Choosy ghosts choose Breckenridge
May 8, 2015
If you go
What: Haunted Tour of Breckenridge
Where: Tour begins at the Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 S. Main St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday through Sept. 2
Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 4 to 12
More information: Reservations are required by 5 p.m. on the day of the tour and can be made at the Welcome Center or by calling (970) 453-9767, ext. 2. Visit http://breckheritage.com.
Beware the ghost of Starbucks when you're picking up your next latte. That's right, rumor has it that the Breckenridge business housed in a historic, yellow home might see paranormal activity from time to time — or at least give off "that feeling" of a ghostly presence.
"We think it's probably Trevor B. Thomas," said Niki Harris, tour guide with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. "He was a dredge superintendent who drowned in the Blue River. That building was his home. His wake was held there even though his body was in the water for most of the winter. He was preserved so they were able to do that."
Harris is among a corps of guides, including her daughter, who don historic costumes and give the Haunted Tours of Breckenridge, which run at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday until Sept. 2 and cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids, with special individual tours available upon request.
Guests are not to fear, however, as Harris is quick to reassure us that in Breckenridge, "All our ghosts are very nice. They're friendly ghosts."
Take a haunted tour
Although the Breckenridge Walking Tours have been operating for years, the haunted tours started in 2010. They begin at the Breckenridge Welcome Center — a restored historic building that houses a museum worth a visit in and of itself — and head out around town, generally hitting up the Blue River, the Dredge, the Starbucks building, the Creatures Great and Small building, the old Prospector restaurant, the William and Kathleen Briggle house, the Brown Hotel and the pet cemetery.
Guides often add their own stops to the tours.
"I include the Edwin Carter Museum," said Harris, who is also now interested in the building that houses the restaurant Twist. "That's a new ghost."
The building used to be the home of Charles Hardy, who owned the newspaper, the Summit County Leader.
"We think his wife is there," Harris said. "She was a lively person, and they have heard music, but we don't have all the information on that yet. The tour is ever changing because we get more stories."
Still, the old standbys remain, like the ghost of Sylvia, the wife of a dead miner rumored to have spent her life seeking a rich husband. Sylvia is said to haunt the old Prospector restaurant, formerly a boarding house. She allegedly had particular tastes, and her ghost is implicated in folding the laundry of the place's former ski-bum occupants.
"She was supposed to only appear to men because she was still looking for her husband," Harris said. Today, she said, "people have told us books fly off the shelf in front of them, or they felt a presence or a ruffling skirt — so I assume she's still there."
History comes first
Or there's the Briggle house, believed by some but definitely not all to harbor the ghost of Katie, a music teacher who loved her house very much.
"I have not sensed anything in all my years in the home," said local history author Sandra Mather, who volunteers with the Summit Historical Society and other local history groups. "Yet, others sense something," she said. "I was with someone last week who would not even come in the front door because of what she sensed. Another person I was with couldn't wait to get out because she actually felt threatened inside the house. I stood right beside her and felt nothing."
When asked her thoughts on mixing ghosts with history, Mather said, "As long as the history is absolutely correct, I guess it is okay to mix with ghost stories. But at the same time, as one who has written much about the history of Summit County, I don't like to see history take second place to ghosts."
The Briggle house, which has been carefully appointed with period artifacts including a piano, china and an excellent collection of women's fashion, says much about the life of socialites William Harrison Briggle and his wife Kathleen. Mr. Briggle was twice elected mayor of Breckenridge and a member of numerous local organizations, while Mrs. Briggle was a music teacher to many young boys and girls.
"Guides tell the story of the role of etiquette dictating the actions of women of Kathleen's social class in town," Mather said. "The calling cards and tea service, as well as the piano and organ, represent important parts of the daily life of women at the turn of the 20th century.
"Ghost or no ghost, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that the Briggle house is an integral part of the social history of Breckenridge."
Haunted tour guide Harris is quick to agree that history comes first and foremost.
"Initially, the tours really started for the historical aspect of it," she said, "so you get a lot of history as well as the haunting stories." She said tour guides rely on Mather, local historian Maureen Nicholls, BHA genealogist Jen Baldwin, the Summit Historical Society, historic newspapers and local folks for background information.
Still, Mather said, "When I take a group into the house, I always greet Katie with a 'hello' and tell her that I am bringing friends to see her house. Silly? I don't know."
Other spooky places
"I can tell you two other spooky places," said Karen Musolf, archivist with the Summit Historical Society, who is one of three guides that gives the Tombstone Tours of Valley Brook Cemetery on Fridays and Sundays. "I'm not saying they're haunted, but they're spooky."
One is the Sexton House, the old groundskeeper's place in the cemetery. There are no lights, so tour participants recently took shelter there, in the dark, during a thunderstorm. The other spot she found spooky was the old shed next to the Carter Museum, which once contained remnants of Carter's taxidermy business.
Summit County ghosts seem to like Breckenridge best, as searches for hauntings in Keystone, Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne proved fruitless for this reporter.
"Even though Frisco was a raucous town, we don't have any ghost stories to report," said Nancy Anderson, museum coordinator for the Frisco Historic Park. "It's all peaceful and calm in here, even in the jail. I don't hear any creaking that's not the wind."
Park County is another story, however, as ghosts have been reported at the Fairplay-Valiton and Hand hotels in Fairplay, as well as several private homes in Alma. Hauntings also seem to abound in Leadville, Georgetown and many other towns of Colorado's Old West.
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