October in Colorado means cooler days and beautiful fall foliage. But this month has a fun, spookier side, with the tricks and treats of Halloween. Take a lantern-lit tour through a cemetery in Glenwood Springs, soak in some horror flicks in Telluride or visit a haunted hotel in Ouray. Here are six spooky activities to get you into the Halloween spirit.
Bizarre Tour of Crime in Boulder
Hear ghost, crime and history stories as the Banjo Billy bus rolls along Boulder’s spookiest haunts. Bus stops include the Hotel Boulderado, Mount St. Gertrude Academy (supposedly haunted by the ghost of Sister Mary Theodore O’Connor) and the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium (the site of the 1966 murder of 20-year-old CU student Elaura Jeanne Jaquette, who was raped and beaten to death in Macky’s west tower). Ghost tours run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October.
Coffin Races in Manitou Springs
The legend of Emma Crawford lives again on Oct. 30 during the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races down Manitou Avenue. Costumed impersonators of Emma, a 19th-century local who was buried in nearby Red Mountain, ride on coffins pulled by teams of “mourners.” Although her coffin washed away years after her burial, she is said to still haunt the mountain town.
Ghosts and Graveyards in Glenwood
Stay at the haunted Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs and try to catch a glimpse of the ghosts. Watch for the murdered chambermaid who appears at night near the Devereux dining room or the ghost of the young girl who died inside the hotel.
For more spooky lore, take a lantern-led tour of Linwood Cemetery, where you’ll hear about Glenwood’s past in graveside tales of John “Doc” Holliday, Kid Curry and other miners and pioneers. Weekend tours begin Oct. 15 through Halloween.
Rocky Horror in Telluride
For three days, horror fans can experience the latest independent horror films in Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House and Nugget Theater. The inaugural Telluride Horror Show, features films, shorts and special programs, as well as gives film-goers a chance to party.
While in town, visit the Telluride Historical Museum, a former miners’ hospital that now is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of patients past.
Ghouls Night Out in Ouray
Wednesdays through Sundays in October, you can take advantage of Ouray’s spooky package for two. Take a haunted tour of Ouray, then enjoy your favorite beverage at the Beaumont Hotel – the alleged home of a murdered young woman’s ghost. After that, you can try to sleep in a comfy room for two at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs. The $139 package includes the trip to Ouray.
Spirits in the Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens was once part of the City Cemetery back in the mid-1800s. Take the Ghosts in the Gardens Tour to hear eyewitness reports from past and present gardens staff about decades of paranormal activity. The night will lead you throughout the gardens and to the old Waring House mansion.
A ghost hunter’s fantasy, Central City harbors bodiless souls around every corner and in many of its historic buildings. The town, founded in 1859 during the Gold Rush, has had its share of fires, floods, disease epidemics and harsh winters, resulting in plenty of untimely deaths. Tragic mining accidents and the inevitable violence of a 19th-century mountain town add to the number of souls who remain restless in this small town and its outlying areas.
Residents aren’t spooked – paranormal activity is an accepted part of living here for most.
“The apartments above what was the original Tollgate Saloon had certain inhabitants and the lights and the water would be turned on and off – and not by the tenants that were living there,” says Marty Fast, director of the Gilpin Historical Society.
She tells of one tenant who “would circle the block a few times. He had left all the lights turned off and he’d come back around down the street and a couple of lights would be turned back on.”
Business owners tell of ghostly pranksters who regularly hide papers and move items, only to return them later to an obvious place. Hotels have one or more rooms where ethereal beings are often spotted or heard. Homeowners laugh about the pros and cons of cohabitating with a spirit.
Mayor Ron Engels speaks candidly about a former owner’s insistence to oversee renovations being done on his historic home. No, this wasn’t someone who had simply moved down the street. The man had passed long ago and was simply hanging around to ensure the job was being done right.
Of course, visiting Central City doesn’t guarantee a ghostly encounter. If you’re actively seeking a supernatural experience, however, there are a few ways to increase your chances while increasing your adrenaline.
