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Paranormal Investigations and Research
When news of the gold that was discovered in the area now known as Cripple Creek and Victor spread like wildfire, people flocked to the area in record numbers. To accommodate these new arrivals and profit from the needs of the new arrivals, three railroads serviced the area. They were the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad, the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek Railroad, and the Midland Terminal Railroad from Divide.
Needing a terminal in Cripple Creek, the Midland Terminal Railroad built their Depot at the east end of Bennett Avenue. The first train arrived on December 18, 1895 at the Midland Terminal at the east end of Bennett Avenue.. The building was designed by an architect named Murphy.
The Midland operated 10 trains a day, some of which included a parlor car, with sleepers, champagne dinners for overnight excursions from Denver. The freight trains hauled lumber, explosives, machinery, fruit, groceries, dry goods, and luxuries for the needs of the community of new miners and businessmen. The building was built with every modern convenience of the day including being wired for electricity, phone service, and indoor plumbing.
The terminal is built on the side of a hill that accommodates the usage of the building. The 1st floor is for freight and the entrance for passengers who went directly upstairs. The 2nd floor is ticket sales, waiting rooms and train access. The waiting rooms were divided into two rooms: one for the men and one for the women and children. Tickets were purchased on the second floor at the Freight Office window. The 3rd floor was first offices and later the station master’s home.
There were three station managers that lived in the Depot with their families. The first was W.L. Trout Felter, who lived at the Depot in 1915-16. The second was John Evans, his wife Laura and their children from 1917 until 1942. Mrs. Evans tried to make the depot more homey by putting pieces of tissue paper on the transom to look like stained glass. The third station manager was Dudley Duncan from 1942 until 1950. The terminal closed in 1949 with the last train departing on February 6, 1949. The Duncan’s lived there for another year after the terminal closed.
Besides the station managers and their wives, the ticket and freight clerks, and other railroad workers, there was another person who spent time at the depot on a regular basis for many years, working for the Duncan’s as a housekeeper, and continued to work in the building in that capacity after the Duncan’s left and for several years after that. She was a small African-American woman, about five feet tall, with very short, close-cropped hair. Molly is the last regular employee in the building until it became a museum.
The terminal was empty for only 3 years when, in 1953, Blevins Davis who was a Broadway producer, asked his friend Richard “Dick” Johnson to find him a museum to own. That assignment brought Johnson to Cripple Creek and the Midland Depot. Davis purchased the museum and Johnson opened it in June 14, 1953. Dick was a very popular man in town, handsome, driving a late-model sports car, sporting a large ring and a gold tipped cane, dressing in expensive suits, and charming the wealthy widows of the town. Johnson is credited as being the museum’s founder and enjoyed life in Cripple Creek for many years in the 1950s.
The Cripple Creek District Museum is the cornerstone of the museum complex at the east end of Bennett Avenue, which includes the Assay Office, the Colorado Trading & Transfer Company and two cabins. One cabin belonged to Blanche LeCriox. The other cabin served as a home on West Masonic Avenue in Cripple Creek. Both cabins were purchased by the City in about 2005 and donated to the museum in 2009. The head-frame next to the museum is from the Pinnacle Mine. Some of the artifacts in the Museum are original to the Depot; other have been donated from area pioneer families.
A question we are asked a lot: where there any deaths in the jail? For years we heard about them through remarks made by visitors and MPPIR members. Now, with our new jail museum manager we are finding out about them another way. One is from the research that the current Jail Museum manager does by combing through old newspapers that are mostly on microfiche and looking at jail records year by year. The other way we “know” of deaths in the jail is through our paranormal research and information we get from psychics and sensitives, some of whom are visitors to the jail and some are members of MPPIR.
One of the deaths that occurred in the jail was that of a woman who had been put in jail for the crime of insanity. Olga Knutson would have died no matter where she was, but she was in jail when it happened. The date was February 3, 1907.
Here’s the story and it is a bizarre story at best. Olga Knutson was a 30-year-old mother of an eight month old baby boy. She lived with her husband, a miner, and her new baby in Altman. Everything seemed fine until Olga became paranoid. First she decided that the neighbors were intent on doing her baby harm. Then she said that the sheriff came with a posse and a rope for her. She became so paranoid, that her husband took her to the doctor. He found nothing wrong. A short time later, she became so irrational, that she was taken to the hospital where a short time later, she was put in the Strong Room . The local hospitals had a “Strong Room” for patients suffering from mental problems and became uncontrollable, even violent.
