Extreme Paranormal and Bonita City

Someone I know has a tv show!  It’s called Extreme Paranormal and it’s on A&E.


(I know the guy in the middle!) What I really appreciated about this show was the new stories. Usually you hear about the same ghost stories again and again.

In one episode they went to Bonita City, New Mexico and the site of a 19th century murder. It was an old mining town that is now underwater, which made for a unique investigation (you have to see it). But I found this story so intriguing I was googling it all night.

On May 5, 1885, this young guy Martin Nelson went on a rampage, killing seven people. He was staying in Bonita City’s only hotel and he started with the family who ran the hotel. They were Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Mayberry, their 17 year old son John, and their 7 year old son Eddie. He also shot the Mayberry’s 14 year old daughter Nellie, but she begged for her life and survived. Also killed was a guest of the hotel, Dr. R. E. Flynn, and two people who came running to help, Pete Nelson and Herman Beck.

I think this story got to me because I’ve been reading Willa Catha lately and her books like O Pioneers. I’m more aware of how hard life was out west back then. For instance, this was Bonita City’s general store. Is this not the saddest general store you’ve ever seen?

And this was the post office.


These pictures don’t even really capture it. The lack of food, losing crops, animals, the meagre protection against the elements. To have to fight the way they did for existence and then suffer this kind of tragedy on top of everything else. Especially the children. It’s always harder when children die. And the two guys who ran to help and were murdered for their kindness and bravery? It must have completely demoralized the small town.

But Bonita City doesn’t exist anymore. The building of Bonita Dam put the town underwater, and the remains of the victims were moved to Angus Cemetery.


I was really hoping to be able to find out what became of Nellie Mayberry. Children who lose their parents at a young age usually carry that pain in some form or another for life, sadly, and she lost her parents—her entire family—to murder. Where did she go? Who took her in? Did she find happiness somewhere, somehow? But I didn’t manage to find out anything yet. Women are harder to track down because they change their names when they marry.

I would also love to find out more about Martin Nelson. What brought him to this sad little place? What was wrong with him to cause him to go off like that? In all the accounts it took everyone by surprise, he was a nice, polite young man until that night. I wish he didn’t have such a common name. It’s going to be pretty much impossible to figure out anything about his past.

In another Extreme Paranormal episode they went to the now abandoned New Mexico State Penitentiary, where 33 inmates were killed in 1980. It amazes me that 33 people were killed and I never heard about this either. Congratulations on the show guys! And keep up the great work uncovering these stories!

UPDATE: I didn’t google enough! Fiona Broome researched and wrote up this story and you can read it her website, Hollow Hill. She did an amazingly wonderful job! Now I have to browse the rest of her site!! Thank you, Fiona. I know a lot of people were curious to learn more about this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A descendant of Nellie Mayberry has responded in the comments section. Apparently the stories that have been published both here and elsewhere are riddled with inaccuracies. I’m sorry for my part in perpetuating them and I would love the opportunity to post the real story.

Photo credits. I found the General store shot here. The Bonito City post office shot is from the book, Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico by James and Barbara Sherman (the picture is from 1904). And the grave shot is from Find A Grave and the photographer is listed as Ron.

10 thoughts on “Extreme Paranormal and Bonita City

  1. The show was campy beyond words. I’m hoping that people take it in that spirit (no pun intended) and don’t try to emulate what they see on TV.

    (At the very least, keep in mind that Bonito Lake is the community’s water supply. Boating, swimming and wading are NOT allowed there.)

    I appreciate your historical insights. The photos are great.

    I’ve researched and written my own article about the murders, Bonito City – The Real Story, http://hollowhill.com/bonito-city-the-real-story/

    Like you, I enjoy different kinds of ghost stories, not just the same old places, over & over again. That said, I’m aware that many people prefer shows that feature tried-and-true places that viewers may have visited (or plan to) such as the Myrtles Plantation.

    However, I think the Extreme Paranormal guys really missed the mark when they chose Bonito City… unless they were aiming for something truly campy, that is. I’m guessing that their intent was the latter, and — if so — they played it to the hilt.

  2. Thank you SO much for this!! This is great!! I’m going to include it in my post! Yes, the Extreme Paranormal show is campy and meant to be fun. It is not parapsychology or science, nor is it not meant to be. It’s way over the top, really, hence the “extreme” in the title, which reflects the cultural positioning they were going for.

