This is not something I ever thought I’d tell anybody. The reason is that it, even now, even to me, sounds like a very big lie. But I came across a few articles today and I feel it is time.
Keep in mind that I in no way endorse a belief in the supernatural; I don’t believe in ghosts. If you were to tell me that you saw a ghost, I wouldn’t believe you. I’d ask about swamp gas, or maybe if you were on drugs at the time, or think that you were flat out lying. Perhaps this is why I’m so reluctant to write this down. I like to think myself of rational mind and even now I feel as if I’m telling a half truth, even though I know I’m not.
I suffer from bouts of insomnia. They’ve come and gone since at least middle school. Some weeks I can sleep fine, but others I can’t. Traditionally, the only way I can get to sleep is to make myself absolutely exhausted. Around late high school, seven years distant now, I began to talk long walks at night. I’d set off at midnight and come home around three in the morning. These were not light strolls and I would walk until my feet were killing me and my legs felt like they were about to fall off.
I usually began by heading out from my house and following the nearby arroyo up until it hit Bear Canyon and then I would walk up the Canyon until it ended and then double back through the side streets.
To understand what sort of place Bear Canyon is, we have to digress into its history. My city, Albuquerque, is dominated to the east by the Sandia Mountains, they are part of the Rockies, but are relatively small compared to their northern brothers. At one point in time Bear Canyon was one of two natural drainage areas that during flash floods would transport most of the water coming down off of the mountains into the Rio Grande River to the west. The Canyon almost down to the river was owned by the Albuquerque Academy a private school for boys founded in 1955, how they got the land is a mystery to me, but they used it for educational outings and hikes up to the mountains. At some point between then and now they sold a good portion of the Canyon to the City and the City dammed it and built houses below the dam, making many concrete arroyos to handle the frequent flash floods. The result is a much smaller canyon, that runs up to the mountains, but has very little water ever running through it. Marks of its previous glory scar it all the way down to the dam. Ghost creeks crisscross the floor of the Canyon, and finely grained sand covers the bed of these dried up streams and the sand is still too fine for many plants to take root. In some places the walls of these wadis have made them into proper arroyos themselves, some being as deep as six feet. Erosion still takes place as the walls of these arroyos are want to crumble, but they make an excellent footpath as you move toward the mountains. The other trails one could take up to the mountains are choked with cactus and thistle and all manner of other thorny plants.
When I went walking up the Canyon, it was often very dark, sometimes the moon was out, sometimes not, but I rarely took a flashlight as I wanted to avoid people. The Canyon feels very isolated at night and even with houses flanking its sides, the place is closed in and wild. Jackrabbits, roadrunners, quail, and prairie dogs can all be spotted frequently during the day. At night you can sometimes spot owls if the moon is up, and sometimes you can hear them if it is down.
Seven years have dulled some aspects of my memory. I know it must have been summer and I know it was on a moonlit night, but that there were clouds in the sky making the Canyon either very dark at some points and very bright at others. I also know that the Canyon is different now, every time it rains some aspect of the Canyon changes and there has been much rain since I last was there. Also, the city has build houses along the base of the mountain since then and now the Canyon is truly cut off from the rest of nature.
I remember that I had crossed through Oso Grande Park and then into the concrete arroyo that goes under the dam and I entered the Canyon as per usual, ducking under a concrete grating and arriving at the more open area near the far side of the dam. After deciding to head along the right side of the Canyon, because I could then choose to follow the largest dried up stream to Tramway Boulevard where I could go under a bridge and rest for awhile, or follow one of the footpaths up into the neighborhoods to take a gander at the three inexplicably bright blue houses that I had noticed on a walk earlier. That day I decided to head to the bridge.
Most of the walk went without incident save for an unusual uneasiness that happened every time the moon disappeared behind the clouds. It’s not in my nature to be unnerved by darkness, so this struck me as odd at the time and I chided myself for not having a very strong constitution. However, I must note that being unnerved when your light source disappears is a natural reaction and that it happened over and over again that night as the moon played hide and seek up in the clouds. Also, I will note that when your light source disappears you become aware of all sorts of little noises you might have been ignoring. Small things like a faraway bird or maybe the slight rustle of wind over desert sage brush. There is, about one city block distant from the Canyon, a school and that school has a playground and when the wind is just right you can hear the down right eerie sound of the chains on the swings moving back and forth. The sound carries quite well, and I have noted it on many occasions, and have never liked it. I probably would have forgotten all of these things, because I had traveled up the Canyon in many different types of weather and none of these sounds were new to me, but this night stands out and I’ll tell you why.
About a third of the way to the bridge, well after the dried river crosses to the left-- that is to say the north side-- of the Canyon, I began to hear a loud wailing noise that seemed to be coming from in front of me, from the direction of the mountains. It was like the sound that coyotes make, and that’s what I thought it was. Already feeling nervous, I considered turning back but the noise was far enough away that I was able to shake off the feelings of doubt and, at this point, possibly dread, and continued on.
The noise did not die down nor did it seem to come from the mountains for very long, it shifted at some point, but I was very slow in noticing the shift. Now it seemed to be coming from the west. It’s significant to mention that I stopped when I noticed this because I was confused. The noise was very similar to the sound of coyotes, but I now thought that it was different enough that I wasn’t sure what I was hearing. I was still standing in the dried riverbed and was trying to figure out if I was listening to the sound of an engine or animal voice. Sometimes it seemed multi-directional coming from both east and west, sometimes north and south, but I put that down to the odd acoustics a large curved area like a canyon must have and was about to start walking again until the sound cleared out and now was clearly coming from behind me.
I couldn’t get out of the riverbed because the sides were too steep and I was afraid I was going to be caught in a flash flood, but that didn’t make any sense because the noise was no longer coming from the direction of the mountains, and for the first and only time in my life I froze in fear.
It’s an interesting feeling. It’s what I imagine somebody in the way of a train thinks when they turn to see their own rushing death. Not, “I’ve got to get out of the way,” but “I’m going to be hit by a train.”
She came from around a bend traveling from west to east and past three feet from me.
She’s not a tall spirit, about a foot shorter than me, and Hispanic, thin, and young. Maybe about twenty, which at the time would have made her five years older than me.
She moves fast, you wouldn’t be able to outrun her. It’s something about her steps which seem unnaturally long, as if her legs were longer than her entire body, and yet I remember seeing no such distortion.
She makes a sound as loud as a freight train, it’s deafening and makes your ears ring. It’s a kind of sob that modulates its pitch up and down not unlike a musical saw. And yet in spite of this incredible noise you can hear her mumble to herself and it does sound like “mi hijo”, or as I thought at the time “miho” along with a fast string of indecipherable Spanish.
She is completely visible even in darkness. I’m not saying that she glows, rather it is as if the darkness doesn’t touch her.
Finally, though she passed quickly enough that you would expect to feel a strong breeze in her wake, she doesn’t disturb the air.
I did what you might expect anybody to do after seeing such and thing, I backed up until I tripped and sat in the dirt with my pulse racing so hard that I could feel my eyeballs bulge. Getting up was very difficult as my legs and arms were too shaky to support myself. And when I did get up I went back the way I came as fast as I was able and took lit streets back home.
It seems like a distant nightmare now. It marked the end of my long night walks and I am still reluctant to walk anywhere at night alone. As for Bear Canyon, I’m not scared of the place, I just dislike being there on windy days and when I am there I try to keep as close to the dam as possible.