Originally founded in the Kansas Territory in 1858, the first settlement was established on the banks of the South Platte River. With the area’s rich mining resources, the city grew quickly as land parcels were often traded for grubstakes. Colorado became a separate territory in 1861 and a couple of months later, Denver was incorporated on November 7, 1861.
Initially catering primarily to the miners, Denver was filled with gambling halls and saloons, but quickly expanded to include a host of other businesses including livestock trading and a supply point for destinations west. In 1865, Denver became the capital of the Colorado Territory.
By 1890, Denver had grown to be the second-largest city west of Omaha, Nebraska, second only to San Francisco.
Not only does Denver have a long and rich history, but the past has left in its wake, a plethora of ghosts that are said to roam its historic streets and buildings.
Brown Palace Hotel – This century-old luxury hotel is said to host a number of spirits in its historic rooms and hallways. The ghost of an old railroad ticket manager walks directly into a wall, a baby is heard crying in the basement, an ethereal waiter rides the service elevator, and a long-dead string quartet has been known to practice their music here.
Buckhorn Exchange – Denver’s oldest restaurant began its life as little more than a trading post way back in 1893. Today, the Buckhorn continues a century-old tradition of serving up wild game and steaks in an old west atmosphere. According to the tales, some of the many old traders, miners, scouts, and cowboy continue to lurk about this historic steakhouse, as ethereal voices and footsteps are often heard and tables seemingly move of their own accord.
Capitol Hill – Once the neighborhood of Denver’s wealthiest citizens, Capitol Hill continues to wear its decadent image with honor, blending the past with the present, as ancient Victorian mansions and contemporary condos and apartment complexes dot the neighborhood. Also here in this historic neighborhood, are a bevy of ghosts. Ghost tours of the area tell of numerous entities who continue to inhabit this historic neighborhood. At the old Governor’s Mansion, ghosts are said to walk the halls, at the State Capitol buildings, a phantom woman in a long dress is often known to appear.
At one location, a house once stood that was the inspiration for the 1980 horror film, “The Changeling.” Though the ghostly tours offered of Capitol Hill vary, they often include the State Capitol, Grant-Humphries Mansion, the Croke-Patterson Mansion, Cheesman Park, the Brown Palace Hotel, and the Molly Brown House.
Cheesman Park – During the 19th century, this park was a cemetery for decades. Though intended for the masses, the graveyard ended up being mostly for outlaws, paupers, and the diseased. When it became overgrown and a terrible eyesore, the city made it into a park. However, as many as 2,000 bodies are said to remain buried here and the restless spirits continue to roam the park and the surrounding neighborhood.
Croke Patterson Mansion – Built in 1890 by Thomas B. Croke, this sandstone residence was one of the country’s most elegant homes. Now serving as an office building, it is also said to be one of the most haunted.
According to the legend Thomas B. Croke, only entered the palatial mansion one time and was so emotionally shaken by “whatever” was there, that he never returned. Just two years later it was sold to Thomas M. Patterson, whose family kept the home for several decades. Over the next several years, the building served many purposes, including a dance studio, a radio station, and a boarding house before it was converted to an office building. During the renovation to office space in the 1970s, construction crews began to experience a number of strange occurrences.
After a long days work, they would often return the next day to find that the tasks they had completed the day before had been “undone.” After this had occurred several times, guard dogs were left to protect the property from what the workmen thought might be intruders. However, the next day they found the two Doberman Pinschers dead on the sidewalk after having apparently jumped from a third-story window. Once the renovation to the office building was complete, employees almost immediately began to notice equipment, such as typewriters, copy machines, and telephones that mysteriously began to operate by themselves.
When a séance was held to determine who was haunting the building, they found it to be the spirit of a little girl whose body was supposedly entombed in the cellar. However, when the basement was excavated, they found a hidden chamber was found, filled with sea sand, but no remains of a little girl.
A ghostly image has often been sighted gliding up and down the main floor stairway and otherworldly voices have been heard here as well. Thomas Patterson, former owner of the home, is said to have been spied numerous times in the courtyard between the mansion and the carriage house.
When the building still served as an apartment building, occupants on the lower levels were known to complain about wild parties taking place on the third level. But, when these parties were investigated, they would be met with only silent emptiness.
