Haunted Places in America: The New Mexico State Penitentiary
The New Mexico State Penitentiary is notorious for its violent history, including the 1980 riot. Due to overcrowding and an abusive staff, the history of this prison is covered with blood and violence. Today you will not see the conditions that led to so much upheaval but there is a chance some say you could see New Mexico State Penitentiary ghosts.
The prison was first opened in 1885, after construction was completed. The design of the penitentiary was based on the same blueprints used for other prisons, such as Sing Sing. In 1903, NM became the first of the western states to employee prisoners in highway construction. By 1922, the prison was overcrowded. The convicts began rioting due to the poor food and excessive force by the correctional officers. When they refused to go back to their cells, the guards opened fire. By the end of the riot, one inmate was dead and five others were injured. In the following investigation, the officers and guards were blamed for the riot due to lack of experience.
This wouldn’t be the very last of the rioting. In fact, it would only get worse.
In July 1922, the prisoners rioted again. They claimed that they were tired of the excessive force used by the correctional officers and decided to hold Deputy Warden R. Tahash and several guards hostage. In the resulting fight, two inmates ended up dead, and many others were wounded. This riot ended to the abandoning of the original building. A new facility was constructed in 1956. It would come to be called “the main unit” of the prison.
Unfortunately, there would be yet another riot in the main unit. This would become one of the deadliest and worst prison riots in the US. In 1980, the inmates rioted over a two-day period. Twelve hostages were held hostage by some prisoners who managed to escape from their cell blocks. By the time the rioting was over with, some 33 inmates were killed. Some of the inmates’ deaths were rather violent, as they involved a blow torch.
The main unit would remain open for another 18 years before it was finally closed. It was shut down for good in 1998. Today, it’s referred to as “The Old Pen”. It has remained empty since except for the occasional New Mexico State Police and National Guard training. It was also the location for the remake of the film “The Longest Yard”.
Since it has such a violent past, it’s no surprise that the prison is allegedly haunted now. Some of the paranormal activity claimed is an apparition of a man in green convict apparel walking through the hallways, icy cold spots in random places throughout the prison, loud disembodied voices and cells doors opening and closing on their own.
Today, paranormal researchers come to the prison to look for evidence of New Mexico State Penitentiary ghosts. Since there is no more electricity in the place, the entire prison goes completely dark by 7:00 PM. Even if there aren’t any ghosts there, it’s still a very spooky place to be in.
Here is a Feb, 2012 news report on the anniversary of the 1980 riots: