Editor’s Note: This information was compiled from the history achieves at the Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center; the archives included articles from the Fort Collins Courier, The Fort Collins Coloradoan and The Fort Collins Express.
On Wednesday, April 4, 1888, James Howe brutally murdered his wife in a fit of drunken rage.
The murder led to in the first, and last, lynching in Fort Collins history. To this day, the woman who lives in the old Howe home still claims to hear things from time to time.
Eva Howe crawled from her home on Walnut Street 121 years ago and screamed “murder” before expiring on the sidewalk. C.P. Miller, the local coroner, declared her death at 1 p.m. that afternoon.
The Howe’s were respected in Fort Collins and were known to move in the “best social circles,” until James – a frequenter of the 16 local taverns — started drinking. He was a “beastly” drunk who beat his wife often, and the night before the murder, the situation was so out of hand she called the police for protection.
She would not, however, “consent to his arrest or confinement.”
The next day, not expecting his return until late that night, she began to pack her belongings when he returned from a morning of drinking earlier than suspected. He then stabbed her with a pocketknife “sharpened for the fatal work which it preformed.”
Minutes after Eva was spotted lifeless on the sidewalk, six local men contained James in a citizen’s arrest until undersheriff Lafe Stultz intervened, taking James down to the station with little resistance.
Resident S.H. Seckner, in a sworn statement, said he was the first to arrive at the Howe home where he found James in the bedroom. Seckner said James pleaded that his wife had committed suicide after she tried to kill him.
Now, in the 21st century, Sierra Tamkin, Old Town Terror Tour guide and museum employee, has recounted this tale many times on haunted tours of downtown and will do so on the final tour of the season today.
She said after a blackout in the city, an angry mob of masked men stormed the jail, dragging James to his death.
The local derricks, located where the Fort Collins Court House stood until April of 1955, is where James Howe begged for his life. He was found the next morning, April 5, at 9:30a.m., hanging where the mob had left him the night before.
None of the men who participated in the lynching were arrested, and Tamkin said the coincidence of a blackout and no convictions following the act led many to speculate government involvement.
The couple left behind a 5-year-old daughter and a home that remained empty for years following the murder. Daisy Bosworth bought the house in the late 1890s and turned the home into a boarding house.
Later, the house was moved from its foundation on Walnut Street to Myrtle Street.
Julie Scena Ferri, the current owner of the Howe home, said that when she and her ex-husband made an offer on the house, the realtors had to disclose the facts of the murder. But even after they heard of the Howe murder, the home was still appealing.
“The house is light, sunny and cozy – it just felt good,” Scena Ferri said.
While Scena Ferri loves her home, she doesn’t deny that weird things seem to happen everywhere she turns. The day they signed the papers for the home, her ex-husband received a package in the mail that contained a 3-inch Swiss Army pocketknife.
“The note read: ‘Greg, thought you could use this. -Love, Dad,'” she said, later adding, “That was one of the weirder things that has happened.”
“Whenever (Greg) sharpened knives, there would be loud bumps in the home, and we would just say, ‘Oh, it’s just the ghosts.'”
She said those bumps have ceased but only because “no one’s been sharpening knives here lately.”
Another weird occurrence she recalled involves a mirror hanging on the wall, parallel to her bed. She had been taking a nap and woke up with the feeling that “something wasn’t right,” to find her mirror had crashed to the ground.
“The weird thing was the twine holding it up wasn’t frayed, someone had cut it straight across.”
The last hint of paranormal activity happens whenever she goes into the cellar, and the fluorescent light extinguishes every time she said.
“I say ‘OK, Knock it off,’ and the light comes back on.”
It’s been years since the small white home, enclosed by a white picket fence, housed the fatal crime it’s famous for, but Scena Ferri said the weird quirks have yet to leave.
“This is probably all coincidental – but it’s kind of fun.”
Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.