Colorado Cripple Creek Imperial Hotel

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New changes that spirits don’t approve of can also draw them back.

When a person is attacked and dies quickly at the hands of
another, they sometimes can’t accept it.



The Imperial Hotel is a western-themed establishment with “Western-themed rooms & suites in a family-run, 19th-century hotel, plus an Italian eatery & a bar.” The outside and inside of this large, rectangular building has an attractive historical decor that is being restored.

The Imperial Hotel and Restaurant was open until 2018, the last open business in this building. When this building is transformed under its new owner, it will have yet another life as an active business. The Las Vegas entity, Full House Resorts Inc, is redoing the interior of the old hotel and keeping to their agreement with the city, to renovate and restore this historic building.

The Imperial Casino Hotel and Midland Depot Restaurant made its home in a three story, brick building, with a side wing built on top of what had once been their parking lot. When we visited Cripple Creek, it was still closed, as it was getting a face-lift outside, as well as some beginning renovations inside.

The historical layout had served the various owners of this property. On the first floor, the visitor would find the main lobby, a fine staircase going up to the floors above and down to the bar in the basement. There is also a staircase that goes down to the coal room, probably used for storage in recent years.

Midland Depot – This Italian cuisine restaurant could seat up to seventy people. They served everything from classic pasta dishes to homemade salads and soups.

The Red Rooster – The bar had been part of Cripple Creek history for more than fifty years. It used to be open on Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 pm.

The Carlton Room – This was a private dining area for groups of fifteen and more.

Gold Bar Theater – The hotel started a family tradition of dinner theater mixed with melodrama. It welcomed guests with a variety of performances from musicians and comedians

“The Imperial Hotel offered guests their standard, suite, and cottage rooms. Each room was classified based on the size and number of beds and the amenities included in the room. Their rooms had a cozy style that would make the guest feel right at home. All rooms had private bathrooms.”

The basement area was the birthplace of the Imperial Players Melodrama, in the Golden Bar Room Theatre. Live music bands and artists entertained on the theatre stage while people enjoyed their drinks in the Golden Bar area also in the basement.



Like many towns in the late 1800s, Cripple Creek sprung up after a prospector, Bob Womack, discovered a large amount of gold in a place called “Poverty Gulch.” At the height of this gold rush, Cripple Creek’s population rose to 25,000 citizens. The mines gave up 600 million dollars in gold.

This historical building has sat on this property since 1896, built as an annex to the then popular 1893 Collins Hotel. A devastating fire left some folks homeless, so the annex was built, with twenty-six rooms. It was called The Imperial Hotel.

George Long was an architect and painter by trade, with a love for his wife and children and scotch whiskey. As a young man, George left England and immigrated to America. He was born deaf which was an embarrassment to his family. George settled in Denver, Colorado, as he had extended family there.

While living in Denver, George fell in love with his first cousin Ursula, and married her there, despite the risks of marrying a close family member. Genetic issues often reveal themselves in offspring born from such close family marriages. His Colorado family shunned both of them, so they moved to Cripple Creek around 1905. Their marriage would eventually produce the heartache of loss.

Cripple Creek, like many 1800s towns, was built out of wood, making it prone to destructive fires. In 1896, two huge fires swept through town, killing six people, causing two million dollars in damage, and making 5,000 people homeless.

During Cripple Creek’s reconstruction, a new, beautiful hotel was built, The Collins Hotel. Around 1900, the name was changed to the New Collins Hotel. In 1905, when George Long and his immediate family moved to Cripple Creek, George became the manager and owner of the hotel. He changed the name from the New Collins Hotel to The Imperial Hotel.

The Imperial Hotel became one of the finest hotels in Cripple Creek, due to the talent and insight of George Long, who had a knack for business and managing. George and Ursula Long owned The Imperial Hotel until the 1930s.

He and his wife had two children. They lived in the large apartment, located right next to the Lobby. His daughter April had mental problems due to genetic issues. The older she got, the worse her behavior became making her hard to handle. Her temper became explosive, especially when April reached her teen years.

