October 25, 2012
As a 7-year-old girl living on a small farm east of Colorado Springs, Stephanie Waters and a friend saw an Indian on a white horse riding along Sand Creek.
They followed him until he disappeared before their eyes. When Stephanie told her family of the phantom, her parents dismissed it as a childish nonsense. Not her grandmother. She told Stephanie of her own grandmother who was a witch in the Ozark mountains. Her grandmother convinced Stephanie what she had seen was real.
Today, four decades later, that ghost remains very real to Stephanie, 48. Rather than run from the paranormal, she has embraced it and turned her childhood experience into a career, building businesses and a writing career on tales of ghosts, poltergeists and haunted houses.
“My grandmother was the only one who believed me,” Stephanie said. “Thanks to my grandmother, I honed my gift as I got older.”
The gift of seeing ghosts evolved into businesses as a storyteller, giving tours of haunted houses in Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City and writing books of ghost stories in the Pikes Peak region.
Of course, Halloween is a busy time for folks in the ghost business and that’s true for Stephanie.
In fact, she’ll be on the job Saturday night , 6-10 p.m., at Evergreen Cemetery, leading tours as part of the second annual Ghost Hunt and Lantern Crawl.
She’s especially excited to be taking customers into the old morgue under the historic Evergreen Chapel.
(I toured the chapel and basement morgue in daylight a few months ago and would not care to see it after dark. Too many smells, stains and bloat balls for me!)
Stephanie operates the crawl in conjunction with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Department of Visual & Performing Arts. Costumed theater students and other performers will lead customers on 90-minute tours and recall “true ghost stories” like the legend of Mrs. Bacon who roams the cemetery searching for her skull, stolen from her crypt decades ago.
I like the crawl because proceeds from the tickets — $15 for adults and $10 for children 5-12 — are shared with the volunteer Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society.
It’s typical of the kind of event Stephanie has used to build her career.
Another event was the recent “Spirits of Victor Paranormal Convention” in Teller County.
She organized the event, booked hotel rooms in the Victor/Cripple Creek area and hosted about 100 ghost hunters, paranormal investigators, “bigfoot” aficionados and UFO experts from across the area.
“I thought it would be cool to have a ghost conference in a ghost town,” Stephanie said of the event.
Of course her main business is telling stories either on her Haunted History Tours or in book.
She started giving tours in 2002 after being inspired by a visit to New Orleans.
“I did walking tours for eight years and sometimes I’d have 50 people,” she said. “Now I also do hearse tours of Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. It’s a lot of fun.”
Stephanie also is proud of her budding writing career. The History Press recently published her second book, Ghosts of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, which she describes as “true ghost stories” from the region. She researches her stories in old newspapers and tries to documents her tales.
I don’t know if I believe all the ghost stuff. It’s fun to read and consider.
And I enjoy a good scare at a haunted house as anyone. But I’ll warn you. If you dare take the cemetery crawl, be careful.
Those bloat balls are for real!