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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