Originally Published October 15, 2010
While ghosts haunt nearly every corner, nook and cranny of Colorado, apparently, so do demons and dragons. The most interesting account comes from near Georgetown, up Kearney Gulch, and was the tale of some Irish silver miners, who insisted for the rest of their lives that it was a demon, a dragon, or the devil himself, who occupied a hot spring in that gulch, keeping them from being able to properly mine their claim. Francis Haverty, his cousin, Caley O’Donnelly, brothers Timothy and Martin Killeen, as well as some American born men – Henry Fry and five others.
This demon/dragon/devil was seen by each of the Irish members of the mining party, but never by anyone else. A few members of the party, deciding these men were mad, moved along to other mining sites, and all the fellows with claims nearby never saw the sights these men claimed to have seen. Caley O’Donnelly, going to the creek one morning, saw a black monster of moss and bracken and detritus standing there, threatening him. He ran back to camp and told the others, and three of the men- Francis Haverty, Henry Fry and Caley – went to the creek in the morning; yet all Fry saw was mist and the smell of sulfur, which he told the others, was clearly a sulfur spring. Retreating to Georgetown for the winter, the men were determined to try again coming spring.
When spring arrived, the men returned to the valley, joined by two others, Herman Sprague and T.G. Woods. Caley once again went to the creek, and once again saw the demon he’d seen the fall before. Returning to camp, he told the others – Sprague and Woods laughed, Fry sighed. The next morning, Timothy and Martin Killeen went to the creek, only to be greeted by a much more conventional version of the devil for the time – in a black operas cape and top hat, dressed in a fine suit. Since this was so incongruous with the area, clearly this had to be the devil. Sprague and Woods, having heard enough stories and not seen enough silver, left camp to find another claim of their own. Fry went with them, leaving the party if Irishmen on their own. Convinced this was a demon or the devil himself, the claim was given up and while the men told their tales in Georgetown and the surrounding area, no one believed them. Speculation that the mist was from a hot spring was the explanation. Eventually that gulch was given up by most miners, and if you go up there today, you will find no hint of a hot spring, demon or dragon, just a lovely mountain valley.
But this isn’t the end of the tale…
And here’s where the story gets complicated. According to some sources, it was Georgia Gulch near Grey’s Peak that was another such place supposedly inhabited by a dragon. Of course, the thick forest surrounding the area was popularly known as The Devil’s Den and stories of wild and horrible creatures that inhabited the forest abounded. (Likely these tales were made up by other miners who didn’t want any competition.) Yet at the same time, the story is told that Kearney Gulch is the place known as the Devil’s Den. Either way, the story of fearsome beasts in the area remains the same.
One of these creatures, of course, was a fearsome dragon, to be found by the banks of Cicero Creek, which ran through the forest. A miner named Carroll, walking through the outer edge of these woods one evening at dusk, was startled by a loud noise and a huge dark shape that lifted out of the forest, swooped down and grabbed a cow from a nearby herd and flew off toward Grand Lake, diving into the lake and disappearing under the water.. Carroll rushed to camp and told the story so convincingly, a party of ten men set out to hunt the beast, but found no sign of it after days of searching.
This story was originally found in “Field and Farm”, in the March 19, 1892 edition.
So, do our mountains harbor dragons, does the devil find Clear Creek County a perfect vacation spot? Or did we just have a few miners, driven by superstitions of the Victorian Era, seeing what they thought they might see, through the power of suggestion?