Black Jack Ketchum


Thomas Edward “Black Jack” Ketchum (1863-1901)

Born in San Saba County, Texas on Halloween 1863, Tom Edward Ketchum, known as Black Jack, started out life as a cowboy.  Both of his parents died while Black Jack was just a child, leaving him and his siblings to fend for themselves. He and his brother Sam later turned to a life of crime.  The Ketchum Gang was pretty well known at many of the dances, social functions and saloons in northeast New Mexico. They partied, drank, flashed money, generally had a great time. They worked on quite a few of the large ranches around the area but would quit and steal supplies as they left.  When they stole from the Bell Ranch, near present-day Tucumcari, a large posse was sent after them as they fled. They rode to the Pecos River, where a gun battle ensued, leaving most of the posse dead.  From here, they went to Arizona where they teamed up and rode with Butch Cassidy for a time.

They eventually returned to New Mexico and developed a favorite area for train robbing: the stretch of tracks between Folsom and Des Moines. They robbed a great many trains in this area.

In July of 1899, the gang attempted another robbery, without the help of Black Jack. Several men, including Sam, were injured in the resulting chase, along with Sheriff Edward Far, who was killed.  Sam was eventually taken into custody, but he developed gangrene from his gunshot wound and died on July 24.


Black Jack had no idea this had happened and made a final attempt at a solitary train robbery in mid August. His plans were doomed, as he miscalculated the stopping point of the train. The conductor had been held up before and was not about to have it happen again. He grabbed a shotgun and fired, hitting Black Jack in the elbow, nearly severing his arm. This injury and his inability to mount his horse, eventually lead to his capture. He gave a false name and was taken to Trinidad, Colorado. While in custody, doctors amputated his arm.

Once he was able to safely travel, he was transferred to Clayton to stand trial. He plead innocent, but the judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging.

His story does not exactly end with that.  His hanging was actually delayed several times until the local law heard rumors that the old gang was coming to set Black Jack free. The hanging was eventually scheduled for April 26, 1901. The Clayton stores closed, saloons were open at 8AM, people from far and wide came to watch the big event. Tickets were sold, as were small stick figure dolls of Black Jack hanging on a stick!

But, the town of Clayton had no experience in hanging men – so the length of rope needed was miscalculated.  While Black Jack stood on the scaffold, with the lawmen adjusting his hood, he was reported to have stated: ‘Hurry up boys, get this over with.’

Two blows from a hatchet and the rope was cut – Black Jack fell through the hole in the scaffold. The night before, lawmen had tested the rope with a sandbag but forgot to remove it from the end of the rope. When Black Jack fell, the sandbag caused the rope to become taut – rigid as a wire.  Poor Black Jack was immediately decapitated. They say the black hood, that had been pinned to his shirt, was the only thing that kept his head from rolling away. The Coroner pronounced him dead and sewed his head back on his torso.  In the 1930’s, his body was moved to the Clayton Cemetery, where he still remains today.


‘Interestingly enough, Black Jack Ketchum was the only person ever hanged in Union County, New Mexico. He was also the only person who suffered capital punishment for the offence of “felonious assault upon a railway train” in the State of New Mexico.  Later, the law was found to be unconstitutional, but way too late for Thomas Ketchum. According to the Annals of American Jurisprudence at the time, he was the only criminal decapitated during a judicial hanging in the U.S. The only other recorded example was in England in 1601. Later, the same thing occurred at the hanging of one Eva Dugan at the Pinal County, Arizona prison in 1930.’  (


Using Black Jack Ketchum graveyard dirt.

As most of you know, right now, all orders placed on our website receive a small lagniappe gift: a small vial of graveyard dirt of Black Jack Ketchum.

I realize that many of you may not have used graveyard dirts before or may not have used a dirt from someone of this nature.

Yes, Black Jack was an outlaw – a pretty well-known outlaw legend, actually. He robbed trains, shot men, ran from the law, gambled, drank, and likely lead a life filled with some debauchery.  Nevertheless, men from this error were tough – tough as nails. They knew hardships, they knew struggles and they knew how to get shit done when it seemed no possible way. They did not understand the word ‘no’ or the phrase, “I can’t” – it didn’t exist for them.

Black Jack should be approached with respect – Regardless of how you view the lifestyle he led. A little respect will go an exceptionally long way with him. Be honest in your requests. Be straight – do not beat around the bush and do not lie to him about your goals. He values honesty – and remember, he will not judge you. He cares little for the how’s that you live your life by. He is more focused on the why’s.

His graveyard dirt is always hand collected by myself – usually in the evenings. That is a favorite time of his.  Mr. Kelly and Jack have a good relationship. There are some folks in the area that place small tokens upon his grave, that are designed to keep him ‘trapped’ or under containment. Kelly always finds them and removes them. Black Jack breaths a sigh of relief and thanks him.  He laughs at me and calls me ‘Little Girl’ – when I try to collect his dirt and am facing into the wind so it blows on me.  He gets quite a laugh at the way I chaotically do things. But we have both worked with him for quite a number of years and he is amazing!  I can tell you – even considering the times and the nature of man’s way of thinking – he cares little for what your background, race or creed is.  Remember, he was an outcast and lived on the fringe of society, by choice. Outcasts rarely judged anyone, even those that were different from themselves.  I bring this up here because I have had one or two customers ask about their background – primarily African American, or Hispanic, if he will work with them.  Absolutely he will.  He actual words to us about this: ‘a deal is a deal’ – meaning that if respected and treated fairly (and not judged), then he will give the same in return. So do not fear him, or fear working with him.

I keep some of his dirt in a nice bottle on my altar.  It’s an altar piece – and I pull it out when I need his energies.  Rarely do I have to actually use the dirt – but I have a time or two . . . when push comes to shove and I need a very heavy hand in some revenge or protection work, I will use a little of his dirt.  But for the most part, it’s the energies I enjoy and see the best results with.  Give him offerings – he like tobacco, whiskey, water, milk and coins.  Play him some music from time to time. If you play an instrument, this is even better.  If you are female, dance around for him – just a twirl or two.  Remember the times – the women were bold, too!

Ask him for what you seek his help with.  When the working is over, thank him, then let him rest. Basically, do not go to him for every little thing.  Remember that these types of men took care of business – but he is going to want you to take care of your own business. Only call on him when you truly need him – otherwise, he will sit quietly and let you figure it out for yourself . . . do not over wear your welcome with him.  He will help you, loves, but only when everything else has been done to fix your situation.

Some uses of his energies:

Strong Protection works – after you have formed a connection with him. This can be for self (sachets/mojos), home (sprinkled around the house), or family.

Serious revenge – once you have given him offerings a few times, he will exact some serious revenge upon your enemies – without question. But he will not do this just for fun – you need to have good reason and stand behind those convictions. Once you set this in motion, there won’t be any pulling him back – so do not ask – do not change your mind.

Law Keep Away work

Justice work / Court Work

Keeping things hidden from others (secrets)

Money – remember, he was all about the bank robbing

Love – can be used to quickly end a relationship – tell Black Jack to move the other person on down the road – they are ‘dead’ to you!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and ask myself or Mr. Kelly.  Always happy to help!



One response to “Black Jack Ketchum”

  1. Gloria Vargas Avatar
    Gloria Vargas

    Great read!!! Thank you… I never knew about Black Jack, but he sounds so interesting!


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