Consider visiting two of the town’s landmarks – the Central City Opera House and the Teller House. At the Opera House, the spirit of Mike Dougherty, a miner turned performer, roams backstage when the curtain is down. Don’t be startled to feel a hand on your shoulder – he’s said to be a friendly fellow. Floating orbs and sudden cold spots have been reported, along with footsteps believed to be those of a female patron who departed long ago.
The Teller House, once a grand hotel and famous for its mysterious painting of a woman’s face in the floor’s center, was an esteemed establishment that hosted an assortment of patrons, including President Ulysses S. Grant and wealthy investors. It is thought to still be hosting patrons from its earliest days. Be sure to introduce yourself to Billy Hamilton, once a caretaker there – he has been known to taunt those who refuse. “He regarded it as his home,” says Fast. “After his death, he was there to protect it.”
For a comprehensive tour of the city’s haunts, catch the Creepy Crawl, hosted each fall by the Gilpin County Historic Society. On the walking tour you’ll learn the history of some of the more famous residents while visiting numerous haunted buildings and sites.
And, of course, you must visit the Cemetery District.
At the top of a hill overlooking the town, an array of cemeteries include a Masonic, Catholic and Knights of Pythias, with others intermixed in such close proximity that boundary lines can be difficult to determine. Time and time again visitors report strange happenings, including children peeking out from behind trees, figures standing in the distance watching them before vanishing, unexplained smells and lights, and other hair-prickling activity.
Visit the Masonic cemetery on April 5 or Nov. 1, dates each year when an unidentified young woman is said to appear at the grave of John Cameron, a 28-year-old bachelor who died in 1887, and leaves columbines at the stone’s base. In another part of the Cemetery District lies a woman believed by her fellow townspeople to have been a witch. A green mist is said to hover near her gravestone.
If you’d rather not explore graveyards on your own, the Gilpin Historical Society hosts a Cemetery Crawl each August. Costumed guides lead visitors through the winding paths, stopping along the way at tombstones to hear the history from the graves’ residents themselves. Well, maybe not from the actual occupant. Actors are dressed to represent the deceased and are prepped with in-depth information, sharing “first-hand” stories of their lives and demise in an eerily realistic fashion.
As you pass by you might consider touching the performers’ arms – just to make sure they’re real.
If You Go
Most noted as the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, the historic Stanley Hotel has much more to offer than the motivation for a horror story. Situated in the scenic Estes Park area, The Stanley Hotel is an icon of the Estes Park region, a white beacon against the surrounding Colorado landscape.
The original grandeur of The Stanley has been preserved yet modernized with luxury amenities such as flat screen TVs and pillow-top mattresses. But that doesn’t stop the magnificence of the historic hotel from shining through from the main entry staircase to the remarkable rooms. Hosting famous visitors in close proximity to the neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, the 140-room hotel is just as opulent as when it opened in 1909.
Overlooking the Estes Valley, The Stanley Hotel is home to rooms in the original building as well as the Stanley Lodge. Historic rooms include cozy accommodations and classically styled furnishings, while Deluxe King rooms and Suites are more spacious and afford sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains.
For those more interested in the haunted history of the hotel, a variety of rooms noted for their high paranormal activity are available. From the famous Stephen King Suite 217 to the Ghost Hunter’s favorite 401, the highly sought-after rooms book up fast for some spine-chilling reservations.
The Ghost and History tour is popular on the property, with knowledgeable tour guides leading guests throughout the buildings on the large property. At $15, the tours are informative and enlightening. From the Stephen King stories to Hollywood connections, history buffs and interested guests find gems of knowledge along their journey through time.
Dining is available at Cascades, a Classic Americana Restaurant and Steakhouse. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the tailored cuisine incorporates a farm-to-plate influence. From Rainbow Smoked Trout Dip to Hunter’s Meatloaf, there is something for everyone at the quality dining destination. Make sure to save room for dessert, as the signature Elk Tracks are not to be missed.
A covered patio and patio bar are open during sunny summer months, affording guests stunning views and cool mountain breezes.
Brides-to-be may consider the stunning location for their nuptials, with several areas on property available for both ceremonies and receptions. Large over-the-top services to intimate and classic celebrations, ballrooms to carriage houses with views of the surrounding mountains and a property steeped in history and tradition make for an excellent wedding site able to accommodate large and small festivities alike.
