Friday, March 27, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - the Beaumont in Ouray

Between now and late spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book, 
Beaumont Hotel & Spa

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Beaumont Hotel in Ouray, Colo. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as link to YouTube clips from our actual investigations.)

* * *
Historical Context

Downtown Ouray
The San Juan range is one of the most highly mineralized sections in Colorado, drawing minors to Ouray as early as the 1850s in search of silver and gold. Although the serious rush began in the 1870s, the area’s mining heyday peaked for a decade starting in 1883. Horses, burros, mules, and carriages brought the first prospectors, and the population began to soar with reported silver strikes. The railroad made it to the valley in 1891, and Ouray grew from a miners' camp to a flourishing frontier community. Queen Anne Victorian storefronts and hotels popped up throughout the fledgling town, including the Beaumont Hotel, built in 1886 of bricks fired from the mud of local hot springs.

"unescorted ladies"
The hotel began as an enterprise to entertain railroad and mining investors to the area and claims thedistinction as one of the first in the country wired for AC current. Like many Old West towns, soiled doves frequented the local lodging establishments. A private staircase at the Beaumont provided “unescorted ladies” access to their clients – it still exists, though now used primarily by staff.

Most mines in the region closed by 1923, followed by the train’s closure in 1936. Because of diminishing tourism in this area during the mid-twentieth century, the Beaumont Hotel shut down in 1964. For nearly forty years the building stood vacant and fell into disrepair. The hotel sold in 1998 and new owners remodeled and reconfigured the rooms. After reopening in 2003, the hotel received the Governor's Award for Historic Preservation. A year later, it earned one of the first Preserve America Presidential Awards for historic preservation.

Most of Ouray’s permanent buildings constructed between 1880-1900 still stand, skillfully restored.

Lobby staircase
The hotel’s lounge is named after Luella Huey, the last know prostitute practicing out of the Beaumont. According to a plaque next to the bar, “As young children, her daughter Judy and her two younger cousins would search for Luella in hopes of finding her entertaining one of her many local miner friends. If the pursuit was successful, each child was rewarded a silver dollar…. If all else failed, the three determined children would climb the staircase of the Beaumont Hotel and gingerly tap on the door of Luella’s room. Sometimes their knocks were rewarded – more times not. Years took their toll on the beautiful Luella, and she died at the young age of 40.”

At least one murder occurred on the premises through the early years, involving a hotel waitress named Eller Day in 1887. A jealous pastry chef shot her four times in the Luella Lounge. Authorities incarcerated him for a pending trial, but the jail burned down at the hands of enraged vigilantes that very night with the chef still inside.

The Beaumont boasts through the years such famous guests as presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, King Leopold of Belgium, Chipeta (widow of Ute chief Ouray), actresses Sarah Bernhardt, Angie Dickinson and, more recently, Oprah Winfrey.

Current owners Chad and Jennifer Leaver bought the hotel in 2010.

Today, recreationists can enjoy many of the high-country routes that miners developed over a century ago, still leading to nearby ghost towns and abandoned mines.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
When we asked Jen about the hotel’s paranormal hotspots, she seemed hard-pressed to identify any location that didn’t hold such reports.

Luella Lounge
All of the rooms harbor paranormal activity, with doors locking and unlocking on their own. Guests and staff have also detected the smell of perfume and tobacco smoke in every room and all the hallways – even though the entire facility is nonsmoking.

During renovation of the lounge, workers would gather their tools and put them up for the night, locking the door behind them. The next morning, they always found the tools scattered about, thus dubbing the room the “Voodoo Lounge.”

We talked to a staffer who began working when the hotel reopened. He said one specific area in the dining room frequently plummeted 23 degrees in a matter of moments. He also reported seeing a figure behind him reflected in the bar mirror out of the corner of his eye. He’d turn around and no one would be there. The experience recurred two or three times a week, and he always had the impression the figure was a woman. Someone working in the spa told him she often found the beauty products displayed on the table by the door transposed to the floor in the exact same arrangement the next morning. The night person regularly received complaints that guestroom door knobs rattled during the night.

Other regular poltergeist activity includes lamps turning on and off and the presence of inexplicable fog in the hallway. One curious event took place during a couple’s first night in Room 304. The man offered to draw a bath for his wife in the antique claw-foot bathtub. She declined, saying she’d wait until morning. To their surprise the next day, the tub had filled with water awaiting her.

