Buffalo Billy’s is located at 239-243 E. Bennett Avenue.
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.
The Palace Hotel/Womack’s Casino
Cripple Creek’s Palace Hotel first began as the Palace Drug Store. However, in 1892, the building was transformed into a hotel. With the influx of the many miners to the region, the hotel also featured one of Cripple Creek’s original gambling dens. As one of only two hotels during Cripple Creek’s early days, the place was so crowded at times; they even rented chairs to sleep in for $1 per night.
Alas, the building did not survive the 1896 fire that destroyed the entire town. However, the building was rebuilt and opened to guests once again. With its lavish décor, it soon became a major attraction for wealthy gold barons and high-rollers, as well as the many people who stepped off the stage at its front door.
By the turn of the century, the hotel was owned by Dr. Chambers and his wife Kitty. Taking care of his patients, the hotel was run by his wife, affectionately known as Miss Kitty. Priding herself on service, she offered a number of amenities to her guests, including placing lighted candles throughout the hotel and turning down the beds at night.
When Miss Kitty died in 1908 in Room #3 of the hotel, she evidently wasn’t ready to leave, as stories have it that she continues to reside there. Over the years, guests have told stories of how she continued to provide great service by making sure that the candles were lit and sometimes turning down the beds. Others have reported seeing a vision of Miss Kitty dressed in an old-fashioned white night gown with her long hair down over her shoulders. Yet other people have reported seeing the same figure in the window of Room #3.
Miss Kitty is not the only ghost said to lurk within these historic confines as some suggest other spirits continuing to roam the old hotel, including a short fat man, a
tall woman, and a blind piano player. Reports include feelings of being watched; people who feel a gentle nudge as the walk up and down the stairs, crashing noises and footsteps in the halls when no one is there, and strange anomalies appearing in photographs.
Today, the hotel is the property of Womack’s Casino, as of this writing, no changes have been made to the building, which continues to stand vacant. The Palace Hotel is located at 172 E. Bennett Avenue.
Update: Reader’s Story – My wife and I were at Womacks Casino overnight on April 3, 2008 celebrating our anniversary in room 101. At approximately 1:30 am, I awoke to hear a scratching sort of sound coming from near our overnight bag. Remembering that I had some beef jerky in the bag, I figured a mouse may have found it’s way into the bag. I got up and noticed that the bag was touching the bottom of a chair that was in the room. As I leaned on the chair and reached down to grab the bag, I found that the scratching sound was actually coming from the chair itself. The chair was made of stiff leather on a type of rattan or similar wood/vine. I checked the bag and found nothing wrong with it, no mouse or anything else that would make a noise. I moved the bag away from the chair and did not hear the sound anymore.
I fell back asleep and about 3:15 am I was in a dreamlike state I think, because I was laying on my left side facing my wife, and in this dreamy state I was trying to move my right arm so as to hold my wife but something was holding my right shoulder tight. I must have awakened while struggling to move my right shoulder and suddenly when I awoke, my shoulder was released. I laid there awake for a few minutes (actually afraid to move) and listening for anything. I turned the television on and watched for an hour or so before drifting in and out of sleep.