Friday, April 24, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Spruce Lodge

We're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs in our book forthcoming in early June,

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colo. (If you missed the earlier account of our own paranormal investigation at the Spruce, click here.)

* * *
Historical Context
As early as 1874, South Fork was a stop along the Rio Grande for the Barlow and Sanderson Stage Company’s route, carrying passengers headed to more northerly destinations following the Old Spanish Trail. By 1881, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad laid tracks through the town on its way to silver mining areas in the mountains further west. The narrow gauge trains served the local emerging sawmill industry in South Fork, and soon sheep and cattle operations as well as farming developed in the Rio Grande valley surrounding the town.

The Galbreath Tie & Timber Company, which began in the 1880s, built what would become the Spruce
Lodge’s main two-story log structure in the 1920s. The building served as a boarding house for sawmill workers and, except for the hardwood floors, all the wood in the construction comes from locally harvested forests. That mill continued operation until 1999 in what’s now a vacant lot across the highway directly south of the lodge. 

The Spruce later passed into private hands and became a public lodge. It appears on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the National Park Service as a way to coordinate and protect sites with historic and cultural significance.

Although one of the oldest communities in Colorado, South Fork didn’t become an incorporated town until 1992, making it the “youngest” statutory town in the state.

Rob and Dee Plucinski have owned and operated the Spruce Lodge since April 2006.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The original two-story log building provides the setting for paranormal activity at the lodge, and reports occur in virtually every room of both the main floors and the basement – day and night.

Spruce lobby
Even before current owners Rob and Dee took possession of the lodge, the previous owners made it clear to expect paranormal events regularly on the premises. Although skeptical at first, the new owners soon discovered for themselves just how haunted their lodge was, and at all hours. In fact, so much paranormal activity has been reported by the owners, staff, guests, visiting friends and family, and construction workers, we can’t mention it all in this article. 

Below is a summary, with a few particularly intriguing events in more detail.

Plenty of footsteps – sometimes for as long as ten or fifteen minutes at a time – occur throughout the building and even within guestrooms while occupied. Owners and visitors frequently hear voices, groans, sighs, and whispers throughout the main lodge. On separate occasions, owner Rob distinctly heard the same woman whisper in his ear, “Look at me” and “Hello.” A couple reported hearing Indian drumming in the hallway outside their room, and a plumber working in the basement heard a voice over his shoulder ask, “What are you doing?” while he worked alone. He didn't stick around long enough to carry on further conversation.

These antlers have mysteriously
moved twice - one time nearly a foot
A whole range of poltergeist activity takes place, including ghostly touches, moving kitchen utensils, rolling
balls, moving toys, electrical anomalies, drained batteries, and unscrewed light bulbs. The antlers on the lobby table have twice moved, once eleven inches from its original position.

The owner’s pets have frequently responded to unseen presences as well. 

Apparitions also manifest on the premises. Guests have reported seeing shadow figures dart from room to room or down the second-floor hallway. One building renovator observed a basketball-sized winged object fly out of one room across the hall and into another. No windows were open at the time.

On our own investigation,
the parasol next to the
above mannequin moved
out front on the floor
Coming out of the laundry room, Rob noticed a dark figure standing in the doorway to the kitchen, very much resembling a previous deceased owner. He also came face to face with a blonde woman wearing a teal-colored shirt and blue pants sitting on a pool table in the building’s basement. There is no pool table in that particular space, but the room did serve as a pool hall in years past. According to Rob, she didn’t seem surprised to see him.

Dee had her own encounter with an apparition early one morning:  “I reluctantly got out of bed and walked past Rob who was still standing by the alarm clock. I walked into the bathroom and was very surprised to find him in there – not in the bedroom where I [thought I] had just seen and spoken to him.”

Even the owners’ children have witnessed ghostly guests. Their son at age three pointed to an upstairs window, asking, “Who dat girl?” The parents saw nothing. Five months later, the little boy told his mother about “the other mommy” who sat on his bed, describing an older woman with white hair and glasses.

These days the owners have learned to take all the paranormal activity in stride. Guests might as well follow that example -- if they want to get any sleep.

* * *
 Next week, we report on the history and ghostly stories at The Twin Lakes Inn, home to multiple hauntings, including an account of uninvited apparitions who attended a seance on the second floor.

Now only five weeks away from the publication of WILD WEST GHOSTS, where we recount more on this and thirteen other haunted locales.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Bross Hotel

We're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs in our book forthcoming in early June,  

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Bross Hotel in Paonia, Colo. (If you missed the earlier account of our own paranormal investigation at the Bross, click here.)

* * *
Historical Context

In 1900, William Taylor (W.T.) Bross and his wife Laura Harkness Bross came to Paonia with six children. W.T. bought the lots where the hotel would stand, and in 1905 construction began, using locally fired bricks, still visible both within and without. At the same time, Laura ran an eating and lodging house next door, where the family lived. The hotel opened for business in 1906.