In a different room, a guest woke up to a “nurse ghost” sitting next to the bed, and another guest witnessed a full-body apparition wearing a long white dress on the third-floor atrium.

One source relates the story of a ghostly woman said to walk the halls at 2:15 a.m. on every quarter of the moon. Some say her husband murdered her, and she continues to look for him. Supposedly the ghostly scene replays, but only with her and not her killer husband.

An apparition wearing a long white
dress was seen on this balcony
According to area author MaryJoy Martin, one of her acquaintances had visited the hotel and found her way to a guestroom she’d stayed in years before.  She took a photograph of an old picture hanging on the wall and, after developing it, found the reflection of two gentlemen standing in period clothing. The figures had the appearance of people engaged in conversation but stopping just long enough to look her way as she snapped the photo.

“Our ghosts are just pranksters,” Jen told us. “None are ever threatening.”

* * *
Soon after uploading this post, we head over to Creede for the final investigation we'll include in the forthcoming book. The Creede Hotel has a long history of haunted activity in this historic 1880s building, once home to notorious boarders like Calamity Jane, Bob Ford (who killed Jesse James), Soapy Smith, and Bat Masterson during this boomtown's frontier mining days. You can join us for live tweets starting Saturday at noon (Mtn Time) on Twitter @WriteintheThick

Stay tuned next week for the full account of our investigation there!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Para Investigation - Back to Cripple Creek, Part 2

The swirling of orbs of an angry ghost, the voice of a famous dead astrologer, and invisible touches in front of a portal to another dimension -- this investigation had it all.

This is Part 2 of our paranormal investigation in Cripple Creek, Colo., at the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum followed by our same-night return investigation to Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn/Last Dollar Inn. (If you missed Part 1's account, click here.)

When Hector Zeferino of Hotchkiss Paranormal Investigators (HPI) invited us to participate in their fourth investigation in Cripple Creek, we jumped at the opportunity to work alongside a seasoned professional team.
Cripple Creek's old jail house
After we'd encountered the spirit of "Amy" on the jail's third floor (see previous account), we shifted our portion of the investigation to the main cell block, where one of the more notorious spirits resided, an entity known as "Joe." His most concentrated presence was in the confinement cell where he spent a great deal of time before his death, and he'd previously attacked HPI investigator Seth Davis, who was determined to confront the spirit again. We served as his back up when the three of us took our turn in Joe's cell during a lock-down with lights off.

That cell would provide one of several memorable experiences that evening.

Until that night, we'd made the calculated decision to conduct all the previous investigations for our Colorado haunted hotels book during the day. Our assumption was that ghosts didn't necessarily operate on an earthly 24-hour clock and, besides, we figured it was better to see what we were doing. Still, we wondered how our nerve would hold up in the presence of a known hostile spirit. And in the dark.

As it turned out, we were too busy recording the experience to over-think what happened next.

Multiple flying orbs sail around 
HPI investigator Seth Davis

Seth put on prison garb to goad Joe, and we bravely trooped in and set up our equipment just as we normally would. The atmosphere seemed oppressive in the cell, but this time no violence occurred. However, Joe was definitely present. Although our digital recorder captured no EVPs of Joe, we did record to video a whole series of flying orbs sailing around Seth as he taunted the angry spirit. In fact, we captured 28 flying orbs over the next 15 minutes.

It was a new kind of evidence for us, and we were so delighted with our documentation it never occurred to us to feel scared.

Astrologer Linda Goodman
After an hour in the cell -- and three hours total at the jail -- we moved our investigation to the next locale, Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn. We'd arranged to conduct an experiment at this B&B with an e-quaintance we'd met, a psychic and medium who'd known the famous astrologer-author Linda Goodman, who died in 1995. Though a thousand miles away, the psychic tried to contact Goodman while we were there and to have Goodman contact us.

Using our audio-only digital recorder, our EchoVox spirit box, and our camcorder, we conducted two sessions aimed at Goodman -- one in her former bedroom and the other in the living room where she herself had encountered a full-bodied apparition of Nikola Tesla while she lived there. We captured several clear, intriguing EVPs during those sessions, one on the recorder and others when we turned on the box.

