Wednesday, May 23, 2012
In February of 2012, Julee, my cousin Denise and myself were flown to L.A. for an interview in the BIO studios regarding our experiences at Cheesman Park near downtown Denver, Colorado. We had all been to the park previously; Julee and I used to spend a lot of time there during the summer in the early 90's, picnicking, sunbathing, and playing sports. At that time we had no idea what was lying just three feet beneath us as we happily sat eating fried chicken and watching people blissfully flying kites. There were many areas of the park featuring small, hardly noticeable sunken areas which were perfect for lying out and cloudbusting. While Julee had reported some genuinely odd experiences there playing hide-and-go-seek as a child, and we were both mysteriously rendered unconscious on another occasion there, we were for the most part unaware of the horrors which had taken place at what for us had always been a bright, comfortable place to visit. By 2007, a year after I founded The SpiritChasers, the park had turned into a paranormal playground after the Family Channel program "The Scariest Places On Earth" aired an episode revealing the park's dark history. We returned on Halloween night of that year to see for ourselves exactly what was going on after the sun set and the "veil" was at its thinnest. We weren't disappointed, and the research I did concerning Cheesman became very helpful by the time we assembled ourselves in the Biography studios for our "My Ghost Story" taping. The following is a result of that research.
Beginning in 1858, land legally belonging to the Apache Indians was claimed by General William Larimer, who established the town he designated as Denver. He set aside 320 acres for a cemetery he would christen Mount Prospect, later nicknamed "The Old Boneyard" or "Boot Hill" by locals referring to the increasing number of outlaws, vagrants and paupers being buried at the outermost edge of the cemetery. Because of this, many affluent families began to have their loved ones interred elsewhere, as the site quickly began to fill up with the poor, the criminal and the diseased.
When Larimer left Denver, an aspiring undertaker named John Walley claimed the plot for himself, which he let fall into a state of disrepair. Headstones were toppled, graves were vandalized and sometimes cattle were allowed to graze upon the land. In 1872, the property became federal land and was renamed City Cemetery.
In 1881, a hospital for small pox sufferers was built at the south of the cemetery, which also housed patients with other contagious diseases, as well as the mentally ill, the elderly and the handicapped. Most patients were simply left to die in the hospital, which was nicknamed "The Pest House". Many of those who died here were also buried in mass graves behind the hospital.
By the late 1800's, the cemetery was in even worse disrepair, now an official eyesore to the prospering city of Denver, and by 1890 U.S. Congress authorized the conversion of Mount Prospect into a park, with the immediate vacation of the dead interred there.
Families were given 90 days to remove the remains of their departed, though by then most of those buried at the site went unclaimed, so in 1893 the City Of Denver awarded a contract to undertaker E.P. McGovern to remove the remaining graves. For each "fresh" box he transferred to the Riverside Cemetery, he would be paid $1.90, which was at the time a very generous fee. But greed overtook McGovern, as he soon found a way to make an even larger profit by hacking the bodies up and placing them in child-size caskets, which were just one foot by 3 & 1/2 feet long. This way, up to three caskets could be used for just one body, therefore tripling his pay. In his haste, body parts and bones were strewn everywhere, while "souvenir" hunters began looting the open graves.
When the Denver Republican learned of his deeds, their headline for their March 18th, 1893 issue proclaimed, "The Work Of Ghouls!" The following is an excerpt from that article:
"The line of desecrated graves at the southern boundary of the cemetery sickened and horrified everybody by the appearance they presented. Around their edges were piled broken coffins, rent and tattered shrouds and fragments of clothing that had been torn from the dead bodies... All were trampled into the ground by the footsteps of the gravediggers like rejected junk."
McGovern's contract was terminated, and the cemetery sat in disarray as grading and leveling preparation began for the park. By 1902, the city began simply planting shrubbery in the open graves, and when the park was finally completed in 1907, no remaining bodies had been moved. In 1909, Gladys Cheesman-Evans and her mother donated a marble pavilion in honor of the pioneer Walter Cheesman, and the area was renamed Cheesman Park.
