October 31, 1998
By Christy Flores
El Paso Times
Fire Station No. 9 is a lonely place to be at night.
Across the street from the charred remains of an old building, the tiny station sits in the El Paso warehouse district - an area that is completely deserted after 5 p.m. When warehouse workers venture home, the streets turn empty and quiet. The three firefighters at No. 9 are left only with each other and a ghost.
John D. Davis, the captain, knows all about the ghost that bumps around the building. Davis has not only felt the spirit's presence but has also tried to communicate with him.
"I did speak to him upstairs because I thought he was present," Davis said. "I felt a cold draft behind me. It made me a little nervous."
"A little nervous" understates how some firefighters feel about haunted station No. 9. A tragic event occurred there years ago, making it a prime spot for a ghost. And it's not alone. Other El Paso sites, most with long histories, are said to house restless souls who roam about, occasionally letting themselves be felt, seen or heard.
Several firefighters who've worked at No. 9 can give accounts of eerie happenings there. Some things they've experienced include feeling a presence behind them as they climb the stairs; feeling a cold sensation as if the ghost passed through their bodies; finding furniture randomly scattered; and, perhaps creepiest of all, seeing the big bay door open by itself.
The mysterious events have been credited to the ghost of Woodard Bloxom, the captain of the station, who died after battling a fire Feb. 13, 1934, in a warehouse across the street. Firefighters theorize that Bloxom is the station's guardian angel. Because most of the unexplainable events occur right before the crew is contacted to respond to a call, they are seen as forewarnings, not malicious hauntings.
When Davis spoke to Bloxom's ghost, Davis told him that as the new captain he would take care of the station and the crew. He assured Bloxom that it was OK for him to move on if he needed to. Bloxom never responded, nor did he stop haunting, Davis said.
Joe Gallegos, who's been at the station for almost 15 years, said he's heard the ghost.
"I've heard noises, like the commode flushing when everybody was already asleep," he said.
Fire suppression technician Paul Ramsey also has heard the toilet flush by itself. And he had an interesting encounter with the water fountain.
"I actually saw the knob turn by itself. I thought the guys were playing a joke," he said. "I tried to turn it off, but it wouldn't let me. When I let go, it turned off by itself."
The ghost of Seamon Hall
Power struggles with ghosts is probably just as frightening as seeing one.
Geology professor David LeMone once saw a ghost in Seamon Hall on the University of Texas at El Paso campus, he said. At the time though, he didn't realize it was a ghost.
It was about 30 years ago when LeMone was standing outside of Seamon Hall and he noticed a light in one of the windows. When he looked up, he saw a man wearing a Mackinaw coat cleaning inside the building.
Because Seamon Hall was not in use at that time, LeMone asked a janitor who the person in the building could be. His question shook up the janitor, who apparently knew about a legend of a ghost in Seamon Hall.
One version of the story, LeMone said, is that a longtime UTEP janitor died and he supposedly hid his money there.
Seamon Hall is now used as a storage building for the geology department. Dark, dusty and filled with tons of boxes and rock samples, the site seems inviting to ghosts.
"Today, you can't get any of the janitors to go over there in the evening," LeMone said.
But English professor John West, who teaches a folklore class at UTEP, has a different take. He was approached by a janitor about Seamon Hall. The rumors about ghosts there led West to do some research. He discovered a nebulous story that was never completely confirmed, West said. It goes something like this:
In the past, Seamon Hall was used for mining and metallurgy students. The dean of the department, back in the 1930s or '40s, used to invite students over for tea parties. Girls were also invited to the gatherings. One student and a particular girl began dating after they met at the parties. Their relationship turned sour and the girl was murdered, presumably by the student.
Now at about 3 or 4 in the morning, an old car drives up to Seamon Hall, a ghost girl gets out, and she wanders around the hall, possibly looking for the student who did her in.
It could be that kind of angry ghost who wanders around Fire Station No. 11 in Downtown El Paso. Some bizarre happenings there have the firefighters a little jittery.
"We have a bed upstairs that these guys won't sleep in," said Fire Lt. Ramiro Rios. "The bed shakes."
According to the firefighters, some strong and bothersome force keeps the occupant of one particular bed awake at night. The bed shakes eerily, the blankets are tugged on and whoever is in the bed is plagued with an annoying cough.
"I was there for four months in that bed. I had lots of sleeping problems, kept coughing at night," said firefighter Troy Reister. Finally, one night, he switched beds and his problems stopped.
Now none of the crew - the same big guys who fearlessly fight blazes - wants to sleep in that bed. So it is designated as a "swing" bed for the firefighters who rotate from station to station.
Firefighter Karla Martinez had a creepy experience in the same bedroom, but in the bed that sits directly across from the shaky bed. As she lay there trying to sleep, she felt a strange presence looming over her.
"I felt like something was watching me. And when I closed my eyes, I felt like something was being thrown over me," she said.
When she opened her eyes to see who was by her bed, she found no one. The rest of the crew was asleep. So she snuggled tightly under the covers.
"That's when I felt something tugging at the blanket," Martinez said. These days, she's abandoned the bed and prefers to sleep on the couch in the TV room. Who can blame her?
La Negrita legend
Not too far away from station No. 11 is Aoy Elementary School, a two-story historic building. It is here that the legend of La Negrita lives.
According to employees at Aoy, La Negrita was a nurse - the building was a hospital before it became a school - who died in the area near the gym, where a girl's restroom is situated today. Few have seen her ghost, but plenty of people blame her for the unexplainable noises in the building.
"We never wanted to go by ourselves to the restroom. We'd go hand in hand," said Millie Diaz-Couder, who attended fourth and fifth grade at Aoy about 30 years ago. Now she works in the school's office as the home liaison.
Diaz-Couder said she used to hear stories about the shower curtains in the bathroom opening by themselves. La Negrita was the culprit, and everyone knew about her. If the children misbehaved, the teachers would remind them about La Negrita, she said.
"They'd scare us by telling us they were going to send us to the bathroom by ourselves."