A voice immediately said, "Look at the machine" (referring, we assume, to the EchoVox), followed by "Spirit box" and "That's it." Then we heard, "We come." The lines of communication seemed plenty open.

One clear EVP in a woman's voice said, "I can solve that." When we later shared this recording with our new psychic friend, she confirmed the voice was Goodman's.

 Linda Goodman speaks 
to us through our EchoVox

We also conducted flashlight experiments to establish communication, asking spirits to respond by winking the flashlight once for yes and twice for no. This means of instrumental trans-communication established  Tesla was, indeed, still present in the B&B, and we also made contact with one of the shadow people reported to walk through walls in second-floor bedrooms.(For more on that, click to see our account of the earlier investigation this past October.) We recorded our flashlight queries and responses to video as well.

One unexpected encounter at the Miracle Inn was meeting still another paranormal investigator, Shaun Crusha, who decided to come over from Colorado Springs when he heard we were coming. The more the merrier! Shaun turned out to be generous in sharing both expertise and advice, which we much appreciated. We also loved seeing first-hand his array of ghost-hunting gizmos, which rivaled those of Zac Bagans on  Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures
One of Sofia's portal paintings

More exciting was Shaun's offer to collaborate with us by using his equipment in our own investigation of the reported spirit portal in the Miracle Inn's basement, normally off-limits to visitors. B&B co-owner and artist Sofia Balas had begun painting a series of pictures depicting portals a year before she and her partner bought and moved to the inn. Only when she arrived did she learn that other investigators had detected the presence of the portal in their basement.

We could hardly wait to set up our equipment (and Shaun's).

It was close to 1:30 a.m. by the time everything was in place. Shaun arranged a series of instruments attached to to two long platforms and then pointed an array of laser grids at the region where the portal was reported. Then we waited.

Investigator Shaun Crusha's laser array
But not for long.

As we all stood at the mouth of the portal, both Shaun and Mark soon noticed disturbances in several of the laser points of light, and the flickering seemed to advance toward us. At the same time, several of Shaun's motion detectors klaxoned, followed by spikes in all of our EMF meters. (EMF stands for Electromagetic Field, and spirits are said to disturb or even use such fields to signal their presence.)

The disturbance seemed to settle down, but within moments Kym felt something tug the hair on the top of her head. The tug felt like someone (or something) had firmly grasped a handful of hair and pulled straight up hard enough to get her attention. Mission accomplished. The same thing happened to the other B&B co-owner, Jason Barton, shortly afterwards.

We continued to monitor the portal for another 45 minutes, but nothing as dramatic transpired after that. Just as well -- it had been a long night. Memorable, but long.

We packed up everything and headed back upstairs. By 3 a.m., we finally turned in, sleeping that night in Linda Goodman's former bedroom. She could have bounced up and down on the mattress for all we cared.
We slept like the dead -- or next to them -- until mid-morning.

* * *
This coming week, we're scheduled to conduct an investigation in the final hotel for our book on haunted houses -- the only chapter left to complete. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our latest paranormal investigation - Back to Cripple Creek

Nine months and 16 investigations later, the book is pretty much through. What we couldn't have guessed, though, is that we weren't through with our paranormal adventuring.

Clearly, the ghost hunting bug bit us harder than we expected!

When Hector Zeferino of Hotchkiss Paranormal Investigators (HPI) invited us to participate in their fourth investigation at the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum in Cripple Creek, Colo., we jumped at the opportunity to work alongside a seasoned professional team.

As you may recall from our earlier accounts, we'd already spent time in Cripple Creek investigating both Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn/Last Dollar Inn and the Hotel St. Nicholas (click on either to revisit our previous findings at those establishments). But a famous haunted jail -- that was certainly worth a spot on our bucket list.

Astrologer Linda Goodman
The trip also gave us a chance to try out an experiment while in town. Earlier this year, we made  the e-quaintance of a psychic who had been friends with the now deceased Linda Goodman, and she offered to try contacting the famous author/astrologer if we ever revisited the Miracle Inn.

The experiment would be this: She would try to channel Goodman and give her three words (one of a single syllable, the second of two syllables, and the third of three syllables) to communicate to us -- words we wouldn't learn until after the experiment was over. (The psychic would email herself a time-stamped message ahead of time to preserve the integrity of the experiment.)

