thinking about Black Jack. Suddenly, he was awakened by a noise in the
bushes. He said that he felt paralyzed, unable to move and tried
to call out to the others, but his throat was all knotted up.
Then he saw a cowboy, dressed all in black
come running out of the bushes toward the hide out. He said the man
was mostly solid but some parts of him appeared translucent.
He described the man as filthy dirty, with a tattered hat, clothes
from the 1800's, and terribly yellowed teeth. His face was very
red, glistening with sweat, with lots of facial hair and the
apparition held a revolver.
The cowboy was apparently unaware of the scout, but the boy was very
scared, as much by his inability to move than by the man. As he
watched, a strange fog emanated from the tree line across from a small
stream and he could hear men yelling unintelligently, and then muffled
gunfire. The cowboy turned and fired his revolver six times into the
trees and then ran and stood right over the scout. The cowboy was
wounded in the shoulder and discharged six shell casings from his
revolver right on top of the boy.
As he watched, the casings
disappeared as they fell onto his sleeping bag. The cowboy then
reloaded his revolver, fired additional shots into the trees, and
suddenly the cowboy saw the scout. The expression on the
cowboy's face indicated that the scout had just suddenly appeared
before his eyes. The cowboy seemed to be confused and
confounded, while the scout was terrified. Then, the cowboy
un-cocked his pistol, looking at the scout very closely, and said,
"You're not supposed to be here," and then just disappeared into thin
he was able to go back to sleep, but had to be shaken repeatedly by his
fellow campers before waking in the morning. As the scouts broke
camp, the boy told his fellow campers about the "dream," who were amused
by the story. But, as the scout rolled up his sleeping bag, he found
six shell casings in the dust.
Later, when they returned to base camp, the scout visited an old
where a photograph of Black Jack Ketchum was displayed. The photograph was the same man that
the scout had seen at the hideout.
When he told his friends, they brushed him off, as setting them up for a
big hoax and the scout never told anyone about it again, but he kept the
shell casings. After the scout returned home, he checked with a gun
expert who said the casings were dated from sometime around 1878, but were
in almost brand new condition and the gunpowder could still be smelt in
them. In fact, the gunpowder was one that was used in the last
century, but not today.
The scout kept the casings for years, but unfortunately, after he moved
away from home, his mother threw them out along with several other items
the boy had saved, such as comic books and baseball cards.
of America, updated June, 2017.
have an eerie resemblance to life, where ghosts are busy with activities
that are common to living people such as walking around or working. "Ghost Experts" describe these
in several ways.
The first is that the ghost is simply doing something that he/she did
frequently in life. The second assumes that the sci-fi concept of
time-space continuum is real and that sometimes two time frames overlap. The third explanation is referred to as a "place
memory", which is kind of like a recording of a past event that has
imprinted itself on the environment. Images and sounds are impressed upon
a place and later replayed in a phenomenon that is similar to watching a
loop of a movie film.
So, perhaps there is no ghost in these types of "hauntings",
but rather, some kind of psychic "record" of a person from long ago.
This place in
Canyon was once one of
Photo submitted by Sheri Verrett.
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