When Olga became too irrational to be handled even in the Strong Room, she was sent to the jail, which was standard practice for the restraint of the mentally ill. She had to be transferred to the Insane Ward of the jail. This Ward was the three cells at the front of the building. It didn’t take long for Olga to totally breakdown, both physically and mentally. She lost all control of her bodily functions and lost her mental faculties. In the middle of the night, the doctor managed to give her a sleeping potion to sedate her and she sank to the floor, apparently asleep. When the Matron checked on her at 5 am, she thought something was amiss and summoned the doctor. By the time the doctor arrived Olga was dead. It was one week after the onset of her mental disturbance transforming her from a sane functioning young woman to an irrational violent inmate of the jail.
No cause was ever found. But then forensics of the day were pretty primitive and autopsy were seldom done. What caused this young woman to deteriorate into madness and death? Does Olga still inhabit the jail cell where her life ended? Are some of the EVPs and actual whispered voices those of Olga? Apparently Olga was not buried in Mt. Pisgah cemetery. She may be buried in Victor cemetery or somewhere near, or she may have been taken elsewhere for reasons only her husband knows.
A clue may come by reading Michael Lesay’s “Wisconsin Death Trip” which chronicles many such people who suddenly become mad and either harm themselves or others, only to have to be incarcerated due to their own violent behavior. Death often came suddenly. The picture you are about to see is of a person who was once alive.
The book dispels the popular myth that cities were hot beds of moral turpitude and industrial madness and rural areas were Edens of happy people. Not so. The sudden madness and death of Olga was not an uncommon thing. Jail records show a large number of people put in jail for insanity. Then, they were sent off to larger insane asylums. What caused this sudden madness? Poison? Environmental exposure to toxic substances? Lead and dyes were used for stained glass windows which were prevalent not only in Cripple Creek but across the old west. Long dark cold winters?
There is another explanation that is cloaked in secrecy. Many men visited Meyers Avenue, the Red light District in Cripple Creek, and contracted syphilis which they took home to their wives. Due to the social stigma associated with this, many people did not seek treatment and tried to treat themselves. The treatment was mercury which in itself would cause madness and death. Whether from the disease or the treatment, many people ended up with insanity and death.
Jail records show that the reason for incarceration was often insanity. If anyone has any information that might enlighten us on this, please comment on this blog. We’d love to hear from you.
But back to Olga. Perhaps the doctor who gave her the sleeping potion recognized her symptoms and helped her on her way. Perhaps he just gave her too much. Perhaps she was dying anyway.
The information on Olga was discovered in the usual way. Research. It was reported in one of the half dozen newspapers that published in the day,and in the jail records. It has also been reported in the unusual way. There have been sensitives who report a feeling of sickness and death in those cells in the Women’s block. Now we have a name and when we investigate the Women’s Block, we can ask Olga if she is still here.
@2011, Story Nancy B, MPPIR
If you like this you should read the follow up: Olga Knutson — A Coroner’s Opinion and Report
One of the most active areas of the Outlaws and Jail Museum is the second floor in the front of the building.
This area was for women, children, toddlers, the sick, the insane, and the Matron. It is composed of three cell blocks, two rooms and lavatory facilities consisting of a room with a toilette and a room with a bathtub and sink.
The Matron’s Room in on the west side of the second floor and had the two windows on the right hand side. There is another room behind the Matron’s Room that is now the Colorado Ranger’s room but at that time as the “kids room.” There is a staircase in the front hall that leads to this area of the jail, keeping it totally separate from the main cell block. Also, there is a catwalk between the cell block and the windows that the guards could use to check on the women prisoners. The opposite side of the cell block, the lavatory hallway side was solid metal with a solid metal door for each cell. In that door was another door that could be used to look into the cell.
Women were arrested for prostitution, theft, drunk and disorderly conduct and other disturbing the peace charges. While awaiting trial or serving their sentence, they would sometimes bring their children, having nowhere else for them to go. They were kept in the room behind the Matron’s Room or in the Matron’s room itself, not in the cells. The youngest of these children on record (so far) is 18 months. Other children were kept at the jail as young as four years old who were found as vagrants in the town. One such child was a ward of the State.
The insane were also housed in the jail. There were many cases of insanity at the turn of the last century. These people were taken to the area’s two local hospitals, the St. Nicholas and Teller County Hospital. They were put in the Strong Room and when they became too violent or irrational to keep there, were transferred to the jail.
Sick men were put in cell #3. One such man had hepatitis, tuberculosis, or perhaps diphtheria. He was very sick and very angry, maybe crazy. During the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1918, patients who were sick with anything else were put in the jail.
