Ghost on Route 522

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This story happened to me many years ago but it is true. I was seventeen years old and my best friend at the time invited me to go to Red River, New Mexico during the summer with her parents. The idea was to drive there and stay for a week hiking and exploring and just hanging out. After a pretty long trip from Texas and listening to her parents’ infinite Eagles playlist, we finally arrived. It turned out that her parents both had colds and they were tired from the drive; they decided to turn in early so my friend and I decided to go explore the town. It was close to Happy Hour so being the normal teenagers of the day, we ended up at the local pub drinking white Russians using her dad’s credit card. We met a group of young people from Red River and ended up having a few drinks with them. They eventually left, and we decided we were up for something more adventurous. We called an older friend who was living in Taos at the time to see if he wanted to meet up. He was headed out to dinner with friends and invited us to meet him there. He told us that Red River is only about 35 miles from Taos, which is roughly a 40-minute drive, so it didn’t seem like much.

Now I don’t really know what was going through our teenage minds trying to act older than we were, but I do remember that after the initial rush of the idea, I became extremely reluctant. After all, this would imply my friend taking her parents’ car without their permission because, let’s face it, any parent in their right mind would never let their 17-year-old drive to another town at night, especially after drinks. After some heated debate, we decided to go back to the hotel and check on her parents’ before deciding. Sure enough, they were both sound asleep, and from the looks of it, in spite of their colds, they had had a few whiskeys as well. That was the clincher, so my friend took the keys and promised me we would only be gone a while.

It was still pretty early in the evening, so I rationalized it out in my mind and conceded. The next thing I knew, we were on the highway, music blaring, wind in our hair and super excited. We made it to Taos with no problems and met up with our friend and had a great time, but around 11 p.m. I insisted that we had to get back since it was getting pretty late for us to be driving alone on that dark highway. We hadn’t had anything to drink for a while so we were good to go.

Now Route 522 from Taos is a pretty flat, straight shot to Questa, where you have to take a right on to highway 38 and then it’s a partly straight and partly winding road back to Red River. This is where things started to go wrong. The highway was unlit so the only light was from the partly clouded moon, our car lights and literally just two or three cars that past us on our way. We were having fun and talking about our adventure when we both noticed that we had been driving straight for too long. There were no immediate signs in sight and my friend slowed down as the reality of doubt quickly dousted our high. Then to make matters worse, the low fuel alarm went off. I made her pull over so we could look at her parents’ map and decide if we had passed the turnoff to Red River or if maybe it might still be just a little further up. We were trying to calculate how long we had been driving and how much further we could get with the fuel left in the car. Either way, we both knew that we had really screwed up. Suddenly, we saw the lights from an oncoming car in the distance, and my friend started insisting that I get out of the car to stop the driver. I told her that she was insane and that either she could do it or we could both get out. Now we had been friends since we were about 10 years old, so I knew her very well: she was kind of the mischievous encouragement that I needed to do stupid stuff like what we were doing that night, but she was always a scaredy cat when it came to doing anything like what she wanted me to do, if that makes sense.

So I grabbed a screwdriver from the glove box, got out of the car, stood in front of our car lights and started waving like a mad person. As the car approached, I remember noticing that it was an older model sedan. My heart was racing with mixed feelings when it started to pull over and I clinched the screwdriver deep in my coat pocket. But when I saw that the driver was an elderly woman, I looked back at my friend and she shot me a reassuring, go-for-it kind of smile. The woman stopped and I approached her window but kept a very safe distance. I told her we were on our way to Red River and weren’t sure if we had missed our turn or if it was still ahead and that we were almost out of gas. She told me that it was a few miles behind us and that once we got back on highway 38 to town that we could probably get the security guard at Molly Mine to give us a little gas from the pump if we didn’t think we’d make it. I didn’t know what Molly Mine was and hadn’t even noticed it on our way to Taos but then we weren’t exactly looking for anything at that time either. She said she was the owner of the mine’s wife and told me her name. Now to be quite honest, I don’t recall her name anymore, but that doesn’t matter. I thanked her and she drove off down the highway.

I got back in the car and we turned around and drove slowly to save gas. When we saw the exit, we took the left turn with measured relief: the fuel alarm was indicating that we would only get another 7 or 8 miles and Red River was 13 miles away. We kept looking for Molly Mine or a gas station that maybe we hadn’t noticed on our way out but saw nothing. We drove in heavy silence praying that the car would make it just a little further to town and then it started to lurch and we knew we were doomed. The car came to a full stop and my friend was barely able to pull safely over to the side of the road. We exchanged looks of dread and she started whining about how her parents were going to kill her and I remember telling her that was the least of our worries: it was after midnight and we were alone on a pitch black mountain highway still 5 miles from town. I grabbed the screwdriver again and we abandoned the car. We tried not to bicker as we walked in the cold night air, but when we weren’t talking, the silence around us was terrifyingly deafening.

Suddenly we heard a car and turned to see a van coming around the bend behind us. We didn’t know if we should hide or run the risk of stopping some psycho killer. Either way, it didn’t matter: the driver saw us and flicked the car lights to acknowledge that he’d seen us and slowly came to a stop. We were like petrified deer staring at the lights. The lights dimmed and the van door opened, but we didn’t or couldn’t move. Then someone called out to us: they knew our names! It was the group of people that we had met earlier that evening at the local pub! I had never felt so relieved in my life! We thanked them and told them that we needed to get gas. They assured us that we would not be able to get gas or a way back to the car until dawn; we knew we were totally busted, but somehow that didn’t seem so bad anymore. We jumped in the van and as we were driving back to town, we excitedly told them our story. But when I came to the part about stopping the owner of Molly Mine’s wife on the highway and her comment about getting some gas from the pump at the mine, they all went quiet and exchanged looks. I looked at my friend and she asked them what happened. I insisted with my story and even mentioned the woman’s name and with that, they all freaked out. We demanded that they explain what was going on and one of the group told us that the part of the mine where there used to be a pump hadn’t been open for years. And worse yet, the owner’s wife had died in a car crash on Route 522 years ago.

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