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Ghosts of the Cripple Creek Mining District

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Cripple Creek, Colorado, 1890In the high country beyond Pike's Peak is the Cripple Creek Mining District, dotted with historic mine shafts, head frames, and tumbling down miners' cabins. Not only might a visitor find a "taste" of gold fever in this historic district, but may also experience their hair rising on the back of their necks as they "bump" into one of the many ghosts that reportedly roam the area.


Like many other mining towns of the Old West, Cripple Creek is said to be extremely haunted. Given its rich history, complete with mining accidents, floods, fires, lawlessness, and bloody battles between mine owners and labor unions, it comes as no surprise to learn of the many ghosts who continue to linger in this once thriving city. In fact, there are so many tales of spirits wandering this historic town, that at one time boasted one homicide per day, some say it is the one of the most haunted cities in the United States.

Colorado Grande Casino

The Fairley Brothers and Lampman Building at 300 East Bennett Avenue now houses the Colorado Grande Casino and Maggie’s Restaurant. Here, you may not only enjoy a little gaming and some great food, but you might just get a glimpse of a ghost as well.

At the turn of the century the three-story brick commercial building housed a variety of businesses, including a drug store, a millinery, an engineer, a lawyer and more. It’s rock-faced corner stones, recessed center entryway, and decorative molding made it one of the finest places in town for retailers to display their merchandise and offer their services. Over the years, the building also housed medical offices, a Masonic Lodge ballroom, and a mortuary.

In addition to the sounds of slot machines heard throughout the building today, many have also heard the "ghost” of Maggie, who has reportedly been lingering throughout the building for decades.

Usually appearing on the top two floors of the building, the sounds of her high heeled shoes are often heard echoing in the halls.


Described as about 25 years old and dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, she wears a white shirtwaist, a long cotton skirt and high-heeled boots. The young beauty, with her hair piled atop her head, is known to leave behind the scent of her rose perfume even when she isn’t spotted.


Some have reported that singing and dancing is sometimes heard emanating from the old ballroom, as well as the sounds of Maggie’s lilting soprano voice heard singing an Irish accented concertina.


At the casino, security guards have often reported seeing "Maggie” along with a gentleman friend playing the slot machines after hours. She has also been caught on tape by the security cameras. However, after being viewed and stowed away, the tapes mysteriously vanished.


The St. Nicholas Hotel in Cripple Creek, ColoradoHotel St. Nicholas

Perched atop a hill overlooking Cripple Creek is the Hotel St. Nicholas. Originally built as a hospital for the many people flooding the region in the late nineteenth century, the Sisters of Mercy opened the St. Nicholas Hospital in 1898. The building also served as lodging for the Sisters and a school for students in its early days.


In 1901, a second hospital was opened by Teller County, located in what is now another historic inn - the Hospitality House. To compete, the Sisters claimed their facility to be "thoroughly equipped with all modern improvements, beautifully located with the best physicians in the district in attendance."


Over the years, the hospital served the many prospectors and families of the area and expanded to include a ward for the mentally ill. However, when Cripple Creek's mining played out, the hospital closed its doors for the last time in the mid 1970’s.


For the next two decades, the building sat empty until a series of unsuccessful business attempts were made by various owners. However, this historic building, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, finally found its niche when it was restored and refurbished by innkeepers Noel and Denise Perran and Susan Adelbush.


Today the Hotel St. Nicholas, with its panoramic view of Cripple Creek, contains 15 guest rooms, all pleasantly appointed with antiques, fine linens, and the unsurpassed elegance of yesteryear.


The hotel’s Boiler Room Tavern, popular with both locals and guests, is so named because the barback is the front plate off the inn’s original coal boiler. Here, you cannot only enjoy a beverage, but also a variety Mexican food menu, and live music during some weekends.




In addition to the opulence you will find at the Hotel St. Nicholas, you might also "find” a ghost or two. Said to be haunted by a number of spirits including nuns, children, and former patients of the mental ward, the most often "seen” ghostly resident is one referred to as "Stinky.” Lurking at the back staircase of the old hospital, "Stinky” makes his presence known with a sewage-like smell. The apparition of an old miner with no upper body is also sometimes seen.

Another ghost, that of a little boy affectionately known as "Petey,” has been seen throughout the hotel, but most often is held responsible for stealing cigarettes and moving items about in the tavern.

Quietly located just blocks from the gaming district, The Hotel St. Nicholas is can be found at 303 North Third Street in Cripple Creek.



