Founded in 1859 and situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder's small size harbors a big-city feel, and its rich past hides plenty of hair-raising lore. A home in the Newlands is said to be haunted by a previous owner who was displeased with remodeling done on his longtime abode, while a small Victorian on Pearl Street has been plagued by strange events for over a century. Guests at one hotel might be surprised by the number of mysteries wrapped around the building, and local spirits have a standing reservation at a popular restaurant that was once a mortuary. Authors Ann Alexander Leggett and Jordan Alexander Leggett offer up a tour of the tales that haunt this Colorado college town.
About the Author
Ann Alexander Leggett is an author, public relations specialist, designer and artist with a love of history and ghosts. Ann attended the University of Colorado, graduated with a degree in journalism, and has lived in the Boulder area ever since. Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Jordan Alexander Leggett spends most of her time in Seattle at the University of Washington. She is pursuing a degree in English literature with a minor in Classics. Wendy Hall is Manager of the Carnegie Branch for Local History in Boulder, Colorado.
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The Decker-Tyler House
In 1987, when Kathryn Howes, a transplanted preservation architect from Washington, D.C., first set foot in the Decker-Tyler House in north Boulder, she knew that she had to have it. Despite the home's disrepair and the look of disbelief on her husband's face, she knew that she belonged in the house. Her every sense told her that it was meant to be hers and that her family was destined to restore the house to its former glory. Since that first day, Kathryn has felt a strong connection to the Gothic Revival farmhouse that was once the home of Clinton M. Tyler and his family. She has also felt the presence of spirits that seem to watch over her.
During Halloween week in 1999, as part of Historic Boulder's Spirit Tour, visitors were treated to a tour of the home led by a psychic from Psychic Horizons. A gentle breeze rustled the branches of the redbud tree (the oldest in Boulder) that still arches over the walkway. The lights in the jack-o'-lanterns flickered, making the pumpkins with their wicked smiles seem to laugh at those who passed by. The visitors were in for a treat as they learned about the spirits that roam the house, so beautifully restored by Kathryn and her husband.
Built in 1874, the Decker-Tyler House sat on eighty-three acres of prime farmland, bought by Clinton Tyler from Judge J.H. Decker. Early photographs show the home as the only structure standing for miles around in north Boulder. Architect E.H. Dimick, who designed the University of Colorado's Old Main, also designed the Tyler home, which now stands out as the only historic building in a sea of '50s ranch houses. As one of Boulder's earliest pioneers, Clinton Tyler had great foresight for the opportunities the area had to offer. Known as a generous and highly energetic man, he was one of the city's wealthiest citizens, with interests in livestock, agriculture, construction, sawmills, real estate and even politics. At the time of his death, his holdings reportedly included more than thirteen thousand acres of land throughout seven Colorado counties, including one thousand acres in Boulder. His financial interests extended to what was then the territory of Wyoming as well.
In 1860, Tyler came to Boulder from Wisconsin with his wife, Sarah, their firstborn child, Lillian, and Tyler's father-in-law and family. They originally settled in Black Hawk, drawn to the area by the promise of gold. There he ran a six-stamp quartz mill, the first of its kind in the state, brought by wagon on his journey from the Midwest. Designed with large cylinders that crushed the ore, some stamp mills of the time were very transportable, and Tyler's was one of the largest in the area. He ran his own custom mill, and this income formed the base of what would become a vast fortune.
In addition to his milling interests, Tyler was also known in the area as a patriot. During the 1864 Indian scare, he was the first man to answer the call for volunteers to protect citizens from Indian raids and was commissioned by Colorado territorial governor John Evans as a captain of the Third Colorado Calvary. Called the "100 Days Men" and the "Rough and Ready Tyler Rangers," the group provided protection normally supplied by the U.S. Army. With the soldiers away fighting the Civil War, the Indians had greater opportunity to reclaim their tribal lands and uproot the miners and other settlers. Not only did Captain Tyler ride with the unit, but he also furnished many of the horses ridden by the men.
