Unearthly San Luis Valley, where “the veil is thin”

(There’s a lot of strange material in this post. I write it because “weirdness” is endemic to, and is a significant part of, the fabric of life in New Mexico.  No food this week, just weirdness.)

High altitude, thin veil

My wife and I spent some 7 years in and around Taos, New Mexico, and darned if it doesn’t keep calling us back. Not just the town of Taos, but all of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, up Rte 522 through Questa, through Costilla, up to San Luis, CO, then Ft. Garland and west to Alamosa, down south to Antonito, and back home via Tres Piedras, NM, across the Rio Grande Gorge, over that maddening bridge some 800 feet over the river, and back home.

The veil, people said, was thin up here. It’s 7000, 8000 feet high after all. but elevation has nothing to do with “the veil.” On one side of the veil is your everyday world. On the other side… other stuff. People saw things, experienced things, reported things creeping through the veil.

Light balls and whooshes

A midwife friend was driving through vast acres of sagebrush on the western side of the Rio Grande after a home visit with a Mom-to-be. Night time. This area of the mesa is a scatter of makeshift homes cobbled together from old school buses, trailers, scrap lumber, tents, sitting on dry land with no wells, no electricity, utterly off the grid. She drove along the dirt road. Balls of red light flew past her car, at car height. Wow! Well, sort of “wow”. She’d seen them before.

Another friend was hiking along the Taos mesa, through vast acres of sagebrush. Daytime. A large creature of enormous speed whooshed past, airborne, at head height, a few feet away. Not a bird. They were “seen” enough by enough people to acquire a name: prairie dragons.

Lights danced in the sky. Some shot nearly fire-bright, one horizon to another.

Because the veil is thin here, the area tends to attract people wanting to pierce it, or rip it to shreds. Light-workers and shamans, cult leaders, truth-seekers and charlatans of all sorts, honorable and not, a mix of scientists and pot-heads, Pueblo spiritual leaders and the “Trustafarians” (Rasta-type younger Anglos with secret trust funds). All kinds. The ones I heard stories from were arrow-straight, uncontaminated by any preconceptions.

One was an ambulance driver, EMT, midwife, athlete, still our very close friend. Answering a car crash call, she told us, “When I got there, he was way dead.” The EMTs had to decide every time: “stay and play” (let’s work on this person right here to save him/her) or “scoop and run” (load the person in and hightail it to the Taos hospital). Solid, highly skilled, sensible. And she saw things. Large bright objects moseying through the sky over her house.

Some talk about what they saw or experienced. Many don’t – as if the very speaking of it will diminish its value. Others let on that this stuff is so frequent in their lives it doesn’t bear mention. It’s fully integrated with them, so it’s no big deal anymore.

Stay and Play

Many people we knew back then who moved to Taos said they were “called” here. Summoned. Had dreams of Taos, the high desert, the vast openness of the sprawling valleys – and just had to get here. And they did.

To “get it” in Taos, to have some vague understanding of what I’ve been talking about, you can’t go there for a week to ski or go river rafting or ballooning or otherwise indulge yourself. What’s best is if you go there for a good stretch of time, empty, free of obligation and schedule and stuff and nonsense, and get far outside of your ego and yourself, and you might get a sense of the place.

Take a dirt road away from everything, a road that seems to go nowhere, get lost, stop somewhere where there are no cars or people or buildings within view, where it’s perfectly silent, get out and sit (or walk) for an hour or two.

Shattering the veil in the San Luis Valley

sanluissatelliteSan Luis Valley, from Taos, NM in the south to Salida, CO in the north. The green area around Alamosa is irrigated farmland, though most of what happens here is cattle ranching. (Google map)

SanLuis2Southern part of the San Luis. The area from Questa to Costilla, to the west, is also known as Sunshine Valley, with Ute Mountain as its dominant feature – but it’s really a southern extension of the San Luis. Just east of Antonito, at the very top, is a weird squiggle of brown elevations – these are a freaky collection of hills called “the Brownies.”

Taos sits at the southern extremity of the San Luis Valley (that’s San loo-EECE), which spreads all the way north to Salida, Colorado, and covers roughly ten thousand square miles sandwiched between mountain ranges. For some thirty years people in “the Valley” have experienced all manner of bizarre events – UFO sightings of all sorts, “black helicopters,” and especially an intense concentration of “cattle mutilations,” otherwise known as Unexplained Animal Deaths. Cows are discovered with their blood drained, genitals removed, rectums cored out, flesh removed from lower jaws, and much more… all of this is done with what appears to be surgical precision and the application of heat. From what I’ve been able to gather, more than a thousand cattle have died this way in the Valley since people started keeping track, and who knows how many have gone unreported for fear of ridicule.

4682601707_9d655a4d4c_bSign in Carson, NM, the extreme southern end of the San Luis Valley. (my photo)

One rancher near the town of San Luis lost more than half his herd over the course of a few years, according to writer/musician turned cattle mutilation investigator Christopher O’Brien, who has written several books about anomalous activity in the Valley since the early 1990s. His website is here. Another prominent investigator is Emmy-award winning TV documentary producer Linda Moulton Howe (her website here), author of the book A Strange Harvest, and producer of a 1980 documentary film of the same name. So: who or what is behind these mutilations? O’Brien leans toward a theory of a super-secret government operation. Howe thinks it’s aliens.

After seeing one too many photos of mutilated animals, I think it’s too creepy and disturbing to keep writing about, except for one main point: we may never know what’s behind it all, and maybe it’s better that we don’t. Let sleeping dogs – and dead cows – lie.


Science works its wisdom all over the area – from Sandia Labs to Los Alamos to Santa Fe – but throws up its hands when stuff seeps through “the veil.” The whole area is so suffused with Indian spiritual history and traditions, including Sipapus (holes in the bottom of kivas that are believed to be doorways to other realities), that their enduring, cumulative effect on what’s “real” and what isn’t may not be grasped. Add to that the legions of light-workers and energy-seekers and vortex-hunters who’ve moved into the area, and one’s sense of ordinary Newtonian reality can start to kink up.

I love the area for its landscapes, and also for the subtle lurking of strangeness, and I decided long ago not to look for any answers. Just leave it be.

There it is, for now.









Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.