Hot Springs Hauntings

Dec 012011
Authors: Chelsea Dunfee

For years tourists and staff alike have reported ghostly encounters within the rustic hotel, steamy hot springs, and dimly lit caves. Rosie the ghost is just one frequent spirit that visits the employees.

“The housekeepers joke that the ghost Rosie, was an actual tuberculosis patient from the 1920’s. She died while she was being treated at the hot springs and now she likes to play tricks the staff,” said Eric Miller, gift shop employee of ten years.

According to Miller, the second floor of the main building experiences lots of activity. Miller states that people request one upstairs room in particular because it is believed to be haunted.

“General things, like the TV and faucets turn on by themselves, happen to the housekeepers a lot,” Miller said.

Idaho Springs is only a short 30 minutes from Denver, Colo. The Indian Hot Springs, nestled against the mountain side, is a hotel and resort that offers many activities for guests of all ages. As you wind up I-70 to the springs, be sure not to miss the town by the distraction of the beautiful view of the mountains in front of you.

As you make your way to the hot springs, you will see a town sprinkled with aged Victorian houses, small family businesses and several historical sites. The town is also popular for ghost hunters, attracting professionals and enthusiasts hoping to glimpse the paranormal.

Upon arriving to the hot springs and checking into your room, you can then make your way downstairs into the caves. Walking down into the dark, quiet caves can feel a little spooky. The cave tubs alone are over 100 years old.

Staff members tell numerous tales of paranormal experiences while being left alone in the caves and not all ghostly encounters have been pleasant at the springs.

“There was a maintenance guy who experienced a demon down in the caves. He was cleaning all alone late one night and decided to take a swim. The demon was hovering above the pool and told the maintenance guy his name was Jason. The maintenance man would never clean alone again,” Miller said.

According to staff members most experiences happen late at night when no one else is around, so guests are usually spared from the unknown. Caitlin Pruitt, an employee of four months, has also experienced strange activity in the caves.

“One night we were downstairs closing up and a lock on the door was swinging all by itself. The other person I was with went over and stopped it but the lock still continued to swing back and forth,” Pruitt said.

Miller has never personally experienced any paranormal activity at the springs but has always wondered why the attic of the main building is permanently closed off.

“I can see the windows from the outside but you can’t get in there,” Miller said. “It’s freaky to me.”

But the rich history of the springs counters any spooky activity. The hot springs have been considered sacred since the Ute and Arapahoe Native American tribes used the springs as neutral grounds. This meant that they were not allowed to fight or kill each other and the springs were a place of peace. They would come to worship their gods and believed the spring’s hot water cured the sick and wounded.

“This was a place for spritual healing,” Pruitt said. “Indians knew this was sacred, so this was a neutral ground. There was no scaping or women stealing while at the springs.”

According to Pruitt, in 1859 the white settlers came to the Rockies and changed life for the Indians as well as the hot springs.

“Cowboys would come visit later on and rent prostitutes. That’s why we have the Cowboy Wing upstairs,” Pruitt said. “The cowboys are in all the old photos but they left the prostitutes out of the staff pictures.”

In 1905, the springs were used as a place to send tuberculosis patients because it was thought that the water would cure their sicknesses. Today the springs are open year round to the public.

But if you just can’t get enough of the paranormal fun at the hot springs, the old gold mines also offer the chance to get your ghost fix.

The Phoenix Gold Mine, located about two miles from the springs, gives guests a chance to tour the 1871 gold mine as well as try their luck in panning for gold. For $15 participants get a hard hat, a wonderful guided tour, the chance to touch “the lucky bucket”, and the opportunity to pan for gold the old fashion way.

Prospector and tour guide Bob Stacks said that, “The lucky bucket” has been known to cure cancer and help people sell their houses, but it can also influence sporting events.

“When the Denver Broncos cheerleaders came for a visit, that was also the last year the Broncos won the Super Bowl,” Stacks said.

Stacks spends lots of time at the mine and has personally experienced paranormal activity while working in the caves.

“One time it was late at night and I was getting ready to close up. I saw a person in a hard hat walking out back and forth by the opening of the cave. I thought maybe it was someone trying to steal the gold so I went out there to see who it was. As I was approaching the person, I went to punch them in the stomach, but my hand went right through their body and smashed into the rock wall,” Stacks said.

According to Stacks, hundreds of miners died during the gold rush due to toxins that filled their lungs from the widow drill. The drill received this name because it left so many women as widows. To the miners it was a small price to pay for the five dollars a day they earned, today, a price that would be equivalent to $500.

Luckily family and tourists now can appreciate the area for an affordable price without the dangers. The little town of Idaho Springs offers plenty of entertainment for all. You never know what you will find in Colorado’s old mining town and for ghost hunters, the town is a paranormal goldmine.

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