The Witches Grave of Alamosa: By Jason Cordova and Heather Jane Metcalf

This episode features the exciting debut of our new theme song “Dead Bats on a Wire” by Savannah Rivka and Ashleigh Eve. Special guest co-host, Heather Jane Metcalf joins Jason as they discuss the mysterious case of “The Witches Grave” in Alamosa Colorado. The team also talks about the Crypto Science Society Special Ops around the world, from Japan to Transylvania! Cover art by Heather Jane Metcalf.

Alamosa CO

On a recent trip to Alamosa, CSS Special Operations Officer, (Folklorist and Cultural Adviser) Savy Rivka and I were warmly greeted by the locals. A number of whom had attended my La Puente benefit talk at Milagros Coffee House a few months earlier. One of these individuals was particularly excited to speak with me about an experience he and a friend had while visiting the town cemetery. 

There is a particularly interesting monument in Alamosa Municipal Cemetery, known to locals as “The Witches Grave”. Why the witch’s grave? The reason being that the date of death engraved on the stone reads October 36 1913, a date believed by many in town to be derived from “a witch’s calendar”. Even more intriguing, our new friend had some astounding photographs he had taken at the site only a few days before. The pictures clearly show a statue of a woman with a solum, downward gaze. One hand outstretched, while the other clutches a wreath. The hand with the wreath has all five fingers curled, while the second photo shows her index finger fully extended. 

As the story goes, De’Joie Simmons and his friend whos name has been omitted in accordance with his request, went to the cemetery, on September 16th, 2019. Between 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm they took pictures around “TheWitch’s Grave”. De’Joie took a moment to review his photos and was astonished to discover the anomaly. Understandably shaken to see such a thing in a cemetery after dusk, he calmly put his phone away and informed his companion that it was time to go. Once the two men got to a location in which De’Joi felt a bit more comfortable, he showed the pictures to his friend, who later independently corroborated the story, as far as his experience was concerned. 

First photo taken by De’Joie Simmons. Note the index finger is extended.
Second photo by De’Joie Simmons. Note the index finger is curled around the wreath.

We were exhilarated to hear about this new mystery to investigate and decided that a visit to the graveyard was in order. After Dinner, our friend Cat Trumpis, her friend, Savy, and I rolled out to pay our respects. We arrived around 6:00 pm. Due to the time of year we still had about an hour of daylight left. This being a full hour and a half before the time in which our witnesses captured mysterious photos. 

CSS President Jason Cordova shown standing next to the statue in daylight. Note the size of the statue by comparison to Jason’s height of 5′ 10″. Photo by Cat Trumpis

As per Crypto Science Society (CSS) protocol for an investigation, we introduced ourselves to the deceased and any spirits who may be around. This is as much a show of respect as it is an invitation for communication, regardless of one’s beliefs around the paranormal. We declared that we would take some photos, video, and audio, inviting anyone willing and able to communicate to do so, and of course then proceeded to do as we stated. We stayed for a little over an hour, until just after sunset. We explored a bit and then “closed up” before heading out. “Close Up” is a way of thanking the spirits and asking them to please not follow with us. It does no one any good to pick up a hitchhiker so to speak.    

Upon our visit the statues wreath hand had her index finger extended. None of our photos appear to have revealed any anomalies at this stage of the investigation. 

The next day De’Joi sent his anomalous photos to Cat who sent them to me. I reviewed them for any obvious signs of tampering and could not see any. I than forward them on to our Chief investigator Heather Jane Metcalf for a deeper analysis. 

Heather is a talented graphic designer in addition to being a skilled investigator. The CSS graphic design team has always doubled as photo analysts. The philosophy behind this is that these are the people who know how to manipulate images to trick the eye into seeing what they want. If someone were to know how to spot a doctored photo, it would be them. As the saying goes “it takes one to know one” right? So we begin by back-engineering the photos in a way. We also apply various filters and lighting effects to reveal telltale signs of manipulation.

Heathers Analysis 

Which Witch is Which?

