Cafe Society

Does Buffalo Bill Haunt Lola?

There are plenty of bars and restaurants around town hosting Halloween events this week. In addition to pouring spirits, some restaurateurs will be introducing guests to the spirits that reportedly haunt the storerooms and back halls of their establishments. But a few spots don't need to conjure up special-occasion parties; they come by their spooky reputations naturally.

Linger and Lola, for example: The two hot-hot LoHi restaurants occupy buildings that were once part of the Olinger mortuary complex. See also: Thirteen Top Spots to Trick-or-Eat on Halloween in Denver

Linger plays off that past with a design that includes embalming-fluid water bottles and toe-tag cards, as well as a giant Harold and Maude photo. Lola, which bills itself as a Mexican fish house, does not -- but it has the most interesting history, because it occupies the oldest part of the Olinger empire, where William F. Cody was put on ice for months.

Cody, who was much better known as Buffalo Bill (during the heyday of his Wild West show, he was the most famous man in the world), died in Denver on January 10, 1917. On January 14, his coffin was driven through downtown on a caisson pulled by a team of horses to the State Capitol, where 25,000 people filed by to see him in his open casket in the rotunda. After that, Cody was returned to Olinger to await burial. He'd asked to be buried on Lookout Mountain, but the ground was frozen solid, and so his body was stashed in the basement for more than three months. Cody was finally laid to rest on Lookout Mountain on June 3, 1917. Today the city operates the nearby Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave as part of the Denver Mountain Parks division.

And Cody's legend lives on. While no one at Lola has reported any sighting of a ghostly Buffalo Bill on the premises (although he certainly enjoyed a good meal, as evidenced by menus in the Buffalo Bill museum collection), there will be plenty of goblins, ghouls and other scary creatures at the annual Halloween party and costume contest there, starting at 7 p.m. on October 31.

Full disclosure: I'll be one of the judges. Bonus points for historical accuracy!

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun