Longmont is a city warm and friendly by day but overrun with restless spirits by night. With namesake Long's Peak looming over it, the town's chilling history casts a specter over its present. The gruesome 1864 Sand Creek Massacre may be connected to the murder of a successful local entrepreneur whose property is said to be haunted. Though retail empire JCPenney outgrew its hometown, its legacy lingers in the form of the Phantom Lady. An airliner exploded in the night skies and led to the execution of a desperate criminal. Join paranormal investigator Richard Estep on his fifteen-year journey to reveal and document the interwoven, ghoulish tales of this colorful Colorado city.
|Publisher:||Arcadia Publishing SC|
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)|
About the Author
Born and raised in Leicestershire, England, Richard Estep relocated to the United States in 1999 and brought his passion for ghost hunting along with him. As co-founder and director of the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society, he continues to investigate claims of paranormal activity on both sides of the Atlantic. Richard makes his living as a paramedic and clinical educator; in his spare time, he serves as a volunteer firefighter.
Read an Excerpt
Stan, Stan, the Sanitation Man
The Old City Sanitation Building, 103 Main Street — Currently Cheese Importers
Sitting on the northwest corner of the intersection between First Avenue and Main Street, directly facing what was once the city's turkey processing plant, is an unassuming building that is currently home to a company named Cheese Importers. Hundreds of Longmont residents pass by along Main Street every day, with many of them giving little or no thought whatsoever to the colorful backstory of this fine old brick structure.
Cheese Importers is a homegrown Colorado family business, ever since the day in 1976 when Lyman White and his wife, Linda, both veterans of the natural food industry, decided that they could provide better cheese to the public than what was currently available, the vast majority of which was artificially processed.
The company took off, outgrowing its premises and requiring a little more operating space as the demand for its product grew. It took quite a while to find the perfect location, but time and circumstance came together, and the perfect place soon became available in the form of 103 Main Street.
After some negotiation with the powers that be, the Whites were fortunate enough to obtain a long-term lease on what was formerly the old City of Longmont museum storage facility.
Despite Lyman's tragic death in a motorcycle accident, Cheese Importers has remained a family business, with the managerial baton being passed to the custodianship of the White children, Samm and Clara Natasha, with Linda still retaining an active role in guiding this very successful commercial enterprise.
Built in 1931, 103 Main Street was originally a diesel-fueled power plant that used five massive generators to supply the city of Longmont with electricity up until the late 1960s. The city sanitation department took it over in 1979, which is when the stories of ghostly activity began to appear.
In an article titled "Familiar Haunts," journalist Matt Reed of the Longmont Times-Call newspaper reports that Sanitation Department workers who were alone in the building at night would often hear their names being called out in an unidentified man's voice — despite the doors being tightly locked and a motion sensor–equipped alarm system being in operation at the time.
The metal doors of lockers used to store personal effects and clothing were known to slam open and shut repeatedly, despite there being nobody within touching distance. The clanking of chain links moving is another sound that employees grew familiar with, and most believed the sound came from a chain-link hoist that was suspended from the ceiling. The article quotes Sanitation Director Tim Lucas as saying, "It's distinctly coming from inside the building. That doggone hoist is a regular occurrence."
Intrigued by the ghostly tales, I visited the building at 103 Main Street back in 2008 when I had just recently founded the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society and was actively seeking out potential cases to investigate. At that time, it was still home to the overflow storage of the Longmont Museum. "That doggone hoist" to which Tim Lucas refers is a metal chain and pulley hoist, which is mounted high up on the bay wall inside. The museum staff confirmed to me that the chains are often heard to clank and squeal, as if being pulled by unseen hands. I inspected the pulley-and-chain setup, and the thing that struck me at first glance was that it would be extremely difficult to reach without setting up a ladder first.
"There's a difference between the normal settling sounds a building makes and the strange noises you hear in here," says Tim Lucas at the conclusion of Matt Reed's article. "I don't think you'll catch any one of my crew coming down here at night."
That sounded like just the sort of thing I was looking for. To my surprise, city officials gave me permission to conduct an overnight investigation (with the caveat that I didn't write about it so long as the building was a museum storage facility), and I jumped at the opportunity. We were blessed with an overabundance of personnel: a total of fourteen investigators and three staff members from the City of Longmont.
My first question to the staff members who were present at the time was: "Who do you think the ghost is?" They told me that former city sanitation workers still dropped by the place from time to time, and almost every one spoke of the resident ghost with something close to affection. The prevailing theory seemed to be that he was the ghost of a former sanitation worker who loved his place of employment enough to want to revisit it after his death, a theory that is quite plausible. No records could be found of a death occurring on the property itself, so the city workers had gone ahead and given their spook a fond nickname. They called him "Stanley."
Investigating the property turned out to be quite the challenge. It was crammed to the roof with some of the most incredible artifacts. One personal favorite of mine was an old NORAD missile command station and screen, the type you see in thriller movies where a sweating air force tech is tracking inbound nuclear warheads. Alongside this particular piece of 1950s technology were antique coal scuttles and fireplaces, the new and the old stored together with no discernible rhyme or reason.
Because of the almost priceless nature of some of the artifacts stored there, the museum facility must maintain a constant air temperature at all times. This is achieved by running the air conditioning unit constantly, at all hours of the day or night — which is great for temperature regulation but lousy for paranormal investigators who perk up their ears every time somebody feels a cold draft. Cold drafts were the norm in this place, so any cold spots had to be written off as not constituting any kind of evidence.
I'd made the rather unusual move of trying out two people who claimed to have psychic abilities. I was curious about whether they'd uncover any useful information about the identity of "Stanley" or whatever his real name was. The first, a man named David, said that he was drawn to an antique television because "some kind of violent accident is associated with this area of the building." He then clarified this statement by saying that this was an old event, not currently affecting activity in the building and completely unrelated to any entities that might be haunting the place.
Advancing to the second floor, David moved straight away to a room that was filled with old hats. "There's an active spirit entity of some kind in this room," he declared. "This is a very active energy form indeed."
Intrigued (but having no hard evidence to back up David's claims), I moved on to our second sensitive, a lady by the name of Robbin. After walking around for a while and getting comfortable with the layout of the place, Robbin declared that she had felt nothing at all of note on the ground floor. As I accompanied her up to the second floor, Robbin suddenly pointed and exclaimed that she had seen a shape of some kind flitting across the second-floor balcony.
Interestingly enough, she was also drawn to the room that stored the collection of hats, just as David had been. However, rather than sensing an active presence within that room, she reported a more generalized "oppressive feeling," particularly next to one locked cabinet. I checked with the museum staff and was fascinated to discover that the cabinet contained a collection of items that had been left at the site of the traveling Vietnam War memorial when it had passed through Longmont. One can only imagine the quite incredible depths of emotion that would be associated with some of those articles.
When all was said and done, it turned out to be a rather interesting night. A series of knocks were heard coming from within the office, and Robbin reported seeing shadowy figures and hearing the laughter of children up on the second floor — but the laughter did not turn up in any of the digital recordings, and the shadow figure sightings lack corroboration from other investigators. For his part, David claimed to be playing the equivalent of hide and seek with a male energy form, whom he believed had died somewhere between the ages of forty and sixty. The form would peek around corners and draw nearer to him but then retreat quickly when David tried to get a good look at it or make any sort of contact.
Shuffling, scuffling noises were heard coming from one of the aisles at 2:00 a.m. We were unable to pin down the source for these, despite looking for mice, rats and other varmints of a similar nature. One investigator felt a light touch on her head, while another felt the same thing upon a hand.
One team of three investigators was staking out the basement, with little of any import going on, when suddenly a foul, utterly rank odor began to permeate the room. They attempted to stick it out, but the noxious stench quickly became so intolerable that the team could no longer stand it and was forced to abandon the basement. One investigator was actually gagging on the smell. Intrigued, I quickly grabbed a team of three other available investigators and immediately led them down into the basement to see for ourselves — only to find that it smelled perfectly normal to us.
As our investigation drew to a close, I separated our two sensitives and questioned them individually about their impressions. Could they shed any light on the identity of "Stanley?"
"A male, forty to sixty years of age. No, he did not work here, and he really does not want to be discovered," David concluded. Robbin's impression was different in some aspects but also contained some similarities: there was more than one spirit haunting the building, including "a male called either Leon, Lennie, Henry or Harry, or Daniel, with the last name of Decker, I believe. A man in a white t-shirt with sleeves rolled up, wearing a hardhat and work boots. He's crouched down by a broken pipe in the basement. Also, there is a second entity: a male in a red shirt, approximately fifty years old — but this man did not work here. Neither wants to communicate or draw much attention to themselves."
Checking records did not turn up anybody with the last name of "Decker" who was associated with the premises in any of its incarnations. The fact that both sensitives described a figure aged between forty and sixty (one of them pinning it down to age fifty) who did not work in the building makes for a fascinating match. But further research was not able to narrow this down to a specific individual, and so for now, the identity of "Stanley," the name-calling, chain-rattling ghost still remains a mystery to this day.
The conversion process of the building at 103 Main Street from its role storing museum artifacts into a commercial premises (complete with eating facilities) was nothing short of an adventure. At one point, the White family was digging toward the foundations when they discovered the old diesel fuel storage tanks buried underneath the floor and not listed anywhere on the architectural blueprint. Still, Cheese Importers opened its doors to the public in the summer of 2012 and has been nothing but a raging success. But what of the ghost named Stanley?
I recently spoke with Cheese Importers proprietor Samm White via e-mail, and although he very kindly allowed me to discuss the ghost stories regarding the building at 103 Main Street within this book, he was clear about the fact that the paranormal activity seems to have died down since the building became a cheese store. Has "Stanley" simply upped sticks and moved on? Rather than the quiet air of a museum facility, the building is now full of shoppers and diners, laughing and bustling around the place. It may simply be that the new atmosphere is no longer to his taste.