Rather than sending her to a mental hospital, her parents decided to keep her locked away in their apartment whenever she had one of her temper outbursts. This safety measure worked for themselves and their guests as well temporarily. However, after April started to hold grudges, one deadly incident occurred and she could no longer stay with her family.

George and Ursula Long owned The Imperial Hotel until the 1930s’. After the family tragedy, Ursula continued on; probably with her son’s help.

Ursula and her son were willing to be inventive in how to bring in money to keep this business open. The Imperial Hotel survived as a business through Prohibition, perhaps with a speakeasy in the basement. They also found ways in the Depression to soldier onward and upward. Ursula’s son even managed to make a living through World War 2.

The Imperial Hotel survived the eras because it was sturdily built “with good bones,” impressive architecture, western artistry, and lots of possibilities for bringing in revenue. This building attracted and inspired would-be owners with dreams for this beautiful building. This property sold itself and has never been in danger of being torn down.

In 1946, Ursula’s son sold the Imperial to Stephen Mackin in 1946. Mackin and his family moved into the same apartment next to the lobby. The Mackin family proved to be creative, inventive, and willing to take chances in starting a new innovative endeavor that would bring the theatre experience into Cripple Creek that had no performance theatre venue.They built a stage in the basement, in the Golden Bar located there; calling it the The Gold Bar Theatre.

In 1948, a troupe of thespians came to town and were invited to perform in the new Gold Bar Theatre. It was such a success, that they decided to stay, renaming themselves the Imperial Players. By 1953, they were presenting popular melodramas. It was a long gig that lasted fifty years, until 1998, when they moved to the Butte Opera House.

Through the years, owners also offered rooms for both short term stays, and for locals looking for a place for long term rent. Owners set up bars, a restaurant, a theatre, a casino, and made a place for local bands or solo artists to play.

At some point the apartment next to the lobby was renovated and became the Red Rooster Bar. Casinos with limited gaming opportunities were given the green light in Cripple Creek in 1992. At the same time, Mackin sold the Imperial Hotel. A casino of course was added as soon as possible. The next owner added the slot machines, and changed the hotel’s name to The Imperial Hotel and Casino, much to the annoyance of the resident spirit.

By 2009, this beautiful building had become long in the tooth with some issues that needed money and TLC to fix in a restoration. It was put back on the real estate market, but didn’t sit empty for long. It was a beloved town landmark.

In 2010, Gary and Wini Ledford, long-time Cripple Creek residents, who could be on HGDV with their own restoration show, bought this creaky property, giving it a new life! For the cost of purchase, they bought a bar, a restaurant, a theater, a basement, a casino and twenty six rooms!

The Ledfords, who love to restore and repurpose old buildings, took on this huge restoration/renovation project with high goals. They knew what they were doing, after their last project in which they transformed the old Cripple Creek High School into the Carr Manor bed and breakfast.

The first step was to clean out the junk, filling five gigantic dumpsters before tackling the casino area, theater, restaurant and rooms. Apparently, unneeded stuff had accumulated for a very long time.

After the first general clean out, the Ledford were ready to transform and restore this historic building, preparing it to be family friendly. They didn’t plan to open up the casino until they found another group to run it. They did however, plan to sell rooms for stays by patrons of the gambling casinos around the corner on Bennett Street. Some of these folks were attracted to a historic, western style hotel.

A lot of the antiques were sold, because it was believed that some of them were too delicate to be used by the general public. However, all three pianos were tuned. The rickety central staircase was fixed as well, so people wouldn’t feel like they were “three sheets to the wind.”

By late 2011, they finished turning what had been twenty-six small rooms into twelve larger ones with modern amenities, and had renovated the entire building, which included installing a new boiler. They opened up for business, offering a “Western-themed rooms & suites in a family-run, 19th-century hotel, plus an Italian eatery & a bar.” They changed the name as well: Imperial Hotel and Restaurant.

To increase financial input, they added a Conference Room for events, which was needed in this small town. Paranormal events were held in this new space, featuring authors, investigators and mediums.