By then, however, nearby residents were already reporting several accounts of sad and confused spirits looking for their graves; knocking on doors and windows, moaning and whispering from the old gravesite. Outlines of old headstones were still reported to be seen on moonlit nights. And, in areas where unclaimed wooden caskets had collapsed and created depressions in the ground above, people lying there claimed to have been physically restrained. What's more, no matter how many times such depressions were filled back up with earth, they still collapsed. Children in old-fashioned Victorian apparel have been seen playing in the park at night, funeral hymns are heard, and the scent of funerary flowers are still detected there.
All of these claims are still reported today. The 1980 movie "The Changeling" was based on events said to have taken place at one of the homes in the Cheesman Park neighborhood, the site of the original Mount Prospect encompassing areas of land stretching way beyond the current park, past even the area now known as the Denver Botanical Gardens. Two skeletons were unearthed there during a routine excavation in late 2010, which is a very common occurence, as the soil in this particular area ( Bentonite ) becomes like a slurry when wet, causing old coffins and bones to rise vertically until they break ground. The events in Steven Spielberg's 1982 film "Poltergeist" were based upon those which occured at Cheesman Park. The famous scene in which the caskets break through the floor of the Freeling family home actually occured at the Denver Botanical Gardens during a renovation.
The Denver Forensics department has also been called upon countless times as visitors to the park have routinely found and reported body parts which have risen to the surface, believing them to have come from recent murders. Brass parts from the old coffins and caskets have also been discovered and any who take these "souvenirs" have reported severe flaps of paranormal activity in their home.
5,000 bodies, once said to be an exaggeration, is now believed to be a conservative estimate of the bodies still buried underneath Cheesman Park and the surrounding lands. Not only are these bodies from Mount Prospect, but several include those from the original Arapaho Indian burial grounds. One of the reasons the bodies from Mount Prospect have risen to the surface with such ease is because most of them were only buried three feet below ground, as three feet beyond those lied the Apache Indian remains. Not only was a sacred indian burial site desecrated, but countless bodies from Mount Prospect never received proper interment, and so reports of paranormal phenomena there have never ceased and still continue to this day.
In the next post, we will share personal accounts of our own visits to Cheesman, including a series of inexplicable photographs we took there, as well as some behind-the-scenes from our experience filming this story for the Biography Channel's "My Ghost Story".
- Christopher Allen Brewer, May 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
After the break, holding our breath, we were a little put-off by the story title, "Whispering Walls", which sounded a little corny and nothing like the "INTO THE UNDERWORLD" title I'd suggested. After all, we were exploring a system of caverns which the Ute Indians, who had once used these caves for burial chambers, described as an entrance to the Underworld. According to legend, there existed a major portal inside in which spirits could pass from their plane to ours. It was a site of extreme paranormal activity long before it was even open to the public. Hundreds of rituals and ceremonies had taken place there, not to mention the darker ones performed by black witches in the 70's, when the bodies of the animals they used in their sacrifices began to cover the valley floor. This was an area of unusually high energy, so sacred to the Utes that they would even remove their warpaint before entering the valley. Many arrowheads, beads, ceremonial artifacts and bodies were found inside the cave when it was first opened to the public in 1881. At one time a mummified body was also featured in one of the caverns, which mysteriously disappeared and reappeared in another part of the cave.
By then, women taking part in tours there were reporting their skirts being tugged on, and other guests were said to have their necks blown on, whispers in their ears, shoulders tapped on and their lanterns blown out. A scent of roses was often detected, a favorite perfume of the wife of one of the original caretakers, who is still seen sitting on one of the rock shelves in a white dress. She is said to place a piece of this lace garment over the lenses of cameras. Strange photographs have been taken inside, which show luminous orbs, sheets of ectoplasmic mist, and odd, snaky forms writhering about. One orb in particular, a red one, would sometimes be seen hovering over the heads of tour guides. These same guides would often report persons in their party who they could not acount for, persons who seemed to be dressed in apparel from another age. In the gift shop, doors were said to open and close by themselves, and from the emergency call box employees were hearing strange breathing, rocks moving about, and phonecalls from an unidentified male, who is thought to be George Snider, one of the caves original caretakers. He and his wife Nellie spent a lot of time there, honeymooning, looking for new passages and oftentimes sleeping inside. They are still described as being benevolent, playful spirits who are still taking care of their cave.
