Haunted locales may come and go (rest in peace, Flossie McGrew’s), but it’s their stories that make the standouts stand out. Here are six of Colorado’s most unusual spooky sites, guaranteed to give you the creeps not just on Halloween, but on any dark night.
1) Cheesman Park, between Humboldt and Race streets and 8th and 13th avenues
In 1890, the growing city of Denver decided that Prospect Hill, a neglected cemetery, needed to be removed. Some sections belonged to groups willing to relocate their dead. For the rest, Denver hired an undertaker whose cost-cutting resulted in a scandalous mess. He was fired and the area backfilled, graded and built over. About 1,000 occupied graves remain, their locations revealed when landscaping work — the area is now Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens — turns up more than earthworms. Sunken empty graves can be detectable when the light is just right.
To this day, some park visitors report unexpected feelings of sadness, fear and anger. Others have experienced disembodied voices, misty figures, the touch of unseen hands and more.
2) Museum of Colorado Prisons, 201 North First Street, Cañon City
Cañon City has nine prisons in all. Close to the first one, built in 1871, is a smaller lockup that became a museum in 1988. The museum’s thirty cells are each devoted to a theme from the prisons’ history, from the grim tools used to punish misbehaving cons to Hollywood movies filmed in Cañon City, such as The Big House (1930) and The Women of San Quentin (1983).
Docents say they’ve heard enough disembodied whisperings, catcalls and moans to know that something stayed behind when the last of the prisoners went elsewhere. Heavy doors fixed never to close have been known to suddenly slam shut. The museum sometimes offers ghost-hunting seminars. Don’t forget to stop by the defunct state gas chamber, outside the front entrance. Get more information at 719-269-3015 or prisonmuseum.org.
3) Gold Camp Road Tunnels, Victor to Colorado Springs
This is one of those sites with an ominous reputation that grew around something that never happened — but some folks continue to make pilgrimages anyway, in the hope of scaring themselves brainless. Or they’re there because they’re hoping to prank others by pretending to be rampaging Satanists or poltergeists.
The scenic but challenging single-lane dirt route between Victor and Colorado Springs is known to law enforcement for being a handy area in which to dump stolen property and human bodies. It runs through three tunnels, one of which partially collapsed in 1988 — resulting in a myth that it crushed a school bus full of little kids. Now all three tunnels have a reputation for being haunted. They’ve also gained a reputation for attracting people who like to scare total strangers.
Get a taste for this route’s rugged beauty — and the fakers — on YouTube.
4) “Vampire’s Grave,” Lafayette Municipal Cemetery, 111 West Baseline Road, Lafayette
It’s that word “Transylvania” on the homemade gravestone, the word that continues to inspire paranormal investigations breathlessly discussed online. The old rose bushes that once grew there were supposed to be the vampire’s fingernails, just as the nearby tree is supposed to be from the stake keeping the occupant firmly in the grave. This despite a debunking more than five years ago when the Aurora-based American Association of Paranormal Investigators dug into local newspaper archives to find out who was really buried there.
Two immigrant miners share this grave, though they died on different days in December 1918. Poverty probably forced this arrangement, as well as the primitive double memorial. One of the men was a Romanian, born in Transylvania. That’s the vampire connection.
By all means, visit the pretty little cemetery across from a fire station, and take a photo of the gravestone mentioned on a gazillion paranormal websites. But if you hate crowds, avoid the place on Halloween night, when it tends to attract ghost hunters competing to record spirit voices, as well as true believers putting salt on the grave.
5) Riverdale Road, the Gates of Hell & Field of Screams, Adams County
Riverdale Road is a long stretch of two-lane, curving country motorway with more sinister stories attached to it than a Mafiosi strip club.
Much of it runs through the countryside alongside the South Platte River. It starts near the west side of the river north of Denver, by Colorado Boulevard at 90th Avenue, and ends at state highway 7. Along the way are sites where horrific accidents supposedly occur when motorists encounter strange animals, phantom drag racers, ghostly hitchhikers and the sound of something invisible running alongside their car.
In an area with low, strangely rounded hills are the Gates of Hell — tall, rusting, padlocked metal barriers to a former hippie commune. Rattle those gates, and a pack of vicious dogs will suddenly appear to chase you back to your car. If you survive that and the very real blind curves, another scarefest awaits where Riverdale meets 104th Avenue near Thornton. This happens to be where the Field of Screams is located, with three different Halloween attractions. Find out more at hauntedfieldofscreams.com.
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6) Morrison, eighteen miles southwest of Denver
Pretty much all of the old town and Red Rocks Amphitheatre are haunted by a spooky reputation. You can hear stories of paranormal experiences everywhere, from antique stores to bars to bed-and-breakfasts. Any longtime local can point out an old stump from the former “Hanging Tree” and recall talk about the ghost of the Hatchet Lady, who lived in a cave in the Red Rocks area during the 1950s. But the easiest way to hear the best stuff is by taking a tour with Colorado Haunted History, still available after Halloween. Reach the crew at 888-649-3849 or hauntedcolorado.net.
For more truly odd spots, see Charmaine Ortega Getz's weirdcolorado.net.