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Time to get spooky: A ‘hotspot’ for paranormal experiences in Eagle County

Be it the town’s weathered history, the geographic conditions or the energy around, something is calling paranormal happenings to Red Cliff

Ali Longwell
Vail Daily
Red Cliff is the oldest town in Eagle County. Does that make it primed for paranormal activity?
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

EAGLE COUNTY — For Red Cliff Mayor Duke Gerber, the presence of paranormal activity in the historic town is undeniable.

“I believe in ghosts, 100 percent,” Gerber said.

Gerber — who grew up in the town, only leaving for small periods of time to live in the neighboring towns of Gilman and Minturn — is far from alone in this sentiment, especially in Red Cliff, where residents have reported numerous paranormal happenings over the years, from in-home hauntings to bigfoot sightings to other inexplicable occurrences.  



For the last two years, Tracy Kimball from the EagleVail Paranormal Society (formerly also known as the Eagle County Paranormal Society) has hosted a gathering for locals (and other Eagle County residents) to share their paranormal stories.

“We got to share our stories and find out that a lot of people in town have very similar experiences,” Gerber said. “It’s not something you really talk about unless you’re invited into that kind of comfortable setting; it’s pretty cool.”



Gerber’s own experience with the paranormal is with what Kimball refers to as a “generational ghost,” whom Gerber’s mother always called Charlie.

“We’ve had a house ghost since I was a kid,” Gerber said. “I’ve been in that house — we live just below the cemetery — since I was around six years old and it’s been there.”

Charlie has never done anything malicious, he added, saying that the occurrences are more of a mischievous nature, including everything from cabinets opening and closing without the presence of wind or people, hearing noises at night such as footsteps when no one’s around as well as household items such as sunglasses, tools and toys going missing only to re-appear in plain sight.

“It’s not like you lose it. That would be one thing if you just couldn’t find it, it’s the fact that it shows up where you’ve already looked for it that is kind of weird,” Gerber said.

And while the Gerber family became familiar and used to the antics of Charlie, it wasn’t until these paranormal town halls Kimball hosted that Gerber realized that many others in town shared similar accounts and experiences.

Gerber has heard everything from fellow Red Cliff residents from bigfoot sightings to the sound of chains rattling in the night, sudden inexplicable chills, “like a ghost is passing through you or something,” dogs seemingly following a presence walking through a room and many more unexplained occurrences.

On the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22, in a spectacularly spooky setting — as one attendee from EagleVail put it: “Just driving up here is pretty weird; the street signs look like ghosts” — Kimball hosted the second annual paranormal town hall in Red Cliff. Filling the auditorium of the town’s former schoolhouse (now the town’s town hall), were many Red Cliff locals and some from the surrounding Eagle County towns, ready to share their own stories of ghosts and hauntings.

One attendee from Red Cliff recalled buying their family’s home on Spruce Street in 2003 from a former owner who was selling because they reportedly said they didn’t feel comfortable with the spirits in the home. Five or six individuals had passed in the home, of old age, the attendee said.

“We saged the house when we moved in and all that. There’s energy around for sure; no bad energy that we deal with. It’s all good,” she said.

Another recalled an incident in the Red Cliff cemetery a few years back. On a snowy, full moon evening, she reported walking around the cemetery with a group of moms and their children. Her son, she said, suddenly fell to the ground and exclaimed: “Don’t push me.”

The other moms expressed confusion as none of the other kids were near the one that had fallen. At first glance, it looked like the boy had just fallen, however, when closer, “we saw these little tracks in the snow; they were like tiny little heels.”

Overall, the mom described the incident as “freaky.”

For Kimball — whose hope with the society is to make people feel less alone and also create a catalog of common paranormal happenings in Eagle County — there are a few common ghost stories she’s heard from Red Cliff through the town halls and Facebook posts and has begun the process of trying to create a database of these stories.

From Red Cliff, the common stories she’s heard include a boy ghost haunting the basement of the town hall, a woman murdered by her husband who now reportedly “protects women in town,” a young girl who drowned in the creek and whose spirit is lingering and more.

In the early 1900s, Red Cliff was a bustling mining town, and was already serving as the county seat.
Eagle County Historical Society,Buster Beck Collection/Courtesy photo

A tough, violent history

For Gerber, the idea that Red Cliff could be somewhat of a paranormal hotspot just makes sense.

“I think the history has a lot to do with it,” he said. “It’s the oldest town in the valley and with age there’s always more history and stuff, plus, the old days up there were fairly brutal. It was tough back then, so a lot of people did die there and I don’t know, maybe it’s just those old houses. It just seems a little spookier too, I’d say.”

Kathy Heicher, president of the Eagle County historical society, described Red Cliff as a “feisty little mining camp,” one that — similar to other mining camps — was wild and filled with violence and tragedy.

The history of the town can be traced back to the Ute Native Americans that called the site home — including a mid-1800s battle, which not only gave Battle Mountain its name but also created the legend for the naming of “Lover’s Leap” cliff at the town’s entrance. And, over the years, the town would undergo many transitions from what started as a “booming mining camp” to a “bustling little town,” and the center for all county business when it held the county seat from 1883 to 1921, Heicher said.

“The mining economy is fickle,” she added. “Sometimes the camp was probably doing well, and sometimes it was probably really suffering.”

Another turning point, she added, was in 1940 when the infamous bridge was built, allowing drivers to pass by the town rather than drive through.