Nellie died after falling through a screen door in the L.A. home she shared with George. She had concealed her injuries from him and by the time he took her to the hospital she had passed away. George himself passed in 1921. On the exact date of his death, a severe lightning storm erupted above the valley, producing a flood and a rockslide which sealed off the original entrance to their cave for 30 years. A series of bizarre accidents, deaths and lawsuits would plague all the developers associated with the site, not to mention additional floods and heavy grasshopper and earthworm infestations. One of the caves, the Huccies, was sealed off, bankrupted in one summer due to its sinister, haunted reputation and its claiming of several lives. Many of these bodies have never been found. Several residents feel these misfortunes stem from the desecration of the Indian burial ground, from moving bodies about and taking sacred artifacts.
Below these caverns lies the town of Manitou Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak. It was at one time a spiritual mecca, and many tuberculosis sufferers from the 1800's moved here to drink from the natural mineral springs which dotted the landscape. These springs were also very sacred to the Utes, who believed that each one had healing and recouperative powers, especially when taken together. According to legend, when they discovered that one of the springs ( the "Soda Spring" ) was to be enclosed in the Manitou Spa building, they placed a curse on it, believing it should remain outdoors and available to everyone. And again, a series of misfortunes beset all the developers associated with the property ( up until 2006, when it was finally renovated ). The sacred water still remains closed off to the public, however, which continues to anger the Utes and current-day residents of Manitou, who still believe in the enormous healing potential of these mineral springs when taken together.
Last weekend James and I visited Manitou, taking a map to these mineral springs with us. I was a previous resident and although I had drank from these waters before, I had never discovered all of them on my own. I had worked and lived there and as a Native American had befriended other Indians who had first informed me of the curse on the spa building, which still sat dilapidated and flooded when I lived there. They also told me of the spirit portal inside Cave Of The Winds, knowing I lived down the street from one of its "secret" entrances. I knew a lot of the people there and had eagerly absorbed the spiritualist history of the town and the Utes who had made it their home. I'd always wanted to live in an eccentric mountain town similar to the one from the television shows Northern Exposure ( Cicely ) or Twin Peaks. I had only vague memories of a trip there in my youth after our family had taken my sister and I to the nearby Garden Of The Gods national natural landmark. This was yet another site where several sacred ceremonies had been perfomed by the Utes and other tribes and, like Manitou, I was instantly drawn to it.
James and I brought several bottles of water with us on our visit. We were planning on moving to Manitou together, and wanted to partake of the waters, of the energy of the town, to feel it resonating in our cells and helping to focus our own energy in locating the perfect place to call home. It was the weekend of the "supermoon", when the moon was closest to the earth, the brightest and most powerful. Ideal for any ritual involving assistance from a greater power. We did find all ten mineral springs, and were able to collect water from eight of them. We reminiced about our recent experience on My Ghost Story, about how a lot of the research I had done was cut out, including any mention of the Underworld, or the darker energies besieging the site. Our greatest concern was that one of the photos, of the dozens we had taken there which weren't included in the show, was described wrongly. In our story, we mentioned capturing a photograph of a male and a female joined together, who we believed to be George and Nellie. The editor had taken this photo and superimposed the standing figures of two people, which we never saw. When James said, "that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen in my life", he was actually referring to another picture which wasn't shown. We kind of rolled our eyes at the creative editing, but the actual photo we're describing shows two faces, not forms, joined together. Also, despite some sensational claims and the exaggeration of some of the ghost stories we were told, no one actually fell and died from the metal, not wooden, ladder we were shown.
