By M.P. Pellicer (Stranger Than Fiction Stories)
It was a scenic spot, six miles north of Last Vegas, New Mexico, situated at the Gallinas Canyon. It would go through many incarnations including being the set for the 1978 film The Evil.
In 1846, the U.S. Army bought the land and built a military hospital. Situated close to hot springs, soldiers injured in the Mexican-American War were brought here to recuperate.
Less than 20 years later it was sold and converted into the Adobe Hotel. During these years investors eyed the scenic beauty, and soon built another hotel named the Hot Spring Hotel.
It was advertised to cater to wealthier clientele, and the springs were described as "curing syphilitic and kindred diseases, scrofula, cutaneous diseases, rheumatism, etc.".
The going rates in 1868, was $15 per week for a room without baths, and $20 per week with a bath. Billiard tables with the choicest liquors and cigars were available. Even the governor visited the springs.
In 1875, it was being advertised as a resort for invalids and pleasure seekers.
The Phoenix Hotel was renamed the Montezuma Hotel, and it promoted its two hundred and seventy rooms to those who were sick, and those who wanted to enjoy it's manicured parks, the shops and even a zoo. It burned down in 1884 due to clogged gas lines.
In 1885, they were advertising the new hotel and referring to it as the new Montezuma, built at the cost of $100,000. It's grand opening was short-lived since it burned down four months later.
Through all these years, the magnificent pleasure resort failed to make an economic success and was ultimately closed.
In 1903, the YMCA bought it for $1. The Southern Baptist College bought it in 1922, and less than 10 years later sold it to the Catholic Church.
Its purpose was to train Mexican Jesuits so they could return to Mexico and spread the Catholic religion. During the rule of Mexican President Calles in the late 1920s, Mexicans were imprisoned for wearing religious items and saying "Adios" in public, because it translates to "with God". The punishment was hanging or firing squad. The period from 1926 to 1929 were known as the Cristero War. Priests had to register and church property was confiscated. The church went underground, and close to 500 seminarians came to train at once at the Montezuma to offset the persecution of the Catholic religion.
The old gymnasium was turned into the chapel. The seminarians throughout the years participated in local religious parades, and received priests in training until 1972.
Then for some weird reason, in 1977, the Catholic Church rented out the empty structure as a set for the horror film The Evil.
The premise of the movie surrounds psychiatrist C. J. Arnold and his physician wife Caroline (Richard Crenna and Joanna Pettet) who purchase an old manor to be used as a drug rehab clinic. The caretaker who comes on the property with trepidation, is lured into the basement where he meets a grisly end. The realtor tells the Arnolds the house was built by Emilio "Old Man" Vargas, but forgets to mention its history of weird deaths and that the local tribes called it the "Valley of the Devils". Vargas built a hotel as a spa, but the steam pools and the sulfur pits dry up the day the hotel is finished. This drove Vargas into seclusion.
Dr. Arnold asks ex-patients and students to come and help him get the place ready, and it's all downhill from there, especially after the good doctor releases a demonic force trapped by Emilio Vargas.
An online blog describes the following:
In 1981, the Church sold it to Armand Hammer who converted it into the United World College of the American West. The college caters to international students, and is one of nine colleges under the International Board of the United World Colleges, with its central offices in London.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer