I found out today (Jan. 21) that something unusual happened last weekend at Moby Dickens Bookshop on Bent Street. Apparently at some point on Friday evening (Jan. 18) a book titled “Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson inexplicably fell off a top shelf and landed on the middle of the hallway. No one was working at the time.
The sound of the book hitting the floor apparently was enough to set off the store’s alarm, which is how the store’s management discovered it.
The title of the book doesn’t seem to be significant, but the date it hopped off the shelf could be. On Jan. 18, 1847, Territorial Gov. Charles Bent was attacked at his home and murdered in front of his family. This incident sparked what has become known as the 1847 Taos Revolt. Many others died that violent day.
Gov. Bent’s home is right across the road (now called Bent Street) from the John Dunn House where Moby Dickens is now located.
The 1847 revolt is a painful incident from Taos’ past. A few months earlier, on Aug. 18, 1846, Gen. Stephen W. Kearny and his Army of the West had seized Santa Fe from the Mexican government, and in so doing sparked terror in the hearts of citizens who feared the new government would forcibly take their land and resources, in effect ripping up the centuries old land grants assured by the Spanish crown. Nowhere was this fear more intense than in Taos, where both Native Americans and Hispanos shared these concerns.
Once Kearny had Santa Fe, he appointed the well known trader from Taos, Charles Bent, to be Territorial Governor. Bent moved into the Governor’s Palace, but on Jan. 14 he traveled home for a brief visit, according to historian Marc Simmons writing for the Santa Fe New Mexican April 24, 2009.
Simmons writes: “All arrived at Taos late on a cold Jan. 18. Early the next morning, a rampaging mob composed of Taos Indians and Taos town residents went on a killing spree, slaying in a horrible manner Gov. Bent and all his traveling companions. On receiving word of the tragedy, Col. Price and his troops started for Taos, vanquishing on the way opposing forces at Santa Cruz and Embudo. On Feb. 3 they attacked the Taos Pueblo, where Hispano and Indian rebels joined to make their stand. The battle continued on the following day, the American artillery blasting away at the thick-walled adobe church where most of the defenders were concentrated. On Feb. 5 Taos Pueblo fell to the attackers. It had lost 154 men, a devastating blow for such a small place.”
The ruins of that church still remain to this day, and for a long time served as the tribe’s cemetery. This was a tragedy of monumental proportions.
No one is saying the book falling off a shelf has anything to do with ghosts or haunting or Charles Bent. It's just an odd thing that happened.
Many people believe the ghosts of Taos become active around dates of particular significance. This is a very old place and the footsteps of generations overlay those of even older journeys. You might not believe in such things and you may be right not to, but somewhere deep inside the shudder of recognition may ring when such a coincidence comes to the surface.
Do the ghosts of Taos rise at this time of year to remind us of the horror that happened that week 166 years ago? Only you can decide.