As if to coincide with Halloween - the one time of year where ghostly activity is celebrated and sanctioned - a team of paranormal investigators visited the Briggle and Milne houses in October.
Located in the Alice G. Milne Memorial Park near the intersection of Harris Street and Lincoln Avenue, the houses are owned by Summit Historical Society and managed by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, which leads tours there.
Rumors that the Briggle House is haunted abound, and "sensitive" individuals have reported paranormal experiences - including a guide and her tour participants who witnessed a can fly off the shelf when she reached into the root cellar to turn on the light. This is the first time, however, that paranormal investigators have conducted a study there.
"We don't just go in and hear a noise and say it's haunted; we want to collect evidence throughout the night," said Yvonne Ballard, who heads up the group, Paranormal Xplorers.
To conduct the study, they split into two teams; one went to the Briggle House and the other to the Milne House, with Breckenridge Heritage Alliance operations manager Cindy Hintgen and her husband joining the Briggle House group.
"Almost immediately we started getting flashlight interactions with Cindy asking questions in the piano room of the Briggle home," Ballard said.
Formerly a one-room cabin purchased and improved upon by socialites William and Kathleen Briggle in 1898, the Briggle House came to be considered one of Breckenridge's largest and best-appointed houses in its day. Briggle served as mayor in 1903 and 1905, and his wife was a musician who played five instruments and taught piano lessons.
"They say that when you pass over you go to where you are most drawn to. We feel that because Mrs. Briggle and her husband put so much into [the house] ... we feel that her spirit remains there because that's where she was happiest," Ballard said. "We weren't trying to disrespect her, we just wanted to learn about her and her history and see if she'd be willing to interact with us."
Upon first entering the house, the team took base temperature and electromagnetic field readings, then continued to collect data for the duration of the visit. Other tools included a spirit box, dowsing rods, flashlights, voice recorders and handheld video recorders.
"The flashlights are used as a way for spirits to communicate," Ballard said. "They can flip the flashlights on/off in response to questions." When they laid down three flashlights and asked Mrs. Briggle if she was there, two flashlights came on. When they asked her to turn off the flashlights, the flashlights turned off.
Temperature shifts coincided with the flashlight action. After an initial reading of 42 degrees in the bedroom, the temperature dropped to 21 within a period of 30 seconds, before warming back up. All group members felt the change in the air, Ballard said, and readings on the temperature gauge confirmed it. A sudden cooling is believed to indicate presence of an entity or ghost.
Investigators also had success with personal questions answered with a dousing rod, and throughout the evening, 10 pieces of equipment either turned off or suffered from drained batteries, even immediately after they were replaced with fully-charged batteries.
"Some say that batteries being drained shows that an entity is present and that they use the energy from the equipment or batteries to try to manifest themselves or to communicate," Ballard said. The group also heard what they thought to be footsteps coming from the attic, and made an audio recording of the sound.
"Everybody's always interested in the unknown," Hintgen said. "I was obviously a little cynical, but I didn't have a closed mind; I was open to hearing the proof myself." After the experience, she finds herself "definitely" convinced, as does her husband.
"We asked about the music lessons," Hintgen said. "When we asked, 'Did you teach music in this room?' the flashlight would come on for 'yes.'"
Although temperatures fluctuated and flashlights went on and off at the neighboring Milne House (which hosted a haunted house on Halloween), there was no connection between the questions and responses, leading Ballard to surmise that although inconclusive, the possibility exists that the house is haunted by a child, playing with the flashlights as if they were toys.
The group is eager to return for further study, and plans are in the works to offer a Ghost Hunt 101 class, replete with safety tips for paranormal investigating.
In the meantime, contact the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance at (970) 453-9767 or visit www.breckheritage.org for info on upcoming tours.