Colorado: American Folklore #6

Colorado has plenty of its own unique folklore, going all the way back thousands of years into the early times of habitation by the first Native Americans. These are some of the more intriguing tales of folklore from Colorado.

Click Here to listen to the podcast.

The eighth largest state in the nation, Colorado joined the union in 1876 as the 38th state. With a strong history in the gold mining industry, including the mid-19th century gold rush, and large swaths of empty and rural land, there is much room for this western state to have its fair share of folklore. Here are some of the more intriguing tales from the Centennial State.

Ghosts in the Black Forest

Back in 1990, a man named Steve Lee moved with his family into a log cabin in the Black Forest of Colorado, looking to get away from the bustle of city life. To test it out to see if they liked living so rurally, the family rented the cabin for a year first. They liked it and bought it. However, as soon as they officially became the owners of the cabin and the land on which it stood, things started to get weird for them.

At first, it was small things, like lights and electronics going on and off on their own. Sometimes, there were strange noises around the place that no one could explain. Eventually, Steve’s children started to see odd, shadowy figures lurking about in the surrounding woods. The figures seemed to bring a strange, burning odor with them that irritated the throats and eyes of the family.

Steve installed motion detectors and cameras, in case it was pranksters, which he believed it to be. The motion detectors would go off, but nothing corroborating could be found on the cameras. Over time, the cameras began picking up things like orbs, strange lights, and what appeared to be ghosts in human form with faces.

The family contacted Sightings, a TV show that looked into the paranormal, and the cast and crew experienced quite a bit of strange things while on the Lee property. One of the producers claimed something attempted to possess him, equipment was vandalized with no known source, and more. A medium brought onto the show identified several spirits in the cabin, including the son of one of Steve’s friends who was believed to have died of an overdose, but who revealed to the medium he had been murdered. The medium also identified a rift in time and space on the property. The haunting became one of the better-known ones in America.

The Stanley Hotel (aka The Hotel on Which “The Shining” was Based)

Stephen King’s book, The Shining, which was made into a movie of the same name, is based on Colorado’s Stanley Hotel, making it one of the most famous haunted places in the state. The hotel is more than a century old and has been the site of quite a few sightings of ghosts and other unexplainable phenomena.

One of the ghosts has been identified as that of Lord Dunraven, the original owner of the hotel. His face has been seen looking out of his room by many people, all when no one was supposedly in it. Guests staying in the room, #407, have reported the lights being turned on and off until they asked Dunraven to please stop, at which point he obliged and began making noises in the hallway by the elevator, just outside the room.

Other rooms are also haunted, with guests and cleaning crews reporting seeing impressions on beds in empty rooms, and the sounds of children playing when no children are staying in the hotel.

Get Your Kicks on Route 666

This highway goes through four states, including Colorado. Many people have been apprehensive about driving down it because of its creepy number, which is why it was officially renamed Route 491 in 2003. However, this change did not stop weird things from happening on the road. The road always had a higher than average rate of car accidents, though they did reduce since the road was renamed.

Other weird things have happened, such as reports by several people of a black sedan following them, regardless of how hard they try to out-drive or out-maneuver it, and when they pull over, they discover no car is behind them at all.

Tales of “hell hounds” have also been a part of this road’s history. There are numerous reports of otherworldly dogs that chase cars on the road, regardless of velocity, and shred tires, which cause awful accidents. Others have claimed the beasts have jumped into cars through open windows and mauled the occupants. Reports of these beasts and the black sedan, among other creepy tales, have continued despite the road’s renaming.

The Legend of the Skinwalkers

Long before Europeans came to Colorado, the land had a rich history of settlement by Native Americans, and they have loads of their own folklore. The local Navajo have one such legend they have passed down through the generations of beings who are humans that are able to shapeshift into any kind of animal. They often describe coyotes with human eyes following cars and transforming into men with glowing yellow eyes if the cars hit them. While some Navajo believe the skinwalkers are evil, others believe they are there to warn of evil. If someone is traveling down a road that is not safe, the skinwalker will appear. If the warning is ignored, an evil shaman appears in the back seat of the car and causes an accident.

Ghosts of the Asylum

There was an asylum in Colorado, called the Ridge Home Asylum, that was open from 1912 to 1991. Rumor had it that the patients there were drugged and abused. One staff member was even arrested for abusing patients and bragging about it to friends. However, the asylum was rumored to be haunted even while it was still being used.

Both patients and employees reported weird noises, laughter from nowhere, apparitions, children who were not there running up and down the halls, and objects that moved on their own.

After the asylum closed, breaking into the empty building was considered a rite of passage by local teens, and it was a creepy place, with all the furnishings, including toys, being left behind. The building was torn down and replaced with a Target in 2004. The Target today is said to be haunted, as well.