SANTA FE, N.M. – A strange image captured by a surveillance camera at the First Judicial District courthouse downtown has left sheriff’s deputies, lawyers, clerks and judges scratching their heads.
Some think it’s a ghost. Others suggest it’s a reflection from a passing car or possibly a piece of fluff from a cottonwood tree.
“I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s neat that it showed up on a Friday,” said Sally Saunders, assistant to District Judge Stephen Pfeffer. “Now we have something to talk about.”
Santa Fe County Deputy Alfred Arana first noticed the image when he arrived at the courthouse Friday morning and began reviewing surveillance video from the night before. Sgt. Vanessa Pacheco arrived a half hour later and was asked by Arana to watch the video.
“It’s something unexplainable,” Pacheco said. “I don’t believe in ghosts so I don’t think that’s what it is.”
The video shows a bright spot of light coming from either the roof or near the courthouse’s back door. It moves toward the west across the front bumper of a parked police before leaving the frame.
Perhaps the most bizarre part is that the light appears to cast shadows.
Courthouse workers debated whether it might have been a reflection. But some said the angle of the sun wasn’t right and a large tree shades most of the area.
Arana said the footage was clearer when he first watched it than when it was replayed over and over Friday. He said he had no idea what the camera captured.
Deputy Anthony Maes said it was a ghost. “What makes us think we’re the only beings on this planet? It’s too weird,” he said.
Maes said he thought it might be the ghost of convicted murderer Andy Lopez, who took nine people hostage at the courthouse in February 1985 before being shot by a deputy as he peeked out the back door.
Candy Sisneros, a clerk, said her husband, a sheriff’s deputy, used to work in the courthouse at night when the county’s dispatch center was there, and he used to hear footsteps, doors opening and closing and elevators going up and down.
Jude Torres has worked at the court house as a janitor for four years and said he sometimes hears noises at night. He said the noises mainly originate from the same side of the building where the light was seen.
Earl Rhoads, a public defender, thinks the image is that of a drifting cottonwood seed.
“I’m not willing to say it’s proof of paranormal activity,” he said. “I think it’s totally explainable.”