Killer Kiva

kiva entrance

The ancient ones are not amused

The danger here is palpable. Call it what you will: angry spirits, corruption, evil vibes, you feel it. This was already here, a short distance away, when I first rented our old adobe on the hillside. It’s actually a kiva, an underground ceremonial chamber, or at least it was once. The Pueblo Natives who built it inhabited this mesa as early as 900 A.D., so you could be looking at a thousand-year-old hole.

This in itself isn’t so unusual in el Norte. Farther up the mesa is what was once a very large kiva, now just an eroded depression, that someone’s used for a garbage dump. (The vibes aren’t so hot up that way, either.) As you can see, here we have a skylight and a chimney. I don’t know who thought it up or when it happened, but someone decided to make this one a home.

It seems to me that this would take an idiot. So maybe during one of the late 20th century in-migrations? Probably it was roofless back whenever it was and just a deep pit. The roof on it now is made of logs and latillas and covered with dirt, much like the original would have been. Good ole “Uncle Dale” (the dead landlord) must have known how the whole thing went down, but neither he nor our longtime neighbors ever talked about it. I didn’t ask.

One afternoon ten years ago I crept carefully up to the entrance. There were cobwebs and strange bits, and an old hand-made ladder in a state of collapse leading nearly straight down. Thanks to the skylight, I could see a bit of the floor. There was a piece of linoleum (!), some kind of wood stove, and what looked like a rocking chair, just out of sight.

Who knew what else was down there? I was curious as hell but couldn’t trust the ladder. The shaft it stood in was dark and rough. There had to be black widows in the cobwebs and scorpions in the dirt. But these were nothing next to what really gave me pause: how could you defile a place like that and live? Whoever had done this must have met a horrible fate. For all I knew, the evidence was still down there. More than likely, though, he left years ago and succumbed to brain-eating worms. Little ones, that take a long time.

Something drew me to the spot two days ago. It had been a decade since I’d been that close. This time I didn’t peer down the shaft.

What if there had been a body? What if you fell in and didn’t have a cell phone? What if you had one but the hole was too deep for you to get a signal? No one would ever hear you call for help unless they were standing by the hole. You’d have to spend the night in there before the searchers found you.

And when you came out, you might be completely mad. Either that or seemingly okay, just shaken. A little wobble in the left leg and a facial tic, next year something’s in your eye. Little ones that take a long time, chilluns. Bow your head and cry.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • sunday March 9, 2014, 10:18 PM

    But with the housing situation in Taos being what it is . . . . No, even then, I wouldn’t crawl down that hole. This is for a movie set, a horror movie set.

    • JHF March 9, 2014, 10:33 PM

      I’ve finally realized I don’t care what the housing situation is. We just want a place and it would be a lot of fun. I can’t believe I screwed around so long.

  • Mike Walsh March 10, 2014, 5:26 AM

    I was thinking “bomb shelter”.

    • JHF March 10, 2014, 10:34 AM

      You mean that’s why someone did it? But who would bomb northern NM?

  • Bob March 10, 2014, 7:49 AM

    Ohhh John, I think your missing a good bet here to make this your personal space – a “man kiva”, if you will.

    Here’s what you do; go down to Walmart and get yourself a couple of those bug bombs – if they have the industrial size, so much the better. Then you light those bad boys and throw them down your Kiva hole and slam the door shut. Let that stew overnight and the next day you will be an arachnid free. Gay-rone-teed.
    Get rid of anything in your Kiva that might have bad juju associated with it and then settle in! A couple of native blankets on the walls, a beanbag chair with a nice side table. Just think of the possibilities! Imagine, “The last remnant of a piñon wood fire crackled in the old stove as the evening dimmed through the skylight. John paused his blogging just long enough to raise the wick in the antique oil lantern. Who knew you could get wifi in a Kiva?”

    • JHF March 10, 2014, 10:37 AM

      Well, that sounds pretty good. The only thing wrong with it is that I’m claustrophobic. I have to sit on the end of an aisle in a theater, need a window open in a car. A friend of mine had two of us spend the night with him in a teepee—no windows, right—and it freaked me out. Had to go outside and sleep in my truck. 🙂

      • Bob March 10, 2014, 12:15 PM

        Well, some things you just can’t fix with bug bomb.

  • Vicky Z March 10, 2014, 11:43 AM

    We have a tunnel under the house we bought by La Loma Plaza. as soon as we can figure out how to get the water heater off the trap door we are going to check it out. We were thinking wine cellar… I didn’t think about all that scary stuff until you brought it up!

    • JHF March 10, 2014, 12:47 PM

      Really? A tunnel??? La Loma is kinda close to the original boundary of the old “fortified” center of town. Might be related (I’ve already asked someone). You know that Kit Carson’s wife had to hack her way through the adobe wall of Gov. Bent’s kitchen during the Taos Revolt, right? Is this tunnel common knowledge?

      BTW, we’re looking for a house ourselves. Any good deals in that neighborhood? 🙂

      • vickyz March 10, 2014, 12:55 PM

        the house is attached to the little church on La Loma Plaza. the house faces the street rather than the plaza so the priest needed a quick way to get into the plaza if there was an attack. Thats the story anyway. The tunnel was partially blocked off when the updating was done in the 80’s. but supposedly it still has a bit of length to it.

        • JHF March 10, 2014, 1:00 PM

          Good Lord. Amazing. You may have something very interesting there.

          • vickyz March 10, 2014, 1:26 PM

            We hope so. We should have a party when we get the water heater moved and invite everyone who is interested to be there for the opening. But it could be a Geraldo Rivera incident like Al Capone’s safe. check out the site for the house.

            • Bob March 10, 2014, 1:56 PM

              Maybe you could get Geraldo involved in your tunnel, Vicky. He might pay to have that water heater moved. If you could convince him the tunnel goes clear to Utah and Everett Ruess’s remains are down there it could be a windfall for you.

              • vickyz March 10, 2014, 3:39 PM

                I bet he would go for it.

  • Marti Fenton Whitedeersong March 10, 2014, 3:03 PM

    My Pueblo husband told me long ago that there used to be active Kivas on some of the nearby mesas (actually he didn’t say whether or not they were still active, it was my assumption that they probably weren’t). Also, it is common knowledge to those working and living near old town Taos that there is a network of underground tunnels going toward the Plaza area. I heard that one near the plaza had some skeletons. My former boss insisted that when he opened the shop early in the morning there was a lot of noise and walking sounds by someone he couldn’t see.

    • JHF March 10, 2014, 3:27 PM

      Not surprised at either revelation, but would love to know more about those tunnels. Some of them could be very old. Thanks for the info!

  • vickyz March 10, 2014, 3:40 PM

    There must be someone expert there on this stuff. Lets see if we can find them and get the scoop.

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