It’s been reported that both jailers and inmates roam the halls of the building that served as the Teller County Jail from 1910 to 1991, and is now The Outlaws & Lawmen Jail Museum in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Guards have been heard walking the halls and staircase of the two-story house of incarceration, folks have experienced cold spots, seen dark masses, and heard heavy breathing, and even a possible sighting of an actual apparition have been reported. Of course, I had to pay a visit to see for myself this historic haunted location.
The building has an interesting history. Originally, the Teller County Jail, used to house to house those awaiting trail in the nearby courthouse, serving also as a hold-over for hardcore felons and murderers waiting to be shipped to the prison in Wyoming to serve out their time, and a stp-over for criminally insane prisoners on their way to the State Hospital in nearby Canon City. In 1991, a new jail was erected in Divide, Colorado and the building was retired, now serving as museum housing a plethora of the history of this Colorado mining town.
The women were housed on the second floor of the brick building, with a female jailer who stayed on premises to watch over her charges, who were housed in small rooms furnished with wooden bunks. There have been claims of feeling and seeing the female jailor, Rosie’s, apparition in her room at the top of the stairs. And someone claimed that she ‘communicated’ to them that she was still watching over her charges, although I could find no account of the method of communication from beyond that was used.
The men’s cellblock was seperated from the recieving area in the front of the building by a steel cell block door, and the cellblock itself was fashioned from a ship’s interior; a two story metal framework housing 14 cells, 61/2 feet by 9 feet, 10 on the lower level and four on the upper, which each housed 4 to 6 inmates on hammocks and a single chamber pot, until such treatment of prisoners was deamed inhumane and double bunks were installed. The whole cellblock is situated in the middle of a spacious hall with large windows to allow sunlight into the gigantic steel cage which is cold and dark. Bars on the outer walls allowed observation of inmate activities, and the cell doors open into a corrider that runs through the lower block.
Dark shadowed masses have been reported near the two cells at the far end of the first floor cell block and the steel door seperating the cellblock area from the reception area has been said to fly open of its own accord. Footsteps going up the stairs and back down, as if a guard was still on duty and making his rounds have also been reported. And the apparition of a night jailer has been seen, trying to get in, although he disappeared as soon as the caaretaker opened the door.
The catwalk on the upper level of the cellblock had only a thin iron pipe for a railing, and at least one man fell, or was pushed, to his death. One might expect there to be more such occurances in a cellblock housing the wild and rowdy occupants of the mining town along side hardcore murderers and the criminally insane. It is near that spot, that cold spots and heavy breathing have been reported.
The solitary confinement cell is located at the far end of the upper level. This was the only place where I sensed anything strange. I stepped inside the solitary cell, which is four steel walls and a small bench, with only a narrow doorway through which to enter, and unlike the regular cells with barred doors, this one is solid metal, allowing no light to penetrate into the cell when closed. In the photo below we see the light coming in from the open door from the catwalk.
Once inside, I immediately felt an oppressiveness and anxiety and became cold; a feeling that the door would swing closed and an urgent need to get out coming over me with force. Even with the door open, there was very little light in this cell, and I could only imagine how awful it would feel to be locked in utter darkness for hours or perhaps days at a time. But the feeling I had in that cell was more than just the expected claustraphobia. It was a feeling as if someone were there, standing right outside, ready to slam the solid metal door shut.
Linda Wommack (12/29/2022) Cripple Creek’s Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum Puts Visitors Behind Bars. HistoryNet Retrieved from https://www.historynet.com/cripple-creeks-outlaws-and-lawmen-jail-museum-puts-visitors-behind-bars/.
Amber. Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum. Denver Terrors. Retrieved from https://denverterrors.com/outlaws-and-lawmen-jail-museum/
Seth Boster (10/21/2019) Eight Haunted Spots in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Out There Colorado. Retrieved from https://www.outtherecolorado.com/adventures/8-haunted-spots-in-cripple-creek-colorado/article_f0819728-13f3-59b7-a5e2-6506ebaea72a.html
Cripple Creek Jail. HauntedHouses.com Retrieved from http://hauntedhouses.com/colorado/cripple-creek-jail/
For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.
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Since WordCrafter Press holds a paranormal short fiction contest each year, I’m always on the lookout for a good ghost story, and since this year’s anthology, Where Spirits Linger, revolves around settings, haunted places have been of particular interest to me. According to paranormal investigator, Connor Randall, in his csindy.com inteview (May 12-18, 2021) with Heidi Beedle, “In terms of ghosts, liminal places are key,” he says. “A liminal place being a location that is in between… They’re places that are locations of transition…”, which “seem to attract more haunting energy.” Which is why hotels are common locations of ghost hunts. To my thinking, a hotel which was originally a hospital would be even more likely to be a liminal place.
