Paranormal protection: Cemetery tours deter vandals, raise money

Paranormal protection: Cemetery tours deter vandals, raise money
September 28, 2009
By Aileen B. Flores
El Paso Times

EL PASO -- Their main interest is the supernatural.

But in their devotion to investigate the paranormal and conduct ghost hunts, they have become involved in preserving part of El Paso's history.

Last year, after a rash of vandalism at Concordia Cemetery, members of the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society got the idea of offering ghost tours.

The main purpose was to deter malicious people from destroying the historic site and encourage people's curiosity and let them in on the group's supernatural investigations, said Veronica Flores, a member of the paranormal society.

From July 2008 through August of this year, the group has raised more than $10,000 for the cemetery through monthly ghost tours. Apparently, there is an abundance of people willing to pay $10 to spend four hours in the middle of the night among gravestones and tombs.

All proceeds go to help restore and preserve the historic site, said society member Henry Flores, Veronica's husband and vice president of the Concordia Heritage Association.

For years, vandals have hit Concordia Cemetery. They tagged and broke headstones and concrete benches several times. Before the ghost tours, the vandalism siphoned off much of the limited budget of the Concordia Heritage Association, which takes care of the cemetery, Flores said.

The money raised through the ghost tours has allowed the group to pay for more security and vandalism has decreased, he added.

In addition, 100 crosses have been placed on previously unmarked graves, nine concrete benches were replaced and several broken headstones were restored.

Some of the funds were also put toward the construction of the Buffalo Soldier Memorial which honors 42 black infantry and cavalry soldiers buried at the cemetery. That $35,000 project by the El Paso County Historical Commission, the Concordia Heritage Association, the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of El Paso and the Donnie W. Brown Buffalo Soldier Chapter is scheduled to be completed in November.

The paranormal society has just eight members. Volunteers from other community groups also contribute to the cemetery's maintenance.
Henry Flores, vice president of the El Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society, stands among white crosses at Concordia Cemetery. The crosses for unmarked graves and other improvements at the historic cemetery were paid for through ghost tours given by the society. The previously unmarked graves belong to infants who died during the influenza epidemic of the early 1900s. (Vanessa Monsisvais / El Paso Times)

Volunteer Chris Yost, who helped paint and place some of the crosses on unmarked graves, said the ghost tours are a way to preserve history by telling the people stories they didn't know.

Concordia dates back in the 1840s, when Texas was a country unto itself. More than 60,000 people are buried at the 52-acre cemetery, including gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, dozens of Buffalo Soldiers, Mexican Revolution President Victoriano Huerta, war veterans, and civic leaders.

The only Chinese cemetery in Texas is found at Concordia. Many Chinese immigrants came to the area to build the railroad in the late 1800s.

The Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society is the only nonprofit paranormal group in El Paso that does community service work, Veronica Flores said.

The next ghost tour will take place at 11:30 p.m. Saturday through 3 a.m. Sunday at the cemetery, 3700 E. Yandell. Space is limited.

Information: Veronica Flores, 373-1513;

Aileen B. Flores may be reached at; 546-6362.

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