Saturday, January 24, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn

Between now and the spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book,  
Miracle Inn
an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn (formerly Last Dollar Inn)  in Cripple Creek, Colo. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as watch YouTube clips from our actual investigation.)

Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn consists of two structures -- an 1890s brownstone and a reconstructed Victorian-style boarding house -- even though it's not readily apparent from the outside that both buildings comprise a single inn. But experiencing the oft-reported hauntings within the original brownstone on the western end seems like a bonus when staying at this posh and elegant B&B.

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Historical Context
Cripple Creek's 1800s history began as a cattle pasture before Bob Womack discovered an ore deposit in 1890 and sparked the last great Colorado Gold Rush. Soon after, prospectors flooded the region, increasing the population from 500 to 10,000 people in three years.

In 1896, three successive fires destroyed most of the city. Resourceful citizens rebuilt Cripple Creek over the next few months, and many of the historic buildings still in existence date back to that renovation.
These days, only a few small mines still operate. The real gold comes from local gambling casinos, legalized
in 1991, and they now occupy many of the historic buildings.

Goodman herself may
haunt the B&B

Shortly after the 1896 fires, a new city ordinance required builders to use brick. A gentleman from the East Coast moved to town and built what would later become Linda Goodman’s Miracle Inn. He modeled his new home after the brownstone style he was used to and erected it next door to a boarding house.

In the decades that followed, the inn also became a boarding house, a bookkeeping office, and a private residence. Legend holds that ladies of the night operated out of the guestrooms.  Even Nicola Tesla reportedly stayed there during his Colorado electrical experiments.

During the 1960s, author Leland Feitz summered in the house. After meeting astrologist/author Linda Goodman (Sun Signs) at a book signing, he invited her to Cripple Creek. Soon after, she rented the house and eventually bought it, adding her own touches, including the large stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi. 

Rick and Janice Woods bought the building in the 1990s. They also purchased the neighboring boarding house, reconstructing it in a Victorian style and adjoining it to the brownstone to open the Last Dollar Inn.

Jason Barton and Sofia Balas purchased the historic inn in 2013, in the eleventh hour before the building faced auction and an uncertain future. 

They’ve kept much of the d├ęcor of the original house intact, including many of Goodman’s antiques and memorabilia. The B&B’s guestrooms are dedicated to various former residents as well as to notorious Cripple Creek madam Pearl DeVere.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The house has a long-time reputation for hauntings, and this feature attracts a number of its guests.

A psychic told Jason and Sofia the basement of the brownstone contains a spirit portal. If this is true, the ghosts certainly don’t stay downstairs. 

Even before the couple purchased the B&B, they experienced paranormal activity during a vacation stay. Opting for the Linda Goodman Room, they witnessed the door open and slam by itself (in the absence of any draft). Sofia saw a picture in the bathroom shift on its own and move. 

They also heard someone sitting in a wicker chair and sensed a presence standing by their bed watching them. More impressive, they observed a shadow walk past their door. In the Womack Room, Sofia witnessed a shadow apparition pass through the closed closet door. 

Nicola Tesla stayed here 3 months
while conducting electrical experiments
Other guests report footsteps in the hallway, and a number have experienced their hair pulled from behind. One previous inn owner felt an unseen presence pat the top of his head while he leaned over the bed in the Linda Goodman Room. That owner also reported the door to the Feitz Room mysteriously closing and locking on its own (an action that takes manual locking). 

According to an article in the Pikes Peak Courier, some guests have heard a “phantom train” while staying in the Feitz and DeVere rooms; a child ghost has appeared at the desk in one of the rooms, and the apparition of a train conductor has shown up in the living room.  

Sofia has often felt a cold spot move through her while serving breakfast, an activity that often happens while she sits at the table. Guests have also noted the moving cold spot in the dining room.

Even if the spirit portal basement is off limits to the public, paranormal interactions at the ground level and on the second floor in the original building abound for the more adventurous and ghost-seeking guest.

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Next week, we share history and ghostly stories for Del Norte's Windsor Hotel, where a tragic early-day suicide still haunts the premises.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Colorado Haunted Hotels - Hotel St. Nicholas

Between now and the spring, we're sharing the history and haunted legends associated with each of the hotels and B&Bs included in our forthcoming book,  
Hotel St. Nicholas
an amateur ghost hunting guide
to Haunted Hotels
in southwest Colorado

This week, we feature the Hotel St. Nicholas  in Cripple Creek, Colo. (If you missed -- or want to revisit -- the paranormal investigation we conducted at this hotel, you can click here, as well as watch YouTube clips from our actual investigation.)