Said to be one of the most haunted places in an old mining town that is reputed to have its fill of ghosts, my stay at the Hotel St. Nicholas, in Cripple Creek, Colorado featured a few occurances that may have been close encounters of the ghostly kind. There are rumors of hauntings all over Cripple Creek, but when I saw the 120 year old Victorian building perched on a hillside, I was convinced that ghosts roam its halls, just from looking at it. This is the kind of place where ghost stories are born. (You can read a full history of both Cripple Creek and the Hotel St. Nicholas on the Hotel St. Nicholas website.)
I’m not a professional ghost hunter, but I’ve had my share of ghostly encounters in my lifetime. I don’t have a bunch of fancy apps and special ghost finding equipment. Also, I didn’t want my experience to be influenced by the tales that went with the hotel, so I waited to do my research until after I had spent a night in Room 12.
The hotel itself has a quiet, relaxed atmosphere with many authentic Victorian furnishings throughout. I went there during the off-season, so there were only a handful of other guests and I was able to wander through the halls and peek into the unoccupied rooms, as each room is unique in this boutique B&B.
The building was originally a hospital run by The Catholic Sisters of Mercy, a group of nuns who offered medical care to the mining community, so many of the rooms have been converted to accomodate individual bed & bath. (There are actually two rooms that have private baths across the hall.)
On the lower level of this three story Inn, you’ll find The Boiler Room Tavern, which is open on weekends and sporadically during the week. The accompanying parlor area features a bar, a sitting area with table and chairs from the Victorian era, fireplace, piano and billiards table. I didn’t feel or smell or hear anything odd while enjoying this unique boutique atmosphere, but someone or something was helping me with billairds, because I kept winning.
The lights above the bar may have given of a few mysterious flickers that could easily have been written off as faulty wiring, but just looking up the back staircase, raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I later learned that this staircase area is where a ghost called “Stinky”, due to the raw sewage smell that accompanies his manifestation, is reported to be encountered the most. I believe that I met Stinky, although my room was on the third floor, and the back stairs only go to the second floor, as I smelled a rather rank smell several times throughout the night. (On a later date I stayed in Room 1, which is right at the top of the back stairway, on the second floor, but neither Stinky nor any other spirits came out to say, “Hello”, on that visit.) According to Legends of America, Stinky may also be seen as an old miner with no upper body, as well as the ghost of a small boy named Petey, who is often thought responsible for “stealing ciggarettes and moving objects about”. Good thing I quit smoking.
In addition to experiencing unexplainable olefactory encounters with Stinky, while lying in bed whispers were also heard outside the door of Room 12, accompanied by a feeling of shame, as if I’d been caught in a state of undress and told to cover myself, although the actual words could not be made out. When I later learned that the nuns occupied the third level of the building, with patient rooms on the lower floors, this experience seemed to make a lot more sense. In addition to its original use as a hospital, the building has been used as a boarding house or stood vacant until it was opened as the Hotel St. Nicholas.
Both of my visits to the Hotel St. Nicholas were enjoyable experiences, with or without the ghosts. But, keep in mind that I wasn’t really looking for ghosts when I decided to stay there, and I only connected any odd experiences to the ghosts reputed to haunt there after the fact, because I didn’t do any research until the following morning. Maybe that is why they made their presence known to me, because I had no expectations. It’s not surprising that I had no encounters on my second visit either, because my expectations had changed on that visit. I mean, think about it. If you were a ghost, would you want to appear on demand when ghost hunters show up with all their fancy apps and gadgets, like you were some sort of circus sideshow? I know I wouldn’t.
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Trouble Returns, by Nancy Oswald, is the third book in her Ruby and Maude Adventure children’s series. The series are historically based stories about Ruby, an independent and headstrong young girl, and her ice cream loving donkey, Maude, and their adventures in Cripple Creek in the late 1890s. I had the pleasure of reviewing the first book, Rescue in Poverty Gulch, in which Maude is donkey-napped and Ruby risks her own life to save her beloved friend and companion.
Ruby must face her greatest fears in Trouble Returns, when she must face the villain, Jake Hawker, who’s she’s tangled with twice before, in a court of law, when she testifies against him. But she finds her fears very real when he breaks out of jail and comes after Ruby and her friends and family. Can Ruby triumph over Jake Hawker for a third time?
Trouble Returns is crafted to be a stand alone book as well, making me aware enough of events in the second book, Trouble on the Tracks, that I was able to easily follow the full story line, although I hadn’t read the second book, without giving me a bunch of block exposition. As you might guess from the titles, books two and three feature an additional character, who steals readers’ hearts: Trouble, Ruby’s lovable little cat.
I found this story to be a delightfully entertaining story which was skillfully written. Oswald has crafted another story that readers of all ages won’t want to put down. She’s done her research and the historic details are wonderful. Another plus for me was the fact that it is available in paperback, because I’m an old fashioned type of gal. I give Trouble Returns five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.