Searching for cemeteries
Vail, CO, Colorado
Living in the pristine surroundings of the Vail Valley, antique catacombs and dilapidated cemeteries are as common a sight as vampires on a sunny day. Thanks to Hollywood’s portrayal of zombies, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night, graveyards have become one of the most frightening and eerie places one can step foot on. As a child, going near a graveyard at night, no matter how big the dare, was too scary to imagine. What is it about graveyards that fascinates and scares us so much?
“It’s like one of those built-in fears from youth,” said Edwards resident Kate Aziz, “I’m not scared of dead people or anything, it’s just not an appealing place to be.”
Each boneyard has its own legends and stories attached to it, and the superstitious attribute any number of creepy phenomenon to the spirits of the dead who reside there.
As Halloween draws near, the supernatural becomes more prominent, and the following list of Colorado’s gravesites should help you find some full-moon mischief or the perfect spot for a seance.
Just behind the Eagle County Charter Academy in Edwards there’s a plot of earth thick with overgrown and untamed sagebrush. In the midst of all the wild growth can be found tombstones of varied sizes and shapes, some decorated with fresh flowers and wooden crosses. The graveyard is very small, created by early settlers to bury the casualties of their long trek, it now houses the remains of a few pets and generations of families. The oldest tombstone is from the late 1800s and the most recent reads 1989. The roughly 36 by 36 foot plot has all of the elements of a good old-fashioned graveyard, too. A wrought iron fence camps out near one corner of the lot, its open gate inviting in new souls, or perhaps letting old ones out.
A graveyard this close to a school full of kids is bound to make some people paranoid.
“There’s a few teachers that think we have a few friendly ghosts because of them [the graves],” said Eagle County Charter Academy principal Jay Cerny, who related his own possible experience with the spirit world. “I’ve heard a couple of little old ladies talking and there was nobody in the building and no radios on. It was later at night and I was the last one there.”
Another haunting location lies just off of Highway 24 in Minturn. How fitting that the Riverview Cemetery is actually on Cemetery Road. Not as apt to scare the crap out of you once the daylight vanishes, Riverview is well-maintained, modern, and pretty. Concrete pathways allow for easy walking while communing with the dead. The polished, well-placed markers make it easy to find who you’re looking for. If thrills and chills aren’t your thing but you still want a taste of the morbid, a moonlit stroll through Riverview might do.
If you want to experience some out-of-town terror, Ginger DeRay will make the drive worth your while. DeRay gives horseback tours of six small graveyards throughout the Idaho Springs and Central City area. The tour takes you through old mines, aspen groves, and graveyards surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks.
Tours can be made during the day but for a really scary time DeRay recommends the moonlight tour. She describes the graveyards as small and very old, some hidden in out of the way areas that add to the fright factor.
Although she has never seen it herself, DeRay says that “one of the graveyards up above Central City is known for having a ghost. A woman comes out in a long black duster. She lost her lover in the war. People go there to see her all the time, and it’s a well-known thing.”
DeRay runs all of her tours herself from May 1 until Nov. 31 of each year. She can do single or multiple grave tours as well. Visit http://www.aastables.com or call 303-567-4808.
According to a web site called http://www.theshadowlands.net, “blue lights shoot through the treetops and a woman in white flies over the tombstones” of Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. Reports of a bronze elk statue with a moving head are also common. Long rumored to be haunted by a large number of spirits left over from the frontier-era mining days of Colorado, this cemetery is especially rich in legend and history. It’s divided into 12 sections, some privately owned, others owned by religious sects. Parts of the cemetery are overgrown and run-down, others immaculately maintained. The sheer size of it can make it intimidating, as it’s mixed in with thick trees and tall grass. Located at the corner of 10th and James Street in Leadville, it’s easy to find and full of the macabre charm that sets old-school cemeteries like this apart from the competition.
Perhaps best known for containing the grave of Doc Holiday, the legacy of Pioneer Cemetery in Glenwood Springs goes much deeper.
“Linwood Pioneer Cemetery was started in 1886,” said Cindy Hines, executive director for the Frontier Historical Museum in Glenwood, “Linwood contains the remains of doctors, mayors, business owners, miners, children, victims of the flu pandemic of 1918 and many others.”
During the last two weekends of October, the Frontier Historical Society will hold its annual historic Ghost Walk through the cemetery. Participants will hike uphill to the graveyard where costumed actors portray memorable characters from Glenwood Spring’s past during the nighttime tour.
“Some of our Ghost Walk actors have reported feeling a ‘presence’ while they are alone at the gravesites of the person they portray,” explained Hines. “It is usually a positive energy, not a negative one. We feel that any spirits who may still reside in the cemetery are glad that we are telling their stories so they are not forgotten.”
Staff writer Charlie Owen can be reached at email@example.com.