Come for the hot dogs and soda, stay for the witch burning

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By Tris DeRoma

On that special night, Haunted Jemez owner Sharon Chism plans to host a “witch burning,” along with the hot dogs and s’mores.

“On Halloween night, we’re going have our own version of the Zozobra,” Chism said. “It’s for burning bad feelings, evil thoughts and all that. We’re going to burn that witch, and we’ll have hot dogs, chips, soft drinks and a bonfire with s’mores.” 

Although Halloween will, be extra scary at Haunted Jemez, the graveyard will be open for scares on other nights as well.

Started three years ago by Chism and her son Charlie, Haunted Jemez has grown to a half-acre and includes a western graveyard, an English graveyard, werewolves, zombies, a witch’s tea party, and dinosaurs. 

Chism, whose son created the first haunted graveyard when he was living in Texas 15 years ago, doesn’t know exactly why they decided to start it up again when he came to live with her three years ago.

“I don’t know what the weirdness in my family is. The doctor says ‘do you have any insanity in your family?’ I say yup, we have lots of insanity in our family and we enjoy every bit of it,” she said with a laugh. 

All kidding aside, Chism said she and her family have always liked to express themselves through their creativity. 

I’m probably a little bit of an overachiever, but I’ve always been artsy and like to do things just because,” 70-year-old Chism said. “I’m always up for challenges, and if I’m going to do something I’m going to be the best you ever saw.” 

Chism also has a theory, that inside everyone, there’s a child just looking to get out. 

“I’ve had little old ladies with their little walkers coming by just having a great time,” Chism said. “I ask them ‘are you sure you can make this… this is a lot for an elderly person,” and they’re like ‘no no no, I want to do it, I just love it!’”

Chism said her generation was all about Halloween, as it was about candy, being with friends and getting a little spooked here and there.

“It was a fun, happy time,” Chism said. “I’m trying to keep that going.” 

The area is open daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Haunted Jemez is located at 2897 NM-485 on the road to the Gilman Tunnels. From Albuquerque, take NM-550 to NM-4, continue until NM-485. Follow the signs to exit west on NM-485 approximately three miles until you see a line of pumpkins and the graveyard on the right.

For more information about the Jemez Valley and Jemez Springs, visit jemezsprings.org or Facebook/JemezSprings.