Embudo Canyon boasts some of the best Foothill trails and views this side of the Sandias, but what many people don’t know is the urban legends that have sprouted from the area at the end of Indian School Road throughout the years.
According to Cody Polston, author of “Haunted Albuquerque,” there are numerous stories about the canyon to include the “apparition of an old man” who seemingly once lived in a cave on the hill, to the “calling woman” who screams like a banshee in the night wind that travels down the arroyo looking for her husband.
People have also been known over the years to hear screaming, nearby footsteps and the sound of bodies being dragged down the trails.
The Old Hermit in the Cave
The first story is about an old man who very much kept to himself and was said to have once lived in a cave at the top of Haunted Hill. He often walked down to town on warm weekend evenings with his trusty lantern to the local pub to pick up local prostitutes and bring them back to his cave. He murdered these women and would take their bodies to be buried at nearby arroyos. At night on warm weekend evenings, some people say they have seen the orange glow of his lantern light swinging back and forth on the trails heading toward town.
Eerily enough, the West Mesa murders of 11 women found buried in 2009 is much like this story, and the “West Mesa Grave Digger,” later named the “West Mesa Bone Collector,” has still yet to be found by local authorities. In February 2022, Albuquerque Police made a new plea to the public for any information leading to an arrest in the West Mesa murder case.
The Calling Woman
The second story involves a “nagging” wife and her hardworking husband, who once had a scenic cabin in Embudo Canyon. It’s said the wife spent all the husband’s money while always complaining about everything he did, including accusing him of being lazy, not making enough money and that he couldn’t cook to save his life or fix anything the right way the first time.
“Day and night her nagging ensued making the man’s life a living hell,” reads the story.
But the man had at least one quiet sanctuary away from his insufferable wife, with his cabin in the hills. He went there often to go hunting and to get away from her until one day she decided to invite herself along. He hoped she would want to go back home after seeing the rustic conditions of the cabin, but it instead had the opposite affect. Once there, she decided to start assigning him chores to make the place livable. So, he decided to go camping for a night to set some far-off traps. And wouldn’t you know it, one night turned into three, and when he got back his wife was nowhere to be found. He decided she must have gone home after all and decided to start a fire to cook his game. When bringing a kettle to the fire, he saw her face in the flames and he heard his wife’s cry pleading for help and nagging at him even then to give her a “decent burial.”
A storm came, so he decided to wait it out until the rain passed, but he continued to hear his wife screeching in his ear saying, “Find me, you lazy dog!” Not being able to stand it for another second, he went out in search of his wife’s supposed remains. The rain made it impossible to see anything, and the man almost lost his footing more than once on the arroyo embankment, but he continued to follow the voice that changed direction with the wind, When he finally did fall into the deep arroyo, his wife could be heard laughing, which gradually built up into a deafening scream. The last thing the husband saw after that was a wall of water as it came barreling toward him down the hillside. People say screams can be heard still to this day, as well as her husband’s calls, condemning him to an afterlife constantly in search of his dead wife.
Urban folklore still rings true in present day
These stories all center around a central theme, such as the murdering cave-dwelling man, being much like stories throughout history, such as Jack the Ripper or Yorkshire Ripper, who were killers that targeted the less fortunate women of the world throughout history as easy prey.
The screaming of a woman who lures people to their demise is much like the La Llorona luring children to nearby waterways or parks in Hispanic cultures, or the screaming Banshee, who brings the harbinger of death, in Scottish and Celtic cultures. One thing is clear though, that these urban legends at their roots ring true to real-life events, even today, which heed genuine warnings to stay away from creepy old men who live in caves or go searching in a storm near flooding arroyos. So, maybe it’s a good thing the Northeast Sandia Foothills closes in the evenings to the public, cause Haunted Hill might just be a little too spooky for the folks of Burque.