Tyler is also credited with the construction of Boulder Canyon's first toll road, linking Boulder to the mining communities of Central City and Black Hawk. This was a major undertaking given the geography of the canyon. Tolls were collected at two stations on either end of the road. One dollar was charged for each wagon and train, seventy-five cents for carriages. No toll was collected if travelers were on the road to attend a funeral or church services.
In 1872, the family settled in Boulder, and Captain Tyler quickly established himself as a well-respected citizen. His connections with the University of Colorado (CU) are legendary. Local historians say that on a blustery winter night in January 1875, a weary rider approached the Tyler home. The Honorable D.H. Nichols had come from a meeting of the territorial legislature on most urgent business. Several Colorado towns were being considered for the establishment of public institutions. If Tyler would promise the initial funds of $15,000, "an institution of higher learning" would be awarded to Boulder. Tyler pledged his support, gave the rider a fresh horse and sent him on his way. And the rest, as they say, is history. The main campus of the university was founded five months before Colorado was admitted to the Union in 1876.
In 1884, Tyler was appointed a regent of the University of Colorado. His family, which had grown to include five sons and three daughters, continued its ties with the university. His daughter Ella was the first woman to graduate from the school in 1886, and her husband, prominent Boulder lawyer Richard Whitely, was in the school's first graduating class, in 1882, consisting of only six men. Tyler's son Bert was also a student at the university but tragically died of meningitis at the age of twenty-one.
Captain Tyler, astride his big bay gelding, was a familiar sight in Boulder and the surrounding towns. He was frequently away for days on end, while his family waited for his safe return. In those dangerous early days of Colorado towns, houses were often built with an "Indian tunnel," a long underground tunnel leading to an outer structure that would allow the family to escape in the event of an Indian attack. Tyler's grand house was no exception. The entrance to the tunnel is still located in the cellar of the home, but it has never been explored by Kathryn or her family.
Whether he had ridden his great horse off to attend to his many business ventures or to fight the Indian Wars in the late 1800s, it's as though the house today still waits for Tyler's return. The spirit of a woman, possibly his wife, waits at the top of the main staircase. She is one of the most prevalent energies in the home, and Kathryn has often felt her friendly presence. Whether it is a change in air temperature or currents, Kathryn senses an almost nurturing feeling that seems, at times, to come out of nowhere.
Psychic Krista Socash visited the home before the night of the Historic Boulder Spirit Tour to do an interpretation of the house. She went without any prior knowledge of its history or what Kathryn had been sensing. She, too, felt the woman on the stairs. "She is very happy that Kathryn owns this home," Krista said. "She is very pleased that Kathryn is here."
Immediately upon entering the house, Krista turned around toward the front door through which she had just entered and saw the apparition of a big bay horse staring back at her through the screen. "I felt the very strong presence of a big horse that seemed very loyal to its owner." Upon hearing this, Kathryn was eager for Krista to see a historic picture of the home, framed and hanging in the kitchen. It was an old photograph of the house, clearly depicting three of the family's horses standing outside near the front door. "These must be the horses you are seeing," Kathryn said, pointing to the photograph. But Krista pointed out another horse in the photo, a large bay standing to the right of the others. Kathryn was surprised. "I had lived in the house with that photo on the wall for twelve years," she said, "and I had never seen that horse in the photograph."
Krista's visit brought other presences to light that Kathryn had long suspected inhabited the home. The energies of two young girls playing in the upstairs hallway were very prevalent — perhaps the spirits of the Tyler daughters. During the Historic Boulder Spirit Tour, Kathryn and Krista said that a young boy apparently pulled away from his parents and wandered up the stairs. In the middle of Krista's discussion about the home, the boy returned and asked in a frightened voice who the two young girls were whom he had seen playing in the upstairs hallway. He had actually seen the spirits, as many young children can.