So the question remains, who does this grave belong to anyway? The statue is the central monument of a family plot with the name EMPERIOUS etched prominently onto its base. Additionally, the details of the individuals buried in the plot surrounding the statue are engraved around the base. According to the engraving, Wiheilmina Becker died Oct 36. 1913.  Aged 71 years, 2 months and 7 days. Above her name is Theo. Emperious, Died Oct 31. 1881. No doubt having Halloween engraved on a grave maker adds to the supernatural association. 

Now, as far as I and the rest of the CSS team is aware there is no Witches calendar that uses a 36 or more day month, nor is there a witches calendar that uses the Gregorian, or Roman month names. Most modern witches adhere to a nature-based lunar calendar system observing the solstices, equinoxes, and the midpoints between each. The lunar month breaks down nicely to 13 moons or months of 28 days. 

That said, it is entirely possible that there are traditions of magical arts unknown even the most learned student of magic, and if the plot is as old as 1881 or more, it is entirely possible that an individual family group could be inheritors of their own unique traditions of folk or ceremonial magic. However, it is still unlikely for any magical arts practitioner to use a 36 day month. 

According to find a grave.com Becker, Augusta Wilhelmina Died on Sunday, Oct 26, 1913, in Alamosa of heart failure. Age 71. Interment in the vault, Lot 14, Block 1, Sec 1. Left by Anonymous on 2 Jun 2011. 

In our discussions with De’Joie, he identified himself as a bit of a skeptic and claimed that he had spoken to the cemetery administration office who told him Wilhelmina’s death date was “simply a misprint”. An expensive misprint on a prominent family plot? Although her birthdate is unknown, one could backdate and calculate it based on her age and the death date on record with the Alamosa Municipal Cemetery of October 26th, 1913. This would make her birth year 1843.   Another interesting fact about Wilhelmina was that she was 100% owner of a 161-acre land patent in Alamosa. Land patents were an old-timey way to grant Homesteading, Mining, Ranching, and Logging rights in The United States. As if the giant family plot and elaborate memorial statue were not indicators enough, the land patent is a pretty good indicator that Wilhelmina and her family were fairly well off.

EMPERIOUS

A more complete story began to take shape upon investigating the background of Theo. Emperious. Theo is the gentleman whose name appears above that of Wihelminas on the statue. He also happens to have passed away on Halloween of 1881, crossing into the spirit world when the veil is said to be most thin. The year 1881 is also of interest because it is an ambigram. An ambigram is a number that is mirrored, or the same way backward as it is forwards. According to the 1880 Census, Theo Emperious was a 48-year-old Butcher from Saxony (Germany).  He lived in Alamosa with his wife “Minnie” (Presumably short for Wihlemina) and their five children. “Minnie” Emperious was 37 and also born in Saxony (Germany). The Census estimates her birth year to be approximately 1843. Both Theo and Minnies’ parents are noted as being Saxons as well. 

The children; Fred, Matilda, Augusta, Herman, and Willie are between the ages of 10 and 3 respectively. The trial lasts one more generation with the boys having WWII draft documents and Fritz (Fred) Mattie (Matilda), Augusta, Herman, and Willie all find their place with the family around the statue.

I was not able to find any further documentation, nor was I able to find any information regarding later generations of the Emperious family. The locals we interviewed did not know of any relatives that currently live in the town. Generally it would be difficult to hide in a small town such as Alamosa, I believe it is safe to say that the living descendants of the Emperiouses have moved on, even if the deceased ones apparently have not.  It is possible that there are living relatives and no one is willing to claim direct ancestry due to the stigma now surrounding the family due to the grave.

Witches have a long history of being scapegoated and in many of the cases of old, having a witch in your family tree could have been enough to condemn you. 

What’s in a Name?

The Emperious name obviously comes from Germany. There are 27 military records referencing the German, Austro-Hungarian Empire, WWI, and a Dr. Empreius. In addition, there are 7 immigration records one of which name Theo. unfortunately Wihelmina Becker Emperious is a bit more difficult to track. Sadly common with this sort of research. In the time women tended to be overshadowed by men. That said she was a documented landowner, and for better or worse she has become renowned for alleged affiliation with the dark arts due to a “misprint” of her death date on the central pillar of her family plot. But what if it’s not a misprint after all? What if it’s not a date in a Witches Calendar either? What if its something else entirely? 

