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'Rez' Ghost Stories by Valarie Tom

Valarie Tom
10/31/13

The Ghost of Fort Lewis College

The snow was a foot-high and crunched as I walked on it at the old Fort Lewis grounds in Southwest, Colorado. Students from our Native American Media wanted to produce a video telling the accurate history of our college. I was tasked with getting the video of old buildings that once housed military personnel, taught students, and was now a research center and working ranch. I figured I could get my video shots quick and leave as it was getting colder and snow started to fall. A cowboy from the ranch rode up as I told him my purpose for taking video. He pointed the main building out for me and said I could go there to speak with the person in charge. As I entered the building, it was quiet. I walked down a hallway about 40-feet long. There were small offices on each side that were all locked. The door at the end was also locked and no one was around. It was ominously silent as my boots clunked on the hardwood floor. I began to shoot video quickly, as it was getting dark and it was snowing harder. I set my video camera down and balanced the tripod. I took several shots of the interior and as I walked toward the door to leave, I placed the camera down to take a final shot of the long hallway. I focused it and pushed the record button. In my lens I saw the long hallway and the door at the end of the hallway softly swing close. I was startled because I know that door was closed—and locked. Then an eerie, cold, unsettling feeling came upon me and it made me feel very unwelcome. I quietly picked up everything and quickly left. Later, when I went to edit the video, all the video shots I took were there—except the one image of the door softly closing shut.

The Headless Trucker

At the old Whiteriver hospital, located on the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona, there was a morgue in the basement where they used to place the deceased. My mother told me her sister told her (“rez storytelling”) about a trucker who got killed in an accident and he was decapitated. The nurse had to go down and get information for the death certificate and no one was around to give her the information. So, she went to the freezer and opened it to look at the identification tag on the foot. As she pulled out the slab, she claimed the body sat straight up and the sheet fell away, revealing the gore of semi-tractor trailer accidents. The mortician said the body constricted because of muscle tightening and rigor mortis. My aunt said everyone in the hospital heard the nurse as she ran down the halls screaming out the door, and never, ever returned.

Cradleboard

A construction crew was finishing up the roofing on several houses in a new housing development in a secluded, heavily wooded area north of Whiteriver called Jurassic Park. As the roofers worked, they would notice small toddlers playing and walking around the woods and no adults in sight. Little children were not out of the ordinary, except after a day or so, one worker stopped to take a good look at them because some of them were really small, like toddlers learning to walk. He noticed they were wearing buckskin clothing or just cloths around their middle. Their hair was loose and no pony-tail or bright barrettes were seen. He told the other workers at lunch his observations and they laughed at him and said they were just children playing. After that day, he said he never saw the children again, but he was told by relatives who were elders from the tribe that the place they were building houses was a sacred place where they would put children or babies to rest. The Apaches from earlier times would place the empty cradleboard in the trees signifying babies were at rest there. The worker believed they saw those spirits of the young ones. The area was known as “Cradleboard”.

The Apache Dame

There was a ‘nightclub’ called the Apache Flame in Whiteriver that closed in the late 70s. It was a rowdy Indian bar where many a life, marriage, and reputation were ruined—according to my aunt. Therefore, one night she told us about a man who was warned by his mother to not go out drinking, spending his paycheck on booze, and to stay home where it was safe and no evil people lurked around. This man was nice-looking and young. He wanted to enjoy himself, so he got dressed up, put his felt cowboy hat in on, and polished his two-tone boots. My aunt says this story happened in the early 70s and is ‘true’. She said this guy went to the Apache Flame and saw this beautiful Apache woman. He had a few in the parking lot, as was the routine, with his buddies. He was feeling high and noticed no one was talking to her. As he made his way towards her, a few of his female relatives told him to not bother her, for “she’s no good.” He figured they were jealous of her nice clothes, good figure, and her long, long black silky hair. He walked up and talked to her, danced with her, and invited her for a drive after last call. He noticed no one talked to them that entire night and figured everyone was jealous. They say he started to walk her out of the bar, and since it was dark inside the entire night, all he saw was her figure from the waist up, and her beautiful face. They walked out of the bar to his truck. The lights came on from inside his truck and as he went to close the door on her side, he noticed her feet under her flared jeans, 70s-style bell-bottoms, were hooves. They say she smiled at him and he immediately jerked her out of the truck and threw her to the ground and ran around to his side of the truck and got in. He looked to the passenger side to see if she would try to get in, but no one was there. The woman was gone and he speed out of the bar and went home. They say he never drank again. They also say this beautiful woman will appear from time to time.

Valarie Tom is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and is an awarding-winning journalist for her work in magazine, print and television. Tom has taught in college and currently teaches mass communications in high school in Phoenix, where she resides.

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