Each episode is written and produced by Adrianne Montoya. Research notes and credits are included below for each episode.
Except where noted, all photographs were taken and edited by Adrianne Montoya. Theme music was also written and performed by Adrianne Montoya. Information on other music (real songs, not just chords and arpeggios) is referenced in episode notes.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the friendliest tech-types around at Denver Public Library’s Community Technology Center. In the process of getting this project off the ground, I’ve relied heavily on the guidance, instruction, and assistance of the folks at CTC. Special thanks to Megan Petersen and Alvaro Sauceda.
Thanks to Gary Romero for his generosity and patience with my tech quandaries.
The staff of the Western History and Geneaology Department (also of the Denver Public Library) are the best kind of experts: knowledgeable, truly helpful, and they contain their laughter when I come to them with my strange research questions. I’m grateful for their ongoing assistance.
For more on Jesús Malverde, I recommend the chapter in Sam Quinones’ True Tales from Another Mexico, 2001 University of New Mexico Press. It’s an oldie but a goodie—the whole book is fascinating, and the themes from the stories are relevant again. His more recent book, Dreamland, explores the rise of narcoculture in Sinaloa and other northern Mexican states, and what that has to do with the opioid crisis in the U.S.
Apparently, Edward Abbey really is buried somewhere within the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge outside Yuma, AZ. In my experience the rangers are pretty humorless about it, and my tip is not to bring it up. My other tip is that “4-wheel drive only” means exactly that. If you need tips about water, you don’t belong in the desert.
Music: Etude in C major, Francisco Tárrega; Granada, from the Suite Española, Isaac Albéniz.
The thumbnail photo is an image of Fremont Island, which I’ve remixed from the original work of user Alpha1145 under a creative commons license: Alpha1145 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
That short story is Retribution, by James D. Beers and is included in the anthology Weird Wasatch: a Collection of Strange Tales Set in Utah, © 2018, Immortal Works LLC, Salt Lake City. It’s available in print and e-book from amazon.
The film I mentioned is Redemption: For Robbing the Dead, made in 2011 by Thomas Russell. As of early April 2019, it’s available for streaming on amazon.
My thanks go out to Chiante Black, a native and resident of Salt Lake, and connoisseur (-seuse?) of local spooks, for her input and assistance.
Music: In Our Lovely Desert/traditional English folktune, adapted by George Root; Home on the Range, traditional American; Comin’ Thru the Rye, traditional Scottish.
Wanna see a death cart?
The piece, complete with a bulto of la doña Sebastiana, was made by Jose Inez Herrera sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As part of the Spanish Colonial Collection at the Denver Art Museum, she has fired the imaginations of innumerable field-tripping schoolkids. You don’t quite get the sense of scale from the photo, but she’s about the size of a súperflaca 12-year-old, so between being seated and up on a small platform, she’s eye-to-eye with a short adult (me). The first time I saw her as a 2nd-grader, I just knew her arrow was coming for my throat. I’ve really warmed up to her over the years.
Music: Danza Española, no. 10 in G major, Enrique Granados; Etude in C Major, Francisco Tárrega; Asturias, Isaac Albéniz; Serenata, Joaquín Malats. (and of course the SWG theme).
An excellent, accessible history of prostitution in the old west is Jan MacKell’s Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains (2009, University of New Mexico Press). It’s fascinating, compassionate, funny, and well-researched.
That paperback romance I referred to is Five-Star Cowboy, by Charlene Sands. (2008, Silhouette, Harlequin). It’s easy to find as an ebook.
Music: Ain’t We Got Fun, R. Whiting; The Charleston, J.P. Johnson; Shine on Harvest Moon, N. Bayes & J. Norworth; Some of These Days, S. Brooks; Maple Leaf Rag, S. Joplin.
There’s loads out there on Alferd Packer, but I recommend these two legit and readable histories:
Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal. Harold Schechter. 2015, Little A, New York. This more recent study by historical true crime writer Schechter is a quick, high-impact read, hitting all the high points and some fascinating tangents.
Alferd G. Packer: Cannibal! Victim? Ervan F. Kushner. 1980, Platte ‘N Press. Kushner was a criminal defense attorney, and comes at the facts from that perspective. This one is sometimes out of print, but it’s a thoughtful and engaging read if you can find it used or at your local library.
A more imaginative retelling:
Cannibal! The Musical, the Parker/Stone invention, plays loose with facts but it’s entertaining. It was made into a 1993 film, and occasionally sees revivals as a live stage production.
For die-hard weirdness junkies, the town of Lake City, Colorado holds Alferd Packer Day festivities over Memorial Day weekend. https://www.lakecity.com/calendar-of-events/packer-days Be sure to bring your grilling game for that mystery meat cook-off.
Judge Melville Gerry’s real sentencing statement at the end of the Packer trial is an eloquent example of the balance between jurisprudence and compassion. The apocryphal version of his sentencing is much more amusing, and often quoted as the real thing. Gerry was a southerner, so use that accent in your head:
Stand up, ye voracious man-eatin’ sonofabitch, stand up! There were seven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County, and ye ate five of ‘em, goddman ye! I sentence ye t’be hanged by the neck until yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin’ ag’in reducin’ the Dimmycrat population of the state! I’d sentence ye to hell but the statutes forbid it!
Music: John Brown’s Body; Oh My Darlin’ Clementine, trad. American; Alouette, trad. French.
From my perspective, these disparate pieces have finally coalesced into something sensible, but for too long they existed as a jumble of loosely related ideas (a side effect of discipline-hopping within the humanities for too many years). I’m grateful to Bruce and Angela Eschler, Kristin Causey, and Chano Montoya for their soundingboard services (and extra props to Kristin for successfully nudging me back down that Faulknerian rabbit hole).
Borderland studies has a huge corpus, and reading lists are easy to find. A good place to start is Gloria Anzaldua’s book Borderlands / La Frontera: the New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
Music: Greensleeves, trad. English; Nocturne no. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 9, Frederic Chopin; Home On the Range, trad. American (and in C minor, no less).
As stated in the podcast, the story of the murdered bride’s ghost is a local legend in Trinidad, Colorado. It’s still passed down in the Crespin family, as background for the story of the night (great-)grandpa Gregorio shot the ghost. The canyon is real. When I was a kiddo, my dad took us to see the ruins of the house in question. It’s not much more than squared patches of soil the color of rotted adobe. The canyon is in private ownership; I’ve refrained from naming it out of respect for that.
Music: La Llorona, Cielito Lindo, trad. Mexican; Danza Española no. 5, Enrique Granados; Lágrima, Capricho Árabe, Francisco Tárrega.
This is a campfire story, pure folklore. I heard it from my father, who heard it from a Ranger in the Rio Grande National Forest, where San Luis Peak sits. At the time of research and publication, there’s a federal shutdown going on, so consulting with the good folks at the ranger station isn’t an option. Otherwise, I’ve searched in vain for print or internet resources that confirm the story. Only the map itself bears witness: both Chávez Creek and Stewart Creek flow down the northeast face of the peak. A ruin that was once a cabin, which goes by the name Stewart’s Cabin, molders somewhere below treeline just off the Stewart Creek Trail, on the approach to the summit of San Luis Peak.
Music: The tune looping in the background is the familiar French folk song Aloutte, which was popular among French Canadian trappers. Here, it’s played mostly in a minor key. Stewart was probably a Scot (or from Appalacia, of Scottish extraction) and Chávez was probably mestizo/hispano from around Santa Fe or Taos, but many trappers were French/Quebecquoises. Stewart and Chávez would likely have known several French folk songs.