Ghostly Tales tour in Breckenridge brings the spirits alive
if you go
Ghostly Tales: Every night of the week at 7 p.m.
English Tea Tour: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 1 p.m., June through Labor Day
Strange But True: Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m.
Wild West Tour: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 10.30 a.m.
Walk with the Dead: Every Saturday at 10.30 a.m. June through Labor Day
Tarot readings: Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, June through Labor Day
All tours require reservations. For tour descriptions and pricing, go to breckghosttours.com
Dressed in all black and holding a black umbrella, Gail Westwood waited at the door of The Dredge Restaurant, a lone figure looking out over the Blue River. The mood of the evening matched her dress — cold and wet, with overhanging clouds blocking out the sun. The only contrast to the dreary evening was Westwood’s stark blonde hair against the dark sky and her even darker outfit. The late spring weather only added to the mysterious tone of the evening, and as participants slowly trickled in, shivering and huddled together, Westwood began weaving her tale.
Longtime locals Westwood and Jamie Cripps created the Ghostly Tales tour in 2010, exploring the darker side of history with tales of lingering spirits of former Breckenridge residents. The town is known for its sometimes-sordid mining history and rumors of an unknown presence haunting certain establishments in the area have run rampant for years.
Westwood and Cripps have been doing tours in Breckenridge for seven years, offering a variety of experiences from English Tea Tours to Wild West Tours, along with the more haunted variety including a Walk with the Dead tour at the site of the original cemetery in Breckenridge. The pair has studied the history of the town extensively, and Westwood published a book in 2015 from her research called “Haunted Breckenridge.” Their knowledge of the county is extensive — Cripps has lived here for more than 40 years, Westwood not far behind when she moved to Breckenridge in 1972.
Westwood’s tale begins in 1859 when Ruben Spalding and his gang first discovered gold in Breckenridge, and people began flocking to the town once the news spread.
It was right near where we are standing that Trevor Thomas, the supervisor of the dredge boats, was adjusting the steering line when it snapped, dragging him into the river in the winter of 1930. It wasn’t until April that his body resurfaced, so preserved from the icy waters that an open casket was possible. It was also here that deckhand William Goodwin slipped off the top deck and fell into the river, screaming as he went — yet no one heard him.
Many of the wait staff at the Dredge still swear they have seen a figure in mining clothing float past the bar, disappearing at the end. The women on staff don’t like going into the hull of the boat where the liquor is stored and the staff lockers are, because they feel someone watching them. Westwood’s first guess for this is the ghost of a man who ventured into the area to get warm in 1989, but still froze to death in the space.
As Westwood goes deeper into the history and the tales turn darker, it becomes more apparent with each word that the guide is an excellent storyteller. We move on from the Dredge and head to Olive Fusion, where the owner lets us in and we all use the L-shaped dowsing rods to try to communicate with the spirits.
It is at what is now Après Handcrafted Libations where we hear the story of Sylvia. In the apartment upstairs, eerie things have happened to those who have lived in it. Women residents have noticed the place tidied up from when they last left it, and someone folding their clothes while they were gone. Men have seen the figure of a woman over their shoulder in the mirror, or felt someone whispering in their ear or blowing their hair.
Westwood shows us a photo taken of the building, and shocked whispers go through the group as the photo makes its way around. What looks eerily like a face in the left window, between the blinds and the glass, stares down from above.
It’s even been said that this tidy ghost pulled a mop out of one of the bartenders hands when she was doing a poor job, and staff members have seen chairs rearranged and glasses fly off shelves.
Each place we stop at has its own tale and many more stories are told. An intricate tale of the burial of miners, the eventual moving of the bodies to a cemetery, and moving them once again to a different plot has an eerie ending with a building that still has issues.
As we shake the rain off at our final destination, the historic Brown Hotel, one of the guests on the tour reveals himself as Mr. E, a tarot card reader. As a child of the ’70s, he says, he began reading cards 40 years ago in a bookstore in Wisconsin.
“Bad advice should always be free, good advice is worth something,” he tells me after reading for one of the tour guests.
He likes to give the cards a chance to amaze him, and they can tell past, present or future. He lets the cards say what they want, and he is the interpreter, he says — “it’s an interesting way to get a better look at your life.”
As the tour wraps up, everyone is left to ponder whether they believe in the Breckenridge hauntings or not. The rain has turned into a light snow at this point, and darkness has once again enveloped the town as we all head out into the night.
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