Friday, October 24, 2014

#GhostHunt No. 5 for new book - The Twin Lakes Inn

All this fall and early spring, we're engaged in our latest book project -- haunted hotels in western and mountainous Colorado -- and we're using our blog to share highlights about our visits (and ghost hunts) to each location. For more context and a bit of back story about the project, you can click on the tab just under our blog banner called "New WIP Ghost Hunt Book."

This time, we report on The Twin Lakes Inn on the road toward Independence Pass -- already closed for the season, but that doesn't stop the permanent residents from staying on!

But first a S/O to GM-chief chef Matt Roberts, owners Marji & Doug Nash and Mark Graff, plus bartender Andy Wald. All were on hand during our time there, each making us feel welcome!

The inn has a reputation for guests hearing the invisible footfalls of heavy boots tromping up and down the upstairs hallway, and housekeeping sometimes finds the impressions of hands and fannies on freshly made beds. One previous owner of the inn saw the apparition of a cowboy standing in a doorway. And in the mid-1980s, a former guest we talked to recounted attending a séance in a second-floor room during a Halloween party, where seven people witnessed the apparitions of a man and a woman with a dress printed in pink Polka dots. The other attendees of the séance reported the same experience, right down to the pink dots. Another guest reported seeing a ghost in the upstairs corridor, and still another saw shadowy arms in one of the rooms.

Lady of the Evening "Dora"
Since the inn had already closed for the season, we had the advantage of access to all the rooms. We started in “Dora’s Room." A plaque just outside in the hallway described Dora as “a Lady of the Evening,” intelligent and refined, and who’d plied her trade in that room. Attempting to speak to Dora, we had EMF (Electromagnetic Field) spikes while inviting her to communicate with us through the Spirit Box and during an EVP session. The box produced words of a fashion-conscious demeanor: “gloves” and “hat” – both suggesting important accessories during her era. Conversely, the box also said “resent,” “miss,” and “wreck.” Perhaps implying the loss of her worldly life or events we'll never know? 

Our EVP session in that room also seemed to reveal a recreated moment from the past that included what sounded like a sharp report from a gun followed by a woman shouting, “Help!” We never got a clear sense of whether our interaction involved Dora or some other resident spirit.

Across the hall, we investigated the “Twin Peaks Room,” where our audio recorder repeatedly shut off while trying to conduct an EVP session, and Mark’s Spirit Box also locked up almost as soon as we entered – puzzling, since the two devices worked fine both before and after this room. Kym’s Spirit Box managed only a few words: “listen,” “special,” “fuzzy,” and “sound.” When we later reviewed for EVPs, we did listen but heard no special sounds, and the track was just fuzzy!

Where cowboy apparition appeared
Then we set up in the “Mount Elbert Room,” scene of the cowboy apparition, taking photos and running the camcorder in the doorway where the figure reportedly stood. The Spirit Box gave us “speak,” “thirteen,” and “sacrilege.” And subsequent EVP analysis produced a human voice uttering two syllables, but neither of us could make out the words.

We enjoyed our time there. The inn has a rich history of paranormal activity and deserves further investigation. And the spectacular views make it worth returning for another chance to interact with what inn manager Matt calls the “permanent residents.”

Next week, we share highlights of our visit to the Hotel Norwood, where we encounter our strongest physical evidence yet of ghostly interactions!  

Don't forget you can follow along during our investigations as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates about dates and times.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

#Ghosthunt No. 4 for new book: Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte

(All this fall and early spring, we're engaged in our latest book project -- haunted hotels in western and mountainous Colorado -- and we're using our blog to share highlights about our visits (and ghost hunts) to each location. You can click on the tab just under our blog banner called "New WIP Ghost Hunt Book" for more context and a bit of backstory about the project.)

This time, we report on the Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte, where Kym got more interaction than she bargained for!

First, a S/O to GM Dave Coleman, hotel manager Meghan Driscoll, and the whole staff -- all who made us feel welcome!

We began by interviewing the staff in the restaurant below the hotel. They had lots to say and recommended we focus our investigations on Rooms One, Four, and Six.

We had the unusual advantage of arriving on a day when the hotel was unoccupied, and the manager gave us a master key to the entire second floor of guest rooms. Then she left us to our own devices, literally.

Opening the rooms, we peered inside each and took baseline readings, which ranged from 200-460mG. In the hallway, we noted the smell of old smoke, like the aftermath of charred timbers. Later we asked one of the restaurant staff about it, and she said she and the cook had noticed the same odd odor for the first time that very morning.

From the hallway, we entered Room Six and immediately stopped in our tracks, asking each other if the room felt weird. The space raised the hair on both of our necks. We returned to Room One to organize our equipment. In the meantime, we decided to let the video camera roll inside Room Six. But before we opened our videocam case in the creepy room, we discovered one of the bed pillows now on the floor. We exchanged glances and harmonized strains of the Twilight Zone tune.

