Tom McGee's house on the summit of Iron Mountain isn't exactly an Amityville house of horrors possessed by evil spirits.
But I believe it is cursed.
I was convinced on Tuesday when the modest two-bedroom house, perched defiantly overlooking Manitou Springs, avoided a date with a wrecking crew.
It was scheduled for demolition at 10:30 a.m. But the excavator hauled up the mountain to crush the little house mysteriously broke a steel track on the driveway, about 50 feet from the summit. There it sat for hours, paralyzed beneath the house it came to destroy.
Eventually, crews called off the demolition and planned to resume efforts early Wednesday.
It's a fitting final chapter for this house, which has been avoiding destruction virtually since McGee, an accountant, built it in 1991.
Manitou officials and residents were enraged that he put the house smack on the 7,131-foot mountaintop, marring the scenic backdrop of the tourist village.
Of course, McGee, 74, did it out of spite and didn't hide that fact.
He owned 99 acres atop Iron and Sheep mountains and sought annexation into Manitou, which would give him access to streets, sewer and water service and allow him to develop upwards of 30 homes on the land.
Manitou declined annexation and barred him from building roads linking to city streets, forcing him to buy a $12,500 membership in the adjacent Crystal Park private community and pay expensive annual dues so he could reach his land.
McGee retaliated by building the house, defying the wishes of his wife and sons, who urged him to build the house lower on the side of the mountain so it wouldn't be as obvious. He even tried to bulldoze a road down the face of the mountain to reach city streets, further enraging townfolk and resulting in a court-issued restraining order and demands for expensive engineering studies and design work that killed his plan.
Consider the toll it has taken on all involved.
For more than 20 years the dispute haunted McGee and his family and the stress it generated contributed, he told me years ago, to the breakup of his marriage.
It certainly has haunted Manitou Springs, which spent thousands on attorneys over the years trying to stop McGee and defend against his legal challenges and appeals.
Trails advocates also have suffered because the conflict between McGee and Manitou left a gap in the popular nearby Intemann Trail.
Of course, the house will come down, barring some supernatural intervention on Wednesday. It will take only an hour for the wood frame structure to collapse. By Friday, crews from Baldwin Demolition will have the parcel scraped back to granite.
But it likely will be years before this ugly episode is forgotten.
The emotional, personal attacks on McGee sound like something you'd see posted today on Facebook, not lobbed about by elected officials in a property rights debate. But it's all part of the record.
Consider that McGee was labeled the "troll on the knoll" by then-City Councilman Bill Koerner, and in 1991 then-Mayor Chris Daly declared the house "scud bait" in a reference to Soviet-made missiles fired on Israel during the 1980s and '90s.
Of course, McGee's stubborn determination to build in the worst possible location and to block the trail won him no sympathy in Manitou.
Nor did his wavering on his frequent declaration to sell his place.
Current Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder said he negotiated a sale in January 2000 with McGee for $1.2 million and won approval of the purchase from the City Council only to have the agreement mysteriously unravel when McGee simply changed his mind a few days later.
In 2006, McGee told me in an interview he wanted to sell and was just waiting for an offer from Manitou officials. But he again changed his mind, leaving officials frustrated and perplexed.
Finally, in 2010, McGee signed a contract to sell to Manitou for $1.1 million. Snyder called it the "signature piece of property" and necessary to preserve Manitou's picturesque setting on the slopes of Pikes Peak.
Snyder wasn't around in the early years of the dispute, when McGee accursed Manitou of illegally trying to "regulate my property rights out of existence." Snyder said all his dealings with McGee were transparent, well-publicized and legal attempts to buy his land. He said Manitou didn't prevent McGee from developing his land. It simply wanted him to follow all proper El Paso County codes and procedures.
Further evidence of the curse is the fact the purchase won't allow immediate completion of the missing trail link so coveted by the community.
Snyder said deed restrictions enacted by McGee must be untangled before it can happen and he's not sure how long that may take.
Maybe you are thinking, as I was, that at least McGee finally got his payday and is laughing all the way to the bank.
Consider my conversation Tuesday with Marilea Chambers, his ex-wife.
She sounded tired and sad when I called and started asking about Tom. It was true, the rumor I'd heard, that she had taken him back and they were living together again.
"But we're still divorced," she said. "Tom is sick. He has cancer. I'm taking care of him."
What was it like living in the house, I asked.
"It was windy," she said. "But it was pretty up there. The views were beautiful. Tremendous. On the Fourth of July you could see fireworks from Woodland Park to Colorado Springs."
In fact, she enjoyed a view of Pikes Peak from her kitchen and bedroom windows and Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs from her living room. And the decks offered a spectacular panorama of the entire Ute Pass.
What memories does it evoke? What does she think of its pending demolition?
"It was a hard 20 years," she said in a quiet voice. "It caused a lot of stress."
She stopped, measuring her words carefully.
"I think Manitou has its problems with the way it deals with people and the way they do things," Marilea said. "It's a small town. It's just so political. And some of what they did was very immature on their part."
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