The Imperial Hotel went full steam until sometime in 2018, when it was offered a mountain of money to sell to a large Las Vegas entity, Full House Resorts Inc., which formed the corporation Cripple Creek Casinos. This Las Vegas group bought out a whole block of businesses, including Bronco Billy’s Hotel and Casino, and The Imperial Hotel as well. They were committed to a dream; to build a big, glorious hotel, to have a big, flashy casino, and to offer other important draws for people living in Colorado Springs, just an hour away.

“The Company has recently acquired land and options on land surrounding Bronco Billy’s, forming an approximately six-acre site. Cripple Creek does not have a hotel of such size and quality, despite the fact that most of its customers reside in Colorado Springs, approximately an hour away. The assembled land package includes the former Imperial Casino, which Full House intends to reopen as the historic Imperial Hotel. It will offer twelve refurbished guest rooms and would be part of the complex; and approximately four acres of vacant or underutilized land.”

“Raising funds through a large stock option, Full House Resorts Inc has the goal of “expanding Bronco Billy’s Casino and Hotel, refurbish the adjoining Imperial Hotel, build a 286-space parking garage, and refurbish and re-open the Imperial Casino.”

“Daniel Lee, CEO of Full House Resorts, explained, “We’ve spent almost a year assembling land and designing a project that will provide a luxury experience and complement the unique historic nature of the town. We believe it will help transform Cripple Creek into a stronger, year-round tourism destination.”

This is a win-win situation for the Imperial Hotel and Restaurant. Full House Resorts has promised to refurbish and reopen the building, plus reopen its casino area, making the structure part of a large, Las Vegas supported complex. It now has an owner with deep pockets and the will to preserve a building of historical importance, giving it another life again.

Tom and I visited Cripple Creek in July of 2021. So far, it remains closed, but it has a bright future, if promises are kept. So far, so good, as the Cripple Creek City Council is making sure that Full House is keeping the authentic western historic buildings intact.

The new three hundred bed hotel with a casino and parking lot is being built right across the street from the Imperial Hotel and Restaurant. Today the building site is a dirty, noisy eyesore, but that is only temporary. It will blend in with the rest of the historic buildings when finished.



There are probably two spirits still here: A male spirit who in life adored his business, and his mentally ill daughter, with perhaps homicidal tendencies. Listed below are some reasons why they are still here.


Sometimes when changes are made to a beloved structure, it can act like an environmental trigger, either activating the spirits already residing there, or drawing others back. Some new changes, such as those that use electricity are especially exciting! Other changes that spirits don’t approve of can also draw them back to protest/or make suggestions about what would be preferred.

Geiser Grand Hotel, OR (Some spirits were so overjoyed when the restoration began, that they appeared to the workmen to cheer them on!).

Brumder Mansion, WI (When a replica of a 1920s bar was installed, the activity in the basement theatre became very active indeed!).

Bullock Hotel, SD (The spirit of Seth Bullock saw red when the owners had slot machines set up on the first floor lobby).

Imperial Hotel, CO (Slot machines were added in 1992, when limited gambling became legal in CO in 1991. A spirit here became very active, finding ways to show his annoyance!).


When people die unexpectedly, they often like to continue on in their favorite place, making the best of being in spirit form.

Loveland Castle, OH (When the builder of this forever home died in an accident, his spirit stayed in his castle, and continues in it to this day, enjoying all the activities within it now that it has been turned into a museum).

Berkeley Plantation House, VA (A plantation owner died suddenly when he was struck by lightning in his own house. His spirit is still the host in his own plantation!)

Boulder Theatre, CO (A theatre manager who adored working here, died suddenly when he accidentally hung himself in 1944, while working above the stage area, trying to fix a lighting rig by himself, with no assistant).

Imperial Hotel, CO (By one account, the talented owner and manager, George Long, fell down the slippery steps from the kitchen to the coal area in the basement. In another version, he fell down the hotel’s central staircase).


When a person is attacked and dies quickly at the hands of another, they sometimes can’t accept it and try to continue on in the life they enjoyed despite being a spirit.

St. John’s Cinemas, OR (A Vaudeville actor was murdered in the alleyway behind this theater).

Brumder Mansion, WI (Joe, the mob enforcer, was killed by the Chicago mob when they came and closed down the speakeasy in the basement).