Krista was also drawn to one particular room in the home from which several strong presences emanated. What is now an extra upstairs bedroom felt to Krista like it had been used as a healing room, or a room where sick people in the Tyler family had gone to recover. In those days, children and adults often shared sleeping quarters. Seldom were people able to be relocated to convalesce in a hospital when they were ill, nor did they have the luxury of taking medication for a speedy recovery as they might today. Therefore, some homes had an area or a room where those who were ill could be separated from the rest of the family to recuperate. Surprised by what Krista sensed, Kathryn mentioned that ever since they had moved in, she and her husband had called that room the "healing room" and had slept there whenever they felt ill. They, too, had sensed the room's therapeutic spirits. Krista also felt the energies of a sick young boy in the room, as well as an older woman who sat looking out at the lights of Boulder through the window. She said that a feeling of death, one that felt like a miscarriage, was also prevalent in the room.
When another psychic visited the home with Krista, he revealed the presence of another spirit. Upon entering what is now the dining room, he immediately pointed to a corner where a large armoire sits. "I feel the energy of an unhappy African American man in the corner, and I see something having to do with water." Unable to make sense of the feeling, he and Kathryn looked at the home's original blueprints. To their surprise, the blueprints showed that the corner had once been the location of the sink in the original kitchen. Interestingly enough, the 1885 census report lists one household domestic living at the home.
In the spring of 2013, we revisited Kathryn at her historic home. She had asked for us to come by again and bring Krista because she was feeling as though the energy in the house had shifted or changed somehow. She wanted some insight. Immediately upon entering, and as soon as we had greeted one another, Krista moved to the circular stairway and looked down. "I need to go to the basement," she said. "The basement needs attention." Kathryn had set out tea and treats, and we chatted for a while first, but we could tell that Krista was anxious to get downstairs. As we sat in the living room, Krista noted that the spirit of Mrs. Tyler seemed to be at peace but that she still watched over her house. The spirit was comforting and soothing and spoke through Krista with words of support for both me and for Kathryn. She spoke of being impressed with us, wishing that she could have accomplished in her life all that we had in ours. However, bound by the world as it was then, she could not. She had arrived as soon as we sat down, and then, having spoken through Krista, she left just as quickly as she appeared. We didn't see her, but we felt her, just as Kathryn always has throughout the years.
But the basement still beckoned, and down we went. Visiting the basement, with its dirt walls and narrow passageways, was like stepping back in time. Little had changed down there since Tyler's time, with the exception of storage shelves, the heating and plumbing works and some insulation. The "Indian tunnel," long since cordoned off by Kathryn, seemed to call to Krista, and that's where she went first. Standing at the entrance, she felt so many memories from prior years. Thoughts and visions of the past went through her mind, and she asked Kathryn questions in a rapid-fire style. The visions were not hostile or angry but instead played out in Krista's head like an old-time movie reel. And all of the things Krista said had some historical basis in the house. So Kathryn's supposition was true: things had indeed changed since the last time we'd visited. This time, the energies seemed to Krista to be calmer and waning.
Spirits aside, perhaps the most intriguing part of this story is the research that Kathryn herself has done — research that may hold the key to the strong attraction she feels to her home. The actual geographical paths of westward migration of both her grandmother's family and the family of Clinton Tyler were very close, down to the same town in one instance. Kathryn's research on her family shows that her grandmother on her father's side was a Tyler and supposedly a distant relative of the tenth president of the United States, John Tyler. Her grandmother's family came from New York and New Hampshire, eventually settling in Clinton, Iowa. Clinton Tyler's family traveled from the East Coast to Wisconsin, where the rest of Kathryn's relatives lived, and then settled in Clinton, Iowa, before their journey westward. Is Kathryn a descendant of the Clinton Tyler family? Has she come full-circle to own a home that, unbeknownst to her, was once inhabited by her own relatives? The woman on the stairs seems to think so.CHAPTER 2
Harold and Edith
William and Mary Newland once owned much of the Newlands neighborhood in north Boulder. Originally from Pennsylvania, in 1871 William Newland homesteaded 240 acres, where he farmed wheat, ran a herd of dairy cattle and grew some of the city's most delicious strawberries. Newland died in 1886, and in 1890, his wife, Mary, an enterprising businesswoman, built the grand Newland mansion that still stands on the corner of Dellwood and Broadway. She lived in the house until her death in 1906.
