MONTICELLO

    Do you believe in ghosts?

    I've asked myself this question before.  It's a logical question for someone whose hobby is visiting ghost towns. I've been scared in some of the places I've gone, but mostly by more administrative things, like whether I would be attacked by cows or fall down an old mine shaft. I never expect to turn a corner and see a ghost. And yet, I wouldn't be suprised if it happened, especially in a place where memories are still very strong.

QUICK STATS

  • COUNTY:  Sierra
  • LOCATION:  21 miles NW of T or C
  • POST OFFICE:  1892-present
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Named by an early postmaster for Monticello, NY

     Monticello is such a place for me. Growing up in Truth or Consequences, I had a friend who lived in Monticello, in the orange house on the left in the picture above. That house seemed huge to me then, and it still does. My friend's bedroom was about the size of a studio apartment. The kitchen was big too, and most of the cabinets and the storage space under the table were stocked with food, in case a storm kept my friend's family from getting out to T. or C. for food. There was an attic, and at least three other rooms. Even the porch was enormous.

    When I spent the night, we usually started a fire in the old Franklin stove in my friend's room. I'd fall asleep to the sharp crackling of burning wood, studying the patterns in the ornamental tin on the ceiling, and wondering if his dog Barney, who was also huge, would come sleep with us.

    During the day, we found plenty of ways to get into trouble. The church next door was usually left open. We'd climb to the choir loft, where the old pump organ waited in the dark, and one of us would pump while the other pounded on the keyboard. The organ's keys were brittle and broken (whether from overuse or lack of use, I never knew). Over and over we pumped the organ's lungs to capacity and bellowed notes into the dark church, afraid of stopping because we knew the silence that would come after would be far too somber and disturbing.

    My friend told spooky stories to keep me up at night. Maybe they were true. One was about a man who tried to rob that very church, until he looked up and saw the statue of the Virgin Mary nodding her head "no." Another was about the "Monticello Light" - a ball of light that once followed his Dad home at night. We were determined to find the Light for ourselves, and planned one evening to stake out down the back roads of Monticello until we caught it. But we made those plans in the safety of daylight, and when night fell, we conveniently forgot.

    When we got thirsty we went to Rosie's Cantina, just across from my friend's house. Not much of a cantina really, but the only place in town to get a soda. Rosie was remarkably mean, or maybe it just seemed that way to my young and easily-shattered ego. She'd yell at us when we asked for Cokes, and shoo us quickly out after we paid for them. A quarter was all she charged. Despite her temperment, Rosie must have been taking a loss.

    The old school was a favorite place to spend time. Only a shell of its WPA glory days, the school had burned "because a student's experiment exploded in chemistry class," my friend told me, and I never thought to question it. We climbed on the crumbling walls, secure in the childhood belief that gravity was our friend. We never fell from the walls, but my brother fell one time from our makeshift tree-house in an old cottonwood alongside the arroyo running down to the school. He almost ruptured his spleen when he hit the ground. Ah, the good old days.

    My friend is now a successful software salesman in California. We keep in touch through e-mail and the occasional visit.

    Do I believe in ghosts?

    Most definitely.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS

(click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture)


We bought Cokes from
Rosie's Cantina, 25 cents
each.

The old schoolhouse,
through not in use when
we played there, still
managed to teach me
about gravity.