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

WILD WEST GHOSTS:
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.)




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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"
staircase
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.”

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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!