Of all the hotels in Colorado only 30 have achieved a listing on at least one, if not all categories of preservation status, including: 1) Listed with the National Register of Historic Places, 2) Listed with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 3) Listed with Colorado Preservation, Inc., or 4) Listed with city or county historic properties. Another distinction these historic hotels possess (pun intended,) they are all haunted. Spending a night in one of these hotels can prove to be a spooky, sleepless night.
The Brown Palace Hotel, a Denver landmark since 1892, once claimed the ghost of a prominent Denver socialite. In 1937, the hotel remodeled the top two floors into private residences complete with kitchenettes. Known as the Skyline Apartments, several wealthy and influential people stayed here including, Evalyn Walsh McLean of Hope Diamond fame, and Denver socialite Mrs. Crawford (Louise B. Sneed) Hill. The widowed Mrs. Hill moved into the Brown Palace Hotel Suite #904 in 1944, claiming she could not get quality servants at her 22-room mansion near Capitol Hill. She spent her last years here primarily in seclusion. At the age of 94, Mrs. Hill died alone at midnight on May 28-29, 1955. Several years later, the phone at the hotel’s front desk began ringing with the call coming from Mrs. Hill’s former suite; there was never anyone at the other end. Hotel historian Julia Kanellos, conducting the “Affairs of the Heart” tour, which included Mrs. Hill’s scandalous romances, deduced that Louise Sneed Hill did not appreciate her dirty laundry aired in front of the general public. The historian dropped the story from her tour, and the phone calls immediately ceased. Even more curious, during a remodel of the 8th and 9th floors at this time, there were no telephones on either floor. Even spookier; as the calls came from the room with no phone.
Following Bob Womack’s gold discovery in 1891, the Cripple Creek Mining District was formed. Two years later, Warren Woods, along with his sons Frank and Harry, arrived at the foot of Battle Mountain, intending to develop a townsite. On Nov. 6, 1893, the town of Victor, named for Victor C. Adams, a local homesteader, was officially platted. When the Woods brothers broke ground for a new hotel, darn near in the center of the new town, they struck gold. Their future pay dirt came from the gold, not the hotel built in 1894 which became an investment.
The Victor Hotel was built at the southeast corner of Victor Avenue and 4th Street. The opening of the hotel, in July1894, coincided perfectly with the first completed rail line into the district; the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad. The showplace of Victor, over time the hotel became a host to ghostly apparitions.
Perhaps the most well-known ghost story involves the elaborate elevator. Eddie, a local miner lived in Room 301. Leaving for work one day, Eddie fell through the elevator shaft to his death. Today, guests in Room 301 often don’t stay the entire night, hearing footsteps and other unexplained sounds. The ornate iron caged elevator also served as transportation of a different sort in the early 1900s. With frozen ground during the winter months, graves at the Sunnyside Cemetery were impossible to dig. The fourth floor of the hotel held the bodies, transported by the elevator, until springtime and warm weather thawed the ground. There have been several guests reporting sightings of ghosts on the fourth floor. Apparitions of headless ghosts, or those without arms or legs, and even those that look to be doctors, have been reported. Today, on occasion, the well-maintained elevator mysteriously activates on its’ own, always stopping on the fourth floor.
Following the horrific fires in the very heart of Cripple Creek on April 25, 1896, due to the great economy of the mining town, businesses were quick to rebuild, this time in brick. From the ashes, new businesses emerged. One of which was today’s Imperial Hotel & Casino. In 1910, George E. Long, who held the mortgage on the Imperial Hotel, reacquired the property after foreclosing on the previous owner. Subsequently, George and his wife Ursula, moved to Cripple Creek with the intent to operate the hotel for a time, but stayed for 40 years.
The hotel heavily advertised the location as being just two blocks from the train depot. Pierce Arrow limousines with the hotel logo waited at the depot. The sharply-dressed drivers often brought hundreds of guests a day to the hotel. For 30 years the Longs kept the hotel operating through the mining downturn and the Depression years.
George Long fell to his death, (some say mysteriously) down the narrow basement stairs in 1940. Rumors swirled that his daughter Alice had either pushed him or hit him with a skillet. A mentally challenged child, Alice was often locked in the room that is now a portion of the Red Rooster. After the death of George his widow struggled on for four more years. In 1944 Ursula Long padlocked the doors and walked away forever.
Today, the ghost of George Long is said to roam the stairs and the basement. Alice is also known to roam the Imperial Hotel. Hotel staff have often reported the sounds of scratching on the door to the Red Rooster room.
In 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steam Engine and subsequent Stanley Steamer automobile, journeyed to the Rocky Mountain region of northern Colorado for his health. His health improved and he went on to build the finest resort hotel in all of northern Colorado.
When F. O. Stanley completed his $200,000 Stanley Hotel in January, 1907, it was the marvel of the Rocky Mountain West. Over time, it was also fraught with exaggerated legend and lore. Foremost was the legend of author Stephen King and his best-selling novel, The Shining. Contrary to legend, King did not write the The Shining while holed up at the hotel. The idea of the novel however, was indeed conceived while staying at the hotel. The original movie The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, plays continuously on guest room televisions.
Ghost tours of the Stanley Hotel are open to the public and include the mysterious underground tunnel. However, for those looking for less spooky ghosts, it is said Flora Stanley still plays the grand piano as well as she did when the hotel opened.
For more ghostly hotel encounters, pick up a copy of Wommack’s Colorado’s Landmark Hotels available online or through the author’s website.