Shadow Boxing

A blog that probes the mind's dark secrets

Assignment: Murder

There's an audience for travel tips for historic murder sites.

Recently, I’ve begun to write for Destinations Travel Magazine. I know the editor, Darlene Perrone, and she encouraged me to describe one of my intriguing destinations. Since I’m also learning photography, it's a nice fit.

My feature this month led to an interesting assignment that will intrigue people in my circles and hopefully introduce new readers to a different kind of travel planning.

My first feature for the magazine was about my visit this past June to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I gave Darlene my best photos and wrote about my "Bucket List" desire to see where the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe had created many of her inspiring Southwestern paintings. (http://destinationstravelmagazine.com/August2013/#/50 ).

But Ghost Ranch itself had long intrigued me. In part, the name had drawn me. What were the stories, I wondered, that had inspired it? I learned that during the late 1800s, the Archuleta brothers had claimed 22,000 acres on the Rito del Yeso spring. They then offered feigned hospitality to other cattlemen and killed them to steal their herds.

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It wasn't long before tales emerged about wailing voices of murder victims on el Rancho de Los Brujos (Ranch of the Witches). Many believed that the brothers started these rumors to scare people away, so as to protect their secrecy. One brother, it seems, had frightened his own daughter with scary tales of flying witch-cows and red-haired beasts. Later owners of this property kept the name, Ghost Ranch.

In the article, I describe the history and discuss practical matters for visitors today: how to get there, the hours and costs, considerations for renting sleeping quarters, etc. Most visitors don't go there for the murder stories (in fact, it's a spiritual retreat center), but perhaps some will now.

Since I’d also been in Santa Fe, I had the makings of another feature on the so-called “Oldest House in America.” This adobe building is in Santa Fe’s oldest neighborhood, el Barrio de Analco. It has a varied history, including ghost stories, and offers tourists a glimpse into residence styles and furnishings from long past.

An old-style trapezoid casket covered with a colorful Native American blanket dominates one room. If you step closer, you’ll see what looks like mummified human remains sans the head. A plaque on the wall tells you the story of a beheading, compliments of a pair of brujas. So, this became my second travel feature (September issue).

Darlene asked if I would like to provide stories and photos for other historic murder sites. Many such places are private homes, so I knew I’d need to narrow my focus to those that would be accessible as well as photogenic.

There is, in fact, an audience for this kind of story. Many people visit the Lizzie Borden house, the Villisca Ax Murder House, Jack the Ripper's sites, and the graves of notorious killers.

I’ve written about murder tourism before in this blog. Crime scenes and murder trials have attracted gawkers since the 1700s, and the Internet’s reach has enhanced visibility and access. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201203/murder-tourism

However, I'm focusing now on historic murders. It may sound morbid, but there’s a rush when getting close to the intense energy of disturbing events, whether it’s a car crash, a Civil War battle, the aftermath of a tornado, or an infamous murder. That’s why I started my continuing blog about travel to famous crime scenes from state to state, like in the movie, Kalifornia.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201304/my-own-private-kalifornia-part-one

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing/201305/murder-map-part-ii

So, I’ll now be looking for crime sites with an interesting history. I have ideas, but I’m using my blog today to ask for suggestions. If you know of a place you’d like to see featured, which can be photographed and which is appropriate for visiting, please feel free to post something here or on Facebook where I have a site.

Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., an expert on murder and other shadow themes, teaches forensic psychology and has published 46 books.

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