Vail Valley Voices: Town of Vail may face supernatural forces in West Vail
Vail, CO, Colorado
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
— Hamlet Act 1, scene 5
I’ve written for and edited a fair number of publications in this Valley, including my current realvail.com, but this is the first time I’ve written for the Vail Daily — so how will I get started?
I’ll raise the specter of affordable housing, but not in the way you’re probably thinking.
It seems the town of Vail plans to build a two-unit housing structure at the bottom of Arosa Drive in West Vail. The building contract will be discussed at the next Town Council meeting June 16, but those in attendance may not know about the strange and storied history of this unique plot of land.
Lonely and deserted for nine long years, the town-owned lot is slated for construction this autumn. The family-friendly homes built on the property will be the first domiciles on the lot since 2000. Before that, an A-frame house squatted at the base of the hill, overlooking I-70 with a malignant, hooded eye.
I remember the house clearly, not just because of its 200-yard proximity to my childhood home, but also because we all knew — everyone in West Vail knew — the house was haunted.
The legend began with screeching tires and a loud crash somewhere in the night, sometime long ago. Yet another winter driver had confused the North Frontage Road with the highway on-ramp, but this time the mistake had been fatal. Just as the driver accelerated into high gear he slammed on the brakes, but not in time to avoid hurtling over the precipice and down into the drainage below.
Emergency medical personnel tried to resuscitate the man, but he perished in the driveway of that old, creaking A-frame … where many say his spirit made a phantasmal home.
We didn’t think much of the event in the years that followed, but then stories began to circulate. Lights flickering on and off, doors slamming, dogs howling and barking at the walls, and always the sensation that there was someone — something — there under the apogee of that A-frame, watching.
The home passed from one owner to the next, never one staying long, until the town of Vail bought it in 1995 and used it for employee housing, renting it room by room.
Trouble seemed to plague the place. I once met a young couple in the old Jackalope (now the Sandbar), who looked stressed, harried and guarded their luggage at their feet. They were homeless for an evening, by choice, because they had been living in the A-frame on Arosa but simply couldn’t stay another night. Haunting, they said, was their sole reason for abandoning their room. They stayed with friends until they could find a more peaceful place to live.
Peace was hard to come by at the A-frame ever since it was built in 1971. My dad was one of Vail’s early home builders, and as he completed our house up the street he helped out on the A-frame from time to time. A good ol’ boy named Frank Higgens ran the show, and to save a dime he decided to buy and build one of those “kit” homes, a kind of mail order home which falls somewhere between “double-wide” and “tenement housing” on the home-quality hierarchy.
Bob Armour, a former Vail mayor, has lived across the street from the lot for 20 years with his wife, Mary Lou. He remembers a nice young couple who worked for the town, stayed in the house for a while before they were driven out. Their dogs, it seems, were constantly barking at thin air, appearing to chase specters round the house.
Armour believes it was mice, not ghosts, that were chased by dogs through that house. Doors slamming without warning, lights flickering on and off — it seems the symptoms of a haunted house are one and the same with symptoms of a slapboard, clapboard, murky old A-frame that creaked and splintered with even the slightest mountain breeze.
Still, the legend lives on. At a recent Town Council meeting, when someone asked why the original place was torn down, Vail housing coordinator Nina Timm roused old suspicions when she replied that it was torn down because it was haunted.
Lamentably, she told me she was only kidding around. “We didn’t tear it down to rid the neighborhood of supernatural forces.”
But how can we know for sure? I remember the signs, I remember the stories. And if the place wasn’t haunted, then why the long, nine-year wait for reconstruction? Why do all of us who live, or once lived, in that close-knit, congenial community simply know, without question, that something strange was afoot at the old house on 2657 Arosa Drive?
And why does Armour still keep the wizened skull of a big horn sheep on the corner of his property, its cavernous eyes unceasingly fixed upon the empty vacant lot across the street?
“To ward off the evil spirits,” he told me over the phone … and I could barely, just barely, hear the sound of Bob and Mary Lou getting a good chuckle out of it all in the background.
So when new strangers move into our little hamlet on Arosa Drive in West Vail, we’ll have to quote them the old verse from Hamlet, act 1, scene 5 – and then we’ll wait, and watch, and see what rich legends arise in the next incarnation of that mysterious place at 2657 Arosa.
Read more legends and stories at http://www.realvail.com, and share your Vail Valley ghost stories at http://www.realvail.com/RealRhetoric. Tom Boyd is co-founder of realvail.com and editor of Destination Colorado Magazine.
With the upcoming July 12 grand opening of the new Everkrisp trail from Minturn to Eagle-Vail, Whiskey Creek trail will reopen to mountain bikes.