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Gazette Premium Content Side Streets: Spook hunters help struggling Manitou Springs attractions

6 photos photo - Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs on Tuesday, May 28, 2002.  The Gazette, file + caption
Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs on Tuesday, May 28, 2002. The Gazette, file
Bill Vogrin Updated: October 25, 2013 at 7:10 am

Want to get your Halloween spook on and maybe help area businesses struggling after tourist seasons ruined by fire and flood?

Then sign up for a late-night tour with the Haunted Dimensions Parahistorian Team of Manitou Springs.

This weekend and next, the team of Tammila and Erick Wright will lead expert paranormal investigators and members of the paying public on explorations of some famous Manitou buildings.

On Friday and Saturday night, they will investigate the Iron Springs Chateau playhouse at 444 Ruxton Ave. beginning at 11 p.m., following performances of the play "The Restless Ghosts of Emma Crawford."

(Longtime residents know Emma as the woman who came to Manitou in 1889 seeking a cure for tuberculosis only to die two years later. She was buried atop Red Mountain but a 1929 storm washed her remains down the mountain. Only her casket handles, a nameplate and few bones were found. Legend says she haunts the mountain still today and she is celebrated with an annual festival and coffin races, scheduled Saturday.)

If you believe in that kind of thing, you might want to catch the play and then stick around for the ghost hunting with Tamilla and Erick for an extra $25. All funds going to the playhouse, which has been struggling like most Manitou attractions following the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and the recent devastating floods.

"Everybody in Manitou has been hurting," Tammila said. "We thought we could help some of the museums out by doing paranormal tours to raise money."

Based on preliminary research, the Wrights are confident that spirits, entities or other paranormal activity will be encountered in the chateau.

"We've been researching the property for a couple years and they allowed us in three times to do preliminary investigations," Erick said. "This is the first time we'll be allowed to bring in a large group."

Teams will be armed with all the modern paranormal investigative tools as they hunt evidence of the afterlife.

Paying customers will get to use electromagnetic receivers, digital and magnetic tape audio recorders, professional sound equipment and microphones, digital cameras, video and thermal imaging recorders and even good old flashlights.

"We'll go to different parts of the building and people will witness for themselves what is going on," Erick said. "We could be there several hours."

In preliminary ghost hunting at the chateau, the Wrights and their team believe they recorded the sound of a woman walking through singing an opera.

"Based on our research, we believe it was Alice Crawford, Emma's sister," he said. "Alice worked at the chateau when it was a spa building. And its builder was a pall bearer at Emma's funeral."

In fact, Erick said an old mineral spring still sits under the floor of the main room. He said natural water features tend to "act as an amplifier for entities" in a building.

"Besides Alice, another entity we picked up was Sid, who worked there for 35 years or so as an actor and stagehand," Erick said, describing how his team was led by spirits to a small storage room where they found a photo of Sid, taken in 1974, hanging on the wall.

The Haunted Dimensions team will regroup next week on Halloween and on Friday, Nov. 1, to do further research on a handful of historical properties in downtown Manitou.

Those tours also cost $25 apiece and will begin at 9:30 p.m., lasting until after midnight.

I wondered why the ghost-hunting seems to occur only late at night.

"The entities seem to have more energy at night," Tammila said, noting some of the group's findings last week at the first fundraising ghost hunt conducted at Miramont Castle.

"At Miramont, a little kid is seen mostly during the day," she said.

The Wrights raised about $3,500 last week hosting three nighttime investigations at the famous castle at 9 Capitol Hill Ave., in Manitou.

Demand was so great they had to expand from two nights to three to accommodate everyone, said Jennifer Walters, spokeswoman for the castle, a four-story, 14,000-square-foot structure built in 1895 by Father Jean Baptist Francolon. It was bought by the Manitou Springs Historical Society in 1976 and now operates as a family-friendly museum featuring 30 rooms filled with Victorian-era artifacts.

"It was a big success," Jennifer said. "It's something we, as a historical society, don't normally do. We've turned away many groups and individuals who wanted to investigate the castle. But the Wrights are members of the society and they wanted to help us, knowing we've had a pretty rough time the past two summers."

So the society approved the investigations. The Wrights are now studying their hours of audio and video to see if they can confirm what they believe may be paranormal activity.

The Wrights have done similar investigations since 1985 but never charged people to join them in the past.

Turning their ghost-hunting into fundraising events helped everyone.

"We are helping organizations that are struggling," Erick said. "And we are getting to investigate some incredible historic properties."

Iron Chateau tour info and tickets: 685-5104.

Multibuilding tour info and tickets: 685-1454.

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See ghost hunt videos on my blog at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets

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