The Bross Hotel became a popular lodging and dining facility, and Paonia’s The Newspaper on April 6, 1906, proclaimed it as “[t]he only really first-class hotel” in Delta county. Triple-brick construction made the building virtually fireproof. The hotel was exceptional for the times, having a basement and three above-ground stories. All floors still display bay windows, attesting to the wealth of the owners. It also contained a furnace rather than a fireplace, indoor plumbing, full bathrooms with hot-and-cold water on each floor, and even electric lights.

OT & Laura Bross
W.T. brought guests to the hotel from the evening train, using his horse-drawn cart. Laura, known as Mother Bross, served as the hotel manager, meeting guests at the door, collecting room payments, and explaining the rules of the house. Her granddaughter later recalled that Mother Bross was a “real dressed up lady… in dark skirts, white top, and always white apron. And a black velvet ribbon around her neck.”

When W.T died in 1921, their youngest son Otto took charge and retained ownership throughout the 1930s, upgrading and remodeling the facility.

In 1944, Otto sold the hotel to Lura Atkins, but on the condition that he could remain a resident until his death, which occurred in 1959. He wasn’t the only longtime boarder. Merrill Henry lived for thirty years at the Bross until his death in 1984.

Through the years, the hotel changed hands eight times. For the past 14 years, Linda Lentz has owned and operated the B&B.

Local Legends & Ghostly Stories
While staying at The Bross, you can pick up an interesting booklet, Bross Hotel: One Hundred Years, 1906-2006, written by Linda Lentz, which includes accounts of previous hauntings and apparitions.

In 1993, a family briefly rented the hotel for temporary accommodations. The laundry at that time was located on the second floor, and the family’s mother reported she never felt comfortable in that room because it felt like someone was watching her. One day, Mother Bross appeared to her, wearing a black skirt and white blouse. She appeared a second time and the woman tried to communicate with her, but the apparition disappeared.

On another occasion, the children in that family also reported an encounter in the basement with a spirit they felt was a man. They told it to go away and it did. The man in the basement could have been Otto or even Merrill Henry, the other longtime hotel resident.

Mirror that Mother Bross's 
ghost knocked to the floor
According to Linda, Mother Bross never really left the premises and has made her presence known in multiple ways through the years. One notable account took place in the late 1990s when a former innkeeper made disparaging remarks about Mother Bross’s appearance while looking at the founder’s portrait in the reception room: “Immediately, the large mirror over the back bar in the dining room fell down, hit the counter, and landed on the floor without breaking.” The innkeeper traveled directly upstairs to Room Two, where she apologized, and the mirror has never fallen since. Linda told us the mirror was moly-bolted to the wall and should not have fallen.

The same former innkeeper also said Mother Bross had a tendency to sit on beds, mussing the covers, moving objects, and playing other tricks. 

Ironically, Mother Bross ran the hotel but never lived there; her home was next door. However, her son did reside in Room Two until his death. Linda suggests, “She is happy in Room Two…. Mother Bross probably haunts that room because she’s looking out for her baby, Otto.”

We interviewed Hector Zeferino of Hotchkiss Paranormal Investigators, who investigated the hotel during the late summer of 2014. He told us he’d personally spent the night in Room Two. When he turned in, he felt invisible hands tuck the covers around the length of his body – a common experience at the B&B. The team reported interactions with both Laura and W.T. Bross.  Over a period of two days, they also interacted with Otto, his wife, and son Billy as well.

Hotel guests have reported apparitions on both the second and third floors. 

* * *
Next week, we share the history and ghostly legends associated with South Fork's Spruce Lodge, where  owners and guests alike have learned to expect a whole range of paranormal activity, including poltergeists and repeated full-body apparitions.

We're now in week six of the countdown toward publication of  WILD WEST GHOSTS!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Creede Hotel - Our Para Investigation

Our latest paranormal investigation took place at the Creede Hotel & Restaurant in Creede, CO.

(This is Part Two of a two-part series. If you missed our previous account of the wild history and ghostly legends for this hotel and frontier mining town, click here.)

But first a S/O to proprietor/chef David Toole and hotel manager Leslie Heller, who both welcomed us and made the whole facility available to our investigation. Thanks, you two!

Since we visited before the hotel opened for its summer season, David and Leslie left the premises and gave us the run of the place to conduct our investigation. This arrangement worked for us because that eliminated external noise and the possibility of contaminated EVPs. (EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon, an audio effect through either a digital recorder or a spirit box as a means for ghosts to communicate.)