Located 6 miles from Estes Park, outdoor activities play a major role in Colorado culture. Hiking, biking, fishing, and snowshoeing are seasonal activities enjoyed by many of The Stanley’s guests. Whether hearing the bugle of an Elk or stalking Mountain Goats with your camera, the stunning wildlife and natural landscape surrounding The Stanley Hotel can hardly go unnoticed.
Want to take a peek into the future? Resident Psychic Madame Vera provides insights to guests on the property. Appointments can be made through the hotel to reconnect with loved ones, look to the future, or to hear answers for the unexplainable. After a night in one of the haunted rooms or watching The Shining, which plays continuously on the in-house television channel, a soothing visit from the knowing insights of Madame Vera may be in order.
From romantic getaways to historic luxury voyages, The Stanley Hotel of Estes Park is a wonderful stay at 7,500 feet above sea level. With Colorado Resident specials to Ghost Adventure packages, the offerings of The Stanley have something for everyone at this luxury property.
If You Go
The Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park, Colorado, an hour and a half from Denver International Airport. Super Shuttle services run from $40-60 or rental cars are available for a scenic drive through some of Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes to Estes Park.
The Stanley Hotel
333 E. Wonderview Ave
Estes Park, CO 80517
Chad Chisholm (www.creationize.com) is a Denver-based travel writer and photographer, his work is featured in AAA EnCompass, JustLuxe, Denver Life Magazine, Colorado Expression, Denver Post and various other outlets.
Photos courtesy of Stanley Hotel.
Murders, suicide pacts, massacres and lynchings are usually the stuff of horror films, but forget Hollywood; these morbid events make up the darker side of Boulder’s history and are said to have left behind a town full of ghosts.
John Georgis, aka Banjo Billy, regales crowds with the stories of those ghosts on his one-of-a-kind bus tours, via a 1994 school bus that he refurbished into a Hillbilly shack on wheels. With Halloween just around the corner, now is the perfect time to jump on the shack and be terrified, horrified and tremendously amused by Banjo Billy and his Ghosts of Boulder Tour.
I joined the tour on a cold, gray, drizzly Sunday afternoon — the perfect day for a ghost tour. When I saw the bus parked in front of the Hotel Boulderado, the departure point for the tours, I couldn’t help but laugh. There it sat in all of its Hillbilly glory with a pitched tin roof and wood-paneled sides. I knew I was in for an entertaining ride.
After a warm welcome from Banjo Billy himself, I settled into an overstuffed plaid armchair at the front of the bus, “the best seat in the house,” according to Georgis. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house, though. Georgis has removed all but a few of the original bus benches and replaced them with comfy vintage armchairs and several horse saddles, adding to the hominess of the bus.
Georgis got the tour rolling with the story of three suicides, all committed in the same room at the Hotel Boulderado. From there, the bus traveled down Pearl Street, making stops at several historic homes, each with its own bit of history and haunting ghost story. The tour also made stops at Boulder Creek, the Boulder History Museum, the Boulder Theater and Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus, where a gruesome murder was committed in the 1960s.
We listened as Georgis told us about a disgruntled 46-year-old Boy Scout’s ghost; the ghost who warned a new homeowner to “Get out!” and the ghost of a wrongly hanged man seen swinging from the trees by Boulder Creek. Throughout the tour, Georgis entertained us with tidbits of history and personal anecdotes, including how he became known as Banjo Billy.
“I got tired of working for a living,” he joked. He said traveling through Europe, largely by bus, inspired him to start his own business offering bus tours of Boulder, “Colorado style.” In 2005, he quit the corporate world, bought a used school bus on eBay and serendipitously met a welder/engineer who helped him convert his newly purchased school bus into what he thought would look like a log cabin, but instead manifested itself as a Hillbilly shack. The logs that Georgis wanted to put on the sides of the bus turned out to be too heavy, so he used an old wooden fence instead. After the work was complete, a friend said, “I’ve got bad news for you, John. This doesn’t look like a log cabin; it looks more like a Hillbilly shack. Are you Banjo Billy?” And Banjo Billy’s Bus Tours was born.