So we contacted her when we set a date for this past weekend and made arrangements to book the night at the Miracle Inn during our parallel investigation with HPI at the jail.

We were not disappointed by the whole experience.

Cripple Creek's old jail house
We spent the first half of the evening (until after midnight) at the jail. On previous occasions, two of the HPI members experienced harrowing physical encounters with one of the more notorious spirits there, an entity known as "Joe," who was a pedophile in life. His most concentrated presence was in the confinement cell where he spent a great deal of time before his death. That cell would provide one of our most memorable experiences that night. (More on that later.)

The jail building holds three levels -- a basement where strong shadow presences are reported, the main floor which includes two levels of cell blocks (including Joe's cell), and a third floor where supposed ghostly caretakers still remain after their time of looking after children incarcerated or else born on the site.

The second-level cell block on the main floor
The five HPI members and the two of us broke into three teams, in turns rotating from one level to the next
so everyone had a chance to investigate all the hotspots. HPI also positioned a member to oversee a command center that coordinated communication and also monitored motion detectors, static cameras, and sensors placed throughout the building.

They locked the doors and turned off all the lights in the building. The investigation had begun.

We started our rotation with HPI investigator Seth Davis on the third floor, spending most of our time in the cell of inmate/caretaker-turned-resident-ghost "Amy." Amy's spirit is known to be flirtatious with men and aloof with women. Sometimes she comes out to play and other times she ignores her visitors.

For the hour we remained on her floor, we managed to capture a number of EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon, sometimes occurring on audio recordings but can also be generated through a spirit box. Our EchoVox generates only random sounds -- no words -- and it's up to a spirit to assemble and create intelligible responses.) In fact, early on in the session, one EVP voice called out, "Seth."

Our spirit box
Always nice to learn they know who we are -- or maybe it isn't.

But our most interesting interaction came when we invited Amy to turn off our flashlight to signal to us she was present. Did she ever. On request, the flashlight not only dimmed but drained our new batteries dry within minutes.

Seth pulled out his two flashlights, switching on one and inviting Amy to turn it off or else to turn on the other. After a few moments with no response, Kym announced it was probably too much to have Amy turn the flashlight on. That was all it took. Like a dare, the light glared to life -- something neither of us had seen in our own previous investigations. It's impressive to have a light turn off by request (something that requires drawing from energy we provide), but to have a flashlight turn on? That's a manifestation operating on a whole other level.

It was time to rotate to the main level and the cell blocks. In the dark, all alone. With Joe.

We couldn't wait.

* * *

Be sure to visit us next week when we conclude our account of what happened to us inside Joe's cell. We'll also recount the findings when we "called" on Linda Goodman at her namesake inn, followed by our experience in the basement, where other investigators have reported a spirit portal . It was a busy (and long) night!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - Hotel Norwood

Between now and late spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book,  

Hotel Norwood
an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Hotel Norwood. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as watch YouTube clips from our actual investigations.)

* * *
Historical Context

Attempts in the 1870s to settle Wright Mesa east of San Miguel Canyon ran into frequent conflicts with Ute tribes, but in the 1880s, cattle operations persisted and developed on the lush grasslands of the mesa. 

San Miguel Canyon, just east of Norwood
In 1886, Henry Copp from Norwood, Missouri, filed on land and decided to name the new locality after his hometown. He built several structures, including a post office, small store, and way station. Within a short time the town began to grow and soon offered three blacksmith shops, several liveries, three pool halls, two saloons, and a bank. The first school followed in 1888 and a sawmill by 1896. 

In those days, Norwood mail arrived via packhorse. According to an account in the Norwood Star newspaper, “The mail carrier changed horses at Wright’s Spring and turned [his] two horses loose to graze. Sometimes it would take him a day or so to find his horses before he could go on with the mail.”

Entrepreneur John Davis built the Western Hotel in 1897 (now the Hotel Norwood), which also served as a boarding house. By then, area cowboys frequented the town for liquor, gambling, and prostitutes. 

A Stanley Steamer auto of the era
Local historian Howard Greagor recounts that the first automobile came to town in 1909, a Stanley Steamer. Due to the steepness of the grade out of San Miguel Canyon, the water in the automobile boiler wouldn’t stay over the fire, so he had to turn it around and drive backwards the entire distance up to the rim. 

