Thursday, May 10, 2012

CAVE OF THE WINDS / My Ghost Story

   Our episode of the Biography Channel's "My Ghost Story" aired on Saturday, April 28th @ 7:pm MST. James and I were planning to host a viewing party for it but were frankly pretty nervous to see how everything came off, so we just decided to stay in, picking up a bottle of Red Rose and crossing our fingers.  The afternoon of the airing, my Facebook page was filled with a ton of encouraging comments from family and friends looking forward to watching the show, as was my text inbox, but we were simply hoping we wouldn't bring any shame upon our family.  We had to sit through the entire episode to find out that the show closed with our story, as if the suspense wasn't enough, but when we saw a quick preview of James before a commercial break, we jumped up shouting and hugging eachother in excitement.

   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.

   From the spiritual revolution of the 1800's and the mediums, ectoplasm and ouija boards of that area, to another golden age of the paranormal we find ourselves in now, ghost hunters have never been more popular, more competitive and more hoarding than ever.  It's still terribly Victorian, we just have better technology, and yet many of the views concerning this phenomenon remain as antique as those tools.  The SpiritChasers have never run miles of cable through homes and old properties in an attempt to prove anything.  We don't carry distracting suitcases full of expensive equipment just to watch sensors light up and flashlights turn themselves on.  Those things, as much as it may be neat to interact with another force, are in the end petty novelties.  We don't have to prove they exist because we know they already do.  We aren't media whores and aren't interested in putting on any dog and pony shows to show the public how we've made ourselves instant scientists.  We've never charged for anything we do and would never take away the intimate experience of a person, who is fully entitled to their own perception and accounts of their story. We have no radio program ( currently ) where we're putting down other ghosthunting teams or espousing archaic and final thoughts about this phenomenon.  The SpiritChasers are after something far greater, although we don't go into any investigation with an agenda, popularity or dollar signs in our heads.  If we did, we would never have captured the images we have.

   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:


  1. during high school back in the mid 70's we used to go into huccies cove and party in what they called the "buffalo Room" because it looked like the inside of a buffalo head. thinking at how we got high in huccies cove and than climbed our way out it now amazes me no one was hurt. there were some pretty dangerous spots like the "stovepipe" and the place you had to jump about3-4ft to cross a ledge trail

  2. That sounds like so much fun. I remember seeing "Mazes & Monsters" in the 80's and wanting to do some roleplaying there. Still do!

  3. I just went on a Lantern Tour this afternoon and got a strong scent of the "Rose Perfume" of Nettie. I didn't think much of it-I figured maybe one of the woman in our group had put on some really strong perfume. The weird thing was_ I made a comment about the heavy perfume smell and no one else in the group said the could smell anything other than the lantern fuel. CREEPY!

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Arielle - you're most likely sensitive to this phenomena ( or were at least paying close attention )! We were filming down there for about nine hours once and picked up on this scent also. We only had a cameraman and a tour guide with us and neither were wearing any cologne. As you may know, not applying any perfume or cologne prior to an investigation makes it easier to pick up on these things. It's very heartwarming to know Nellie ( and George ) are still looking after their caves.

  5. My husband and I visited the Lantern Tour with a group of 8 adult family members. Only 3 of us smelled the Rose perfume. Everyone else thought we were kidding because they didn't smell it. At the end, as we put out our lanterns and went down the stairs, my sister-in-law set up her SLR camera on a tri-pod to take our picture in front of the Lantern Tour plaque. The first picture she took she thought didn't work, seeing only 'black', so she took another one, which turned out fine. Upon closer examination, we saw a black figure had stepped in front of my husband in the picture. The perfect outline of a body, arm raised, and head. It was incredible, like someone saying "HI". The guide didn't seem too interested, but it almost seemed like he didn't want to know, just so it wouldn't scare him from doing his job everyday!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share this. Many folks would be surprised to know how common these kinds of experiences are down there, and we continue to hear similar tales from tourists to historians to ex-cops. My cousin was visiting from Ohio and brought her family along for the Lantern Tour. Although they didn't get any humanoid-looking apparitions, many of the pictures they took featured translucent neon "rods". We still believe this site is one of the most paranormally active places in the 'Springs, as well as one of the most beautiful and engaging attractions here. Still working up the nerve to see if I'm brave enough to ride their zipline Bat-a-pult!

  6. I remember taking the lantern tour years ago when I was maybe 10 or 11. It was absolutely amazing - a memory that is still vivid and which I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was so surreal, beautiful, and full of so many energies. There was one point where my younger sister (she was three years younger than me, so seven or eight) had touched one of the cave walls in awe, and felt a cold shiver "pass up my palm". She grabbed my hand and told me about it immediately, and then for the rest of the day (no matter how many times she washed or wiped her hands), that hand, and that hand only, smelled so strongly of rose perfume.

    I haven't asked her whether she remembers it any more, but she's in college now, and has gotten involved in many caving expeditions in her town, tracking the bat population and taking statistics and stuff (mostly to get a baseline on things before summer so that they can track what happens when white nose bat disease inevitably passes down through where she lives). She's fascinated and drawn to caves and caverns, and the things which live there, and part of me can't help but wonder if some of that is Nellie's influence. Of course, we've both loved nature, caves, dark places and creepy crawlies from our early days, so I could be way overthinking this.

  7. Thanks for your comment, Julie. We're members of the Organization For Bat Conservation so we've most likely been on the same kinds of field trips as your sister. We love hearing about stories like yours and I'm sure Nellie was an influence. The Lantern Tour is back up and running after a long hiatus and is still as supernaturally stimulating as ever. Take care!

  8. been here in Colorado Springs for 20 years and still haven't been to the cave. i love ghost hunting so it's not that but it always seemed like if the Utes avoided the place others probably should too. Maybe I will go check it out after all though.

    1. You should! It's a beautiful place, spirits or not. A lot of great stories on the Lantern Tour, too! Thanks for reading!