Denver Children’s Home – Located at Albion Street and Colfax Avenue and continuing to provide youth services today, this building was known as the Denver Orphan’s Home in the late 1880s. In 1888, a fire broke out in the building, killing several children on the third floor. Though numerous exorcisms have been conducted in the building over the years, the sounds of children playing, as well as whimpers and cries continue to be heard on a regular basis. In addition to the children, the female spirit of a ghostly bride has been seen floating down the third-floor steps and across the 50-foot length of the second-floor hallway.
Denver International Airport – Everyone, no doubt, remembers or has at least heard of, the terrible problems that were encountered when building the airport in 1995. Grossly over its budget of 1.7 billion dollars, the airport was buried in technical problems during its building, especially regarding the automated baggage system. In the end, the airport cost $4.8 billion! These problems, as well as reports of employees and travelers experiencing a number of strange incidents at the airport today, is attributed to the fact that the airport was built on top of Native American sacred ground.
The Denver Press Club – A couple of spirits have been seen here, one of which is very friendly also likes to visit the neighboring Colorado Press Association. The other ghost, however, is said to be very eerie and is most often known to lurk about the dingy boiler room in the basement.
Denver Public Library – Library staff report that the basement hosts a resident spirit who doesn’t appear too happy. Some have reported that they have been shoved by this restless entity. The legend continues that one security became so frightened when patrolling the basement, he quit his job and today, the library is patrolled in groups of two.
Hotel Teatro – Occupying the old Denver Tramway Building, built in 1911, the site was also the first location of the Evans Mansion, home of John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor. When the streetcar became obsolete, the building was utilized as the University of Colorado’s downtown campus and later as the Denver Center for Performing Arts. However, in 1997, restoration began to turn the building into Denver’s premier luxury boutique hotel. When the major renovations began on the building, construction crews began to experience a number of strange occurrences. One group who heard voices coming from an office went to inspect, only to find no one there. Today, there is allegedly the ghost of a mechanic who has been seen walking down the hallways with tools in hand before mysteriously disappearing. The “tool man” is thought to have been a mechanic who once worked on railcars in the basement of the building. Tragically, he died in an accident while he was at work and is seemingly “trapped” in time.
Josephina’s Italian Restaurant – Located in Denver’s historic Larimer Square, Josephina’s is housed in a century-old building that once sported a popular speakeasy during the Prohibition era. Legend has it that the spirit, known as Amelia, was married to the shady character who owned the illegal tavern. When their daughter, Ginger, began to date a boy that her father didn’t approve of, he used his underworld connections to kill him. However, the hitman took out not only the boy but also their daughter, Ginger. Amelia was sitting in the rear of the speakeasy when she heard the news. Today, this area houses the women’s restroom, where the mirror has been broken so many times; staff no longer considers it a coincidence. Other odd things also occur on a regular basis such as liquor bottles that seemingly turn over by themselves, chairs that inexplicably move from one side of the room to the other, and many who are said to glimpse or feel her presence.
Littleton Town Hall Arts Center – Built in the 1920s, this building once housed city offices, a jail out back, and the volunteer department. Located in the Denver suburb of Littleton, there have been several reports of friendly spirits heard laughing and playing music late into the night. Staff also report that objects are often moved about and desks rearranged by unseen hands.
Lumber Baron Inn – Located in the historic Potter-Highlands neighborhood, this 1890 mansion was built by a Scottish immigrant who amassed a fortune as a lumberjack. The 8,500 square foot home fell into terrible disrepair over the years and was converted into apartments by the 1970s. In 1991, the abandoned and condemned building was saved by the current owner and today serves as an elegant bed and breakfast. During its time as a rundown tenement, a 17-year-old girl was raped and murdered in the building. A friend, who stumbled upon the murder, was also killed. Today, the elegant mansion is said to have experienced a number of hauntings and paranormal activities, one of which is the frequent sighting of a ghostly woman.
Molly Brown House Museum – This three-story Victorian house, built in 1894, was once home to Margaret Brown, who became known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” when she survived the Titanic’s sinking. Today, her home is said to be haunted by her husband J.J. Brown. Never allowed to smoke in the house during his lifetime, he seemingly rebels today as pipe smoke is often smelled lingering in the attic and basement. In the dining room, chairs are often known to move on their own accord, and a ghostly woman in Victorian garb has been seen. The specter of Molly’s adored cat has also said to lurk about the building. Near the first floor staircase, some have reportedly seen an angry-looking butler peering at himself in the mirror. Other phenomena include cold spots felt throughout the house, doors that open and close of their own accord, the sounds of footsteps in the upstairs ballroom, and misty apparitions are spied in various places.