Back in Room One, we started an EVP session, followed by EMF and Spirit Box readings. The EMF meter registered 300-500mG while we worked, once spiking to 700 mG near the foot of the brass bed (and nowhere else over the rest of the brass). At the same time, the spirit box chattered away, including such intriguing words as “burning” (twice), “death,” and “explosive.”

We experienced similar phenomena in Room Four: the spirit box announcing “game,” “innocence,” and “gate” (twice), but no significant EMF spikes. We’d expected more activity since this room was the reputed home of a late 1800s prostitute named Elizabeth, or "Liz-Liz," who'd thrown herself out that bedroom window.

With some trepidation, we reentered Room Six – and here we hit the Mother Lode. Both our EMF meters  
went off the charts, Mark’s sounding high-pitched beeps and Kym’s emitting a siren alert and once flashing an odd orb on the meter display we’d never seen before. Most of the room revealed hotspots, particularly on and around the bed. We conducted an EVP session, asking for a sign of any spirit’s presence. At that moment, one of the table lamps flickered just once (the only flicker to take place that day). Afterwards, Kym turned on her Spirit Box, which produced the words “horse,” “rifle,” “room,” “”burning,” and “fire.”

Kym went back to Room One to retrieve the rest of our equipment and found the door shut and locked. We’d left it wide open. (To be fair, the bedroom window was open, but no breeze blew through the second floor.) In the meantime, Mark started his Spirit Box in Room Six, which seemed strangely quiet. It said only two words: “secret” and “Kym.” 

Needless to say, Kym felt a little disturbed by the direct reference. More so, since she confessed she’d felt the sensation of dragging hobble ropes or shackles around her ankles as soon as we entered the second floor: Each step would pull at the right ankle while the left one felt a pinch. The feeling persisted most of the time we remained in the hotel but stopped as soon as we left the building. Let’s get this straight – Kym has always been the “Scully” of the investigations: pragmatic, rational, skeptical. 

About that time, we both heard footsteps in the hallway and a door slam. We peered out, expecting to see the manager, but we were alone. And all the doors remained open.

We’d had enough for one day and didn’t scout out the other rooms as carefully.

 EVP of woman's voice in Room Four

Our later analyses detected no anomalies in the videos and no orbs in the photos. However, we did capture an EVP of a woman’s voice in Room Four, but neither of us could make out what the three syllables actually said. Still, it was exciting to capture an audio-only recording of a voice -- and in the very room  "Liz-Liz" was was said to occupy before taking her life by jumping out that window.

One more thing to report: When we got home, Kym found a red straight-line
bruise on the inside of her left ankle, which we photographed before it faded within a couple of hours. This was exactly where she'd felt the pinches while inside the Forest Queen.

Next week, we share highlights of our visit to The Twin Lakes Inn, on the road to Independence Pass -- already closed for the season, but that doesn't stop the permanent hotel residents from staying on!
Don't forget you can follow along during our investigations as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates about dates and times.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

#Ghosthunt No. 3 for new book at Fairplay Hand Hotel

The Hand Hotel looks down on the Platte River

We're still having fun ghosthunting for the new creative nonfiction book and, next stop, the historic Hand Hotel in Fairplay, Colorado.

The Hand Hotel has a fair amount of paranormal activity, with reports of full-body apparitions manifesting on the second-floor hallway (see picture later in this post), little girls appearing in the vicinity of the staircase, faces appearing on at least one guest room mirror, child-size imprints on freshly made beds, and a hand-biting ghost dog that haunts the basement.

We took our cue from a hotel scrapbook reporting on guest accounts of the Hotel's paranormal happenings -- plus receptionist Twyla’s experiences -- and decided to set up our base of operations in Room 6, which displayed a door faceplate called “Mattie Silks.” This infamous lady of the night hailed from the Front Range in the late Nineteenth Century, but with reported enterprises in Fairplay. The room’s furnishings reflected typical brothel décor with lavish red wallpaper, brass bed, and several mirrors.

Room 6
We wanted that room because of Twyla’s sighting of a semi-transparent apparition standing just inside the windowpanes. Room 6 was also near one end of the hallway, which gave us a quiet place to conduct our investigation.

Kym disappeared to scout out the premises, so Mark set to work recording audio for possible EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena). Later analysis revealed two sequences of voices on the recording, following Mark’s requests for interaction. Both were clearly of the same woman with a lilting voice, but neither one of us could make out exactly what she said. Kym’s impression was she spoke the word “baby” in the utterance. Not an unlikely reference for a room named after a brothel madam or the life of the soiled doves who worked the brothels in that era.

In the meantime, Kym had chatted up another guest out on the balcony, a woman who’d visited the Hand Hotel on three separate occasions. She told Kym that each room she’d tried had a different personality, and she suggested we look in on the one near the head of the stairs on the second floor. 

