Haunted Locations: Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico

Welcome back to weird Wednesday where we like to roam the land for lost spirit and wayward wraiths.  This week’s haunt takes us to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico.The ranch is located near Colfax, NM and was once the hideout spot of Black Jack Ketchum and his gang of outlaws. Born Thomas Edward Ketchum in 1863, he later joined the Hole in the Wall gang along with his brother, Sam where they embarked on a life of crime, including train and post office robberies and murder. 

The Hole in the Wall hideout was just one of many hideouts that Ketchum used during his years of crime. This hideout was located in the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming. Another such hideout was located on the site of the Philmont Scout Ranch as it is now known, near Colfax, New Mexico. Set deep in rocky terrain, the hideout was a large overhang where Black Jack and his gang would often go to hide. 

There is a story about a group of scouts that were visiting Philmont Ranch and one of the boys saw the spirit of Black Jack right before him. When they reached the hideout spot, the scout master told the history of it then took the group to a nearby designated campaign spot, amidst protests from the boys. During the night, five of the scouts snuck out with their sleeping bags and went back to the hideout to have their own campout. 

They sat around their small fire trading ghost stories and talking about Black Jack before they all went to bed for the night.  One of the scouts was woken up around 11:00pm that night by a loud noise. He claimed to be unable to move, paralyzed somehow (probably by fear), and was not able to call out to his friends. His throat felt knotted up. He saw an old cowboy, dressed in filthy old clothes, with a red, sweaty face holding a revolver. 

He proceeded to watch as a ghostly shoot-out played out right in front of him. The old cowboy fired his revolver several times, was wounded in the shoulder and ran toward the scout, standing right over him. Then he emptied 6 shell casings onto the boy’s blanket, unaware that the scout was there. Soon after, he appeared to notice the boy, muttered something like ‘you’re not supposed to be here,’ then vanished into thin air. 

When the boy told his friends about it the next day, they, of course, laughed it off  but later the same day as they visited the ghost town, there on the wall in the saloon hung a picture of Black Jack Ketchum. It was the same old cowboy that the boy had seen in his dream. To make matters even spookier, when the scouts folded their sleeping bags up that morning, the same boy found 6 shell casings right under his blanket. 

The boy scooped the casing up, kept them and later took them to a gun expert who dated the shells around 1878, but looked brand-new. The scent of gunpowder was still strong on them. The scout kept them most of his life, until sadly they were lost when he left home for college. 

As far as Black Jack goes, he was finally caught and sentenced to death by hanging in Clayton, New Mexico in 1901. In a gruesome turn of events, the executioners botched the job and failed to remove a 200-pound weight vest before they hung him, causing Black Jack to be decapitated rather than hung. Blood spattered many of the witnesses that were there as the body collapsed to the ground. A picture of the gruesome site, that had once been used as a postcard, can be seen at the below link:


The area is still rumored to be haunted by Black Jack Ketchum. If you decide to go follow the outlaw trail through New Mexico, check out some of his hideouts but please be prepared to follow the rules. Say it with me! Respect the owners, the property, and the residents, no matter where you may roam in your ghostly pursuits!  Happy Haunting! 


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