Touring the haunted histories of Colorado cities

Nina Joss
Posted 9/20/23

In the 1800s, a maid allegedly ran out of an open door and fell to her death from an upper floor of a building in Golden.

Some say they have heard operatic singing in a historic home in …

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Touring the haunted histories of Colorado cities


In the 1800s, a maid allegedly ran out of an open door and fell to her death from an upper floor of a building in Golden.

Some say they have heard operatic singing in a historic home in Georgetown.

Tales of the olden days say there was a secret tunnel under downtown Littleton.

These stories are shared on ghost tours across the Front Range that immerse visitors in the haunted histories of Colorado cities.

Organized by historians, writers and believers of ghosts, these tours offer creative and entertaining ways to learn the history of Colorado towns while getting in the mood for the spooky season of Halloween.

For some, these tours are a fun reason to suspend disbelief and enjoy time with family and friends. For others, they showcase paranormal truths that exist in the places Coloradans live, work and play.

‘A combination of history and haunting’

Georgetown, located about an hour west of Denver in Clear Creek County, has a haunted history. From the historic Hamill House to vigilante justice, the place abounds with ghost stories.

A 1990s television series called “Sightings,” which explored paranormal and extraterrestrial activity, even included a segment that took place in a haunted café in Georgetown.

“When you think about how it was started — it was a mining town — and the fact that the people who came here were looking for a better life, there was a certain energy connected to that,” Anne Marie Cannon, owner and tour guide at Silver Queen Walking Tours, said of Georgetown. “That is the kind of energy that has lingered here.”

Cannon’s company offers various themed tours at different times of the year, all rooted in history. The most popular tour she offers is her ghost tour.

“I always say that my ghost tour is a combination of history and haunting,” Cannon said.

The Georgetown–Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District, which includes downtown Georgetown, has hundreds of buildings that are protected from the 19th century, she said.

“It makes you feel like you've kind of been dropped back in the 1800s when you come here,” she said.

Cannon curates and guides the ghost tours herself, using information from historical research, archival work, letters, books and personal experiences.

The walk is about one mile long and lasts for two hours, she said. Visitors get a guided tour of Georgetown, stopping at different locations to learn stories of deaths and murders. They even sometimes go into properties where the ghost stories take place.

For Cannon, the tours are an interesting way to share history with visitors.

“Even if the story might not be in a history book, I connect the story to the history of (the) place,” she said, adding that she enjoys the creativity she gets to put into her storytelling.

Bringing stories to life

Other tours in the region have different formats for their haunted explorations, like The Talking Dead, an immersive haunted scavenger hunt in Golden that combines history and haunts with an interactive adventure.

“Guests are given a map of downtown Golden and it's their job to find the locations,” said Anneliese Farmer, who organizes the tours with the immersive theater company, Elevate Immersive. “The whole goal of the guests’ evening is to visit all of these locations to either talk to a ghost and learn about their story or to get a clue … to basically piece together (their) ending location.”

At the stations with “ghosts,” costumed actors get into character to make the stories more immersive.

Guests on this self-guided, adults-only tour can also stop at partner bars along the way to get special discounts on drinks.

Living “ghosts” also play a role in Haunts of Littleton, a tour that happens the last two weekends of October in downtown Littleton.

On this tour, guests are guided by “ghosts” and meet storytellers in costumes at each location.

In the early 2000s, three local leaders started the Littleton ghost tour. Greg Reinke, who owns a costume and Halloween store downtown, Brian Vogt of the Denver Botanic Gardens and John Brackney of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce started it to “get things going” in downtown Littleton, Reinke said.

“I knew a bunch of ghost stories from around here, ‘cause I grew up here,” Reinke said. “It was to get some activity down here.”

Haunts of Littleton is now run by the Friends of 444 Foundation, which exists to support the scouts of Troop 444 in Littleton. The tours are executed by volunteers from the community, including youth, and proceeds from the event go to support the troop.

“We are blessed to have some really phenomenal scouts and families,” said Brian Cotter, who helps put on the tours. “We have talent in many different areas, and a lot of them have sort of acting backgrounds where they can provide this really exciting presentation to the stories.”

Even though their tours involve theatrical elements, both Farmer and Cotter said their respective tours are based on historical information.

“All the stories we focus on are real stories of people that lived and worked and shared their lives in Golden and met … a dangerous past through one way or another,” Farmer said.

To write the stories for the immersive scavenger hunt tour, Farmer said her team researches in the library, the history museum and by looking at old newspaper articles.

Cotter said volunteers on his team conduct research for the stories they share. He emphasized that the stories on the tour are not scary and the event is family-friendly.

“These are more interesting, sort of haunted historical events or historical persons that have been in this region,” he said. “(Guests are) people that are fascinated by Littleton and some of the history around it and want to be entertained in a novel way.”

The big question

Those who go on ghost tours have a wide range of beliefs, from total skepticism to passionate paranormal obsession.

Farmer, who identifies as a “huge believer” in ghosts, said she likes bringing light to them in a fun and creative way through ghost tours.

She said ghost stories also continue the generations-long tradition of storytelling in human culture.

A value of the tours, Farmer said, is that they use history to give participants a jumping-off point to dive into paranormal concepts. She said she thinks this is part of the draw for those who participate.

“This Victorian, macabre, spooky time in history is really compelling to quite a few folks because it feels so far out of reach as to what we're living in now,” she said. “I think that it's a form of escapism into the fantastical, but it still is kind of rooted in history — because (the history) did really happen and it did really exist at that time.”

Cotter, who said he tends to believe in ghosts as well, said public interest in ghost tours may come from the energy surrounding the Halloween season, like any holiday.

“There's lots of reasons that we get together and celebrate,” he said. “This is an opportunity, as the holiday season starts to come around, that you can get together with friends and family.”

For Cannon, interest in ghosts is tied to something deeper.

She said she started out as a huge skeptic but has had some experiences that have started to change her mind.

“There is something,” she said. “I don’t know what it is.”

That question, for Cannon, is what draws people to ghost tours.

“It's the big question, right?” she said. “What happens to us when we die? What happens to our loved ones? It's kind of an acceptable, safe place to really think about that stuff, contemplate that stuff and talk about it. I mean, I think it's at the root of who we are as human beings.”

Whether the goal is to gather with friends or to reflect on human existence, this is the season to dive into paranormal curiosity, by walking, scavenger-hunting and wondering.

Schedule a tour

  Where When Cost
Silver Queen Walking Tours Georgetown Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October $28 per adult
$18 per child
The Talking Dead: Immersive Haunted Scavenger Hunt Golden Oct. 7, 14, 21, 27, 28 and Nov. 4. $40 per adult
(21+ only)
Haunts of Littleton Littleton Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28 $17 per adult
$10 per child
Coloradoans, haunted house


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