In 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.
Hotel 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.
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.
The Victor Hotel
The first Victor Hotel was built in the early 1894 by the Woods Brothers just in time to accommodate travelers arriving on the newly completed Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad. The large two-story wooden frame building was a showplace with its cone-shaped tower and enclosed balconies on its second and third stories. The “modern” hotel even featured electricity.
However, when a devastating fire swept through Victor in August, 1899, the wooden building succumbed to the flames that spread quickly and destroyed the entire town in just five hours.
Not to be deterred, the building was reconstructed to stand the test of time, with brick and stone. Larger than the prior building, the “Bank Block,” as it was called, housed not only the “new” Victor Hotel , but also the Woods Brothers Investment Company and the First National Bank. The four-story building also housed storefronts along the first floor and the upper floors held simple accommodations for businessmen and miners.
One distinctive feature of the hotel was its elevator, which came in handy for yet another function that the building took on. During the winters, when the ground was frozen between October and June, it was impossible to dig graves for those that died in the quickly growing city. As an alternative, the bodies were taken up the elevator and stored on the fourth floor of the building until the ground thawed enough to bury them.
It is apparently many of these long-dead Victor residents that haunt the historic hotel today. Though seemingly harmless, several people have witnessed the site of disembodied apparitions on the fourth floor. Reports include what look like both doctors and patients, sometimes without arms, legs, and even a heads, moving about this place that once acted as “holding cell” for the dead.
There are other haunted areas in the hotel including the basement, the elevator, the third floor, and the kitchen.
Throughout the hotel, guests often tell of seeing misty forms and hearing footsteps, sometimes accompanied by the sudden rush of cold air. In the kitchen, employees tell of utensils that are suddenly thrown about the room.
But the most prevalent ghost is that of a man named “Eddie” who allegedly fell down the elevator shaft years ago. Staying in Room 301 at the time of his death, Eddie has often been seen in the room, in the hallways, and in the elevator. Guests who stay in Room 301 also report hearing footsteps and other strange sounds that cannot be explained. Though the elevator is regularly inspected and maintained, it often tends to activate itself going up and down the shaft when no one is near it. Always stopping on the third floor, the elevator’s ghostly activity usually occurs around 3:00 a.m.
Today, the Victor Hotel , located at 4th Street and Victor Avenue continues to provide accommodations to travelers. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel features 20 “modern” rooms with private baths. Victor is just a ten minute drive from Cripple Creek through the historic mining district on Colorado State Highway 67