May 15 2012 12:00pm

Truth or Consequences is a Real Place. A Real, Weird Place.

Truth or Consequences is a Real Place. A Real, Weird Place.

In New Mexico there is a town called Truth or Consequences and it is weird. The Tor.com crew came across a mention of this small town last week and when it came up in casual conversation it seemed that everyone had a tiny tidbit of oddness to share about the area. The more we looked at it, the more random, seemingly unconnected bits of strangeness we uncovered; as if weirdness bubbles up from the town’s natural hot springs.

The name of the town itself (population 6500-ish) is just the beginning.


1.) Truth or Consequences changed its name on a dare... on April Fool’s Day.

The town was originally dubbed Hot Springs on account of the, well, hot springs that it sits on top of. The springs themselves churn through nearly 100 liters of water a second at around 110 degrees and make Truth or Consequences a popular place for retirees who benefit from healing spa treatments.

This changed when, in 1950 Ralph Edwards, the host of radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that the show would air an installment from the first town that changed its name to match that of the show’s. Hot Springs was picked out of all the applicants because, according to host Ralph Edwards, it demonstrated “a real friendliness for people and a desire to help mankind.

The town held a vote and the name change was made official on April Fool’s Day, 1950.

To this day, the town holds a yearly festival during the first weekend of May celebrating Ralph Edwards and the name change. Edwards himself officiated at the festival every year until he was physically incapable, and has a park, auditorium, and even his own day named after him in town.


Truth or Consequences is a Real Place. A Real, Weird Place.

2.) Stephen King holds the keys to the city.

Completely unrelatedly, horror master Stephen King was invited to the town on November 19, 1983 by his college roommate and early collaborator Chris Chesley. King gave a speech, was given the keys to the city, and finished up with a book signing for a massive crowd. November 19 is now Stephen King Day in town. And every year on that day the moon turns red.*

*Not really, but god, can you imagine?

Thanks to author Justin Taylor for the tip!


3.) It’s literally in the middle of nowhere.

The town’s tourist videos tout that it’s only 120 miles north of El Paso and only 150 miles south of Albuquerque. i.e. in the middle of nowhere. (It’s also about 150 miles west of Roswell, but they don’t mention that...)


4.) The gravestones face the wrong way.

This observation comes courtesy of Tor.com guest blogger Allegra Frazier, who visited the town a few years back and found it to be like most other small towns... aside from its weird graveyards.

Cemetary tombstones usually face outwards, with the writing on them facing an access road or path. This placing is so ubiquitous, so common, that you don’t notice this until you drive through a cemetery where all the tombstones have their back to you.

Truth or Consequences is a Real Place. A Real, Weird Place.

The dead deny you in Truth or Consequences, but even that shivery detail pales against the final thing we found....


5.) This is where you can find America’s first and only spaceport.

Virgin Galactic began constructing Spaceport America 30 miles outside of town back in 2006 and recently completed all major construction. There have been 9 sub-orbital test launches done at the site so far and Virgin president Richard Branson is hopeful that 2012 will see the launch of the first civilian space flight from the facility.

Truth or Consequences is a Real Place. A Real, Weird Place.

The site was chosen due to the relatively stable and dry weather and lack of air traffic over the area. (And not because Truth or Consequences is seemingly a magnet for weird things.) We suppose that the long drive there is no barrier to space travelers. If you can afford to go into space, you can afford to go anywhere....


But that’s not even everything. We didn’t even get into how the town has been used to test geothermal energy models. Or how two separate professional wrestling personas embodied by one man call this town home! So... weird name, spaceport, healing spas, dead that don’t behave, a thumbs up from Stephen King... all in a place where no one can reach you for hours if anything should go wrong? We are so going there.

Stubby the Rocket is the mascot of Tor.com and is now offering sub-orbital flights starting at a flat $1 million a seat. Please send all your money directly to Stubby and don’t mention this to anyone else.

Zachary Hilgers
2. Zachary Hilgers
Regarding the Stephen King section above, Dark Tower afficionados will not fail to recognize the significance of the date of Sai Stephen King Day in ToC!
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
See, weirdness continues, the comments start at 2.
A.J. Bobo
4. Daedylus
The "middle of nowhere" comment is almost spot-on. I lived for a little while in Hatch, New Mexico - about 40 miles south of Truth or Consequences. Things may have changed in the last 13 years or so, but at the time the nearest stoplight was in T or C - 40 miles away. The nearest McDonalds was also in T or C - 41 miles away. Of course, I have no idea where the next nearest one was after that. I guess when you live in that part of New Mexico and T or C is the closest civilization then you are way off the beaten path.

They hadn't built the space port when I was there. That's cool. And not at all surprising.
Ian Tregillis
5. ITregillis
Two of my friends worked on the archaeological survey carried out prior to the expansion of the runway at the space port (my friend Jim was actually the lead archaeologist on that work).

I like to mention this as often as possible, just because it's fun to use the phrases "archaeological survey" and "space port" in the same sentence without talking about science fiction. It's very New Mexico-y to do so.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
6. tnh
Shalter @3: (cue theremin music)

Ian Tregillis @5: That is indeed a New Mexico thing. So is scenery that could be used unmodified for a TV episode where they land on an alien planet.

If you ever drive across Staten Island on the freeway, you may spot small blue-and-white signs directing you to the Teleport. Don't get your hopes up. It's just a corporate communications facility. Those signs have been an occasion of disappointment for every SF reader who's seen them.
Zachary Hilgers
7. tushar
the two pro-wrestlers. Are they both called La Parka?
Zachary Hilgers
8. a1ay
See, weirdness continues, the comments start at 2.

There is a comment 1, my friend, but the human mind is incapable of correlating its contents.
Paige Vest
9. paigevest
I'm curious as to whether you happened upon the name of the town whilst addressing the packages you sent to me containing my Memory of Light backpack and books, which I received yesterday.

Also, super excited that you wrote an article (albeit a 'weird' one) about my town!
Zachary Hilgers
10. TylerNM
Don't forget the "Toybox" killer is from Truth or Consequences.

"The investigation began ... when one of Ray's neighbors saw a woman naked and bloody on a road..."
Zachary Hilgers
11. Z
How about the resavoir that is near the town called elephant butte is welled up ontop of an old town and when the water is receeding you can see the top of the old hospital . It was also home to David Parker Ray or the Toy Box Killer. and the belife is that he killed more than 60 people and the bodies were dumped in the lake. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Zachary Hilgers
12. Iowa
don't forget it was the home of David Parker Ray, the Toy-Box killer
Paige Vest
13. paigevest
Oooh, also.... at the end of your post you say, "We are so going there."

When you do, you MUST LET ME KNOW! I would love to give you the dime tour and buy you lunch and/or dinner!

~Paige from (Truth or Consequences) New Mexico
Zachary Hilgers
14. anon a miss
don't forget the packs of wild dogs that roam the hot water district -- or the woman who was mauled to death on a Sunday Afternoon by a pit bull and NO ONE bothered to help her despite her cries for help

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