The Hotel Norwood has operated continuously since its days as the Western Hotel, accommodating many famous guests over the century, including Butch Cassidy and Marie Curie. The facility has operated under a series of different owners through the years, calling the building the Western Hotel, the Back Narrows Inn, and most recently, The Hotel Norwood.

In 1994, owners constructed a new multi-room addition called the New Quarters, remodeled again in 2014 by current owner Logan Tease.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
Nearly every staff member we talked to had a ghost story. Most said they have always felt some sort of presence during their work at the hotel, but none of the paranormal activity has ever felt menacing to them. The night clerk said it wasn’t unusual for him to hear – or see – anomalous things during his rounds.

Even hotel owner Logan, who lives in the historical building, has heard invisible footsteps coming from empty second-floor rooms above his own quarters.

Hotel Norwood lobby
One housekeeper told us she frequently discovers disheveled bedding after she makes up and locks guestrooms on both the east and west wings of the historical building. She’d recently found a distinct impression of a handprint on the bedspread in Room One on the second-floor east wing – not an uncommon occurrence in this and other rooms in the original hotel.

We had the opportunity to chat with several boarders who’d also gotten used to poltergeist activity in their rooms. 

“It’s not scary,” one of the long-term residents told us. “It’s more just little pranks.” He said he had repeated malfunctions with his alarm clock and other electrical devices in his room. He’d also had to keep replacing his batteries – a typical reported occurrence for many locales with strong paranormal activity.

Another boarder said he woke up time and again to his blankets pulled off over the foot of the bed, insisting he was a sound and quiet sleeper. Still another resident had seen a full-bodied apparition in her room across the hall.
Rm 12 contains a clearly
defined cold spot

Hotchkiss Paranormal Investigators examined the premises in spring 2014 and reported finding considerable activity. Their EMF meter, thermal-imaging camera, and spirit box recorded, in their estimation, clear evidence of ghosts on the premises. In an interview with the Telluride News, the team said the place was definitely haunted, and they wanted to return for a follow-up visit. 

In our own interview with this team, lead investigator Hector Zeferino told us, “A ghost gave us a tour. We pointed our K2 meter at a photo of a previous owner [Laura Hills] and got an EMF spike. When we went upstairs, we asked where to go and received responses via more meter readings.” In the west wing, his team also captured male voices with a spirit box.

The thing that most intrigued Hector about the hotel was all the original antiques: “They collect information of the past and record it for us to find.”

* * *
Next week, we interrupt our accounts of the forthcoming book to share highlights of the paranormal investigation we're undertaking this weekend in Cripple Creek, where we'll join forces with Hotchkiss Paranormal Investigators (HPI) for a four-way ghost hunt that includes Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn, the notorious old jail museum, the old firehouse, and the Cripple Creek Inn. Be sure to visit the HPI site to follow their ongoing investigations.

And on Saturday evening, March 7, starting at 9 p.m. (Mountain Time), you can follow along during this Cripple Creek investigation as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - Vintage Inn B&B

Between now and late spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book,  

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Vintage Inn in Gunnison, Colo. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as watch YouTube clips from our actual investigation.)

This article is a departure from our earlier accounts in the series in that our findings suggest more of a haunted person rather than haunted hotel! Read on.

* * *
Historical Context

The Gunnison Valley served as seasonal habitation for Ute tribes for centuries, for trappers and mountain men in the early 1700s, and for exploratory transcontinental railroad routes in the early 1850s. The region began to see permanent residents during the 1870s when miners started staking and working claims.

Topographers began mapping the Gunnison Country in 1874, and the town of Gunnison took shape and grew into a supply center by the late 1870s.
Gunnison in 1882

Two railroads competed to reach the area, but the east and west sides of town disagreed about where to situate the depot, splitting the community into East Gunnison and West Gunnison by the time both railroads arrived in 1880. Only the Denver & Rio Grande survived for the next seventy years.

Capt. Louden Mullen, a Civil War veteran-turned-developer, championed West Gunnison’s influence and built a hotel, school, opera house, fish hatchery, and park to promote his side of town. His projects also included a church, a stone livery barn, and the foundations of an iron works that never got off the ground.

