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.
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.
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.
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.