A lot of creative editing was certainly done, most of which we were thankful for as the day of our interview with BIO last January, we were both suffering from stage fright. Everything we learned and researched sort of fell out of our heads before the cameras, lights and technicians and we were somewhat upset with the way we came off. We were also pekid and tired, having been up since three the previous evening at Disneyland. I hadn't flown since I was five and was very worried about our flight to L.A. I had a cocktail to calm my nerves on the way up, not considering the altitude, which left me a zombie for the rest of our stay there. The actual filming of our dramatization was another story. We spent nearly ten hours filming underground in the caverns, actually capturing more evidence than we did on our original visit. We roamed about the caves long after they had been closed to the public, just James and I, a cameraman and guide. Before they closed, we were able to speak with the owner's son and some of the employees regarding their experiences there. I won't go into those stories out of a respect for their privacy, but I can say that the caves have always been prone to activity and the taking of mysterious and inexplicable photographs have always been reported.
On our original visit in September of 2010, one of the tour guides told us about an apparition he'd seen while he was alone in one of the chambers. He at first thought that someone was playing a clever trick on him. He described what he saw as a set of snaky tendrils that began to materialize before him, which were the same color and intensity of a glowstick. They quickly grew larger and his shock quickly dissipated when he realized that the apparition before him was trying to take a humanoid form. He knew the apparition had consciousness and intelligent motive, and he knew that there was no way anyone could arrange anything as elaborate as that. He fled from the area, vowing never to go off alone again unaccompanied. He said many of the employees would hang out in different parts of the cave during their off-hours, and they each described having bizarre experiences. The original tour James and I took was the "Lantern Tour", which is a one-and-a-half-hour trek through parts of the cave not open to the general tour. You are given an old-fashioned kerosene lantern and led by a guide who explains the history of the cave and all of the ghost stories accompanying it. The photos we took certainly backed up these claims, as right from the start we were getting transparent humanoid forms, faces, and unexplainable shapes.
There were several orbs, which many paranormal investigators will explain away as dust, but being involved in native American rituals and witnessing these balls of light before, I can say with certainty that these were not something that simple. I know our earth to be one full of energy and spirit, which often manifests in the form of luminous balls of energy. These have always been reported, long before digital cameras and multimedia lectures on the unknown. We have obviously photographed dust and other particles several times prior and we know that these were something else entirely. While we don't claim to hold the keys and secrets of the Underworld ourselves, we're very turned off by those that do, who believe that dust is responsible for all orb photos, and are saddened by the limit of their perception. This is something that needs to be harshly addressed, and adjusted, the separation of ego from the study of this science, and how it contaminates ones perception even more than fear.
So where are these images coming from? Growing up presbyterian, my family living up a short hill from the church we attended, many of our tribe were deacons there and possessed keys to it. I would let myself into the church often, when no one was there, looking for the Holy Ghost, for Mary, or to hear something from Jesus or his apostles. While there was a lot of energy I could sense in that building, despite my countless invitations I never saw or heard anything that would ever convince me that it was a home of God. People put their own versions of God into it, their own fears, reward systems and punishments, and as much as I loved my fatherly pastor, I really didn't believe I needed a go-between to connect me with my Creator. My Creator was already visiting me in my dreamtime, which rapidly accelerated after receiving my Indian name during high school. These dreams and visions gave way to various synchronicitous, chance encounters and messages that convinced me something greater was trying to get my attention, to communicate, to guide. I knew only to be open to the experience, and not to tout it around like a gaudy necklace. Our family always has and always will experience contact from the Underworld. Our ancestors knew their link to the spirit world was serious business, and as such The SpiritChasers have never had to run around shouting through the veil to get a response from the Otherside.
This is why, apart from friends and family accompanying us on certain investigations ( who already have a history of powerful encounters ), we have limited our team to three. We encourage others to go out on their own, just as we have, because in the end this phenomenon is about personal contact with something beyond ordinary perception, and has much to do with the spiritual growth and beliefs of the individual. Our "evidence" comes from something that doesn't want to and can't fully be proven because it's not supposed to. It's truly up to the individual. While we will always enjoy ghost stories and ghost tours, we know not to deify anyone, that we don't need any go-betweens. It's not something we're hauling out before the local news. It's much more personal than that. When we were invited by BIO to come on their show, we did so because the photographic evidence we had compiled over the years was certainly more startling than a lot of what we'd seen prior. This golden age needed an adjustment, though we were very naive to believe we could simply share our experiences without the typical Hollywoodization of other programs. My Ghost Story was simply people and their evidence. We didn't know fear-based sound effects and clever editing would turn our experience into another quickly-forgotten Victorian novelty.
