Mysterious NM Cover"Mysterious New Mexico - Miracles, Magic and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment" by Benjamin Radford
University of New Mexico Press, $24.95, 300 pp.

Benjamin Radford signs and talks about "Mysterious New Mexico" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14 at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at Treasure House Books & Gifts, 2012 S. Plaza St. Old Town. And at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, he will give the first of a series of talks on chapters of the book at the Corrales Library, 84 W. La Entrada, Corrales.

By David Steinberg
Creepy might be a legitimate one-word description for the photograph on the cover of Corrales author Benjamin Radford's new book "Mysterious New Mexico."
Spiders are crawling over the hair, face and clothes of an ashen woman, her mouth open, eyes shut. The woman is holding a healthy, quiet baby.
Who is this woman and what does she have to do with the book?
The same photograph  by Joshua Hoffine(cq), titled "Swarm," appears at the front of the book's chapter on "La Llorona , Wailing Witches Haunting the Ditches."
One must assume the book wants the gray lady (is she dead or alive?) to represent the mournful, infamous La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, the source of many legends in New Mexico, Mexico and even Europe.
"I especially enjoyed La Llorona chapter. It gave me a chance to dig deeper into folklore and legends," Radford said.
And dig he does.
Radford unearthed a La Llorona tale from mid-16th century Mexico in which she is crying to repent her collaboration with conquistador Hernan(accent over a) Cortes.
In New Mexico, stories of La Llorona can have her wailing for her drowned children, a warning to youngster to stay clear of irrigation ditches.
Radford has gathered reports of La Llorona that offer variations on the La Llorona story.
She's tough to pin down. "…it's like trying to grab a ghost or wrangle a wraith," he writes tongue-in-cheek.
Indeed. His issues in researching La Llorona stories are that, like many legends, they've been passed down orally. The storyline mutates. Who is alive to confirm a sighting of her?
La Llorona may be the most famous legend among the chapters in Radford's book.
The first and 13th chapters are sort of bookends. The opening chapter is about the haunted KiMo Theatre. The last chapter is about Santa Fe's haunted La Posada.
In separate chapters, Radford relates three "miracles" that are part of New Mexico lore. One is the miracle of the curative powers of the trucked-in dirt  at the Chimayo chapel. Another is the miraculous construction of the the staircase of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. The circular staircase makes "two complete turns from the floor to the choir loft - without a single nail or even a center pole for support."
The third "miracle" is the powers of Ojo Caliente's healing waters. Radford writes that it's the only hot springs in the world with four different mineral waters (lithium, iron, soda and arsenic.)
One chapter stands apart from the others: The unsolved murders of women whose bodies were found over a large area of the West Mesa. The murders are attributed to a serial killer.
"In some ways that chapter is sort of an outlier. It's a much more recent mystery. But still a mystery. They've never caught the person or people. So in many ways it's scarier," Radford said.
"Unlike La Llorona or Thunderbirds (legendary monstrous birds), this monster actually did kill people. So I was trying to make sure the chapter wasn't exploitative."
Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the author of "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore." (UNM Press)
 
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