Buffalo Billy’s Casino

Long before Buffalo Billy’s became the casino that it is today, it was known as the Turf Club. Still, visitors can see at the top of this historic building, the carved letters spelling out "Turf Club Room 1896." During Cripple Creek's mining days, several exclusive "men’s clubs,” including the Turf, lined the streets of the burgeoning city.

If was during this time, for reasons unknown, that the six year old spirit of a young girl took up residence in the building, and has remained there ever since. Known as "Lilly,” the friendly little girl has sometimes been seen sitting on the stairs, cradling a rag doll in her arms. Looking incredibly real, an employee once asked her if she was lost, to which Lilly replied, "No, I’m not lost, I live here.” When the employee left to get a security guard, the pair returned only to find the little girl gone.

On another occasion, when a tourist was playing the slot machines, she lost track of her daughter. When she began to search, she found her perched on the staircase. Asking her daughter what she was doing, the young girl replied that she was playing with Lilly.

Lilly evidently has an artistic side as her drawings, numbers, and letters are often found in the hallway at the top of the staircase. Although the walls are scrubbed down, the drawings always reappear.

According to the tales, Lilly is also said to like balloons, but only in certain colors. For example, if a blue balloon is left for her, it will pop. However, if a purple balloon is left, it will begin to wander around the building on its own.

Others have often seen Lilly peering from an upstairs window down to the street below.

Buffalo Billy’s is located at 239-243 E. Bennett Avenue.


Imperial Hotel in Cripple Creek, ColoradoImperial Hotel

Following the disastrous fire that razed most of the city in 1896, the Imperial Hotel was built to accommodate the many miners and visitors to the area. Located at 3rd Street and Bennett Avenue, the building was opened as the Collins Hotel, luring guests with modern amenities such as electric lights and steam heat.

In the early part of the 20th century the hotel was run by an Englishman by the name of George Long. Having emigrated from Europe as a young man, he made his way to Denver, where he married his first cousin. Before long, the couple was running the hotel, focusing on service, comfort, and fine dining.

The couple also began to have children – two daughters and a son. Perhaps because they were first cousins and too closely related, their oldest daughter, Alice, suffered from a severe mental disorder. As the girl grew older, she became more and more difficult to control, until her parents were finally forced to keep her locked in their apartment next to the lobby. Today, this is the site of the Red Rooster bar.


Some time later, when George was going down the narrow stairs to the basement, he fell to his death. Though it very well could have been an accident, rumors began to abound that Alice had killed her father when he approached the top of the stairs, striking him in the head with a cast iron skillet.


In 1948, the hotel introduced the Gold Bar Theater and the Imperial Players, who entertained guests for nearly five decades. Hosting the longest running melodrama theater in the nation, the historic venue continues to entertain patrons today during its summer theatre season. In 1992 the hotel added limited stakes gaming to its list of attractions and began operating as the Imperial Casino Hotel.


The historic hotel is said to be haunted today by its former owner, George Long, who allegedly likes to flirt with the ladies and play the slot machines.


Several night time security guards tell stories of how the ding-ding-ding of the slot machines and coins hitting the hopper are heard late at night after the casino has closed. However, when they check the casino floor, no one is there. Later, when the machines are checked for malfunctions, none are found.


Guests, especially women, have often felt something or "someone” touching them during the night. Another tale alleges that a chambermaid reported having her bottom pinched by an unseen hand.


In the historic Gold Bar Theatre, evidently some of its melodramatic actors also have chosen to continue their "act,” as today’s actors tell of feeling the presence of someone when in the dressing rooms or a touch upon their back.

Evidently, the "crazed” Alice also leaves her "imprint” on the historic hotel. If staff leaves the door to the Red Rooster Bar closed, they hear the sounds of scratching on the other side of the door.

Today, the Imperial Hotel and Casino continue to welcome guests to its Victorian accommodations that include antique furnishings, French wallpaper, and chandeliers; as well as dining in its two restaurants and enjoying the entertainment of the casino.


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From Legends' General Store

Life Magazine, May, 1959Vintage Magazines - Legends of America and the Legends' General Store has collected a number of Vintage Magazines, including True West, Frontier Times, Treasure and more for our Old West and Treasure Hunting enthusiasts.  For most of these, we have only one available.  To see this varied collection, click HERE!

Frontier Times, March 1968    True West Magazine, February, 1967    Frontier Times, July, 1973    True West Magazine, August, 1972    True West Magazine, December, 1967


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