La Veta Hotel
During Mullen’s time in Gunnison, he built his own house in 1883. A later article in Gunnison’s News Champion in 1945 describes the house: “There is little, but not too much of scrolled trimming, the windows are beautifully arched and chastely decorated (to use the phraseology of the 80s), the gables supported by carved cornices. The eight-room structure is topped by a distinctive iron railing. The large lawn is enclosed by a picket fence, matching the dwelling in color. It is a house which cannot fail to attract the attention of anyone interested in period architecture – a good deal less flamboyant than La Veta, [an up-scale hotel of the same local vintage] although of somewhat the same inspiration. The grandson, Elmer Mullen, says it was beautifully and lavishly furnished when the Civil War veteran had it completed.” 

In the years to come, the building would pass through a number of hands, serving many times as a private residence but also at one point as a day-care facility, an antique shop, and even a video rental store.

That home eventually became the Vintage Inn B&B in 2010.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The surrounding community environs certainly hold a fair share of reported paranormal activity.

On Tomichi Avenue (Hwy 50), only a few blocks from the inn, sits Columbine Apartments, formerly the Columbine Hotel. The building’s second floor once served as a brothel in Gunnison’s frontier days, and former hotel guests as well as current residents have reported seeing the apparition of a woman – legend says she was a murdered prostitute – wandering the central hallway late at night.

A former B&B that operated as the Mary Lawrence Inn (now a private home) also contains long-time reports of hauntings. Sitting on a residential block in the northern part of the city, this large structure became home to a prominent local family in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century. While growing up in the house, the family’s two children, now grown, told us they’d witnessed poltergeist activity on a regular basis as well as sightings of a full-bodied apparition.

And the local university has recurring reports of hauntings in at least three campus buildings. Generations of students continue to report sightings on the third floor of Roubidoux Hall of the ghost of a man who died of smoke inhalation many years ago. Some students say they’ve seen his apparition at their bedside at night. Others claim the ghost locks doors from the outside, recreating the same circumstance that trapped him during the fateful fire. Nearby Ute Hall harbors accounts of a shadow figure in the basement known to pass through the wall of an off-limits storage and boiler room, harmless if a bit unnerving to those who’ve witnessed the apparition. Additional hauntings occur in Taylor Hall, the original structure for the 1900s Normal School.

Past residents and owners of the current Vintage Inn never kept (or at least never publicly shared) accounts of haunted events on the premises. One former owner of the property, who undertook extensive renovations to the property in the 1970s, claims none of his alterations to the house provoked the sort of supernatural activity typically reported when buildings are disturbed.

Hearth room at Vintage Inn
He suggests that current paranormal reports may connect to the current owner herself. This could well prove true since spirits residing on the premises seem to have a strong connection to current proprietor Beth Marcue. 

Our own experience at the Inn (see the full investigation here, including video clips of interaction with unseen entities) revealed the resident spirits do, indeed, have a close connection with Beth. A combination of  responses through spirit box and flashlight suggested these entities may have accompanied her to the house, attached to an antique chest of drawers from Beth's pioneer family arriving by covered wagon in the past century. If so, they were willing to talk to us as guests of the B&B, but spirits clearly preferred talking to the proprietor.

* * *
Next week, we share the history and ghostly legends of the *very* haunted Hotel Norwood, site of apparitions, cold spots, and a great deal of poltergeist activity.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Fairplay Hotel

Between now and late spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book,  
The historic Fairplay Hotel
an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Fairplay Hotel in Fairplay, Colo. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as watch YouTube clips from our actual investigation.)

* * *
Historical Context

Prior to the influx of gold seekers, the First Americans, primarily Ute tribes, lived and hunted in the South Park area. Fur traders found and trapped the park, but it wasn’t until 1859 that the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush spilled into South Park, bringing over 10,000 people.

Greed and violence in the park prompted some miners to establish a new camp where Beaver Creek meets the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. They called their new home “Fair Play,” promising to treat everyone fairly when they staked a claim. That name varied from “Fairplay Diggings” to “Platte City” and then changed to “South Park City” by 1869. But five years later, the town regained the name of “Fairplay,” which remains to this day.

Before long, cattle, sheep, and hay operations came to the park, followed by a railroad completed in 1878.
The railway encouraged the emergence of timber businesses and more efficient livestock transport. Soon, other trades, goods, and services prospered, making it possible for local hotels to flourish in Fairplay.

