Thursday, April 30, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - The Twin Lakes Inn

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

Note Mt. Elbert in background
(highest peak in Colorado)

an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

Available now as a trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Also available as a Kindle e-book.

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

* * *
Historical Context

Twin Lakes is filled with Colorado extremes – tallest mountain, largest glacier lakes, one of the worst avalanches, and maybe even its own monster. Read on.

Once a stop along the way between Leadville and Aspen, Twin Lakes was a mining transportation hub during the Colorado Gold Rush starting in 1860. 

Built in 1879 by Maggie Webber, the facility that ultimately became the Twin Lakes Inn once served as a stage stop, a hotel, and even a brothel. A few years later, mining magnate James V. Dexter built the Interlaken Resort across the lake from Twin Lakes, attracting wealthy tourists who boated in the summer and skied in the winter. At one point, a storm sank the connecting ferry, and many passengers drowned. After a dam expanded the lakes and cut off easy access to the resort, interest started to fade and it eventually closed.
One of the twin lakes just a
mile before you reach the inn

An onslaught of tragedy befell the community starting in August 1961, when Twin Lakes suffered a heavy snow storm. Earthquake tremors and strong winds followed in November. Another storm hit that January, accompanied by 70 mph winds. An avalanche struck three days later, killing seven people as the snow freighted at speeds between 150-200 mph and reached the village limits. Rescuers found at least one victim under twelve feet of snow and rubble.

Through tumultuous and prosperous times, the Twin Lakes Inn continued business, even though its name and flavor changed according to each owner. The establishment, in turn, operated under such various names as Twin Peaks Inn, Twin Peaks Hotel, Sportsman’s Lodge, Inn of the Black Wolf, and Twin Lakes Nordic Inn.

During the “Black Wolf” era, the owner kept a kennel of wolves behind the hotel, allowing a couple of favorites to frequent the inside of the premises. They usually lay quietly in the dining room. But one day, a waitress dropped a tray of dinners in the vicinity of the wolves. The owner quickly commanded everyone in the room to freeze while the animals scarfed down the spilled meals. (As far we heard, that’s the only thing they ate.)

The Red Rooster Tavern & Brothel
used to be the inn's competition -
now it's the village visitor center
Even though the hotel has undergone several renovations, the town itself has changed very little since its inception. The general store, hotel, blacksmith shop, schoolhouse, and vacation homes of the early miners are still there, now part of the National Historic Register. Even the Red Rooster Tavern and Brothel still remains across the street from the Twin Lakes Inn but currently functions as the village visitor center.

Interlaken Lake holds one more secret. According to locals, the waters hide a lake monster affectionately known as “Bessie.” If you tire of ghost hunting, you might stroll the banks and keep an eye out for her.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The Twin Lakes Inn has a reputation for guests hearing the invisible footfalls of heavy boots tromping up and down the hallway, and sometimes even the clanking of chains! Housekeeping sometimes finds the impressions of hands and fannies on freshly made beds. Another staff member told us about a music box turning on unexpectedly in the downstairs bar.

Stay in the Mt Elbert Rm
if your dare - a former
owner witnessed an
apparition in this doorway
A previous owner of the inn once saw an apparition standing in a guestroom doorway. She was fluffing pillows in Room Two when she witnessed a cowboy leaning against the doorjamb. She tossed the pillow on the bed, taking her eyes off the figure for only an instant. When she straightened up, the cowboy was nowhere to be found.

In the mid-1980s, one former guest recounted attending a séance in the second-floor room during a Halloween party. Hands joined in a circle with six others, she witnessed the vision of an apparition coming into the room to accost a shadow woman – not one of the attending participants – in a dress printed with pink polka dots. When the session concluded, the guest couldn’t wait to share her experience, but the woman sitting next to her spoke first, describing the same scene right down to the dots. Other attendees of the séance also reported the same vision.

Another guest reported seeing a ghost in the upstairs corridor, and still another saw shadowy arms in one of the rooms.

* * *
In the past twelve months, we conducted twenty paranormal investigations (including follow-ups) as part of our ghost book project.

It's time to take stock of the mass of evidence we've collected and analyzed. In the next article, we offer the first in a four-part series that presents our best evidence for the supernatural at the fourteen locales we investigated.

Did we succeed?

Oh yeah:  imprints appearing on beds,  cups flying off tables, pillows off beds, cold spots, invisible footsteps, ghostly touches, flashlights winking on request, EVP voice recordings, interactive conversations through our spirit box, off-the-charts electromagnetic field fluctuations during our interactions, swirling angry orbs, and on and on.

Who knew Colorado was so haunted? But you be the judge!

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!