SIGNINGS & SUCH

Ghost reports at Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs include sightings of a nun who committed suicide and a child near a doll collection. Photo by

Whether it's a feeling, a face in a mirror or objects moving on their own, we all see ghosts a little differently. If we see them at all.

Some claim to see spirits. Some claim to feel them. Some try to capture ghosts on tape, often falling short of indisputable evidence.

Skeptics claim its all a bunch of nonsense.

Maybe we can't prove places are haunted. Maybe we can only believe they are. But who needs proof on Halloween anyway? The whole point of the holiday is to get downright creeped out, and the Pikes Peak region is full of places with creepy pasts.

A man was murdered in what is now the Pioneers Museum.

Prisoners were locked up in the cells of what is now the Museum of Colorado Prisons.

Nuns worked in Miramont Castle.

You don't need to believe in ghosts to recognize a place with a murky history. Creepy is creepy.

Pioneers Museum, Colorado Springs

Eddie Roy Beals has become a scapegoat for the staff at the Pioneers Museum. Misplaced pen? Eddie stole it. Lost file? Eddie moved it. Elevator door opening on its own? Must be Eddie.

Though much of the staff doesn't believe in ghosts, they all enjoy blaming one resident ghost for anything that goes wrong.

Beals, a custodian, was murdered May 29, 1959, when the building was the El Paso County Courthouse. Willie Butler, also a custodian, shot Beals five times over a dispute about money.

Or so it's told.

Beals supposedly lurks in the halls in ghostly form. Specifically, around the elevator.

Receptionist Gretchen Arnold thought co-workers were playing a prank when the elevator arrived at the main floor and the door slid open on its own. When she went to investigate, she found the elevator empty.

The door is heavy and must be opened by hand. "I'm sure there's a very logical explanation," she said. "I just don't have it."

Director Matt Mayberry blames the new heating and air-conditioning unit for the drop in temperature near the elevator, what many visitors say is a sign of the ghost. Still, he admits there are certain rooms that creep him out - specifically the Rilla Wood Gallery, but mostly because of the exhibits that have traveled through, such as the underwear exhibit that looked like a room of ghosts when the lights were off.

But he, too, uses Eddie as a scapegoat.

When strange things happen, it's Eddie's fault

 The Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St., is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Admission is free. Info: 385-5990 or cspm.org.

Museum of Colorado Prisons, Canon City

If angry ghosts are anywhere, they'd be in the cells of an old prison, right?

Wrong. Workers at the Museum of Colorado Prisons say the ghosts that haunt the mint-colored halls are friendly and mischievous. They'll pull hair and call out names. They open the cash register and make visitors think they see blood on a clean floor.

They might have hurt or killed people in their past lives, but they won't hurt you now.

"They just want to make sure you know they're here," said staffer Heather Ward. "For the most part they're playful."

Ward swears she's heard cell doors slam, though the doors are welded open. She's heard silverware crash, though nothing in the kitchen was out of place.

And don't ask her to go down to the archives alone.

"This place down here gives me the creeps," Ward said as she opened the gate to the archives, what used to be a bunk hall for kitchen and laundry room workers. Dead voices have risen in this room, she said, amid the stale prison records.

The museum opened in 1988 in what was the Colorado Women's Correctional Institution. The prison served as a women's ward from 1935 until 1968, when it became part of the men's prison and later a training facility for officers.

Though no infamous prisoners were housed in the building, Ward says at least one prisoner never left. Legend has it that one woman, dubbed the "Parakeet Lady" because she kept a pet bird during her sentence, promised to haunt the building after her death.

Many visitors won't enter her old room - Cell 18 - because of an eerie feeling.

Cell 15 is also avoided. A casket used to transport dead prisoners to Denver for medical research is on display there. Ward�s mother, Victoria Newman, who also works at the museum, said shadows have been seen at the end of the hall near Cell 15. At least some odd activity can be attributed to a family of squirrels that once nested in the casket. Prisoners who died and were unclaimed by family were taken down the road to Woodpecker Hill, a portion of the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery plotted for inmates. Most of the rusted plaques are stamped "CSP inmate," though a few are marked with a name.

Six hundred inmates are buried on Woodpecker Hill, named after the wooden headstones originally used to mark grave sites. Woodpeckers and weather eventually forced the prison to use metal.

The Museum of Colorado Prisons, 201 N. First St., in Canon City, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays starting Nov. 2. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors (ages 65 and older), and $5 for kids (ages 6-12). Info: 1-719-269-3015 or www.prisonmuseum .org.

Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs

Sister Henrietta sometimes walks the halls, headless. They say she hanged herself from the third floor solarium after discovering she was pregnant. You can hear the nuns singing and soft piano music in rooms that are empty. They say an American Indian was violently murdered somewhere outside the castle's walls. His soul rests within an upstairs closet, a place the castle keeper refuses to enter. The door turns to ice when his spirit is awake, she says.

They say a girl, a fair-skinned 4-year-old, stays up in the gift shop near the porcelain-doll collection. And a boy, killed in a grocery store fire many years ago, plays near the store's replica in the miniatures room. Victorian mannequins left facing one direction face another in the morning. The face of a black-veiled widow appears in the mirrors. Stained glass hangings in the gift shop float to the ground. This place, they say, is haunted.

"I have rooms that people won't go into because there's something in there that they don't like," said castle historian Linda Pineda.

Miramont Castle was built in 1895 by Father Jean Baptist Francolon, a French Catholic priest. The priest and his widowed mother lived in the castle alone until the Sisters of Mercy bought it in 1904 to be used as a sanitarium. The staff attributes most of its hauntings to this time period. Mother Superior, who died in a train accident in Durango, is believed to roam the halls along with Sister Henrietta. The children might have been victims to tuberculosis, though no one really knows.

The only sure things: Noises can be heard throughout the castle, and the guest book is filled with accounts of spirit sightings.

Viola Butler, Miramont's castle keeper, said she's heard singing in the tea room when the castle was empty. She's also listened to wooden floors creak under invisible footsteps and heard doors slamming where there are no doors. For the first few weeks of work, she'd find the fireplace littered with ashes, though nothing had been burned and the flue was closed.

"It's like the castle awakes for a certain routine," Butler said. Most of the ghosts are friendly, she said. Except for the spirit that lurks in the chapel. Staff members blame a replica painting of El Greco's "Portrait of a Cardinal."

The red-clad man in the painting is believed to be Cardinal Don Fernando Ni'o de Guevara, the grand inquisitor and archbishop of Seville, Spain, in the late 1500s.

There's no record of a connection between the cardinal and the castle, but the staff believes the cardinal was evil. Guests and volunteers didn't complain about the chapel until the portrait was hung, Pineda said.

Miramont Castle, 9 Capitol Hill Ave. in Manitou Springs, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Info: 685-1011 or miramontcastle.org.

 

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