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Haunted locations to visit in Denver and Colorado this Halloween, but stay away from the ouija board

(c) copyright 2010, Richard R. Blake

Halloween is coming and there are plenty of real haunted places to visit in Denver and elsewhere in Colorado.  A few of these are Cheesman Park in Denver, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, some lesser known old hotels in South Park, the mysterious San Luis Valley and if your Halloween extends beyond the earthly paranormal, U.S. Highway 285, the real UFO highway.   But be warned, the ouija board is no toy.  The experiences of Coloradoans and others demonstrate that playing with it is akin to sticking ones hands in muddy waters that contain both goldfish and piranha. 

As a security guard working in Denver, I heard stories of many haunted locations in Denver.  According to one security guard I knew a well-known very tall skyscraper (one of the two tallest, the name begins with an "R") in downtown has a haunted floor.  The guards there swear that paranormal, poltergeist like activity and a vapor that displayed a human face was captured on surveillance video.  In another case I was told about an old mansion at which few security guards are said last any extended period, but there are many much more famous haunted locations in Denver.
Is, as an article in today's UFO Digest suggests, Denver's Cheesman Park, "one of the most haunted places in Denver?"  It turns out that if any parts of Denver are, in fact, haunted Cheesman Park's history would make it a prime candidate:
The every day exterior of Cheesman Park would seem to suggest just the opposite.  Cheesman is a beautiful park, made all the more beautiful by its unlikely setting in the very densely populated Capitol Hill area.  But, the article goes on, "but if you find a quiet place and just watch and listen...a strange feeling begins to come over you...a feeling that something is just not right....something that makes you feel uneasy."  
Looking back on it I do seem to have gotten such feelings in Cheesman Park at one time or another, although I didn't attribute them to otherworldly influences (insert your own Cheesman Park joke here).  
Seriously, however, it seems that the history of Cheesman Park is sordid indeed.  It seems that Cheesman was built on top of what used to be the City Cemetery.  Worse, it is very likely that not all of the graves were moved to other graveyards.  
In 1858 William Larimer set aside a half section (320 acres) as a cemetery for the rapidly growing city.  He named the cemetery Mount Prospect, reserving hilltop sections for the wealthy and lower sections for the more common folk.  Paupers and criminals were relegated to the outer edges.  
Over time the cemetery was nicknamed "Boot Hill," and the "Old Boneyard," and fell into disuse by most citizens.  By the 1870s the only citizens interred at "Boot Hill" were paupers, criminals and unclaimed bodies.  The cemetery was becoming an eyesore, with tombstones knocked over and even cattle grazing on the grass overlying the graves.  
In the 1890s the City gave a 90 day notice that all bodies had to be removed from the Cemetery. While many bodies were in fact moved, and a contractor (employees of whom were said to be playing catch with skulls) was employed to remove the rest, many bodies were, in fact, never removed.  
It was at that point that workers and nearby residents began to complain of hearing disembodied voices, groans, knocking at doors and windows and even screams, phenomena which the article claims continues to this day.   
I was able to confirm the basic history of Cheesman and even the alleged supernatural activity (sometimes in much greater detail) in the area on a number of other websites including:
and even in Wikipedia, which included a section on Cheesman entitled "A Macabre Early History,",_Denver
All of which makes me wonder why more Halloween parties aren't held at Cheesman.  Wait maybe they are, sometimes its hard to tell.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s I wrote for the Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume newspaper, located in Fairplay (South Park), Colorado. Local residents had told me a number of stories about local ghosts and haunted houses, so I asked my editor if I could do a story on the subject. Being concerned with irate homeowners who might feel that their property values would plummet as a result, the story idea was spiked. That was well before the phenomenon at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.

Stephen King fans might recall that it was a visit to the Stanley Hotel just before it closed for the winter that inspired King to write The Shining. Rather than scare guests away, however, the hotel was instead heavily inundated with reservation requests for a specific room (217) on the second floor that was peripheral to the story. The hotel reacted by switching around all of the room numbers on the second floor, thus insuring that an entire floor, rather than just one room would benefit. So perhaps nowadays owning a house rumored to be haunted might not be such a bad thing.

Far and away the most famous ghost story from South Park is the story of Silverheels, a beautiful dance hall girl for whom the very picturesque mountain (almost but not quite a 14er) to the northwest of Fairplay is named. The legend goes that early in the town's history there was a smallpox epidemic that decimated the population. Silverheels nursed many of the surviving miners back to health, but then mysteriously disappeared. Rumor had it that she had contracted the disfiguring disease herself and had not wanted anyone to see her once beautiful but now scarred face. Some said that she showed up years later, face wrapped in a shawl and lived a hermits existence until the time of her death. Many believe that her ghost can be seen occasionally in the Buckskin Cemetery near Alma.

Many of the other ghost stories have their roots in the early gold rush years of the area. In the town of Alma vigilante justice often prevailed. At an altitude of 10,400 feet there was a saying that "the law don't get this high."