They recommended the Calamity Jane Room and the Poker Alice Room – the two guestrooms with the most reported paranormal activity. We headed up the narrow staircase and started with an EMF sweep of these two rooms and the hallway. (EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field, and EM field strengths may indicate ghosts are present or trying to communicate.) At the mouth of the stairwell, the meter showed 380mG and climbed to a steady 460mG near the bathroom at the other end of the hall. The EM field in the Calamity Jane Room registered 400mG on the east side, 530 over the bed, and mid 600s by the balcony. These readings were our baseline measurements to compare against any anomalies.

Calamity Jane Room
 We set up our camcorder, digital recorder, flashlight, and spirit box to start our first session.  We introduced ourselves, explained our equipment to any invisible presences, and invited them to speak with us or manipulate the flashlight. The light remained steady throughout the time in this room, and we’d have to wait until we returned home to analyze the digital audio recordings. We observed EMF fluctuations from 530mG to 570mG while we asked for interaction.

However, the spirit box managed to produce a number of EVPs we could hear at the time. We asked if any spirits were here to talk to us and heard a quick response of “Here?” We weren’t alone in the hotel after all. So we asked again how many spirits shared the room with us and heard twice, “Eight” – standing room only. Then we queried their names. The first reply was “Myrtle.” (We would later research that name for the vicinity and found several possibilities. Myrtle was common during the era, and a number of them lived and died in Creede.) We also heard the names “Liz” and “Fes” as well as a man’s voice saying, “Death.”

An EVP conversation we captured

During our later analysis, we discovered we’d captured a woman’s voice declaring, “I think I’m going to shoot you.” That unexpected announcement followed a less intelligible statement by a man, and we think we recorded an exchange between the two of them rather than a threat aimed at us.

Bob Ford
During the real-time session, Kym heard a voice coming from just beyond the open room door, so we checked the hallway expecting to see Leslie. No one in the hallway – at least, no one we could see since we were locked down and alone on the premises. But when we asked who was in the hall, a woman’s voice told us, “Bob.” Bob Ford? He’d died in 1892, assassinated in his nearby tent-saloon while he boarded at this establishment.

We struck camp and moved across the hall to the Poker Alice Room. On the way we noticed the slight odor of smoke – but only for a moment (a whiff of Alice’s famous stogie?) Since the building displayed a no-smoking sign, we mentioned this to David in a later follow-up interview. He told us that end of the hotel was closest to the buildings that burned when fires swept through early-day Creede. Make of that what you will.

Poker Alice Stubs
In the Poker Alice Room, we followed the same routine for the next session. We recorded 500mG throughout the room and 550mG over the bed (metal bed springs may have elevated these stable readings.)

Again, no interaction with the flashlight. But the spirit box captured multiple names and phrases. Most intriguing was “Alice” – given the room bore her name, and we know she boarded in this facility. We also recorded the name “David” and the word “Brave.” Other phrases proved more perplexing, including some clear and some garbled words but each delivered by separate voices. One asked the question, “You have the two (boys?)?” Another proclaimed, “Bless you,” and still another said, “Come to (me?).”

We decided to run an experiment on the dresser where a spirit had knocked over seven consecutive glasses. We set up two coffee mugs near the edge and invited the spirit to repeat the event. After ten minutes, the mugs remained in place. In later analysis, we discovered on the digital audio recording a response to our question, “Did you knock the glasses over?” (in front of the former guest). The immediate answer was a whispered “Yes.”

Poker Alice Room where seven
glasses tumbled from this dresser
All we needed to crown our investigation. Audio-only EVPs are some of the most convincing types of evidence ghost hunters capture.

 * * *
Next week, we share the history and ghostly legends surrounding the Bross Hotel in Paonia, CO, where we witnessed a fanny print on a freshly made bed  -- a common paranormal occurrence reported by others as well in this very haunted B&B.

NEWS FLASH: We're now in the six-week countdown for the publication of WILD WEST BOOKS in early June, which includes the above excerpt as well as accounts for thirteen other haunted hotels in southwestern Colorado. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - Creede Hotel

We're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book in early June,  
an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Creede Hotel in Creede, Colo. (This is Part I of a two-part series. Next week, we'll share our own investigation of the hotel, including EVPs clips and sample video from our findings.)

* * *
Historical Context

Hopeful prospectors worked the canyons surrounding Creede after the first silver strike in 1869, but the region remained too remote to make mining profitable for years. Ranching and homesteading followed when stage stations reached the area by the 1870s, but the three tiny communities of Stringtown, Jimtown, and Amethyst remained small and struggling until a miner named Nicholas Creede discovered a rich vein of silver in nearby East Willow Creek Canyon in 1889.

Legend has it Creede declared, “Holy Moses, I’ve struck it rich!” and his Holy Moses Mine launched Colorado’s last great silver boomtown. Over the next two years, the communities swelled from 600 locals to well over 10,000, spilling over six miles and consuming the other settlements under the name of Creede. Soon the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad began serving the area’s mines. Life was good.

