Tag Archives: Colorado ghost stories

Ghosts and Goblins of Colorado

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Ghost

When we of the living world think of ghosts, our minds naturally conjure up visions of some ethereal figure in an old-fashioned costume. Colorado is rife with tales of such sightings, along with a handful of psychics who have met a misty apparition or two themselves. More often than not, the ghostly subjects of today seem to date to just a century or so ago. But what of those people from the Victorian era itself? Were they not safe from the perils of witnessing supernatural phenomena? Indeed they weren’t.

For over a hundred years and then some, Coloradans have had the same fascination with the afterlife as their descendants. In a time before medicine and safety, death was all too frequently a visitor in many a household. Funerals were an everyday part of Victorian life, and their ceremonies were carried out with vigor. Robert Latta, a visitor to Cripple Creek at the turn of the century, recalled seeing a funeral procession making the rounds of the local bars. The parade was led by a brass brand playing “There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”. The transparent participants laughed and danced their way through every saloon along Bennett Avenue, stopping at each one for a drink and a toast. “They were ‘celebrating’ the funeral of one of their friends,” Latta remembered, “and were carrying his coffin with them. It was the noisiest funeral party I ever saw.”

Naturally not every death was taken so lightly, especially if the deceased decided not to remain so. In 1894, a miner was killed by an explosion at the Mamie R. Mine in the Cripple Creek District. A few nights later, several of the dead man’s co-workers watched in horror as their comrade suddenly rang the bell and disembarked from the hoist bucket alone. Slinging his bloody and shredded arm over his shoulder, the ghostly miner smiled at the men before ambling off into the night. The chilling tale would be repeated around the district for years, followed by new stories as they developed in Victorian imaginations.

Another time in Cripple Creek, a gentleman claimed to have seen a funeral procession on the edge of Mt. Pisgah Cemetery. Upon arriving at the graveyard, however, the man saw no sign of a funeral gathering. Further checking confirmed there were no funerals taking place that day. With the number of clairvoyants calling Cripple Creek home, it is no wonder such stories and their frightful counterparts began appearing out of nowhere.

Cripple Creek was not the only place to suffer such eerie events. Many of Colorado’s first ghost stories date back to the early 1800’s and before. As early as 1832, for instance, a ghost known as John Fagan was terrorizing travelers between Denver and Bent’s Fort. One day in 1879, the Central City Daily Register reported on a miner who arrived at the bottom of a local mine shaft and found the dead body of another miner. The man put the body in the hoist bucket, only to have it arrive up top empty.

That same year, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News printed the story of a recently built house in which no one could live. The newspaper hired a reporter to spend the night in the house. During the course of his stay, the reporter was visited by the ghost of a young woman who claimed her murdered body was interred with the walls. An investigation revealed the girl’s body, just where she said it would be.

In 1881, Dr. Hartmann of Georgetown wrote of a seance at which he and his spiritualist friends summoned dead loved ones and attempted to grab a ghost. Six years later, a visitor to Breckenridge suffered repercussions from drinking from a spring haunted by an Indian maiden who died in captivity. And in 1889, engineers along the Rio Grande Railroad were chased by a phantom train over Marshall Pass. This time, the apparition at the helm of the ghost train left a chilling message written in the frost of the other train’s window: “Years ago a frate train was recked as yu saw—now that yu saw it, we will never make another run. The enjine was not ounder cantrol and four sexshun men wore killed. If yu ever ran on this road again yu will be recked.”

By 1890, folks all over the state were having more supernatural experiences than ever before. A 70 year old man claimed to have received a letter from his dead daughter. In March of 1892, prospectors were spotting an ethereal dragon near Gray’s Peak. Later that year, three prisoners escaped from the Gunnison jail after a phantom set them free. A seven foot ghost was spotted at a station house in Lafayette in 1893. And in 1894, a lengthy conversation between a spirit and mediums cleansed a Denver house for occupancy.

It is true that many of these early tales were probably explainable, such as blaming an inept jailer or real estate shark. Other stories make one wonder as well, such as the 1887 report of a prostitute who went straight after seeing the ghost of her mother. Prostitutes seemed, as always, to be of particular interest to ghost seekers. There is the story of two men who resolved to capture the ghost of harlot Lizzie Greer for loitering near a Dissecting Room in Denver (physicians could sell the indigent deceased to a dissecting room for experiments, thereby covering their own costs). In 1886, Annie “Dutch Annie” Busch’s spirit was hanging around the city jail long after she did herself in at the end of a rope.

It is interesting to note that of all the ghost stories from the past, none seem to survive today except in the annals of the newspapers from whence they came. Have the lost souls found peace and moved on with time? Or did they ever really exist to begin with? In the end it doesn’t really matter; ghost stories are among the best of all stories, true or not. Even so, the prospect of ghosts haunting the earth for centuries leaves one final question: If a live person who once saw a ghost is deceased, does that ghost still see ghosts?

Ghost Stories from Victor, Colorado

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

A reckless day once passed through the streets of Victor, once a booming mining town high on the backside of Pikes Peak. It was a time before flu and polio vaccinations, a time when the chilling fingers of winter easily wrapped themselves around one’s neck. It was a time when teams of horses trod down the streets careless of pedestrians. When miners in deep shafts sometimes forgot to holler before a blast of dynamite went off. Dangers lurked menacingly around every corner, exercising no prejudice for those who fell victim.