We trotted down to the other room – unoccupied, door open – and … yes, it definitely had a different vibe. Was it due to a resident ghost or just the room’s distinct décor? Twyla  assured us the hotel ghosts wandered promiscuously (our word, not hers) from room to room, so maybe the impression was just ours. And the other guest’s.

Captured by another guest
Back in our own room, the Spirit Box seemed fixated on a "table," which it repeated a number of times. There were two small tables located in the room, but we couldn't detect if one was more significant than the other. No orbs appeared on photographs, and the EMF meter didn't spike near either of the tables.The meter did, however, spike when Kym sat on the bed. Base readings in the room in general hovered near 300 mG compared to the bed, which jumped to 500+ mG intermittently during our investigation.
We also set up our video camera in the room, pointing it at the infamous window and letting it run while we conducted Spirit Box and EVP sessions. But review of the footage revealed no further anomalies. To be fair, the videocam had to battle a fair amount of glare. 
In retrospect, we wish we'd set it up for a while in the shotgun hallway outside the door, where other guests had reported so much activity. But that day we also didn’t get much of a jump beyond the baseline EMF readings in that corridor of the hotel. That’s certainly the location of the great photo of the apparition included here.
We asked to visit the basement but learned it was off-limits except to employees. That was okay with us since we preferred not to be bitten by the ghost dog (yes, that's one of the reports from another ghosthunting operation!)
Loved this place, and we think we'll give it another try sometime when the ghosts want to come out and play.
Next time, we'll report on the Forest Queen Hotel in Crested Butte, where Kym got more interaction than she bargained for!

Don't forget you can follow along during our investigations as we live-tweet from Twitter @writeinthethick. You can check out our Facebook page for updates about dates and times.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#GhostHunt No. 2: the historic Fairplay Hotel

The third investigation for the latest book, our paranormal "nonfiction" on haunted hotels in mountainous Colorado, took place at the Fairplay Hotel in South Park.

And a shout-out to all the gracious staff (esp. Megan, Beth, Julie, and Sara) and the willingness of hotel owner Lorna Arnold, who opened up the entire hotel to our visit.

Hotel consultant Steve Lake described the current hotel as "much improved and improving." But the place retains the look and charm of a hundred-year-old building, including the installment of the original Silverheels brothel/saloon bar from the nearby 1870s ghost town of Alma (and including original bullet holes from that rowdier era).

Local ghost "Julia"
More important to us, the Fairplay Hotel retains evidence of several persistent "residents."

And most notable of these is "Julia," a soiled dove who lived and died on the premises. Some say she died violently, perhaps even by her own hand. Staff reports she still nonetheless dances in the hallways at night.

Lucky for us, the hotel let us set up in her old, ahem, haunts -- Room 205. In fact, Julia seemed to insist: the night before we arrived, the key to her room disappeared and the front desk couldn't rent the room out. Guess she was waiting for us.

In 205, we used our array of ghosthunting gizmos to see if we could establish her presence -- Spirit Box, EMF meter, an EVP session, and video camera footage.

The Spirit Box recorded multiple words that described the room as well as our various activities ("room," "bed," "shower" -- the 205 suite included that modern convenience -- as well as "videotape," while we recorded). We also got two instances of "knife" -- a reference to how she died?

Once we had a baseline EMF reading, Kym's meter spiked multiple times on the northern of the two beds and even the chair between the beds, suggesting goings-on we couldn't see. And when we afterwards analyzed our voice recordings, in which we invited her to talk to us during the EMF sessions, we found a whispered response: "I don't want to talk to you."

If only we'd known!

Julia is not the only resident ghost. Lorna showed us a stool in the bar which came from the Alma saloon. She said they placed a half-full glass of beer on the bar in front of the stool and invited the Silverheels madam who'd owned the relocated furnishings to drink up in welcome to the new digs. Then they locked the doors for the night.

Next morning, they found the glass empty and the stool turned around.

Staff report many other goings-on -- mostly playful, if sometimes disruptive to work -- as do many of the guests who stay at the hotel.

But you'll have to wait for the book to get the full report!

Oh, one more encounter: Kym *almost* saw her first ghost! Staffer Beth told us just a couple nights earlier she'd seen the apparition of an old-time cowboy just outside the bar. When we had lunch in the adjoining dining room during our visit, Kym saw a cowboy through the lace windows who seemed to disappear. No such luck: he turned out to be flesh-n-blood and took a turn toward a bar stool she couldn't see through the lace. Maybe next time.

In the next three weeks, we'll visit five other haunted establishments, reporting on each as we work our way across mountainous Colorado.

Feel free to "join us" for our on-site investigations, when we live-tweet what we encounter as we encounter (and with pics) on our Twitter page @writeinthethick.

Wish us luck!