Happy October everyone! With this month comes some exciting things this time of year. The leaves are changing in all corners of the US, but because I tramp in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains are my colorful, autumn back yard. Last weekend (September 24) I drove through Golden Gate Canyon State Park. I had never been up there, and I will tell you it is miles and miles of breathtaking nature, views and turning leaves. I highly recommend.
This weekend marks not only heading deep into fall, but also heading toward my most beloved holiday ( i know, i know) – Halloween! So, I have decided to dedicate the next 4 weekends traveling to mostly unknown areas to explore more obscure, possibly, maybe, totally lesser-known haunted places in Colorado.
My first choice is the Central City Masonic Cemetery located just on the outskirts of this historic town. Central City, Colorado boasts many Casinos, Victorian buildings, wild wild west mining saloons and more antique shops than I have seen in a long time. Previous brothels and hotels from the old days, mostly kept in their original state, line the streets and steep hills of this once thriving mining town-turned-gambling mecca in the most beautiful of settings.
The drive up off of I-70 is a bit of a nail-biter but the views are hard to put into words, and well worth it. As I got closer to Central City, which is 8 miles of winding, hair-pin turns, all I could think was how did these people manage to build these thriving, mining towns, literally in the middle of the Rocky Mountains? Perseverance and lots of gold, silver and the potential for vast wealth was my own answer to that question.
I followed my GPS to the location of the cemetery. However, each entrance I tried ultimately did not bring me to it directly (surprise). I waved a few people down in the area to ask them where the entrance was, but no one seemed to know, so I took my chances and parked in what looked like an abandoned parking lot just below the cemetery, as I was able to see a small, weathered building with the Masonic symbol at the top.
I hiked up to the fence line. As I got to the building I struck gold (so to speak) as I realized – this is it!
This is the resting place of John Edward Cameron.
The story is that John and his family had moved to Central City when he was just 7 years old with his father Robert, and his mother Catherine. His father, like many, came out here to mine gold. I was not able to f ind information on where they were originally from. As John grew up, he became a well respected member of the community and had even served with the towns fire department. On November 1, 1887 he mysteriously died at the age of 28 from a heart ailment that was possibly brought on by poisoning. While unmarried at the time, people in the town had observed a young lady, dressed in black silk, visiting his grave site. Everyday from November 1 to late June of 1888, she would be seen at his tombstone and on one occasion, planting a yellow flower. The visits by this mysterious girl suddenly stopped, and she reportedly was not seen again for a few years. Then, on November 1, 1890, she re-appeared at John’s grave and laid a bouquet of flowers before gliding away. Some people began to speculate that the latest sightings of her must mean that she had passed away, and that it was now her ghost that was observed on that day. This “visits” continued until 1899, when a group of people staked out the cemetery in order to find out who this woman was. The towns people had observed her at John’s grave and they said that she was young, and beautiful. However, they noted that her clothing seemed outdated and old-fashioned (even at that time). When she left the cemetery and wandered up the hill toward Bald Mountain, they followed her. But, as she crested the hill, she then disappeared into thin air, and no one could find her anywhere.
Every November 1st it is said that she can be seen visiting John Cameron, who many in the area came to believe to be her lover, in life. She continues to walk the Cemetery every year, and to this day her identity is unknown.
I had to hike up steep trails and across very rocky terrain and ultimately climb under a wire fence to get into the graveyard. It was breathtaking, yet a little sad at the same time. The site is situated on top of a mesa like field that gives you a sweeping, panoramic view of the area. While being very observant and very careful not to tread on any of the graves, I did see some headstones that broke my heart. Little Beulah Parenteau, who only lived for 11 months and 15 days
and baby Florence Druscel Lean (Our Darling), daughter of Olive and William, didn’t make it past 6 months and 2 days in November, 1894.
Many children in these mining towns died before the age of 2 or 3. Many of these deaths were due to harsh winters, dysentery and the fact that there was not adequate medical care at that time in these remote areas. One interesting thing I learned is that baby Florence had a brother born the following June, 1895 named William. He married (Anne Anderson) and had 3 daughters. As of 1940, William Arundel Lean was living in Denver, Colorado with his family, working as a custodian at a public school. He passed away on March 4, 1963 just shy of his 68th birthday.
So, fellow travelers and tramps, this begins my month-long research and adventure to haunted Colorado in the spirit of the Halloween Season. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed the adventure. Who knows? You might be able to find me on Halloween at midnight skulking around the Central City Masonic Cemetery – I’d really like to ask the young lady in black her name.