An ethereal woman dressed in black who vanishes if you get too close, an apparition that plays slots at the local casino, unexplained flashes of light that show up only in photographs — these are actual accounts of the supernatural side of Colorado.
Get into the spirit of Halloween at some of the following eerie spots — you’ll certainly get goosebumps, and, who knows, you may even scare up a specter or two.
Stephen King got the idea for “The Shining” while staying at this sprawling, 109-year-old hotel in Estes Park, where children’s laughter is often heard in deserted hallways and ghostly strains of piano music emanate from the empty ballroom. There’s no shortage of spooky inspiration at the Stanley; in fact, the hotel is so haunted, they offer nighttime spirit tours that take you to some of the creepiest areas of the hotel, including an underground tunnel.
Central City Masonic Cemetery
Unexplained orbs of light mar photographs taken at this Central City cemetery at night, and a little boy has been seen following visitors around the grounds, ducking behind trees whenever they try to talk to him. Another strange character — a beautiful woman in black — appears twice a year and places columbines on the grave of resident John Edward Cameron. Any attempts to find out more about this mysterious woman have been fruitless — she vanishes into thin air when visitors approach. While wandering the cemetary after dark is considered trespassing, the Gilpin County Historical Society leads Creepy Crawls around the city's ghostiest sites each October.
Housed in a former women's correctional facility in Cañon City, both the exhibits and venue itself reflect the history of Colorado's prison system — not to mention the inmates and staff who roamed the historical cell house and whose spirits are rumored to linger. Reports of cold spots and the smell of tobacco have been attributed to the old laundry room, while a female prisoner is said to haunt cell 19, where she passed away. For an in-depth experience, book a spot on one of the summertime Paranormal Investigation Night tours, when experts lead a thrilling ghost hunt complete with the latest technology to capture your own proof.
Cripple Creek has a long, storied history — and the ghostly remnants to prove it. Among the town’s sites are Buffalo Billy’s Casino, inhabited by the spirit of a young girl who draws on the walls and makes bar glasses fly through the air, and the Colorado Grande Casino, haunted by Maggie, a turn-of-the-century Irish woman who smells strongly of roses and plays slots after hours. Other haunted places include the Hotel St. Nicholas, The Palace Hotel, the Mamie R. Mine and the Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, which offers tours in late September.
Among Denver’s haunted hot spots are the Brown Palace Hotel, which offers a ghost tour to private groups, and the Molly Brown House, where light bulbs unscrew themselves and the door from the dining room to the kitchen opens and closes on its own. Perhaps the most chilling of Denver’s haunted spots is Cheesman Park, the graveyard-turned-public-park that inspired the movie “Poltergeist.” When the area was converted from a graveyard to a park in the late 1800s, a half-hearted attempt was made to relocate the bodies. It is believed that many remain buried beneath the park, and the surrounding houses are rumored to get visits from spirits. One particularly haunted house, The Henry Treat Rogers Mansion, has since been demolished, but not before inspiring the story The Changeling, which author Russell Hunter based on real-life events he experienced while living there.
Phantom Canyon Road
Not for the faint of heart, Phantom Canyon Road is a detour off the Gold Belt Tour byway and the former route of the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad. The drive itself is thrilling as the narrow, unpaved road climbs 4,000 feet in elevation, twisting and turning through eerie mountain tunnels and the centuries-old ghost towns of Wilbur, Adelaide and Glenbrook. As you near Cripple Creek, you may spot the specters who give the road its name — particularly the ghost of a uniformed 1890s prison inmate who was spotted walking the railway days after he was executed.
This 1893 Glenwood Springs accommodation is known as one of the state’s most haunted thanks to the paranormal activity that takes place under its roof. Both guests and staff have reported getting goosepimples at the sound of a woman wailing, and the lights are known to flicker unexpectedly. Not spooky enough for you? Hotel Colorado's eeriness is ramped up by the fact that the basement was once used as a crematorium for World War II military personnel.
Other Colorado Ghost Tours & Events
If the idea of exploring Colorado’s haunted places by yourself leaves you cold, check out one of the many group tours offered throughout the state.
• Tour Aspen’s creepy past on the DarkSide Tour.
• Encounter some of Boulder’s favorite ghosts in the comfort of a vintage tour bus by Banjo Billy's Bus Tours.
• Immerse yourself in dark-side exploration with Denver’s Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society, which ups the ante with haunted tours hosted by real paranormal claims investigators.
• Creep through the haunted mansions of Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood on the Capitol Hill Ghost Tour.
• Let Blue Moon Haunted History Tours lead you through the scarier sides of Victor and Manitou Springs.
• Take an evening stroll through the heart of Trinidad, where murders, shakedowns and Old West characters have left their mark.
• Join a Ghostly Tales tour in Breck to learn about the town's creepy past, including the historic Brown Hotel & Restaurant's resident ghost — Miss Whitney.