Though Annabell was always said to have been kind and generous to the few who still frequented the store, the locals began to call her “Dirty Annie” because of her filthy clothing and tangled hair. She was also known to have roamed the old town, with rifle in hand, to protect her property. The town officially died on Sept. 30, 1952, when the post office closed.
Eventually, Tony and Annabelle were sent away to a mental institution, for their own safety and that of others. However, after just a few weeks, a sympathetic friend convinced the authorities that they were of no harm to anyone and they were released. Tony died a short time later and Annabelle was sent to a nursing home in 1958 where she died in 1960. Their property was left to the sympathetic friend who had helped them.
Afterward, the survival of the town was largely due to the Stark family and their descendants, who remained the sole year-round residents for many years. According to local legend, perhaps at least one of them, Annabelle Stark, still keeps a ghostly watch over the town.
Shortly after Annabelle’s death, the friend’s grandchildren were said to have been playing in a room of the hotel, when suddenly all the doors in the room slammed shut and the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees. The terrified children refused to play in the hotel again.
Another one of the grandchildren, a young woman in her twenties, decided to take on the hotel as a project, cleaning out the rooms, making minor repairs, and washing down the walls and floors. After cleaning up for the day, she and her friends would put away their tools and cleaning supplies, only to find them in the middle of the floor when they returned the next day. After this continued to occur, they started placing the items in a padlocked closet, but still, they would be in the middle of the floor when they came back.
On another occasion, a skier was said to have seen a very attractive woman in a white dress framed in the second story window of the old hotel. The owner was away on vacation, so who could it have been? The young woman’s eyes were focused on something in the distance and when the skier followed her gaze, she saw a group of snowmobilers who were riding through the street. The skier flagged down the group, informing them that snowmobiling was illegal in St. Elmo. The group apologized and rode away. When the skier looked back at the hotel, the woman nodded to her, then turned away and vanished.
The legend of Annabelle’s ghost lives on with the part-time residents of Saint Elmo, believing that she continues to protect her property from vandals or trespassers.
Unfortunately, on April 15, 2002, a fire in Saint Elmo destroyed six of the buildings, including the old Town Hall and Jail and some of the Stark family dwellings.
On July 6, 2002, the Saint Elmo Property owners passed a resolution to donate the Town Hall property, as well as the Saint Elmo School House, to the Buena Vista Heritage Museum. The Museum plans to work closely with the Association and residents to preserve and protect Saint Elmo.
St. Elmo today has numerous structures that have been preserved and are all privately owned. It is one of the best-preserved ghost towns anywhere in Colorado and still has a few residents. The remaining structures include a general merchandise store, which still operates from May through October, a church, a school building, many other business structures, and numerous cabins. Many of these date back to the 1880s and 1890s.
There are many great four wheel drive trails throughout the area, rock hounds will find quartz and aquamarine, and camping and upper-mountain fishing abound.
Directions: To get to Saint Elmo, from Buena Vista, take US 285 south to Nathrop, and then County Road 162 west for approximately 16 miles to Saint Elmo.
Crofutt’s Grip Sack Guide of Colorado, 1885
Eberhart, Perry; Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Sage Books, 1959
National Register of Historic Places
Wolle, Muriel Sibell, Stampede to Timberline; Aircraft Press, May 1950; Denver, Colorado