Now one of the most desirable places to live in the city, the Newlands area boasts an eclectic mix of homes, including 1950s split-levels, new Craftsman-style houses and many small, traditional homes that have been remodeled and expanded to generous proportions. Located west of Broadway, bordered by Alpine on the south side to Hawthorn Avenue on the north, the tree-lined streets of Newlands form a tidy grid. Originally platted in 1891, north–south streets were numbered, while the east–west streets were called avenues, starting with First Avenue (now Alpine) and increasing, numerically to the north, to Sixth Avenue (now Forest). A map drawn in 1910 shows Sixth Avenue to be the northern limit of Boulder. As the neighborhood expanded and became more populated, lively civic debates began in 1952 to redesignate the avenues with names from nature. Then as now, Newlands neighborhood folks formed an active neighborhood association with a variety of events designed to promote a sense of community. It has been successful.
An elderly couple had lived in the little house on Grape Avenue since it was built in 1956. One of the only streets in Newlands that is not perfectly straight, Grape Avenue wavers slightly at intersections, interrupted by small medians and disappearing for a block before resuming, gently curving around original property lines at the former edge of town. A small, wood-frame house was centered on the lot and painted white with a lime green band of siding around the bottom half. The property was always neat and tidy, with the lawn meticulously mowed and edged, and the rose bushes in the back were legendary in the neighborhood. The inside of the house was comfortable and clean. A workbench in the basement was arranged in an orderly fashion, with all things kept in their place. Harold and Edith were very proud of their home and it showed.
But time passed quickly. Boulder changed and the couple grew old, and after thirty-eight years in their beloved home, Edith died in the house in 1994. Heartbroken, Harold also died in the house, outliving his wife by only six months. The house was sold at an estate auction, and Harold and Edith's aging neighbors watched in wary anticipation as the house changed hands.
Michael and Elizabeth were thrilled with their new home. The energetic young couple, while appreciative of the home's perfect condition, wanted to make some changes to suit their lifestyle. On their first night in the house, they set about tearing up the shag carpets to see the condition of the hardwood floors hidden underneath. Old blinds came down, and new paint colors were chosen. Walls were marked for removal. They worked for months. Bathroom fixtures were changed, the kitchen was updated and some of the original doors were replaced with archways.
But the work didn't just stop inside. Ecologically minded, the couple tore out the grass in the front yard and replaced it with xeriscaping, flowers and trees. The new colors and textures in the yard were spectacular, and the little house looked very different. They even removed Harold's long-tended roses in the backyard, believing them to be incompatible with the new contemporary landscaping. Slowly but surely, the couple worked on the interior and exterior until the house reflected their personalities and became comfortable for them. Little did they know when they started the transformation that they would be disturbing the house and that the previous owners were not going to be happy about it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Ghosts of Boulder"
Copyright © 2013 Ann Alexander Leggett and Jordan Alexander Leggett.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Wendy Hall 11
Introduction Ann Alexander Leggett 15
The Decker-Tyler House 17
Harold and Edith 24
The Arnett-Fullen House 28
The Ghost of William Tull 37
Salt Bistro 41
The Original Haunted House 49
The Hotel Boulderado 53
Hauntings on Pine 63
The Kohler House 69
Dear Old CU 78
The Miner's House on Mapleton 89
The Old Boulder Homestead 94
The Black Derby Hat 99
The Grill Mansion 103
Short but Spooky 112
About the Authors 127