There is a lot of paranormal activity in this area of the jail. Cell #3 and the Matron’s Room have a history of the most occurrences. Voices, EVPs, touching, and even the rattling of the heavy metal wall between Cell #2 and Cell#3. Apparitions have been seen by MPPIR guests and visitors of the jail alike. Adults and even children have seen a woman in a white blouse and brown skirt reminiscent of the late 1900s. Outside, people have seen children walking back and forth inside the windows. Lights have been seen in the building when there was no electrical hookup. As in other areas of the jail, people with paranormal sensitivity have described people and events in this part of the building.
Editors Bonus EVP, you will need head phones. Leave comment and tell me what you hear after Brandon’s voice.
©2011, Story and Photo’s Nancy, MPPIR, additional Photo’s Frank, MPPIR
The Shack-Hack was actually invented by Frank Sumption of Highlands Ranch Colorado where he still lives. As a ham radio operator and paranormal investigator, Frank combined the best of both worlds, taking radio parts and creating a device that scanned Am radio frequencies without stopping. As the Frank’s Box scanned the radio stations, clicking away from one to the next with “white noise” in between, voices came through clearly and for a longer period of time than the device stayed on a station. Frank asked questions and got answers.
This device is available to the paranormal investigator at a nominal price from Radio Shack in an old-fashioned $29 Am/FM radio. The pin that captures a station in the “SEEK” or “SCAN” mode is broken so the radio can’t capture a station. This is easy to do and there are directions on the internet. Or find a friend who knows how to do this.
This device works best at night. Set it to AM and press the SCAN button. If it sticks, which they sometimes do, hold it with your thumb. It is a good idea to have a digital recorder on while recording to capture not only what you hear on the Shack-Hack but also what you miss, usually while you are verifying something you heard on the Shack.
Ask a question. Who’s here? Is Amy here? Are you the child seen in the window? When were you here? What’s your name? Are you looking for somebody? Sometimes it takes a short time to get an answer. Be patient. Messages will come through , sometimes with specific messages for people in the room. Listen carefully and don’t discount anything. Try to get names and dates – at least a year. The FCC Doesn’t allow cursing on the AM (or FM) bands so if you hear curse words, that’s not the radio either. If the shack just cycles through stations for a while with no discernible communication, turn it off.
We have been introduced to people on the Shack-Hack that have been verified by news paper articles and other printed archival material. One night we were given the name George Deutchman and the year 1910. This name was found in the newspaper in an article published in 1910 that a George Doichman (sp) left Cripple Creek for Denver. Other names have been verified this way. Communication can also be for someone in the room.
(Authors note: There is another device out there that has 500 words programmed into it by someone who had telephone conversations with the dead. The dead would actually call him and talk to him. He programmed his device with the 500 words most used, no proper names, and no curse words. Ask it questions and it will respond with one or two-word answers. So if you get a name, or a curse word, it’s not the device. Don’t discount anything it says, write it down and/or record it. I can’t tell you the name of the device or the person because the information I originally got is erroneous. If you know about this device, please respond to this blog with information.)
Reference Blog EVP Report From Feb 2010
Reference Blog Ghost Box Session 2/19/11
©2011 Story & Photos: Nancy, MPPIR
Editor: Shack Hack is ref to Radio Shack bought and hacked/modified (its is not needed to modify the box just keep pressing the scan button). Ghost Box ref is to built or other modified AM/FM radios to permanently scan the AM or FM bands.
FIRE HOUSE #3 308 W.Masonic Avenue, Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813
Picture taken May 3, 2011
An interesting aspect of Fire House #3 is that it’s use was so different from other buildings in the City of Cripple Creek. Unlike a house, saloon, casino, jail, hotel, or hospital, people didn’t inhabit it. In fact, they didn’t even stay there for any length of time while the fire house was in use. The building was built to store the fire wagon, and it was a wagon, along with equipment, hoses, axes, ladders, anything they would need to fight a fire. Add to that, the number of years the Fire House was in use was quite short as it was abandoned along with the town with the end of the mining boom in the early 1900s, where it fell into ruin.
But since “ghosts” inhabit places for reasons of their own, or reasons beyond their control, Fire House #3 could be a plethora of paranormal information. There is very little to the building: one story, one large room, no basement, no plumbing, no kitchen, one window, three doors, two smaller doors, all on the outside walls. Inside is a fire wagon, some hoses, two stalls that appear to be for the use of harnessing the horses rather than housing them, a wood floor, and two gas heaters.
The fire wagon is from Gold Field and the equipment could be from any place. The ground itself is surrounded by former houses and other buildings of the town. Our Spirits like to roam from building to building. And human company always makes them more energetic. They respond to pleasant chatter, questions, and remarks that could be of a personal nature.
©2011 Story & Photos: Nancy, MPPIR