Georgis didn’t miss a beat during the 90-minute tour, keeping the crowd amused with his charismatic personality, infectious laugh and captivating stories. He even kept the toddler on board interested, which is no easy feat.
By the end of the tour, I think everyone on board was looking for a ghost to appear at the window of any given building or house. That’s the power of Banjo Billy’s ghost tours.
If You Go
Ghosts of Boulder Tours start, Fridays at 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 4 p.m.
Adults, $20; seniors, $16; children (5-12). $10; children under 5, free. Banjo Billy also gives Ghost, Crime & History Tours of Boulder on the weekends; see website for a complete schedule.
Lindsay Wilson is a contributing writer for goColorado.com.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.
“There is probably a no more evil, haunted and mischievous structure existing in this town,” Goodstein says. “Virtually from the time it opened in 1894, strange things have happened in this building.”
Apparitions abound at the Capitol, Goodstein advises. Some, for example, have seen ectoplasmic prospectors standing by Capitol downspouts during rainstorms, panning for flakes from the building’s golden dome. Inside, late-working legislators sometimes glimpse an elderly matron staring at them with absolute contempt, her vehement visage undetected by unelected companions. Most frightful of all, says Goodstein, are the floating heads.
It began in the 1860s when Felipe Espinosa and a cousin committed acts of murder and mayhem in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. One intended victim, territorial governor John Evans, reacted by placing a bounty on the banditos’ heads. Mountain man Tom Tobin, apparently taking the offer literally, delivered the pair’s severed noggins to Evans personally. The grateful governor preserved the heads in alcohol-filled specimen jars. Eventually, the Colorado Historical Society took possession of the pickled pates, which they soon lost in the catacomb-like maze of tunnels that lies beneath the capitol. The corpseless craniums have never resurfaced.
“When conditions at the Capitol get intense, people down in the tunnels will get an eerie feeling that something is looking over their shoulder,” Goodstein says. “Sometimes both shoulders.”
Goodstein, a Brillo-bearded Ph.D., doesn’t take himself too seriously, and listeners are left to separate facts from farce. While the Denver native has taught serious history at Metro State and written at least nine books about the city’s past, he has also taught Denver and Colorado Free University classes on less-staid topics such as “The Pedestrian as a Hunted Animal.” The walking tour business, he claims, came as an accident.
“One beautiful evening, I decided to go for a stroll. I was walking down Colfax backward, wildly waving my arms and talking to myself. People started following me around. On that basis, I figured I might as well give walking tours.”
Rather than espouse sanitized, Chamber-of-Commerce versions of Denver’s past, Goodstein focuses on scandals and the scandalous. Fortunately, parents of the pre-teens with us realize his sometimes seamy topics might warrant PG-13 ratings.
We stop at Grant Street and East Colfax Avenue, where a peeling Hotel Newhouse sign juts from a three-story brick building. This, Goodstein tells us, is the haunt of a young, vivacious ghost named Deborah. Often clad in short shorts and skimpy top, the alluring waif of a wraith loves to lure men to her room. The would-be Lotharios later awaken in a parking lot or back alley, discovering that both Deborah and their wallets have disappeared into the ether.
At the Denver City and County Building on Bannock Street, Goodstein tells the tale of George, a mischievous ghost who breaks into offices where he shuffles papers and moves files. If there is something present that shouldn’t be, he will remove it. Some, Goodstein claims, think the specter is the spirit of George Begole, the city’s penny-pinching mayor from the early ’30s. This skinflint was allegedly so tight, he chastised employees for having too many paperclips in their possession.
Not all of Capitol Hill’s ghouls and goblins bear only two legs. According to Goodstein, there is at least one four-hoofed phantasm chewing its cud on Capitol Hill.
It lives in the block bounded by Broadway and Lincoln Street and East 16th and Colfax avenues, which was once owned by Walter Scott Cheesman. The tycoon came to Denver in 1861 to open an apothecary and wound up possessing railroads, banks, mines and utilities. Like most men of means, he hated paying taxes.
Cheesman wanted this downtown parcel to remain vacant so nothing would block the view from his front porch across the street. To avoid paying prime property taxes, the Mile High millionaire had the block assessed as undeveloped agricultural grazing land. To prove he wasn’t cheating the public, he put a cow on it.