When Victor settled into silent submission for a number of decades in the early 1900’s, the past was somewhat forgotten as folks died or moved away. Among those who stayed, a condescending smile surely passed over their faces as newcomers arrived as the tourism era began some years ago. Visitors drank in the town’s ethereal charm and yearned to hear stories of what they had missed. For while the physical population of Victor had dwindled, more than one spirit arose to meet new generations. Many bewailed a tragic or bewildering past while others simply drifted about, here one moment and gone the next. A handful of new stories soon mixed with the old, weaving an unseen pattern into the fascinating fabric that is now Victor.

It is hard to say which story of Victor’s afterlife is most fascinating. Hardly a building in Victor, it seems, is without its share of eerie noises, fleeting shadows and apparitions. Most of Victor’s prominent buildings—the former high school, the Gold Coin Club, the Victor Hotel and a healthy handful of downtown business blocks—claim some spirit or another. As almost any resident, regular visitor or others who carry on a love affair with this charming town will tell you, ghost stories are many in Victor. Some have been passed down for generations, but the restless spirits wafting through the buildings and down the streets seem to have increased in time with the growing population over the last several years.

Some of the tales are no more than passing folklore, such as that of the petrified remains of a cat which were once found at the District Museum in nearby Cripple Creek and somehow found their way to the Victor Lowell-Thomas Museum. One time curator Mike Moore always claimed the cat became “unhappy” when Cripple Creek legalized gambling over twenty years ago, and somehow spirited its boney little body over to Victor. Thankfully, the mummified beast no longer appears in the upper story windows of either museum.

Other stories bear more explanation, including the likeness of a man who occasionally appears in an upstairs window of the Miner’s Union Hall. Most tragically, that building burned this last summer but the front facade remains intact as preservationists scramble to save what is left. No reports have surfaced, however, as to whether the man still appears.

Stories of the ghost of Eddie McDermott at the Victor Hotel are much more solid. For years the hotel was the finest in Victor and once sported a bar where the said Eddie liked to drink. As the mines around Victor slowed, the hotel became a semi-permanent home for miners like Eddie, who inhabited Room 301. When the historic hotel was first restored to its former glory in 1993, an increasing number of guests began complaining of a man who was hanging around Room 301. Former manager Bill Kemp once recalled a geology professor who said he was repeatedly awakened by the vision of an elderly man wrapping on the radiator. Around the same time, a woman reported seeing the same man fiddling with the knobs in the elevator. Both guests described their visitor as an older gent wearing a flannel shirt, old jeans and a baseball cap.

Yes, Victor’s main drag fairly brims with an unseen population. Renowned artist Charlie Frizzell once rented a room above the Monarch building, touted as the “finest gentleman’s club west of the Mississippi” when it was built in 1899. Frizzell said he felt some sort of “pressure” in the stairwell, which only subsided after the walls received a new coat of paint. A friend of Frizzell also claimed to have seen the apparition of a woman at his studio apartment. Other lodgers in the time since have reported people walking through empty rooms, the heels of their shoes making a distinct tapping on the floors as they pass by. June Bradley, who owned an exquisite art gallery on the Monarch’s bottom floor for many decades, once said that although she didn’t believe in ghosts, she did occasionally arrive at her shop to find paintings hanging at odd angles or rearranged on the walls.

Likewise the Fortune Club, also once a gambling resort and now a wonderfully nostalgic restaurant, is home to apparitions thought to be former working girls from the upstairs rooms. Two doors up the street is the Headframe Tavern which has served as a bar ever since the building was constructed. The tales in that place run amock, from bottles mysteriously lifting off the shelves and dashing to the floor to a small shadow which enjoys whipping through the place and startling bartenders.

One of Victor’s longtime tales centers on T. F. Dunn’s funeral parlor. Apartments now fill the eleven rooms upstairs, where Mrs. Dunn rented rooms long after her husband’s death. With Mrs. Dunn’s passing, residents of the building began hearing footsteps upstairs. The feeling of being watched is prevalent. Others claim to have seen a woman in black, and one man reported the apparition laughed at him. Still others say they have heard a baby crying. But Mrs. Dunn appears to be a friendly sort, if a bit mischievous. She favors stealing small items from residents and has even been known to tidy up a bit.

Outside of town is Sunnyside Cemetery, home to several more delightfully scary tales. Among them is the rumor that strange lights can occasionally be seen dancing on various tombstones at night. And while Victor remains relatively quiet both day and night, even the silence can prove a little eerie. For in the dead of night, on the random occasion, residents have reported hearing a train. The sound of the engine starts from far away, perhaps following the path of the tracks which once came into town. The noise appears to edge closer to downtown, growing slightly louder before chugging off again into the night. The passengers disembarking are surely members of Victor’s unseen population, destined to spend eternity riding a ghost train to nowhere.

The Miners Union Hall in Victor is pictured here during the tumultuous labor wars of 1903. Most unfortunately the building was severely damaged during a recent fire, leading one to wonder whether the ghostly apparition of a man still appears in an upstairs window.

The Miner’s Union Hall in Victor is pictured here during the tumultuous labor wars of 1903. Most unfortunately the building was severely damaged during a recent fire, leading one to wonder whether the ghostly apparition of a man still appears in an upstairs window.