* * *

Shades of Alfred Hitchcock – but with a lot more class. Because this building is a renovation of a former Sisters of Mercy hospital and sits elevated on a hill above the town, the setting resembles the classic haunted hotel. The three-story brick building, shrouded by tall Ponderosa pines, appears imposing and impressive with outside balconies and a cupola still topped with an iconic Christian cross.

Historical Context

The Hotel St. Nicholas’s colorful history began in 1898 when the Dublin-based Catholic Sisters of Mercy built it to accommodate the Cripple Creek area during the Colorado gold rush.

The hotel lobby
According to history compiled by the hotel, “The Sisters originally operated from an existing wood-framed building, one block from the current St. Nicholas, and served 307 patients during their first year. A massive fire in April 1896, destroyed most of Cripple Creek, and led to an incident of drama and irony. As the fire progressed through [town], many wooden-framed buildings were dynamited in an effort to slow the fire. 

"While the sisters were evacuating patients to safer locations, a member of an anti-Catholic society entered the hospital’s kitchen and attempted to destroy the building by placing dynamite in the stove chimney. To the man’s misfortune, the dynamite exploded prematurely, causing little damage to the hospital, but blowing off his leg. He was evacuated with the other patients, and the compassionate care he received from the Sisters led him to express remorse for his deed. His shoe, which had landed in the tea kettle, was kept by the Sisters as a memento.”

The nuns, convinced they needed a safer structure, hired a Denver architect to design and build a three-story brick hospital for a cost of $12,000. The first two floors served patients, reserving the third floor for the nuns and the attic for the hospital orderly. Completely modern for its day, the hospital contained electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold running water, and surgery facilities. The first patient was a young miner who had fallen down a mine shaft.

The Sisters left Cripple Creek in 1924, and local doctors bought the facility. After closing in 1972, the building served as a boarding house but eventually stood vacant by the time it was purchased and refurbished as a hotel in the mid-1990s.

Legends, Stories, and Guest Experiences
The community abounds with ghost stories, and the Hotel St. Nicholas has its fair share. Paranormal activity occurs on all three floors.

Third-floor hallway
A number of years ago, owner Susan Adelbush sat working in the office behind the cashier’s booth and heard someone behind her. She turned to see a tall, thin man who wore a turn-of-the-century derby hat and long coat. Within seconds, he disappeared.

An employee later saw that same man, wearing the same clothes, as he strolled past her out of the nuns’ room and simply vanished before her eyes. Only sometime afterwards did Susan and the employee compare notes to discover they had witnessed the same apparition.

Not to be ignored, the derby-hatted gentleman appeared again to part-time local Tom Tunnicliff in the first-floor hotel lounge. He and several friends stood at the bar. The front doorbell sounded and the on-duty staffer left to check but soon returned – no one had entered the otherwise empty hotel. Tom felt someone touch his shoulder, and he turned to see the dark outlined silhouette of a man in a long coat and derby. The apparition passed through Tom’s arm, giving him a tingle, and proceeded to walk through the bar as well as through the antique boiler against the outside wall.

Guests have reported a crying little girl at the foot of their bed in Room 11 (the former surgery room). Others said they’ve heard children playing with a bouncing ball and laughing on the third-floor hallway in the middle of the night. This happens even on evenings when no children stay at the hotel, according to Susan.

In an article in the Pikes Peak Courier, the hotel also remains home to ghostly former patients of the hospital’s mental ward. The article cites another reported recurring presence – a ghost called “Stinky,” sighted on the back staircase and making his presence known with a “sewage-like smell.”

Hauntings occur throughout Cripple Creek. Many casinos claim to have regular ghosts that play slots. One establishment reports a recurring apparition who sits at a particular machine. The ghost plays for a while and then disappears. One wonders who collects the earnings, if any.

Several people visiting Tom’s own house, just below the Hotel St. Nicholas, have witnessed an apparition arrive on his porch, come through a locked door, and walk through the home.

“People in Cripple Creek often dress up in period clothes,” Tom said. “But sometimes they disappear. You don’t know if you’ve seen a real person or a ghost.”

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Next week, we share history and ghostly stories for Cripple Creek's other haunted establishment in our book, Linda Goodman's Miracle Inn (formerly Last Dollar Inn), which may contain a portal to another dimension in its basement.