Walking with ghosts in Glenwood
If you go ...
What: Ghost Walk tour of Linwood Cemetery.
When: 7, 7:45, 8:30 and 9:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Linwood Cemetery, Bennett Ave., Glenwood Springs.
More information: Tickets can be purchased by calling 970-945-4448.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Though they have long laid at rest, some of the souls interred at Glenwood Springs’ historic Linwood Cemetery are restless at Halloween.
They have stories to share, tales of heartache and happiness best shared at night by lantern light. And there you have the makings of the annual Glenwood Ghost Walk.
The event returns for its 16th season on Friday and Saturday.
The Linwood Cemetery is the famed resting place of Old West icon John Henry “Doc” Holliday, as well as many other community pioneers. Sixteen years ago, the folks at the Glenwood Frontier Historical Society came up with the idea of offering a Ghost Walk tour of Linwood Cemetery during the Halloween season, with actors portraying historical figures and sharing their life stories. The event is the organization’s major fundraisier, and it usually attracts around 700 people during a three-weekend run.
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According to Cindy Hines, director of the Frontier Historical Society, the tour has developed the stories of 20 pioneers, six of whom are featured each tour.
“You could actually go every weekend and see something different each time,” she said.
While the tour ambiance is decidedly eerie, the event itself is not intentionally frightening.
“We do it during the Halloween season because it’s fun to be in the cemetery at night at that time,” Hines said. “But we don’t deliberately try to scare people during our ghost walks. We don’t jump out from behind trees.”
Instead, the meticulously researched tour impresses visitors with stories of pioneer grit and heartache. Consider the tale of Edgar Wilson.
“He was a town marshal, and he was charged with guarding the first man charged with murder in Glenwood Springs,” Hines said. “He gets to tell the story of how he kept the lynch mob at bay.”
As visitors make their way though the darkened cemetery, it is the sorrowful tales of the past that draw the most emotion. Life in the Old West was brutally hard, after all. Consider the tale of the 9 of Diamonds, the stage name of a lady of the evening.
“She said it was a cursed card, which tells you something about how she saw her life,” Hines said. “During the tour, she talks about the people who were looked down on by society and ultimately buried in the potter’s field.
At the time when he was buried, the good people of Glenwood Springs likely wanted to forget that Kid Curry had found his final resting place in their community.
“Kid Curry was not a nice person. He had no qualms about killing people,” Hines said.
Kid Curry was once a part of Butch Cassidy’s gang, but ultimately, his bloodthirsty ways led him to part ways with Cassidy. Curry met his end while robbing a train in Parachute. He was surrounded, and rather than be taken alive and placed in jail, he committed suicide. No one wanted his body, but he was ultimately buried in Glenwood.
Of course, a Ghost Walk at Linwood would not be complete without the story of its most famous citizen — Doc Holliday. While the other ghosts rotate during the various tour sessions, Holliday is always a fixture.
For the past 16 years, Holliday has been portrayed by R.W. Boyle, who has made a thorough study of Holliday’s life.
“There’s not many people who know more about Doc than I do,” said Boyle, who calls himself a Holliday “portraitist.” “There is no script of what I do. There never has been a script.”
Boyle said there are certain historic Westerners who have reached iconic status and Holliday is one of them. The gun fight at O.K. Corral is part of Old West lore, and Boyle said that’s because there were so many people with reputations involved in it. Beyond that, he said it was truly a good versus evil battle.
“The cowboys were really a well-organized crime organization at that time,” he said. “Doc found out early on that not only did he like to gamble, but that he was pretty good at it.”
Holliday’s time in Glenwood was brief. He arrived in town in May 1887 and died on Nov. 8 of that same year.
“He came here to take the waters, but it probably wasn’t good for him,” Boyle said.
By the time he met his death, Boyle said Holliday’s renowned alcohol consumption probably wasn’t masking the pain of his disease. Boyle believe he had switched over to laudanum (opium) by his final days.
As he prepares for each Ghost Walk, Boyle rests by Holliday’s grave and contemplates Doc’s life story as he watches the lantern-led groups bob along the path. He then tells a tale that is never exactly the same but always presents the core of the legend.
And sometime, he gets to have a little extra fun.
Boyle noticed a group of teens loitering after a final performance one evening, so he circled back up to Holliday’s grave to make sure they weren’t planning some Halloween mischief. He positioned himself behind a nearby tree and watched until the teens found Holliday’s grave. He stepped out from behind the tree in full Doc Holliday costume and admonished the teens to make sure they treated the grave with respect.
“They were screaming all the way down to Bennett Avenue,” Hines said.
In the end, whether the story is about someone famous or someone unnamed, Hines likes to think the “ghosts” welcome the annual event.
“We know they are real people. We hope they are out there somewhere thinking ‘This is cool. Someone is telling my story.’”