Bob Ford
The boomtown days were wild times, drawing notorious figures such as gambler Robert Ford, who’d killed Jesse James. A disgruntled gamer named O’Kelley later shot Ford in the back inside a tent-saloon, but he was pardoned for ridding the town of Ford’s monopoly on gambling. Still, organized graft soon fell to the wiles of Soapy Smith, who operated an extortion racket from the Orleans Club, taking a cut from saloons, brothels, and gaming houses throughout the town.

Other infamous individuals drawn to Creede included Bat Masterson and William Sidney "Cap" Light (the town’s first deputy sheriff, also the brother-in-law of Soapy Smith).

Creede boasted a hundred lodging establishments at the time, and the Creede Hotel, then Zang's Hotel (after its owner), was hailed as one of the town's finest. John Zang, a Denver brewer, had come to Creede to distribute his beer, building
the hotel along with a saloon and brothel.

Calamity Jane
Poker Alice
No structure in Creede was ever grand or elaborate – buildings were thrown up as quickly as possible – and Zang’s Hotel was no exception. Still, the hotel was the fanciest place in town to stay, and Smith, Ford, Poker Alice Tubbs, and Calamity Jane all boarded there at one time or another.

Poker Alice worked gambling rooms throughout mining towns in Colorado, usually puffing on a black stogie. She became a well-known figure at Bob Ford’s Creede Exchange. She once remarked, “I’d rather play poker with five or six experts than eat.”

Known for her wild tales, Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary) also played cards like a pro, wore only men’s clothing, and had the reputation of out-drinking any man at the bar. She lived in Creede for a time, playing poker at local saloons.

Fires ravaged Creede twice around the turn of the century, both times sparing Zang’s Hotel. 

When silver prices fell in 1893, Soapy Smith headed north to the Klondike. With anti-gaming reforms lifted in Denver the previous year, many others drifted away from town also following the silver price panic. Creede’s boom days were over.

Zang's tombstone
After operating the hotel for a number of years, Zang met with an unfortunate end. In June of 1911, Zang broke into a home, made unwanted advances, and attacked a woman who shot and killed him. Mrs. Zang retained and operated the hotel until 1919.

The town survived on lead and zinc in the local ores through much of the 20th Century, but the last railroad run ended in 1973. These days, the town continues as a tourist and outdoor recreation center. 

The Creede Hotel remains the town’s oldest lodging and dining establishment, and visitors can overnight in restored guestrooms that once served as home to many of Creede’s colorful and notorious characters.

The current owner, David Toole, has operated the business since 2000, and he lives in the building’s quarters that once served as the brothel. The bar still attracts celebrities, including politicians and at one point western icon John Wayne, who owned property nearby.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
Most who’ve worked at The Creede Hotel have a ghost story to tell. Leslie Heller, hotel manager for a decade, finds the pictures running the length of hall next to the bar askew every morning. She also feels an invisible presence on a regular basis. Only a few days before we interviewed her, she heard a whistled tune coming from the bar, which was empty. She didn’t recognize the song, and when she whistled for us the few bars she could remember, we didn’t either.

Note registration desk to right,
where apparition vanished
She often sees movement out of the corner of her eye in the morning before other staffers arrive. That may well be: The former manager saw an apparition of a woman approach the front desk in the restaurant and carried on a brief conversation with the manager before the figure disappeared before his eyes.

One evening, a restaurant waitperson headed toward the kitchen with trays full of dishes, wondering how she would manage the door. She needn’t have worried. An unseen hand opened the door for her and closed it politely behind.

During the summer of 2014, an intern staffer from Europe captured with a camera the image of a Victorian-dressed woman in the antique mirror in the Western Room. The photo revealed a figure with a rather long neck twisted awkwardly to the side in a pose resembling someone dangling from a hangman’s noose.

Staffer captured camera image
in mirror of apparition
Sometimes, upstairs guests experience their own share of ghostly encounters. Each guestroom contains a journal to record impressions of their stay. One entry in the Poker Alice Room states, “Besides the ghost presence on our last night … the glasses on the nightstand were falling off one by one. When I picked them up this morning, there were seven on the floor.”

Other guests have reported footsteps walking up and down the stairwell.

Although David seldom encounters ghostly activity himself, he said he occasionally senses  unseen presences: “I feel like they appreciate me taking care of the place and leave me alone.”
* * *
Watch next weekend for the second part of this account: when we'll share possible EVPs communications with "Bob" (Bob Ford?) and "Alice" (Poker Alice?) as well as intriguing video-clip excerpts from our investigation.

In the meantime, join us for the countdown of the release of  WILD WEST GHOSTS in only seven weeks!