Throughout the town’s history, while Heicher described it as “almost lively,” in a 1991 edition of The Vail Trail, “with three grocery stores, two hotels and one red light district,” in the early 1990s, the town has also been home to some more notorious murders and traumas.

In a series of articles written by former Red Cliff newspaper editor William Thom in the 1920s, Thom recounts some of the “early day tragedies” of Eagle County.

This included the murder of William Madigan at Rock Creek in 1882 of Ed Nottingham, the later murder of William Nottingham in a “quarrel in front of the Star hotel,” the 1883 murder of Anna Mansfield by her husband — to which, Thom wrote: “His bloody face haunts me yet” — another murder in a saloon in 1885, the 1886 search for a dressmaker Mrs. Boylan who “mysteriously disappeared from her home” and later presumably discovered in the Eagle River and many more.

This collection of Thom’s accounts of some of these tragedies paints a picture of what life was like in the town’s early days, and certainly a violent one at that.

Reports of in-house ghosts, glowing orbs and the clinking of chains in the night are all reported experiences in modern-day Red Cliff.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

A paranormal hotspot

This traumatic history is one of the things that in Kimball’s opinion makes Red Cliff a “paranormal hotspot,” according to her presentation at last week’s town hall.

“People who experience trauma, the trauma becomes a residual energy imprinted in that place. So even after the affected people leave, it’s still there, it’s still imprinted. It will seem like their energy is there and when the conditions are right the energy can be utilized by the spirits and altered around them,” she said. “Everything is energy.”

Additionally, Kimball cited other reasons the town is amped for paranormal activity. This includes the amount of moving water through the town — including the Eagle River and six other tributaries — as well as iron underground and quartz in the cliffs surrounding the town. All of which, she said, have significant potential to store and create energy.

Lady Perpetua, a psychic medium and spiritual advisor, said that in her experience, trauma is the main thing that can cause spirits to linger in certain places, adding that the “’spirit’ can linger/cling to everything.”

However, she added, many factors can play into why a spot might have more paranormal activity. This includes the elements in the ground and surrounding areas and more.

“Ancient civilizations were more aware of such things and built monuments and places of worship on such hot spots. There is something to be said for Ley Lines, which allegedly connect these places, but not much actual scientific research has been done in these areas,” Perpetua said. “Another big factor that can open up ‘hot spots’ for paranormal activity are traumatic events and situations.”

Becky Hesseltine, an evidential medium and meditation facilitator from Eagle, also cited multiple possibilities for a place having more paranormal happenings.

“One is that there’s more of an amplified energy in a certain location,” she said, adding that in beautiful places such as Red Cliff, one’s awareness moves from the thinking mind and beta brain waves into their alpha brain waves, making individuals “more available to our extra senses.”

“Maybe we are connecting to our own soul a little bit more in these beautiful spaces,” Hesseltine said.

Additionally, she said that while everyone has the potential to connect to their own soul and therefore their loved ones that have passed, this availability to connect “might be more amplified in certain spaces and our awareness could be drawn to the energy of the space.”

Hesseltine believes that these paranormal happenings don’t necessarily mean that a “particular spirit person is there in that moment.”

“It could be the memory of that individual or that event. It could be that maybe you’ve heard of a particular ghost or whatever in a certain spot and so you go to that spot but your awareness is already thinking and wanting to see this phenomenon or what have you. And so you’re available maybe to experience that,” she said. “It’s something we have to look at and question and wonder.”

She compares the imprinting of a memory of a past event into a space as walking into a room with two people fighting, where you can feel the tension in that physical space.

“I believe it’s the memory of that event that is happening. It’s that the energy of it that’s still there in that physical space,” she said. “In these historic places, you’re experiencing those events but that doesn’t mean that those actual people are still there experiencing that event over and over.”

Hesseltine added that one’s “soul senses” have a knowing that something happened, a realization of what that conflict or event might have been — all culminating in a “multifaceted experience within of what happened in that space.”

Part of Kimball’s work is making sure that everyone feels safe, comforted and not alone in any seemingly paranormal occurrences. She hopes that more will open up and share their experiences through the telling and hearing of others.

“It’s a very comforting thing to have people experience something with you, it’s almost like paranormal therapy in a sense. It’s nice to have someone to share experiences with, just so you don’t feel so alone,” she said.

Perpetua added that after a spiritual encounter, individuals can reach out to professionals to build an understanding if that’s what is wanted.

“The spirit most likely simply needs their story to be heard and acknowledged for them to move on peacefully. Try to find a professional spiritual advisor, psychic, shaman, etc. that you feel personally connected to,” she said. “While documentation is fine, I advise avoiding bringing in ghost hunters whose only objective is to catch evidence of the paranormal without offering any solutions as they often will simply stir up the activity.”

Hesseltine said that if “the mystical is sharing an experience with you,” she recommends trying to stay in that experience, whether it’s writing it down or sitting at the moment to create a space for the connection to happen.

“I would say that anybody who is experiencing these things — and I know that sometimes it could be overwhelming for people — but I like to share that the more that we connect into our own healing journey and what that experience is triggering within us, if there’s fear or things like that, it’s something that we could use to heal ourselves so we can actually experience these mystical experiences in their purity without coloring it with our own fear,” she said. “Celebrate that you’re available to see the unseen.”

This story is from VailDaily.com.


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