Oxford Hotel – Built at the crest of the silver boom in 1891, the five-story brick structure was designed by leading architect, Frank Edbrooke, who would later also design the Brown Palace Hotel. Having survived the silver panic and the Great Depression, the hotel was remodeled in the Art Deco style in the 1930s. The oldest hotel in Denver, it continues to cater to travelers today, as well as at least a couple of restless spirits. One bartender reported that in the Cruise Room, a lounge that sits frozen in time since its Art Deco facelift in 1933, a man sat down at the bar wearing an old-fashioned post office uniform. After ordering a beer, he reported muttered something about how expensive it was. Then as he continued to sip on his beer, he was heard to quietly make other odd comments, such as, “the children,” and “I have to get the gifts to the children.” When he left, the bartender went to pick up his “empty” bottle, only to find it was completely full. Reportedly, the spirit is that of a postal worker who was delivering Christmas presents to nearby Central City in the early 1900s. However, neither he nor the gifts ever arrived. The next spring his decomposed body was found with all the gifts still in his possession. Another tale of the Oxford alleges that a young woman was murdered by her husband in room 320 when he caught her there with her lover. In this room, visitors are said to have sometimes seen the faint image of a woman standing in the room, as well as others who have captured on film what appears to be a woman’s face.
Red Rocks Amphitheater – Nestled in the Rocky Mountain Foothills fifteen miles west of Denver, the Red Rocks Amphitheater provides acoustic perfection not duplicated anywhere in the world. Here, along with the many performers who please crowds of thousands, also lurks the spirit of man from another Colorado era. Often seen standing on the “restricted” side of the railings, is a grizzled-looking old man thought to have been one of the many miners who once traipsed these foothills in search of their fortune. Described as about 5’5” tall, with a beard, dirty brownish hat, and a bottle in his hand, he shows himself for just a few moments before he vanishes.
Yet another legend also persists of a wild, headless woman, who is said to brandish a bloody hatchet is often seen riding a horse throughout Red Rocks. Galloping at night, she is seemingly intent on stopping any mischief or illicit romance that might be taking place upon these grounds.
The Sugar Building – Built in 1906 by the Great Western Sugar Company, it served as their offices continually until 1986. Several years later, the building was sold and totally renovated but some of its previous tenants allegedly still continue to occupy the building.
Witnesses on the second floor have often reported the sight of hovering, ghostly balls that float through the hallways. Others have said that the basement is particularly eerie and hint at malevolent spirits lurking in the walls and arches of the basement vault.
Tivoli Student Union – The union, at the Auraria Campus, combines services for the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State College and the University of Colorado. The Tivoli is a Denver landmark, originally serving as one of twelve buildings of the Tivoli Brewery in 1866. The building became the student union in 1994, but still today some of the large brewing equipment still remains. Today, voices and whispers are often heard throughout the building and according to reports; an elegant ghostly party can be heard coming through the vents on the third floor.
University of Denver – A couple of places are said to be haunted at the university. The most often told tales occur in Mary Reed Hall, described to be very active with paranormal phenomena. Though currently housing administrative offices, the building opened as the university’s library in 1932.
Many report having felt cold spots in rooms that are otherwise very warm, doors get stuck before magically open of their own accord, fresh light bulbs suddenly stop working, and even the ghostly image of a woman has been sighted on numerous occasions. Some say the “Mary Reed Ghost” is of Mary Reed, herself, who contributed large amounts of money to the university. Others say it is her daughter, Margery Reed, who died at a young age from an illness she contracted in South America.
The ghostly figure often spied in the DuPont Room, is thought to perhaps be Mrs. DuPont, whose husband contributed substantial funds for the library. Regardless of who she is her translucent image is most often seen sitting and reading in the dark in both the DuPont and Renaissance Rooms. Another story tells of a janitor who was pushed behind when locking up the building. When the custodian turned around, no one was there. When she continued to walk away, she was allegedly pushed again by unseen hands.
Another hot spot at the university is the Lamont School of Music, where at Dunklee Hall; a student allegedly killed herself on the second floor. Today, eerie incidents are said to occur here, including a door that quietly closes of its own accord after people have exited the room.