The River of Lost Souls

Written by on October 29, 2012 in Haunted Southwest - Comments Off on The River of Lost Souls

The American Southwest is riddled with places named after gruesome or frightening happenings. Places like Bloody Basin (a bloody skirmish occurred between Apache Indians and U.S. Troops in 1873) and Dead Horse Point (a band of wild horses, rounded up by cowboys, was left on the point, only to die of thirst), was generally named after an important, usually violent, event in the area. Most retain the name, but the history is lost except to a very few who remember the story.
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The Las Animas River in Colorado is one such place. Legend says that a group of Coronado’s conquistadors died along the banks of the river. Catholic belief is that if a human being dies without last rights, their souls would go to purgatory. Being far from civilization, these men had no last rights, so the river was named “El Río de las Ánimas Perdidas en Purgatorio,” which means River of the Lost Souls in Purgatory.

In point of fact, purgatory actually meant that the souls would be in limbo for a short time of purification before ascending to heaven. However, current legend says the river is haunted by these lost souls, who never passed on to their final rest. Perhaps the land itself had an effect on those who named the area, giving rise to the belief that the lost souls haunt this beautiful lonely river in the Southwestern corner or Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. Even today, the San Juan Mountains, where the headwaters of the river originate, are as remote as they were 400 years ago. Very few roads penetrate into these rugged, majestic peaks, and the jagged peaks seem to loom over the entire region. Perhaps the very sound of the wind wailing among the peaks and pines sounds like the voice of lost souls and adds to the legend this haunted river.

There is another legend of how the river got its name. An early Spanish exploration party noticed a large number of empty ancestral pueblo dwellings. These ruins, with their haunting emptiness, made the explorers uneasy. The long forgotten places caused them to name the nearby river “Rio de las Animas Perdidas,” or river of lost souls.

Whichever the case, a visit to the Animas River is well worth it, haunted or not. The scenery is some of the best in the world, and there are plenty of things to see and do along the way.

Table of Contents for the Haunted Southwest Series:
The Ghost of the White Lady
The Pottery Curse
Haunted Hotel: The Stanley Hotel, Colorado
The Vulture Mine, Wickenburg, Arizona
Haunted Hotel: The San Carlos, Phoenix, Arizona
The Haunted Shores of the Great Salt Lake, Utah
Haunted Tombstone, Arizona
Haunted Mines: Ghost, Goblins and Tommy Knockers, Southwest
Ghost Camels of the Southwest
Haunted Dawson Cemetary, New Mexico
Haunted Inn: Who Haunts the Brook Forest Inn, Colorado
Halloween in Jerome, Arizona
The Mystery of the Missing Locomotive, Colorado
The Ghost of La Posada Resort and Spa
Ogden and Salt Lake City Ghost Tours
The Ghosts of the Copper Queen
The Redstone Castle
Highway to Hell
Ghost Train at Golden Spike

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