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,  
WILD WEST GHOSTS:
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.)


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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!