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Jack Rudder collects Fort Garland ghost stories

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 31st, 2012


Local author and Civil War Re-Enactor Jack Rudder shows some soldier gear from the 19th Century. The soldiers who served at Fort Garland probably used these necessities. Rudder is author of the book: The Ghosts of Fort Garland. The book is available directly from Jack Rudder for $15 by calling him at 719-589-9393 or emailing him at jack9393@msn.com Courtesy photo by Nelda Curtiss


Special to the Courier

ALAMOSA—“He was murdered in the infantry barracks,” Jack Rudder, U.S. Air Force Veteran and Civil War Re-Enactor, of Alamosa, said of the now infamous spirit at the 1850’s garrison tucked beside State Highway 160 and the towering Sangre de Cristo mountains. Manual Lujan is the logical choice for whose ghost lives here, he said. “But I think there are many spirits who inhabit this place.”

Rudder is a story collector. As a consequence of his storytelling and 14 years as a local docent for Fort Garland, he grew his passion for remembering the soldiers who served at the fort—including Manual Lujan. At a cost of only $15, he has self-published his book titled: The Ghosts of Fort Garland—a tribute to the veterans who served here.

On October 5, more than 50 people from around the Valley (and outside the Valley: the Arkansas Valley and Denver) attended the Fort Garland Fundraiser at the grounds: A night with a Soldier. The retired high school principal, Rudder said the numbers probably kept the benevolent spirits quiet and away. “They are bashful; and only seem to be noticed when there are a few people here.”

The website “Haunted Colorado” (http://hauntedcolorado.net/) advertised the event along with the Valley Courier and other local venues. “That probably added to our numbers this year,” he said.

Rudder, who has lived in the Valley since 1973, is not fond of evil ghost stories or the commercialization of Halloween. He is more of a re-teller of history. It was in one of his first historical re-enactments when he and others were camped out at the Fort Garland campus that he first encountered a ghostly guard.

Rudder’s first encounter happened on a late Fall weekend of 1998 when half a dozen fellow enactors spent the weekend. As it happens in the Valley, it was a nice day but there was bad a snowstorm at night. It was in the “wee hours of the morning,” when the Civil War storyteller heard a commotion outside the barracks where they were bunking. Of course, they had their horses there in the yard. So, Rudder thought to himself that the “commotion” sounded like it was the horses. Another weekender also got up having heard the same “commotion” and he too thought it was the horses. Together they walked outside.

Outside, they discovered that the storm had passed but it was still very cold. They found the horses asleep and nothing to indicate any kind of a commotion; no scattering of footprints in the snow. Inside again the two considered that with adobe walls three-feet thick, sound would not be able to penetrate. Since that time, Rudder said, there have been three other instances with sounds in that same room.

“Not too long ago my wife (Theresa Rudder of the Friends of Fort Garland) went into the same room to change into period clothes for another re-enactment. The room is situated next to the original chow hall. As she was dressing she heard sounds of chairs and tables being moved and set up along with distinct voices. Her thoughts were that she would go next-door and help set up as soon as she was dressed. So she walks around the corner to the dining room; but finds no chairs, no tables, and nobody there. Yet, she swears she heard voices and commotion.”

So, “I started collecting stories and some instances you can’t really explain,” Rudder said. “A friend told me once that seeing a ghost is like falling in love; once you do there ain’t nobody going to talk you out of it.” He and his wife explain to callers who called for reservations, “There are no evil ghosts here.”

A recent artist creating a mural at the Fort remarked to Rudder that he heard someone whistling as he was entering the room where he was. When the artist looked up there was no one to be heard or seen.

Even as the Fort was being restored in the mid 20th Century, workers noted they heard strange sounds and felt like someone was watching them. The incidents were sometimes so unnerving, Rudder said, that the workers left and didn’t come back because they couldn’t labor under those conditions.

Rudder, an avid humorist as well, explained that he has been collecting these stories more than ten years. “It was the last two years when I thought I had enough to publish.” He doesn’t advertise for stories or solicit the tales in anyway, he said. Sometimes, people catch him around town and say they have a narrative to tell him. That’s why he sees his book as a work in progress. Just as he thinks the book is finished, along comes another story that he needs to add. Those who buy his book will be charmed to get emails with additional stories to add to the book, he explained.

These ghosts feel welcome here, Rudder said of the ghostly guards. “Fort Garland is a neat, neat, neat place.” He believes they have served their country here at this site, which was constructed in the 19th Century. That kind of historical building has staying power for the spirits of the veterans “yester year.” It’s home to them. “I think they are happy spirits, happy that we are keeping their memory alive,” he said.

Contact Jack Rudder at 719-589-9393 or jack9393@msn.com to purchase your copy of his 71-paged The Ghosts of Fort Garland for $15.




























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