“People are convinced the ghost of the bovine is still present,” says Goodstein. “Folks waiting for a bus at Colfax and Broadway after midnight sometimes suddenly smell barnyard odors and hear mournful mooing.”
We troop north across Colfax, admiring Goodstein’s spooky ability to see walk/don’t walk signs change while looking in the opposite direction. Striding backward, the man never misses a word.
At the Wells Fargo Bank’s “Cash Register” building at East 17th Avenue and Lincoln Street, Goodstein relates how workers have felt ghostly sways, seen lights unaccountably flicker and discovered locks suddenly springing open. More haunted happenings occur at the former El Jebel Shrine building at East 18th Avenue and Sherman Street, where janitors and night watchmen feel fez-wearing Shriners staring from the walls.
Across the street at East 18th Avenue and Grant Street rises the Warwick Hotel. In the late 1960s, the local Playboy Club occupied the building’s penthouse floor. One of its bunnies died in a drug deal gone wrong, and Goodstein claims that today’s penthouse guests sometimes glimpse the specter of the irate playmate out looking for revenge.
Nearby, between Grant and Logan streets on East 18th Avenue stands the Cooper Flats condominiums where in the late ’60s, a young couple from Louisiana resided. Goodstein tells how one September evening the drug-loving husband ingested four times the normal dose of LSD. When his psychedelic flight eventually landed, the man found his innocent spouse dead in the bed, five bullet holes piercing her back. The wraith of the murdered wife apparently still occupies the renovated condominiums.
“The Rocky Mountain News did a very nice feature on one of my books, and they needed a picture of me,” explains Goodstein. “The photographer told me he lived in Cooper Flats, so I told him the story about the homicide.
“‘Maybe that explains it, the photographer said.’ As long as he did his darkroom duties at the News office, his pictures turned out fine. When he tried to process pictures at Cooper Flats, there’d be strange blemishes on the images. Even after going digital, he got the same bizarre blotches.”
We pass Temple Emanuel at East 16th Avenue and Pearl Street, which is probably haunted by a rabbi who hated dancing. At the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on East Colfax Avenue at Logan Street, a ghost named Clarence purportedly shows up at the most solemn of services and occasions. The Shuey building south of Colfax on Pennsylvania Street, once Denver’s bastion of liberal organizations, may now be haunted by hippie hobgoblins wearing earthly flowers in their ethereal hair. Across the street, Goodstein claims a chilling presence in an 1870-vintage office dwelling drove Wellington Webb and the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce to find a new headquarters.
On East 14th Avenue between Pennsylvania and Logan streets, we stop outside the Acacia Apartments. Built in 1922, the brick complex first served as an elite residential hotel often used by legislators. One of them, an elected sin-fighter from Mancos, rented apartment 111. On a surprise visit to Denver, the man’s missus discovered the moralist had a mistress.
Irate, the woman gave her cheating hubby a choice – leave the legislature or be exposed as a fraud. When the man dutifully dumped his paramour and returned home, the jilted girlfriend became distraught, filled the room’s bathtub with water and slit her wrists.
“Ever since then, residents of unit 111 will hear the tub gurgling late at night,” claims Goodstein. “For years people got a special break on the rent for sharing the apartment with a ghost.”
Continuing up Logan Street past East 13th Avenue, we pass the Denver Women’s Press Club, which occupies a friendly-looking brick home once owned by artist George Elbert Burr. Naturally, the structure is haunted, but in a nice way.
“People go in and feel this very warm, encouraging spirit,” explains Goodstein. “A member will have terrible writer’s block. She’ll go in and let the spirit of inspiration take charge. Suddenly she’s winning awards.”
I suspect this information comes secondhand to Goodstein. I doubt this arm-flailing, backward-walking, nonstop-talking source of haunted history and humor has ever suffered from writer’s block.
If You Go
Contact Leonard Leonard and Associates (303-333-1095, www.leonardleonard.com/neighborhoods/walkingtours.shtml) for information about Goodstein’s upcoming tours. The Capitol Hill Ghost Walk costs $15 per person.
Dan Leeth is a freelance writer who lives in Aurora. Visit his website, lookingfortheworld.com.