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.