A writer's joy: 'I'm getting paid to scare people'

By: Megan Wood megan.wood@gazette.com
September 20, 2013 Updated: September 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm
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Stephanie Waters remembers sitting at her grandmother's knee, captivated by the woman's crazy stories of ghosts and outlaws.

Now a professional storyteller herself, Waters uses what she learned from her grandmother to share her own tales - and incite a little fear.

"I'm getting paid to scare people," the three-time author said. "This is a complete blast!"

She calls her new book, "Forgotten Tales of Colorado," "a tabloid for history geeks."

"It is a collection of the most amazing, unbelievable tales that I've ever come across."

Real newspaper headlines guided Waters' research, offering firsthand accounts of the events in her collection of short stories. She also dug through library archives, spoke with historians and interviewed people with relevant insight to achieve accuracy.

"I want it to be sensational enough that it catches people's attention," Waters said of her writing. "I like my history sugarcoated."

Her favorite story involves buckets of fish raining over Cripple Creek in 1911. Another relates a UFO sighting in Cripple Creek that caught the attention of nearly 500 people. The word UFO didn't exist back then though, Waters said, so she had to think as they did in olden times - they called it an "air ship." Other tales relate the bizarre lightning strikes that stripped clothes off victims but didn't leave a burn, and of a Telluride hotel that included funeral costs with your stay.

Though there are sure to be some creepy stories in her new book, Waters' previous books focused completely on Colorado's haunted past. Growing up, Waters said she often saw ghosts. Her grandmother told her that spirits were like burnt toast - if you throw the toast away, the smell still lingers.

On Sept. 28, Waters will host her second Colorado paranormal convention, this year in Cripple Creek. Professional ghost hunters, psychics, UFO geeks, Bigfoot's hair and a device that communicates with the dead will all be making an appearance.

"What better of an idea than to have a ghost-hunting convention than in a ghost town!" Waters said excitedly. "Regardless if you believe or not, it doesn't matter. It's just a great kickoff of all of our Halloween events." The convention drew about 100 people last year in Victor.

Owner of Colorado Ghost Tours, Waters also travels around Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City as a professional storyteller. A resident of Manitou Springs, she loves the city for "all of the creative and free-spirited people."

The mother of two finds herself in Colorado Springs often though, where she frequents Poor Richard's Restaurant. She will be having a book signing there at 2 p.m. Sept. 3.

After she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2009, she learned not to take herself too seriously and to play to her storytelling talents. So, she wrote a book.

"Write what you know and then it's natural," said Waters, who told ghost stories as a youngster at Girl Scout camp. "That's how the magic happened to me."

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