Several times in its early history vigilantes would take an alleged murderer (or perhaps horse thief) to a tree up the hill from town, known only as the Hanging Tree. At one time the tree was marked and there was even a grave underneath the tree. Now both are gone, but there is a feature that makes the Hanging Tree stand out from every other tree in the area. The Hanging Tree presents a very bizarre appearance and seems to be hunched over like an old man, whereas all of the trees around it are straight and tall.

Some South Park businesses even advertise their ghosts. The Fairplay Hotel, for example, not only told any guest who asked about their resident ghost, but even printed ghost stories in their menus. The ghost was rumored to be very friendly.

Another friendly ghost was said to reside in the building which at one time had housed the old hospital. Most thought it was the old doctor who had cared for the areas residents over the years.

Less friendly apparitions are associated with the area's haunted houses. One alleged haunted house in Fairplay, spooked renters who claimed that lights would turn on by themselves in the middle of the night. There was also a room known as the "red room" where no matter how many times it was repainted, the original red color wall would eventually bleed through.

Then there is the story of a once abandoned hotel in Alma. For years it had been rumored to be haunted and so on one Halloween, a number of town residents (mostly described by other locals as the town "hippies") decided to spend Halloween night at the hotel and have everyone drop acid. The story goes that the party was one for the ages but nobody saw anything out of the ordinary or at least that might not have been an acid induced hallucination.

That is, until the morning when they noticed that one of their number was dead with no apparent cause of death.

Because it had been a local tradition that everyone in town had a nickname (a guy nicknamed Crazy Larry by locals almost won an Alma mayoral election as a write-in candidate one year), it was suddenly realized that the poor fellow had died without having been given a nickname.

To make up for that oversight from that day forward he was known as "Old Dead Fred."

Certainly one of my favorite day trips is the trip via US 285, to South Park, Buena Vista, Salida and the San Luis Valley.  In addition to being amazingly gorgeous, the route also cuts across one of the hottest of the UFO "hot spots," in the nation.  

From downtown Denver go south to Hampden Avenue, which turns into US 285 or take 1-70 to W-470 and go south until you come to the US 285 exit and head towards Fairplay.  After a climb through Turkey Creek canyon and some Jefferson County Open Space that includes beautiful old ranches, you come to Conifer, a town that experiences some of the heaviest snows in the Front Range and is the turn-off for Evergreen.  Pine Junction, located on the Jefferson-Park county line, Shaffer's Crossing and Deer Creek proceed Crow Hill, a steep hill that drops down into Bailey, the largest town in Park County.  

From there US 285 follows the South Platte River through Shawnee, Grant and the climb up Kenosha Pass.  The most interesting sight on this part of the trip is the immense statue of Christ, called the Christ of the Rockies, that overlooks a convent and monastery at Santa Maria, between Shawnee and Grant.  

At the top of Kenosha Pass there is a spectacular view of South Park below.  According to "Bayou Salado," the definitive work on South Park, the term Park is derived from the French word "parque," meaning a game preserve.  Another of South Park's early names was Bayou Salado, another French term, which meant salty marsh.  There is one section of South Park to which this term might accurately apply.  That is the area near Salt Creek in the southern part of South Park near the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness.  

As a reporter for the Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume, known more commonly simply as the Flume, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was the first to report on the numerous UFO sightings over the Park.  It seemed like just about everyone in town had seen UFOs at one time or another.  A lot of folks had developed theories as to why the UFOs were present in such numbers.  One of the most common was that the large deposits of uranium in the area were of interest to extraterrestials.  One area just north of Fairplay, known as Reinecker Ridge, was the scene of enough UFO sightings that many locals supposed the area must house some sort of UFO base.  

Some of the very first reports of cattle mutilations came from the US 285 corridor.  Viewers of the animated television show, supposed set in South Park (my children from my first marriage attended South Park Elementary, which in local reaction to the show has been renamed Edith Teeter Elementary), might also remember that the very first episode of the show (Cartman Gets an Anal Probe) dealt with UFO sightings in the area.  

South Park is an altiplano, that is a high altitude plain or plateau, and, except for the passes, is the highest altitude part of US 285.  As the highway goes over Trout Creek Pass and the way to Buena Vista, Salida and the San Luis Valley, the terrain undergoes spectacular changes.  Trout Creek is fed by warm springs and as such is a great fishing spot for Brown Trout particularly.  Descending into the Arkansas River valley from Trout Creek Pass, the majestic Collegiate Peaks, Mts. Harvard, Yale and Princeton loom in the distance.  The contrast is particularly startling because of the precipitous decline in altitude of the valley.  

