We've all read about Denver’s haunted places. The same old stories get trotted out every year about this time, and they can be fun. But they tend to lose their zing the fourteenth time you hear about the ghosts of the Brown Palace or the Buckhorn Exchange or Cheeseman Park.
What we don’t hear about is the Denver sites that have all the prerequisites for haunting except for reports of it having happened -- those spots in and around the Queen City of the Plains that might not host ghosts, but should, if the business of ghosting were fair and reasonable. At the very least, there’s gotta be a certain residual… something hanging around the following thirteen places.
Rainbow Music Hall (Monaco & Evans)
Barry Fey’s Denver jewel became a Walgreens in 1989 -- an ignominious end to what was a major local venue for equally major artists from Miles Davis and Devo to U2 and Bob Dylan. And now even the building is gone, making way for a new location for people to refill prescriptions and buy late-night diapers. After all the history in this place -- musical and otherwise -- you have to think someone might choose to live out eternity haunting the place. Maybe Barry Fey himself, in good time, just to relive the memories.
Apartments, formerly Muddy’s Coffeehouse (2557 15th St.)
Wouldn't you want to live eternally in a place where the landmark Muddy’s once sat; where the working classes of the Highlands once grabbed a cuppa; where Jack Kerouac himself -- one of Denver’s favorite adopted sons -- ate and drank and drank some more? Damn, I sure would.
Room 29, Golden Hours Motel (11080 W. Colfax, Lakewood)
This is the Lakewood motel on West Colfax where John Hinckley Jr. stayed for sixteen days and nights while planning to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. It’s said that if you listen closely, you can hear the wind cry Jodie Foster.
PTs Showclub, formerly the Family Dog (1601 W. Evans)
The Family Dog, another famous music venue that once called West Evans home, boasted an all-star lineup in 1967. Over the course of only six weeks time late that year, it hosted The Grateful Dead, Captain Beefheart, Buffalo Springfield, Van Morrison, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors. Easy to imagine that Jim Morrison might still be hanging around the place -- especially what with all the girls there now.
Elitch’s (38th and Tennyson)
We’re talking about the neighborhood here, not the ironically garden-free amusement park full of concrete. But where the old park once stood is now a small family-friendly, multi-use community with not only homes but a Starbucks, a 24 Hour Fitness, a Sunflower Market... and a curious little tree that sprouts small wads of gum every summer…
Bose, formerly Tattered Cover (1st and Detroit)
This corner in Cherry Creek North has never been the same since this grand old place sold out to new development. Maybe it’s haunted by the shades of old Neusteter’s customers, or the lingering of books and their readers, or just the ectoplasmic residue of people trying to find an hour’s worth of free parking in Cherry Creek.
Fontius Building (16th and Welton)
One of the legendary holdouts of downtown redevelopment, the Fontius Building -- an unofficial designation that references the once-impressive Fontius Shoe Store on the ground floor -- finally had its facelift recently. But it doesn’t mask the history that this building has seen in and around it over the years, starting with its inception as a department store called Steel’s and ending with the family squabbling of the Cooks, who owned the building and kept it vacant for too many years. It'd be an after-life paradise for a shoe fetishist. Or maybe one of the Cooks might still be there, clinging to the place.
Lakeside Amusement Park (Sheridan & 46th)
One of the few sites on this list that still exists in more or less its original state, this one-time "White City" hasn’t been white in a long time. It’s dingy now, but if you look around, particularly at night, even with only a fraction of the lights the place once boasted, you can see hints of its former glory. Haunting a place like this would be a treat for any Denverite who saw it in its day -- whether it was braving the long-gone Funhouse, boating or swimming in the park’s many water features, or dancing the night away in the El Patio Ballroom.
Former Site of Cinderella City (East Hampden & S. Franklin, Englewood)
If there are no teenage ghosts still loitering in the shell of an old head shop in Cinder Alley, then there have to be spectral kids wanting to once again head to Zeezo’s Magic Shop, or watch the Old Faithful-like fountain, or visit Santa on his giant imposing Santa-throne every Christmas. There was too much to like about this grand old groundbreaking place not to have some spooky sort want to patronize it still, even though it’s long since gone.
Empty Lot, formerly the Organ Grinder Restaurant (near Alameda & Zuni)
A lot can make up for mediocre food, as the continued existence of Casa Bonita can attest. And the Organ Grinder -- much like Shakey’s Pizza -- got away with it through music. The Organ Grinder stood for years in what’s now an empty lot on Alameda, but sometimes you can almost smell low-quality pepperoni and hear the phantom strains of happy music and happier kids.
Any Former Location, White Spot (Colfax, Speer, Broadway…you name it)
Call it whatever you’d like: the Wet Spot, the G-Spot, or more, shall we say, explicit names. But this was a Denver institution for far too long not to have some hangers-on. For those locations that still boast the counter and stools, it’s easy to imagine the ghosts of White Spot patrons past: the guy coming off the night shift at the Tivoli back in the '30s, sitting next to the punked-out kid with the '80s purple mohawk, sitting next to the goth transvestite with the eyebrow piercings. Whether someone returned here remembering the round-the-clock diner food or the place where there was always a party after last call? The White Spot was the sort of place to which you came back.
Barnes & Noble, formerly the Cooper Theater (960 St. Colorado Blvd.)
If you were a kid in the '70s, you saw Star Wars at the Cooper Theater. Or, if you didn’t, you were jealous of the kids that did. The Cooper was the place to be -- the place to see all the good stuff. This was '60s chic theater: the sort of place for which people used to dress up, where real drapes parted before every show, where the screens were big and the experiences even bigger. If you’re ever browsing the selection at the Barnes & Noble on the site now, don’t be surprised if you hear the whispers of "You’re all clear, kid… now let’s blow this thing and go home," followed by the hollow memory of massive, joyous cheers.
Mizpah Arch (17th between Wynkoop and Wazee)
Letting a legendary landmark like this fall to the wrecking ball should haunt our city. What was dedicated to being a symbol of goodwill to visitors and citizens alike in 1906 came to be considered a traffic hazard by 1931. It was dismantled but never should have disappeared in the first place. So maybe it will return, like a Denver Brigadoon, come 2031. Just 23 years and counting until we find out. -- Teague Bohlen