Owner Van Jacobsen stands inside Adobe Deli. Photograph by Andrew Kornylak.

THE CIRCULAR OUTCROPPING OF LOW STRUCTURES rises against a rolling backdrop of desert wilderness. Here, the fabled Adobe Deli, a rambling steakhouse and saloon, sits at the end of a windswept road 10 dusty miles east of Deming.  

Taxidermy, Old West artifacts, and other peculiar objects fill this place, built from the bones of an old elementary school. It’s easy to glean why a reputation for hauntings persists. The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures even filmed a 2018 episode inside the saloon’s shadowy space.  

On a covered deck outside, I sit across from Van Jacobsen, Adobe Deli’s proprietor since it opened in 1978. Behind us looms a rusted, antique streetcar beside double doors leading into the main building. Jacobsen tells me the local history while soft country songs from outdoor speakers drift around us in the late afternoon.  

“The old Lewis Flats School closed in 1977. It was on the auction block. We put down a bid and got it. The rest is history,” Jacobsen says, then mentions a newspaper article hanging on the wall that reveals rattlesnakes were an issue at the school. “The principal had to go out and check around the area before the kids went out and played.”  

When asked about ghosts, Jacobsen admits he’s not much of a believer. Still, his family and staff swear by unexplained encounters over the years, like hearing the faint sound of an old piano through the house speakers in the saloon while closing up alone late at night. Jacobsen ticks off a few stories he believes may have led to these occurrences, including a death during a dance held for Deming’s centennial celebration in the early 1980s.  

“One of the customers was dancing, had a heart attack, and died,” he says. “But his wife said that night was the best time her husband ever had in his entire life.”  

Today the Adobe Deli is treasured by locals and travelers alike. Jacobsen leads me on a tour past the dining room/saloon, which is nearly full to its limited capacity. Patrons come for the famous rib eyes, giant kebabs, and French onion soup, then hang around for the spooky roadhouse atmosphere.  

I follow him down a long hallway to the rear portion of the building. Past the wine cellar is the cigar lounge, filled with books and animal heads, leading to a second dining area that’s seldom used. Seasoned ghost hunters have indicated that an invisible “portal” to beyond lurks here.  

 Earlier this year, Jacobsen admits, he had an otherworldly experience while making coffee one morning. He dropped a rag over a coffee spill and, upon picking it up, found the words van die stained on the fabric. Nonetheless, after running the Adobe Deli for more than four decades, he remains on the fence as to whether that or any other purported event belongs in an X-File. Besides, he has a business to run and T-bones to grill.

Adobe Deli, 3970 Lewis Flats Road SE, Deming; 575-546-0361.

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