I journeyed to Victor this past weekend wanting to believe. The old mining town sits near Cripple Creek, and though it's still partially inhabited, many of the old buildings are completely abandoned. In other words, it was the ideal setting for the first-ever Spirits of Victor Paranormal Convention, which brought experts from all sorts of supernatural fields together in one eerie ghost town for a day and night of spooky experiences. Armed with a camera, three friends and a Fox Mulder attitude, I went hunting for ghosts.
I arrived just in time for Ghost Hunting 101, a workshop put on by Michelle Mayer, a member of the all-female ghost-hunting group Full Moon Explorations. Around twenty people had gathered to listen to Mayer explain her no-frills philosophy of hunting for ghosts, which she describes as "energy with attitude."
At Full Moon Exploration, there's no pretension and no fancy equipment; according to Mayer, you don't need anything more than a flashlight, camera and recording device. She regaled us with tales from her twelve years of ghost-hunting, including stories of Stewie, the potty-mouthed miner ghost who had a crush on her, and how she let ghosts follow her home to piss off her now ex-husband. But she also offered some helpful tips, including treating ghosts like children by setting boundaries for them, and keeping a sense of humor about the whole experience, because ghosts are more likely to join the conversation if you're having fun.
She also taught us about the difference between primary evidence and secondary evidence (primary includes photographs, recordings and film, while secondary includes psychic readings and energy changes) and aware ghosts versus recorded events: Some supernatural experiences, she said, actually interact with us while others are recorded and just repeat over and over..
Mayer then passed around photos featuring light orbs that ghost hunters believe show the presence of supernatural entities in the room, and played EVPs (short for electronic voice phenomena, in which the tape recorder picks up ghost voices) that she'd recorded. While some were garbled and hard to make out, the most concrete (and creepiest) featured a male voice -- the ghost hunters were all female on that excursion -- whispering very clearly, "I'll let you meet Milton."
"Just because the voices sound creepy doesn't mean they're negative," Mayer advised. "If you hadn't spoken for fifty years, your voice would sound creepy, too!"
After the workshop, we checked into the Victor Hotel, where the spirit of a miner named Eddie, who fell down the elevator shaft, is said to haunt the halls. The elevator definitely felt spooky, partly because it was a very slow-moving birdcage elevator, and partly because it shocked me every time I pressed the buttons.
We got dinner at the only place open in town, a taxidermy-filled dive bar called Dirty Sally's that had karaoke that night. We attempted to summon the spirits of Kurt Cobain and Johnny Cash by performing terrible renditions of their songs before heading over to the Elk's Club for a ghost hunt.
Mayer was leading this expedition, and had set up what she called Orb TV in the darkened, creepy lodge; it was simultaneously taping and showing flashes of strange lights and orbs floating around. While no orbs showed up on the Westword house camera, my friends got a few suspicious-looking spots that could possibly be remnants of the spirit world.
"Don't be scared," Mayer tried to assure us and the other ghost hunters. "Just accept that it's just a person and they don't have a body right now."
This was not reassuring.
We then headed back to the hotel for a witching-hour seance led by psychic Laura Westfall. Over a dozen people gathered around a candle-lit table to hold hands and attempt to summon spirits on a Ouija board. After a frustrating half hour of the board spelling nonsense, somehow through yes and no questions it was determined that we were communicating with a child who had died in a fire and couldn't spell, and that was the reason for the random letters at the beginning of the seance. I wasn't entirely convinced by the Ouija board ritual, but I walked away a little creeped out.
No one put away the Ouija board after the seance, so my friends and I snuck back down to the hotel lobby around 1 a.m. and attempted a summoning of our own. But again, the Ouija board failed to perform. Maybe it's unfair to expect something made by Milton Bradley to be able to communicate with the afterlife, but I was pretty disappointed by the board's inability to let us talk to ghosts.
Just as we were about to give up on the spirits in this supposedly haunted hotel, my friend Erica invited the ghosts to make their presence known. Suddenly, we heard a loud rumbling coming from the kitchen area off the lobby. We moved closer to investigate and started taking pictures to try to catch some orbs. We all saw a shadow flash across the room, then screamed and ran back up to our room. As we ran, we remembered Mayer's tip regarding setting boundaries and told our ghost to stay downstairs.
Come morning, we saw that the rumbling was probably related to the ice machine in the kitchen, but the timing still seemed uncanny. Maybe a ghost made the ice machine rumble? Skeptics could easily debunk our ghost story with logical explanations, but I'm still convinced that something supernatural happened at the Paranormal Convention.
After a visit to the town cemetery, our trip was complete and we left with photos of orbs, knowledge of how to hunt for spirits, and memories of our very own ice machine ghost.
Click through for more photos from the Spirits of Victor Paranormal Convention.