Fairplay courthouse/jail
with former connecting
tunnel to Fairplay Hotel
Among these new innkeepers were Louis and Marie Valiton, who bought a site in 1873 for $87.50 and built the Valiton Hotel (now the Fairplay Hotel). During the Gold Rush days, Fairplay had its share of Wild West antics, and the hotel’s basement until recent years still contained tunnels connecting to other buildings – a more subtle way to access the hotel’s ladies of the evening. Current owner Lorna told us, “Back then, you could rent a room and woman.” 

One of these tunnels led to the old courthouse due north of the hotel, and the site of a vigilante lynching in 1879 by a group calling themselves the “Hundred and Five” and daring anyone to oppose their style of justice. The local newspaper, The Fairplay Flume, printed one of their messages, which read, “Beware the vigilantes,” and signed the letter “Coffin.” Eventually, law and order returned to the community.

Like the town itself, the Valiton Hotel’s name went through a number of changes over the next forty years as new owners left their marks, including the McLain Hotel, the Vestal House, the Bergh House, the Fairplay Hotel, and Hotel Windsor. The Hotel Windsor survived one large fire throughout town but suffered enough from a second town-wide fire to close its doors in 1921. Prominent Park County citizens rebuilt the establishment on the remaining foundation using the original hotel floor plans, and the new facility opened in 1922 with a banquet and dance hall.

Fairplay Hotel lobby
With Prohibition’s repeal in 1934, the hotel relocated the mahogany back bar from Rachel’s Place, a famous saloon in nearby Alma, and the new lounge has become a favorite among Fairplay locals ever since.

Because of the building’s large hospitality spaces, community members continued to use the facilities for celebrations and meetings through the decades that followed. 

Restorations still preserve the historic flavor of the premises under current management.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
Many stories of hauntings and poltergeist activity have persisted through the hotel’s colorful history over the past century.

Two staff members have reported seeing full apparitions on separate occasions in the basement. In fact, the chef had his own encounter late one night after closing. Ascending from the basement, he heard footsteps above him on the stairs just beyond the landing to the second flight of steps. No one else was on the premises. When he returned to the first floor minutes later, all the lights were off on the main level.

Silver Heels' barstool
One staff person on another evening witnessed a cowboy in old-fashioned western attire just outside the lounge peer in through the window. When she went out the door to the deck to invite him in, no one was there. Only a few seconds had passed -- too little time for anyone to disappear or retreat from  view on the empty street outside.

Current owner Lorna Arnold told us that when she took possession of the hotel, she placed a half-full glass of beer in front of the barstool favored by Silver Heels, the brothel madam from Alma, when the Fairplay Hotel relocated the bar to their own lounge. They locked the doors and left for the night. The next morning they found the glass empty, with the barstool swiveled away as though someone had stood up after finishing the drink. 

A note on Silver Heels: This good-hearted and popular prostitute worked the mining camps northwest of Fairplay until the smallpox epidemic of 1861 invaded the area. She went from cabin to cabin nursing sick miners but succumbed herself to the disfiguring disease and later disappeared without a trace. Years later, some said a heavily veiled woman frequented a nearby cemetery, and they guessed she might have been Silver Heels.

"Julia" - whose ghost dances
through the halls at night
She may have never left. Several locals claim to have seen the apparition of a veiled woman dressed in black and wandering the cemetery with flowers in her hand. It’s possible she followed her bar furnishings to the Fairplay Hotel, where her framed license for prostitution is displayed on a wall, issued in 1884 at Fairplay.

The hotel’s most famous and recurring ghost is “Julia,” reported to have died by her own hand in the 1880s. Guests often hear her dancing down the second-floor hallways, hearing music to match her creaking steps on the hardwood floors. Occasionally, the key to her room goes missing. It was curious that the night before we arrived for our investigation, someone had requested her room (205), but no one could find the key so they couldn’t rent out the room. We decided she must have been awaiting an audience with us since we only gained access to her room because it was vacant.

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Next week, we recount the history and ghostly legends surrounding Gunnison's Vintage Inn B&B, and 1880s establishment built by a Civil War veteran but presently containing spirits vocally connected to the current proprietor.