Cheyenne, Wyoming, got its start in July 1867, when General Grenville M. Dodge and his survey crew platted the site now known as Cheyenne Wyoming in anticipation of the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad through the territory. By the time the first track was built four months later, 4,000 people had already migrated to the new city. The railroaders and first settlers were quickly joined by gamblers, saloon owners, thieves, opportunists, prostitutes, miners, cowboys, and legitimate businessmen. The fledgling city, busting at the seams, was a wild and lawless place during its first days, so it should come as no surprise that it is said to be one of the most haunted places in Wyoming. In the days preceding Halloween, a Cheyenne Trolley offers two tours per night for ghost hunters hungry for the tales. Here are a few of the legends we’ve picked up along the way.
Atlas Theatre – Built in 1887, this three-story building initially held a confectionary shop on the lower level, and the upper floors were utilized as office space. However, in 1907, architect William Dubois was hired to convert the first floor into a theatre. The following year, the Atlas Theatre opened and continued to operate until 1929. Closed for a couple of months, it was reopened as the Strand. By the mid-1950s, the building sat abandoned until 1961, when it reopened as the Pink Pony nightclub. Remaining open for only two short years, the building again sat idle until 1966, when the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players began to use the Atlas for live theater productions. In 1971, the theater company purchased the Atlas, and two years later, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though little is known about them, the historic theatre is said to be home to two active ghosts. The Atlas Theatre building is located at 211 W. 16th Street.
Deming Elementary School – Built in 1945, the school is allegedly haunted by a man who was killed in the furnace room years ago. At night, lights are seen flickering in the building, and clanking noises are heard. Legend also has it that if you look into a window at night, you will see your own shadow and another next to it that is seemingly cast by an unknown entity. The school is located at 715 West 5th Avenue.
Francis E. Warren Air Force Base – Located three miles west of Cheyenne, this Air Force base was first established as Fort D.A. Russell in 1867. Named in honor of Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell, it is the oldest continuously active military installation in the Air Force. Over the years, it served the U.S. Army and Cavalry in protecting the frontier and served through the Spanish-American War and both World Wars. In 1949, 80 years after its founding, the fort became Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Today, the base is home to the 90th Space Wing and Headquarters and is one of four strategic missile bases in the United States. Modern facilities make up the base today, but many historic structures remain.
Along with these old buildings, legends are told that many of the old cavalry soldiers also continue to linger, often seen walking upon the grounds or in the dormitories. Another story tells of a spirit that is said to harass female members of the security teams. Civilians are only allowed on base during periodic public tours or if “sponsored” by military personnel.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church – Cheyenne’s Episcopal congregation first held services in a small frame church in 1868. However, by 1886, the congregation, made up of several cattle barons and large ranchers, had begun to outgrow the small building, and plans were made to construct a new one. However, the winter of 1886-87 with a very bad one, and blizzards and severe cold killed many of the cattle. Without the prosperity of the ranchers, it would be more than two more years before the building was ready to hold services. Opened in 1888, it was still not entirely complete as the bell tower was not done and was simply capped off.
It would be years before the bell tower was finally completed in 1924. Skilled in old-world masonry, two Swedish men were hired to complete the tower. However, when it was forty feet high, the two masons simply disappeared. When new workers were hired, they immediately began to complain of hearing strange tappings, the sounds of hammering, and whispers coming from the very walls of the tower.
Years later, a man came forward explaining that when the original masons were working on the tower, one of them slipped and fell to his death. The other panicked that he would be deported or entombed with the other man’s remains in the tower wall.
Though no longer the case, the church once allowed public tours of the tower around Halloween. A psychic who visited during this time reported sensing two spirits in the tower – one of whom was very upset and the other, an elderly white-haired man who walked with a cane. The two spirits are thought to be the mason that fell to his death and Father Rafter, who had hired the men.
Over the years, many people have claimed to have heard a church pipe organ that was once located in the bell tower, even after it was removed from the building. Others have reported that the church bells have often been known to ring of their own accord, and allegedly whispers can still be heard within the church. The church is located at 1908 Central Avenue.