GHOST TOWNS OF COLORADO
What is a ghost if not the lingering memory of a life lived? Throughout Colorado there are hundreds of “ghost towns”, and like their human counterparts, these settlements exist only as shadows of their former glory...
What is a ghost if not the lingering memory of a life lived? Throughout Colorado there are hundreds of “ghost towns”, and like their human counterparts, these settlements exist only as shadows of their former glory. Built during the early days of mining, where a lucky strike could spell untold fortunes, Colorado’s ghost towns now tell a different, and even frightening story.
Take for example the story of Ashcroft - a short ride from Aspen. It was a quiet village until two prospectors discovered a cache of silver. Word of the new discovery spread and the population ballooned. In just two weeks time an entire town was constructed to accommodate the new residents, eventually creating six hotels and 20 saloons.
But, as quickly as the town was built, it was abandoned by all but a few dozen residents. With the silver mines picked over, many spent their remaining days at one of the saloons, reminiscing on the good ol’ days. Today the town is a museum of the past maintained by the Aspen Historical Society. Visitors can opt to stay at the renovated Hotel View - but be warned that many leave with the shaky feeling that they were not alone during their stay.
The boom-and-bust timelines of mining towns made many settlers nomadic. Miners would stay until the riches were depleted, and would pick up their families in search of the next big pot. Off the old Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, there exists a path that goes by the name of Phantom Canyon Road. It is reported that ghosts can be seen making their way from town to town – a residual memory of the trek they took over a century ago. One notable apparition is that of a prisoner who can be seen walking by the tracks of the old railroad, his uniform and prison number clear as day for those passing by. Though no one knows his name, legend has it that he began making this journey just days after his execution for a crime we will never know.
Today these ghost towns have come back into the eye of the public, enticing those who wish to experience the paranormal, or take a walk back in time. St. Elmo is one example that has profited off interest in these abandoned relics of yore. There guests can shop at a general store like a miner might have and stay at the guest house. Some towns like Alta are nearby camping areas, and a handful of others like Mayflower Gulch are connected to ski resorts.
Colorado once was home to over 1,500 ghost towns though many have “moved on” and been replaced by more lively localés. Now there are only about 640 ghost towns that still exist - each with its own unique characteristics and story, and some that may never be told. As the saying goes, dead men tell no tales. So if you ever find yourself traveling the Colorado countryside and stumble across a town completely devoid of life – refrain from asking the saloon owner “where is everybody?”, as you’ve likely just seen a ghost.