My mind keeps returning to the discovery of the diesel tanks, made when the Whites dug beneath the building floor. During the time of our overnight investigation, my colleagues and I had not the slightest inkling that the fuel tanks were hidden away down there — which makes me wonder what else could be hiding beneath the building at 103 Main Street that nobody knows about.CHAPTER 2
The Imperial Hotel, 301 Main Street
This stately nineteenth-century structure sits directly across from the grand old Dickens Building (more on which can be found elsewhere in this book). The two buildings face off against each other at the intersection of Third Avenue and Main Street, vying for domination of the downtown district.
A Prussian immigrant by the name of George Zweck (1829–1902) relocated to the United States as a young man and rode the tidal wave of the gold rush into the Colorado Territory during 1859. According to Linda Wommack's superb From the Grave: A Roadside Guide to Colorado's Pioneer Cemeteries, Zweck was told by a wandering gypsy that his wealth would come from the ground. Come from the ground it surely did, as the prospector's mining claims began to pay off in a big way. Left Hand Creek became famous for what became known as the "Prussian gold mine." Settling a farm to the west of Longmont and building a second summer property on land purchased up near Jamestown, George Zweck shrewdly poured the profits from his newly earned financial gains into real estate within the burgeoning city of Longmont.
Perhaps the poster child for this surge of investment was the palatial Zweck Hotel, which would one day come to be renamed the Imperial Hotel. The city of Longmont had no dedicated water supply until the following year, but a hotel without flushing toilets was absolutely unthinkable, and so the Zweck hotel architect got around this by designing a trio of large brick cisterns, which were to be filled by ferrying water manually from the nearby St. Vrain River.
Heating was provided throughout by coal-fired stoves placed in alternating rooms. The Zweck was, by all accounts, a very comfortable place to spend the night. It had been fitted out with the finest imported European furniture, with carpets and mirrors throughout and polished hardwood flooring in some areas. But despite all of this relative opulence, the hotel never did recoup its initial capital investment after it was completed in 1881, and it became something of a millstone around George Zweck's neck.
Unfortunately, George's story does not have a happy ending. A series of disasters struck his business interests, causing them all to fall apart. Zweck's investments in the hotel and hospitality industry suddenly ceased to make money; his Wyoming cattle herds died off during an intense blizzard, to the tune of a staggering $90,000 loss; and perhaps most damaging of all, the gold mines in which he was so heavily invested were suddenly found to be tapped out. In a flurry of bailiffs and repossession, both George Zweck's home and business interests were taken away from him. Were it not for George's wife, Mary, who struggled to keep the family homestead and was able to make a living for the couple and their children by selling goods and produce, the Zweck family might have died in abject penury. As it was, George and Mary remained in the dual fields of farming and gold prospecting (albeit on a much smaller scale than before) until George died in 1902. Mary outlived him by another thirty-two years. The Zwecks are buried side by side at the old Burlington cemetery, located on the hill at 1400 South Sunset Street.
Faced with a ledger full of red ink, George had finally decided to cut his losses in 1894, reluctantly selling the Zweck Hotel off to Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Allen, who promptly renamed it from the Zweck Hotel to the Imperial Hotel, bringing it into profitability at last. The Allen family continued to run the Imperial for the next half century. Following other changes in ownership, the Imperial ended its existence as a hotel in 1971. The ground floor was repurposed into small shops (a Chinese restaurant and a coffee shop can both be found there today, while the old basement is home to a Prohibition-era bar and lounge aptly named the Speakeasy), and the upper floors were converted into residential apartments.
In her book Northern Colorado Ghost Stories, author Nancy Hansford relates the experiences of paranormal investigators Gail and Eric Jones, accompanied by psychic medium Dori Spence, who were asked to investigate an apartment on the second floor of what used to be the Imperial Hotel. Along with the sensation of an invisible presence in the bathroom, the residents reported hearing the voice of a young girl in their bedroom. The voice of the young girl is particularly fascinating because it almost precisely mirrors the ghostly experience reported by Kevin Galm, owner of the Java Stop Coffee Shop, which is located on the ground floor of the same building. We will visit the Java Stop for a coffee and some spirits later in the book.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Haunted Longmont"
Copyright © 2015 Richard Estep.
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
1. Stan, Stan, the Sanitation Man,
2. Imperial Entanglements,
3. The Java Stop Coffee Shop,
4. What the Dickens?,
5. Friendly Spirits,
6. The Lady on the Lawn,
7. Curl Up and Dye,
8. If the Shoe Fits ...,
9. All the World's a Stage,
10. Paranormal Paramedics,
11. Firehouse Phantoms,
12. The Coffins of Sandstone,
13. A Close Shave,
14. Mr. Edison, I Presume?,
15. A Sense of Incense,
16. Call Me, Maybe,
17. Of Hunchbacks and Hauntings,
18. A Tale of Two Libraries,
19. Voices From Nowhere,
20. Fire in the Sky,
About the Author,