Originally Published October 8, 2010
What is it that automatically makes us think of ghosts when October comes around? Is it the shortening days, the changing of the leaves, even the first snowfalls? Is it centuries of superstition and belief that the “veil” between worlds gets thinner the closer we get to October 31st, allowing the spirits free reign in our world? Is it the belief in Samhain, the ancient’s new year, signifying the death and rebirth of the year?
Whatever it is, this is the time of year we love to hear the ghost stories and mysteries of the area when the days get shorter, the nights get colder- and Colorado is full of them. Since before the first explorers came to Colorado, the Ute, and Arapahoe who lived in and passed through what would later become Colorado has sacred spots they went to, and spots they avoided because of the bad spirits who lived there. The land itself holds mysteries in its plains and canyons, its mountains and valleys. The vanishing of the Anasasi, leaving behind their cliff homes, their garden terraces, even their dead buried in caves and crevices.
The territory was scouted, settlers came and gold and silver were discovered. Towns sprouted up overnight, and disappeared just as quickly, often leaving nothing behind of themselves but an annotation on a map as the buildings were dismantled so they wood could be used elsewhere. Railway towns, mining towns, the forts – each has its share of ghost stories from the eastern plains, across the divide and on the western slope. The buildings themselves whole countless tales in the cities, as they have gone through many incarnations as businesses, boarding houses, gambling halls, private homes and now, museums.
Most of the ghost tales of Colorado spring from the Victorian era – a time of turbulence throughout the state as it grew, became a state, and settled into what it mainly is now. The 1860s through the turn of the century was ripe for tales of the macabre, unusual, silly and even romantic. But why were these so popular then?
Victorians were inordinately found of spiritualism; contacting ghosts and having séances was almost seen as a must for social gatherings. Having a ghost in your home was prestigious even if it was also scary. The belief was high, and restless spirits were seen everywhere. It got so bad at the height of the craze that in the 1880s, the Rocky Mountain News refused to print any more ghost stories. Just like other places in Colorado, a number of these “ghosts” settled themselves and went away, or were disproven. But many of the more famous haunted spots still exist, and in a number of them, people still experience the unexplainable.
From the former site of City Cemetery in Denver, to Cheeseman Park, to the mansions and homes of the elite area of Denver, out to the plains and the town of Julesburg, the banks of Big Sandy Creek, to the mines and railroads and towns of the mountains, into South Park, and over to Gunnison and Grand Junction – and all places in between – we’ll explore the haunted towns, canyons, and mines. I’ll tell you about the ghost trains (yes, we have more than one) Colorado’s own headless horseman, and popular and less well know stories of haunting.
I cannot promise any of the stories are true, but the places most certainly are, and all are part of the grand history of Colorado.
Are you ready to be spooked? Then let’s go.