Freemasons

While exploring the cemetery I noticed a high degree, (no pun intended) of Masonic graves. That is to say, a large population of people buried in the cemetery were Freemasons, or the Freemasons companion sorority, “Order of the Eastern Star”. I began to wonder if the 36th of October could be a reference to a Freemasons 36th degree?

For those unfamiliar with Freemasons, they are a fraternal organization that officially has only two requirements, you must believe in a higher power, and you must be a man. They are essentially a “good ol boy club” with a secret handshake and “fun costumes”. They have a super secret ceremonial structure as the vehicle for initiates to advance within the society called degrees. There are officially 32 or 33 degrees depending on the order, however non masons speculate that there are even more secret degrees beyond 33 up to, and including 36. The Masons I know delight in fueling the mystery around the society and numerous conspiracy theories that abound about them. Is there even more secrets than a secret 36th degree of Freemason encoded on the grave marker of Wihlemina Becker Emperious? Possibly, but why would it be on her grave, as one must be a man to be a mason? Could Wilhemina have been a Sister of the Eastern Star? certainly, but they only have 5 degrees. While it was a fun expiration down the Mason brick road, it seem unlikely and highly speculative to assign any meaning of masonry to this particular grave. That and all the other mason graves are unambiguously marked.

Numbers Game

Is it possible there is some sort of hidden meaning in the numbers themselves? I decided to apply some basic Numerology to asses the situation. Numerology deals with the occult significance of numbers. One can assign or extract meaning from a set of numbers, by adding them theatergoer and boiling them down. Dates are a very common use of Numerology, and are often used like a horoscope to interpret birthdays, “when would be the best time to have a wedding” etc. So if we take our date of October (10) 36, 1913 we have the following formula 1+0, 3+6, 1+9+1+3 = 1,9,14 We continue to reduce everything down to a single digit, so 14 becomes 1+4 = 5. So our final result is 1,9,5. According to affinity numerology.com these numbers reveal the following;

“1 is aloneness. It is the aloneness of sudden separation from the essence of the numerology number 0.”

“9 is a concern for the welfare of humanity. It is a creative, tolerant, and compassionate existence generous with its help for individuals and organizations intent on doing the world some good. The 9 essence is worldly and sophisticated. It is also a humanitarian, both self-sufficient and self-sacrificing for progress toward the fulfillment of its vision. The 9 essence has a global consciousness.”

“5 is sensual, sensing life and its various intensities and vibrations as it flows through 5’s essence. 5 experiences what interests it by observing and feeling and interacting with full focus — while it’s still interested. A person with a 5 in a prominent position generally is comfortable interacting with others.”

Conclusions

I personally find it facinating how these stories find their way to us. A casual visit to a friend in a small town quickly turns into a full fledged investigation with some stunning results! For all the hype, mystery and superstition surrounding the “Witches Grave”, it seams that the family buried in this plot wants to be known. Known for who they were and not just for the superstitions that have arisen around them due to what appears to have been an administrative error. They were a pioneering family, with roots in Germany, They were a father and mother with five children. Theo was the butcher and Wilhemina owned land in her own name. She may have known some folk magic, as many of the German immigrants of that time period did. They took care of their family with the craft that they knew. Theo died on Halloween and Wilhemina followed her husband years later and a week before. Perhaps that has allowed them to cross back into this realm. Perhaps it helps them to affect the statue and our perception of it, in order to help us find them and thus continue to tell their story.

Sources

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 September 2019), memorial page for Wihelmina Becker Emperius (unknown–Oct 1913), Find A Grave Memorial no. 53197423, citing Alamosa Municipal Cemetery, Alamosa, Alamosa County, Colorado, USA ; Maintained by Judi McCardle Pantano (contributor 46807049) .

https://thelandpatents.com/patents/codn–0000023

Wilhelmina Becker 37.4814°N 105.7391°W

Alamosa Land Sale is a 161-acre land patent in Alamosa, Colorado.Ownership and use of this patent is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Luis Valleyegon Field Office under the serial number CODN 0000023. The last action for this patent occurred on May 25, 1911. Information on the patent was last updated on March 23, 2017.

https://affinitynumerology.com/index.php

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