Tectonically in this area the Arkansas River valley is part of the Rio Grande Rift Valley, an area of continental separation where rock from the earth's mantle is surprisingly close to the surface.  To the south of Buena Vista lies Salida, a town whose mass UFO sightings recently made national news.  The last leg of the trip before 285 crosses the border with New Mexico, is the San Luis Valley, most famous for the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   

Seemingly completely out of place in the high Rocky Mountains, the sand dunes are not only a geological oddity but a good deal of a mystery.  Some dunes are hundreds of feet high and local legend tells of odd creatures that live in the dunes.  Unsurprisingly the dunes are also an area of a good deal more than average UFO sightings.  

One of my favorite towns in the San Luis Valley or anywhere, Del Norte, used to have a motel that included a drive-in theatre so you could sit in your motel room and it was like being in the most comfortable drive-in theatre in the world.  The most memorable movie I ever saw there was Robert Redford's "The Milagro Beanfield War," a movie that was set in an area very similar to the San Luis Valley, just across the New Mexico border.  In 1996, Del Norte was the scene of a series of amazing sightings which have been recounted on quite a few websites over the years.  One of the best is this:

The website
lists the top 300 UFO hotspots in the nation by County.  All of the counties along the US 285 corridor are ranked.  Chaffee County, which includes Buena Vista and Salida gets the lowest ranking at 213, while Park County, the home of South Park ranks quite a bit higher at #16 in the nation.  

Incredibly Alamosa County in the San Luis Valley is the third hottest UFO hotspot county in the nation, while Saguache County, also in the San Luis Valley and not any of the counties of Nevada that include Area 51, ranks as the #1 UFO hotspot in the nation.   

An alleged underground secret government base, which in conspiracy circles at least, is intimately associated with UFOs is just across the New Mexico border in Dulce, New Mexico.   A new posting on a site devoted to the subject claims that on government documents the area is known alternatively as either "Rio Arriba, CO  DSD-3, RIO-AUX or the Rio Arriba Scientific Technological Underground Auxilliary."  According to some conspiracists, the Dulce area is at least as mysterious (and dangerous) as Area 51.  

Of the nearly 80 articles I have done for, only one has ever been deleted.  The title of that article was something like "The Ouija board is real and should be avoided at all costs."  Examiner emailed me that they pulled that article because it was not "on topic."  This seemed rather odd to me in that 1.  I was asked by Examiner to be "Denver City Buzz Examiner,"  I never claimed to have particular or exclusive expertise in that area and 2.  I had previously published quite a few articles that Examiner might have considered "off-topic" including articles on 9/11, the Federal Reserve, Newsweek and Christianity, UFOs in central Colorado and on and on.  I had thought that if i published one article related to Denver for each that did not I would be pretty safe.  I guess that was not the case.  

The author of the Exorcist, William Peter Blatty, stated that he thought it was important to write the Exorcist because if it could be shown that the devil is real, then God must be real as well.  That is not to say, however, that you should attempt to prove the reality of God to yourself by using the Ouija board.  The very real danger to both your physical and mental health are both very real and should never be taken lightly.  

Suffice it to say playing or experimenting with the Ouija board is a little like putting your hands in muddy water where there are both piranhas and goldfish.  The goldfish are harmless but it is not likely that they will be what is attracted to your hands.  

I was specifically inspired to do this article by the experiences of a DENVER based brother and sister.  

To make a very long story short, a brother and sister who were very close to me became bored one evening, somehow obtained a Ouija board and began to play with it.  Before very long the brother became obsessed with the board, and another individual reported that she had once discovered him playing chess against the board.  On a fateful evening when the brother and sister were playing with the board, the brother suddenly screamed, shuddered and told his sister that he was going to kill her.  She ran for her life and locked herself in the bathroom.  He then plunged a knife into the door hard enough that the blade came out the other side.  That attack stopped as suddenly as it began, but other attacks followed.  Eventually the brother was committed to a mental institution, released and is now living on the streets, unable to keep a job or a relationship.   As an update, the brother has once again been arrested and is currently in jail, where he may be for a long time to come.  
Quite a few other Denverites have reported frightening experiences with Ouija boards.  One example is a post by a Native American lady from Denver, calling herself Mia.  Mia reported that while playing with the Ouija board at age 11 she commicated with a spirit who called himself Arthur.  Much of what subsequently occurred Mia has trouble remembering.  According to those around her at the time, she was said to have acted possessed and even her eyes changed color turning from brown to green.  After a baptism, the spirits apparently left but hung around her house, in one case once killing her sister while she was in a crawlspace.  She believes that the spirits made themselves home in the crawlspace and she, her son and husband continued hearing the sound of someone walking around in cowboy boots in the crawlspace.


  • Patton303 4 years ago

    It's not likely that there are bodies in Cheesman park. There ARE bodies in Cheesman Park.
    It's estimated that there are still between 2500 and 5000 bodies that went unclaimed when the Mt. Prospect Cemetery was removed. In 2008 a large assortment of bones was dug up during the construction of the parking garage at the Botanical Gardens. In Cheesman you can still see the depressions of the graves and in the Spring, the grass above the graves turns green before the rest of the grass.

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