Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Enchanting Facts About New Mexico

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Compared to some of the states in the nation, New Mexico is a relatively young territory: It wasn’t officially recognized by President William Taft until 1912. But the culture of the southwestern landscape has made a tremendous impact on the rest of the world. Check out some facts on its Aztec origins, its unlikely exports, and how Smokey Bear got his start.

1. It isn’t really named after Mexico. New Mexico was coined in 1563 by Don Francisco de Ibarra, a governor of a Mexican province who thought the Indian people he saw in the territory reminded him of Aztecs—a discovery he later messaged as a kind of “new Mexico.” Mexico didn’t become known as Mexico until it dropped the New Spain label in 1821.

2. They were once invaded by the United States. President James Polk felt California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona should be part of his territory. Polk was initially nice about it, offering to buy the land, but when he was rejected, he ordered military forces to seize it by force in 1846. By 1848, Mexico had lost those states, which amounted to half of its property, to Polk’s aggression.

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3. Infamous outlaw Billy the Kid was shot and buried in Fort Sumner in 1881. When he wasn’t busy working as a ranch hand, the man born Henry McCarty was reputed to have killed 27 people. A museum in the town features some of his original possessions, including a lock of his hair. 

4. It has its own Las Vegas. In 1900, the city on the Santa Fe trail was the largest in New Mexico, with a series of Old West legends like Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday passing through. Some of the original architecture remains for tourists.

5. People weren’t really sure what happened on July 16, 1945, the day the government detonated the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos: they were told it was an ammunitions explosion. While the engineering feat was later celebrated, some believe the resulting radiation caused health problems for nearby residents. 

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6. The Taos Pueblo building is thought to be the oldest continuously-inhabited structure in the world. Erected sometime between 1000 and 1450 A.D., the adobe walls were made from soil, water, and straw and are consistently replenished with mud to keep them supported. More than 150 families call it home.  

7. The Navajo people were instrumental in helping the Allies win World War II. Natives of New Mexico, they were recruited for their unwritten language—it has no alphabet or symbols. Virtually impossible to decipher without being raised learning it, Navajo soldiers were able to relay strategies, issue supply requests, and forward other key messages for the Marines without their “code” ever being cracked by enemy forces.

8. It wasn’t big on boxing. After a series of prizefights took place that drew negative press attention for their perceived brutality, New Mexico Governor William Thornton rallied fellow territories Texas and Arizona in banning bouts in 1896. When it became a state 16 years later, fighting resumed. 

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9. It’s home to what entertainer Will Rogers once referred to as the Grand Canyon with a roof. Carlsbad Caverns was water-formed more than four million years ago, with three miles open to tourists. One popular attraction: the 250,000 Brazilian bats who hang out at the entrance and then swarm the night skies looking for insects. Their voluminous droppings were once shipped out and used as fertilizer for Florida’s citrus groves.

10. The town of Truth or Consequences changed its name to accommodate a publicity stunt. In 1950, the producer of the radio show bearing the same name told listeners he’d broadcast from the first locale to adopt the show’s title. Hot Springs took him up on the offer.

11. Despite its reputation for being a dry slice of desert, New Mexico’s Bandera Fire and Ice Cave offers two extremes. A collapsed tube in the volcano collects rain water that keeps a frosty surface thanks to temperatures that rarely exceed 31 degrees Fahrenheit.

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12. The state bird is no fan of coyotes. The roadrunner received the honor in 1949, and is named for its preference of sprinting up to 15 mph to grab its prey. 

13. They don’t pay their legislators. State lawmakers aren’t granted a salary, but instead receive per diem compensation when the Legislature is in session that averages $16,000 a year. The perk? They receive a pension after 10 years of service, no matter what age they leave office.

14. The southern town of Artesia really looked out for its student population. During the height of Cold War paranoia in 1961, they constructed an elementary school that doubled as a bomb shelter. The entire building was located underground; kids were able to play on the roof at ground level. Despite the fact it had a morgue, the kids were largely oblivious to its secret identity. It closed in 1995 owing to high maintenance costs.

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15. There really was a Smokey Bear, and he was found lost during the Capitan Mountains fire in 1950. The cub tried escaping the fire by climbing a tree; he survived, but received burns that needed treatment by animal conservationists. The resulting press attention led to a new home at the National Zoo, and a name: Smokey Bear. (There’s no “the”—that was added for a 1952 song.)

16.The residents of Taos have a noise problem. Since the 1990s, a “hum,” or faint buzzing, has been identified by several locals. Researchers have not been able to zero in on a possible cause, but it’s not helping real estate sales: some have moved because of the incessant noise.

17. It has an official state question: Red, or Green? The query refers to the state vegetable, the chile, and how ripe it is when served. You can also select option C—Christmas, which is a blend of the two.

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18. They like to do a little effigy-burning. Zozobra, or “Old Man Gloom,” is a 50-foot tall figure made of sticks that’s burned every year in Santa Fe to help onlookers rid themselves of sorrow.  A smaller version is also torched in Aztec.

19. They’re incredibly serious about their hot air balloon rallies. The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta features a variety of creatively-shaped aircraft that makes it look like a Macy’s parade on steroids. The Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta is a more modest affair, with craft launched over a lake.

20. They weren’t huge fans of unfiltered Shakespeare. The state received media attention in 1983 after ordering 400 “sexually explicit” words to be stripped from Romeo and Juliet in copies kept by school libraries.

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21. It helped birth the UFO craze of the 1950s. In 1947, a local found debris from an unidentified craft 75 miles outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Military personnel quickly retrieved it and told media it was a collapsed weather balloon; a skeptical public believed otherwise. The town has since become a popular tourist attraction.

22. It has the can-you-believe-this-is-a-sport angle covered. The World Shovel Race Championships are held every year in Angel Fire: Contestants sit in unmodified snow shovels and slide down a snow-covered hill. The practice began in the 1970s, when ski lift operators would do it for fun. Riders can reach 60 mph.

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23. It’s home to something that resembles another world. The White Sands National Monument sports over 275 square miles of white gypsum sand, which makes it resemble a kind of albino desert landscape. Because there’s hardly any source of water, native animals like the kangaroo rat have evolved to get their hydration from food sources like seeds.

24. It had a more tightly-contested electoral race than Florida in the 2000 presidential elections. While George Bush garnered 537 more votes than Al Gore in the Sunshine State, Gore beat him by 366 votes in New Mexico.

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25. If you find yourself on a road trip, plan on a car wash: Sante Fe has more unpaved roads than any state capital in the nation. Beginning in 2016, the state will lower the default speed limit from 75 miles per hour to 55 on dirt paths. Think of it as more time to enjoy the scenery.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC
Jesse Grant, Getty Images for AMC

At its best, San Diego Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’s Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY


John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of 2016 and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Just a few months later, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE


Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

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