Apparitions abound in Leadville
LEADVILLE – At first, Dave Ellerman didn’t think anything about the lights turning on that he was sure he had shut off. Nor did the bumps and grinds that stirred him awake at night bother him. And the footsteps that had him thinking someone was in the house? Well, those noises were simply the settling of a house built in 1893. No, it wasn’t until Ellerman was lying in bed watching TV and actually saw a figure walk through his kitchen that he realized he was living with a ghost.”I’ve seen him a couple times. He’s usually visible up through the second story window in the barn at the back of the house. It’s is a little unsettling seeing a figure in that window up there. It’s a small window and all you basically see is a head and shoulders,” said Ellerman, who’s lived in Leadville on West 7th Street for about 13 years. “He’s usually most active between 6 p.m. and about 2:30 a.m. The rest of the time he’s pretty quiet.”He calls his ghost Mr. H, because several people who have come through the house, clairvoyants and his mother included, felt that his last name began with the letter H. The clairvoyant told him Mr. H was benign and most likely in his mid to late 20s.Ellerman, who is a delivery driver for Goodnight Mattress in Eagle-Vail, believes Mr. H must have died quickly in one of the mines around Leadville and never went on to anywhere else. Mr. H likes to play with the pinball machines in Ellerman’s living room, always ringing the bells once or twice. “We do think he was a miner because he messes with the pinball machine. In mining, one ring means going down and two rings mean going up,” Ellerman said. “He makes it ring when the machine is off.”Mr. H has a penchant for modern day technology, turning on the television or the lights of the cars Ellerman keeps in the barn. Right before this reporter’s eyes, Mr. H set the model airplanes in Ellerman’s spare room slightly spinning. “He does like to show off,” Ellerman said.Out of everybody that has seen Mr. H, Ellerman’s small niece is the only one that he has actually spoke to. She was snoozing on her uncle’s couch when Mr. H aroused her from slumber.”In the morning, she told me a person that was in a checked shirt, suspenders and pants said he was sorry for waking her up and told her to go back to sleep,” Ellerman said.
Sometimes Ellerman’s keys would disappear and end up in the refrigerator or medicine cabinet on top of the toothpaste, but Mr. H has never done anything nasty or mean to him.”You never really feel alone in the house. He is almost the perfect roommate. He doesn’t eat and he doesn’t use hot water,” Ellerman said.Mr. H was, however, constantly leaving the refrigerator door open, spoiling some of Ellerman’s food. So Ellerman asked, out loud, for Mr. H to please leave the door closed because the waste of food was expensive. Since the request, it hasn’t happened in some time, Ellerman said.Hungry for attentionRoger Peterson, Leadville’s resident ghost expert who researched and developed ghost tours through the town and cemeteries, said that apparitions like to be recognized. People that are less skeptical about those flickering lights or things moved from here to there or glitches in the computer or those knocks and footsteps are more likely to experience spirits, Peterson said.”If these apparitions or spirits can perceive us, maybe they are wondering why we can’t perceive them. They may come up and try to touch us on the shoulder or speak to us, but most of us probably can’t see or hear them and that may be confusing to them,” Peterson said, who has since a young age personally experienced many ghostly happenings. “If they perceive someone that can see or hear them, then I think they like that and maybe manifest themselves more.”Joan Brookshire, retired Leadville school teacher who grew up in Climax, said she knows a single mother who was eventually forced to make contact with the spirit haunting the home she rented on East 9th street.Her little daughters would play up in the home’s attic, but the dog, who followed them everywhere, Brookshire said, would sit at the bottom of the attic stairs and cry as the girls frolicked above. He wouldn’t dare go up the stairs.The owners of the house sold it, and so the mother, who worked at the Chamber of Commerce at the time, would tuck the girls in bed and begin packing their stuff up to move. “And the next morning everything she had packed the night before was unpacked. This went on for about a week. And she finally said, ‘I know your upset because I am leaving, but I’m not leaving by choice, I have to leave. Will you leave my boxes packed?’ And that was it. The boxes remained packed,” Brookshire said.
Although Brookshire has never personally experienced any spirits, she definitely believes in them.”These tales have all been told to me by the people that were there when it happened,” Brookshire said.Peterson had just finished telling the story of Mary and Jerry Coffey at the Delaware Hotel, an 1886 Victorian Inn in the heart of Leadville’s downtown, to one of his ghost tour groups. A troubled marriage, Jerry shot Mary in the back twice. She died and now haunts the Delaware Hotel from the waist up, Peterson said. Peterson stepped out of the hotel and onto 7th street when a truck drove by real slow. Written on the door of the truck were the words “Coffey Family.””I’m starting to think what are the chances in the world that that would ever happen right after I told the group the stories. With the name spelled the same way,” Peterson said. “That tells me that these people know I’m telling their story, and they like that, and some how the universe or them gives you this confirmation that yeah, we like you telling our story.”Mary not the only haunt at the Delaware HotelAlmost every resident in Leadville has a ghost story. The Cloud City Coffee House has one and so does the Bonanza Trading Company. But the Delaware Hotel seems to harbor the majority of the legends.”We have a woman in a white dress, like a chamber maid, who carries luggage, tucks in little girls and closes windows,” Karen Kinnel, one of the hotel’s employees, said.Kinnel said a guest once told her that she caught her 5-year-old little girl talking to someone in one of the rooms. When the guest asked her daughter who she was speaking to, the daughter said this nice woman in white.There’s also the apparition that resembles Wyatt Earp, which Kinnel suspects is responsible for the mysterious cigar smoke that sometimes permeates the north end of the second floor of the nonsmoking building.
A woman Kinnel knows, still in town, an employee at the hotel for many, many years, was working the graveyard shift. The employees have to run checks on the second and third floors every two hours.”She’s upstairs doing her check, and she comes down the far skinny stair case, and sees a ghost at the far end of the hall at Room No. 2. And at that time there was bookshelves against the wall. The ghost had a book in her hand and was reading it,” Kinnel said. “So the lady just sat down quietly on the stairway and watched her for 10 minutes. And the ghost never acknowledge she was there.”Room No. 2 is notorious for supernatural sightings. A short man cut off at the ankles who glows green is often observed at this end of the building. Peterson said it’s not surprising these haunts are sticking around. In the Victorian times, spirits and ghosts were very popular. People were believers. Seances were common, and the occult was quite the rage.”So many of the people who lived in Leadville met violent ends, and they loved their town and just decided to stay here. It’s an exciting place to be,” Peterson said.Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado
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