  3. Hey, I saw the show and I liked it. The guy in the middle that you know seemed to have some sort of background in CM (Ceremonial Magick) or it’s relations, other people have been giving awful reviews on the show because of it. I liked the show on New Mexico State and got the book, “The Devil’s Butchershop” immediately to find out more, WOW that was a very savage incident!! Anyway, I keep trying to find out the story of the prisoner whose number they keep calling out on the show and can’t find a thing, can somebody please point me in the right direction, I would like to find out more on that particular person just to tie it in with the show.

    I think it was cool, a nice change from all the “hands off” people that try to make communicating with the dead into a scientific thing (WTH??). Oh, in the swamp, I don’t think they were chasing a ghost, my lone opinion is that they were chasing Bawon Samedi, whom I haven’t worked with much, but I have worked with Papa Legba a lot and he’s really a nice, easy-going Lwa.

    I’m shutting up now but seriously, can somebody tell me about that inmate?

  4. Stacy,

    I am Nellie Mayberry’s great grand-daughter. All of the stories out there about the Mayberry tragedy are just that: stories. Fiona’s story, claiming to be the “real story”, is filled with inaccuracies, because she basically did the same thing everyone else has done, which is to re-write the tragedy as it was related in all those inaccurate news stories from many years ago.

    Nellie was the only eye witness, and she told my Mother what really did happen. And, I am in possession of a hand written letter from the town constable that was written two days after the tragedy that provides details that align well with what Nellie told my Mother.

    Yvonne is not my real name, and I will not disclose my name until my story (the REAL real story) is published.

    As I said in other forums: Shows like Extreme Paranormal have the very real potential to cause undue pain for the survivors, relatives, and descendants of victims of violent death, and for what? So the average hypnotized and dummied down TV viewer can get their rocks off?

    Again, my ancestors have spilled more than enough blood already. That their tragedy was exploited for sensationalized reality TV is stupid, disrespectful and wrong. I am not much happier about the story being inaccurately portrayed on the internet ghost hunting sites either…

    Again, the story has already been told and re-told, and grossly distorted along the way, and
    naturally, the ghost story aspect gained steam over time. Just as when anything horrible happens anywhere: ghost stories spring up. This does not make any of these “ghost” stories true!!

    And this trend of increasingly disrespectful and aggressive paranormal shows is contributing to fast growing numbers of copycat kids going out there causing property damage at supposedly haunted sites and invading cemeteries all over the U.S.A.

    Incidentally, when the “Extreme Paranormal” researchers contacted our family, they were dishonest, hiding the fact that they were out to taunt the killer, “…daring demons to attack” and all that macho childish crap. When I tried to straighten the researchers out on the actual facts, it soon became apparent that the show wasn’t likely to allow the truth to get their way.

    I would appreciate it if you’d add a footnote to your site that provides a disclaimer in respect to accuracy. After my story is released, I’d be happy to contact you with my real name and that story, etc.

    Thank you for your consideration of my position in this saga, Yvonne

    P.S. I will tell you that Nellie more than overcame the tragedy!

  5. Stacy,

    Thank You! for adding the update. I’ve now got you on my list of folks to contact when the story comes out – it’ll likely appear in on of the western history magazines. I’ll be in touch, again, thank you for your understanding.

    As I am direct descendant, obviously that killer was not able to wipe out the Mayberry family line! And we’ve done more than survive, I am proud to say. Nellie grew to become an amazing woman who overcame great obstacles during life, and my story will go into her personal history and her hard earned philosophy about surviving tragedy. I may also write a book about same,

    happy holidays, Yvonne

  6. Have you ever heard of Old Alton Bridge? This is a little bit of the legends of the Goatman’s bridge.

    There have been several disappearances on and around Old Alton Bridge. Most notably, one that occurred November 15th 1967. The Denton newspaper at the time did an article on a mustang found abandoned on the bridge and there were lots of people that reported other missing persons linked to the Goatman’s bridge and the Goat man.

    The story is that Klansmen raided the house of the Goatman, Oscar Washburn, and killed his family after attempting to lynch him over the side. The legend says that he disappeared over the side and now attacks anyone who crosses the bridge at night in an effort to protect his family.

    You can see a video on this story at http://www.Goatmansbridge.com Paranormal real

  7. Wow. I’d love more research about Oscar Washburn and his family, and more about the original murders.

  8. Stacy,
    I was curious as to if the true story was ever published and if any new developments have surfaced. I have visited the area many times over the years and just recently came across the history that seems to have been lost over time. I am intrigued by all the stories and rich history of the area and Bonito City has deepened my interest. I look forward to researching more and learning the truth behind the tragedy.

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