Haunted Journeys

Old New Mexico State Penitentiary

Old New Mexico State Penitentiary

4311 NM-14
Santa Fe, New Mexico
87504 USA

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Santa Fe, NM is home to one of the most haunted places in the state, New Mexico State Penitentiary. Come Explore its mystery with Haunted Journeys.

The History

There have been a few riots in the penitentiary before it moved in 1956, the first occurring in July 1922, followed by a second in June 1953. They were ignited by the prison conditions, including overcrowding. Another cause was the cancellation of recreational and rehab programs. But, unfortunately, moving the facility did not change the aggression.

The New Mexico Penitentiary was extremely overcrowded by the 1970s. The guards were understaffed, poorly paid, and most didn’t have sufficient training. The warden had instated a “snitch system” that infuriated many of the inmates. There were also issues with inmate discipline, bad food, and lack of services.

The most horrific riot, which took place on February 2 and 3, 1980, in the state's maximum-security prison south of Santa Fe. In fact, it was the most violent prison riot in American history. 12 guards were taken hostage, and the inmates took complete control of the prison. 33 inmates were killed by other prisoners, with some being tortured and mutilated because they had previously acted as informants for prison authorities. In fact, there are hatchet marks still there (so photo below in gallery), reminding all of one brutal beheading that took place. Others were dismembered. An additional 200 more of the inmates were injured.

Police regained control of the prison 36 hours after the riots had begun. By then, thirty-three inmates had died and more than two hundred were treated for injuries. None of the twelve officers taken hostage were killed, but seven suffered serious injuries caused by beatings and rapes.

After the riot, the penitentiary was closed down. This site located just south of Santa Fe has a newer maximum-security prison across from Old Main where the riot took place.

The Hauntings

After the Old Main Penitentiary was closed down it was repurposed. Today, parts of it are used to store movie props. The rest of the buildings have been used in films, remaining empty. These are the areas that are considered to be the most haunted in New Mexico. The accounts start in 1981 and have continued into the present day. They have been seen by corrections officers as well as members of the New Mexico National Guard.

The most notable of the reported phenomena is the observation of a human-shaped shadow.  Unexplained noises can be heard, including loud cell door slamming shut. This is where it becomes chilling, almost disturbing. These doors originally ran on electricity and could be closed or opened one after another. After the prison shut down and the electricity was cut off these doors could only be opened or shut manually-- cranked with metal wheels that are very hard to turn--some of them are even rusted.

If you want to go straight to where there is more phenomenon activity, to Cell Blocks 3 and 4. The Toolroom and laundry room is also known for having impressive spectral occurrences.

So haunted is this place, in 2012 Travel Channel's Dead Files and My Ghost Story featured this spectral habitat.

Read more about Haunted New Mexico...


Enchanted Legends and Lore of New Mexico: Witches, Ghosts & Spirits Paperback – April 8, 2012 by Ray John de Aragón (Author)     Haunted Hotels and Ghostly Getaways of New Mexico (Haunted America) Paperback – September 10, 2018 by Donna Blake Birchell  (Author)     New Mexico Ghost Stories Volume I (Volume 1) Fourth Edition by Antonio R. Garcez  (Author)


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Understand This:

This property, as part of our network, has been added for they may have history, validation, or folk tales of having spirited activities. Please take caution in approaching and visiting these locations, since courtesy, respect, and caution should be a top priority in every Haunted Investigator's style. Also do realize, some of these places may have permanently closed, changed ownership and/or names, or just are not available for your visits. Please respect this.

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Date added: Jan/24/2017 | Last time updated: Jun/11/2021

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