Still, it was an unforgettable experience. The show was simply a circus act, and as James and I meandered through Manitou, peeling back the layers of time and drinking from the sacred springs, we remembered it for what it was: a communion with spirit. No one can tell us any differently, though I know several on YouTube would love to. DUDE, that's just dirt falling from the roof of the cave ( as we continued to photograph it forming a shape in front of us ). That red light is from your camera ( actually ours doesn't have one of those ). That voice you got shouldn't echo, or the other one should ( I heard what I heard and there was no one else around me - James can't throw his voice or sound like a woman ). That mist is just your breath ( cold down there, but not enough for that - after doing this for years we certainly tested this theory underground ). It's smoke ( kerosene lanterns weren't providing that kind of smoke ).
I'll never understand this age of reason, where miracles are happening all around us, invitations to our salvation and stakes in our future and people simply won't believe it. Walking through Manitou, through the caves, I am reminded of this veil, this rice paper wall where voices from the other side are whispering of their existence and preparing us for the next dimension we'll be stepping into after this. Some people are standing still, on soap boxes, thinking they're moving as they troll about the internet or radio, hoping to make people think like they do, in tour buses or KUSA. I come from a race of storytellers, and as eager as I am to hear and share more, I have to be sure I am still moving forward, in thought and in spirit. While many are clutching at two-dimensional thoughtforms to disprove anything outside their field of vision, the age of reason is collapsing, as more and more of us seek our own communion with the invisible, and the inevitable.
Cave Of The Winds is located at 100 Cave of the Winds Road in Manitou Springs, CO 80829. From I-25 in Colorado Springs, take Exit 141. Go west on Highway 24 for six miles. The entrance to Cave of the Winds is on the right. George & Nellie Snider are believed to provide protection from some of the darker forces summoned during black magic rites and dark shaman rituals. They will attempt contact first. If not, speaking their names will certainly help alert them to your presence. Ask the tour guide about personal experiences ( nicely, they don't open up for everyone and they're simply there to put on a show and get you through the cave ). Residual energy from the portal should be experienced about 45 minutes into the lantern tour. As you head deeper, earth energies such as orbs and ectoplasmic "pea pods" should become more apparent. Ute Indian spirits and those of other tribes will be present here. The entrance to the Underworld is guarded. Sheets of mist, like transparent veils, will be in place, as will be intimidating skeletal figures and faces. We recommend visiting as early in the day as possible, before any large crowds disrupt the natural flow of energy there. Bring a digital camera, a voice recorder, and an open mind.
- Christopher Allen Brewer, May 2012
You can watch our episode of My Ghost Story on YouTube here by copying this link and pasting in your browser: http://www.youtube.com/user/WeAreSpiritChasers
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
One of my best friends owns a theatre company here in the 'Springs and has been booking shows at the Colorado Springs City Auditorium for years. Built in 1923, this historic venue has been host to the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, the Harlem Globetrotters and many other legendary entertainers. We've been to several of the musicals and plays our friend's held at the auditorium's Lon Chaney Theatre, dedicated to former 'Springs resident and infamous "man with a thousand faces" horror actor / director Lon Chaney. Sometimes we'd help my friend move heavy props or help break down scenery after his shows. He and a former business partner have had several mysterious experiences while working in the theatre alone and I always delighted in hearing the latest paranormal goings-on in the building.
His partner once saw an almost transparent woman in white descending one of the staircases, and it wasn't the first time they told me of this woman appearing to others on those particular steps. Our friend often had the lights turned on and off on him when there was no one else around, chandeliers spun, and things had moved backstage on their own. Doors had loudly shut by themselves, strange voices were heard under the stage, even an office manager had reported many unsettling experiences as she worked alone late at night. On one of these occasions, with the auditorium empty and the doors locked up, she was sitting at her desk when she noticed a man peek around the doorframe and glare at her, then duck back into the dark hallway. She immediately jumped up and ran into the hallway to find that no one was there. This wasn't the last time she witnessed people who weren't supposed to be there, persons who had a tendency to disappear around corners while their footsteps could still be heard echoing down the long hallways.
In one of the rooms on the upper floor is an old, vacant apartment they say a former tenant had been murdered in. Parts of his mutilated body, including his head, were said to have been found strewn about the auditorium. Urban legend or not, many visitors to the auditorium were under the impression that the apartment was still occupied, as they could hear someone walking around inside, cabinets slamming, and an old radio playing. There were also labyrinth areas under the main stage which led to tunnels under the city where we were informed another murder had taken place. A block away, one such tunnel ended at a former mortuary where paranormal phenomena had been reported on many occasions by many reputable people. This morgue had housed victims of the influenza outbreak of 1918, and employees there still report supernatural occurrences to this day.
In the upper seating above the main stage of the auditorium, the ghostly form of an unknown man has been witnessed sitting alone, observing the activity of others below. In the years I worked for a popular metaphysical store in Old Colorado City, we promoted and participated as vendors in the popular new age fairs held at the "City Aud". Working these fairs, which always ran through the weekend, I always got a kick out of observing the psychics giving readings there. For sometime or another, inevitably, one of them would always turn and look up toward the seats above them, sensing the presence many before them have reported. Many photographs taken there have come back with streaks of light and luminous orbs in them. In one case, a child who'd performed at one of my friend's shows had one side of her head completely erased and replaced with a demonic looking face.
One evening, after one of my friend's performances, we were taking some props up to a storage area. My roommate and I noticed a door with the number 13 stamped on it. I tried to open it, thinking it was for storage, but found it locked. Directly across from this door we found the proper room, but as we turned to enter it someone behind door number 13 pounded against it, nearly causing us to drop everything we were holding and run back down the stairs to safety. At night, the dark rooms, cold stairwells and mysterious doors almost seem an entity unto themselves. On another such occasion, my roommate and I were walking throughout the auditorium to ensure that all the patrons had left after my friend's musical had let out. We had our digital camera with us as we had been photographing his show, and out of curiosity, we began snapping pictures at every purported paranormal hotspot we came to. We began at the staircase to the right of the main entrance where the woman is usually seen, and noticed that several orbs were appearing in the viewfinder. We sort of filed it away as dust or light reflections, but when we came to the dining area, after hearing someone speaking in the pitch dark, we photographed an ectoplasmic-looking orb coming right up out of a table.
We went back to the main room of the auditorium and pointed our camera toward the upper seating area where the mysterious figure is often spotted sitting alone. Looking at the viewscreen, we noticed a perfect orb hovering above this very spot. Again, our logical mind attempting to explain it away as dust, we enlarged the picture on the LCD screen and were shocked to discover the nearly transparent form of a person seated there. Appearing from another age entirely, he is holding a cane, his eyes, mouth and nose clearly visible, as he looks up to the ceiling. We still have the only known photograph of this infamous entity, and were obviously grateful he chose to appear to us. We continued to explore, taking a photo of the seat, an orb appearing right at its center. We went up a little higher, and I sat myself down on one of the seats while my roommate snapped a picture of me. The photo came back with several orbs surrounding me, including a very luminous, ectoplasmic one to my right and one pancaked with another streaking down to my left! Four appear on the chair beside me, and a tiny one looks as if it's entering my forehead.
In 2011, we held our SpiritChasers V premier at The Lon Chaney Theatre. Apart from our small audience of friends, family and a couple staff members, the auditorium was empty. One of our guests went to use the restroom after the show, walking down one of the long hallways unaccompanied. He came to the restroom, standing alone, when he began to sense a very strong presence of someone standing behind him. He turned his head to look, finding no one there of course, but was unable to explain who was it he could still hear breathing...
- Christopher Allen Brewer, May 2012