Wabasha Street Caves, MN (Three mob gangsters were assassinated via Tommy gun while playing cards).

Imperial Hotel, CO (It is suspected that George Long died at the hands of his deranged daughter, April).

The first version is that April escaped her apartment confines while still furious. She went to the kitchen, grabbed an iron skillet and lay in wait in the basement for her father to come down the stairs at his usual time. She met him on the stairs and hit her father on the head and he fell to his death; though the blow by itself could’ve killed him.

The second version is that April attacked her father with the frying pan on the second floor landing of the central staircase, and he fell down two flights of stairs. The door to the lobby is in the back of the Red Rooster bar, near the central staircase.

If either of these versions is accurate, it wasn’t made known to the authorities, and perhaps George doesn’t want to accept that his own daughter killed him.


People who are incarcerated for whatever reason, sometimes like to stay where they were locked up against their will. Or perhaps the energy from their illness or suffering stays behind, manifesting as residual paranormal activity. Sometimes when a person suffering from mental illness leaves their crazy self in this world while the healthy part goes to the spirit world. (Lizzie Borden House)

Ludwell Paradise House, VA (A spirit suffering from mental illness is known to be staying here).

Alcatraz Prison Museum, CA (The spirit of the Bird Man who was both brilliant and a sex maniac, still resides in the hospital wing, which is off limits to tourists).

Kalamazoo Sanitarium, MI (Spirits of former patients have bonded with the land, and moved into the new homes built here after the old hospital was torn down. They also wander around the property).

Imperial Hotel, CO (The Spirit of April may be here as well, though it may just be residual energy. If she is an intelligent spirit, the spirit of George may be keeping her in tow).



Stephen Mackin down-played all the paranormal reports, not wanting ghost seekers to invade his hotel.

Spirit of George Long

Apparently, he has never left his beloved hotel.

Described as a man with a bald spot in the middle of his head, with a “monk-like turf of hair” growing around his bald spot.

This spirit sometimes wears a top hat. Described as transparent by witnesses, he likes to dress in nice clothes from an earlier era.

A Theatre Lover!

His apparition has been seen throughout the hotel, beginning in 1953, when the theater was in full force.

The director and several actors have seen George watching them rehearse.

In 1980, an actor reports seeing George standing behind the bar.

Spectral Supervisor

During the time that Mackin owned this property, George apparently was supervising the kitchen staff.

They felt that they were being watched by a friendly presence in a supervisory role.

Gambling? NO!

George became really active when the casino was added in 1992 to stimulate income for the hotel.

Apparently, George didn’t agree. He amped up his activity.

George found ways to annoy the living, using those blasted one arm bandits.

George and Slot Machines

Richard L. Duwe was employed at the hotel from 1994 to 1997.

He states most employees who worked the night and graveyard shifts encountered this new level of George’s activity.

Because of the slot machines, the unseen presence of George often came into the hotel’s casino after hours, to cause mischief.

In protest of their existence here, he had a blast making the machines give out jackpots.

As time passed, he started to use coins to do this.

Not in My Hotel!

Besides causing mischief in the slot machine room, he made it as clear as he could how he felt.

“In one secure room where the rolled coins are stored, Dwaine heard a knock and then extremely loud slams on the two sets of entry doors. He searched but no-one was at the door or in the hall.”

Dwaine then announced out loud, “Knock it off, George.”

Relieved, Happy and Active!!

During the time that Gary and Wini Ledford owned the hotel, George must have been happier, because the casino was no longer open.

A restaurant was opened instead!

Now a much happier, peaceful spirit, George still showed himself to the living.

He was still seen going down the central staircase to the back door of the Red Rooster bar to go into his former apartment to see April in a much better mood!

He has been seen all over the hotel, going up and down the stairs and wandering the hallways.

Getting His Chuckles Too!

He wasn’t completely a benign fellow; He liked to annoy the guests in two guest rooms.

Rooms 39 and 42: He liked to open and shut doors, and turn on the sink faucets in both rooms, when guests were staying there.

When the living tried to shut off the faucets, he stopped them by opening a drawer.

The Spirit of April

When the Red Rooster Bar doors are closed after hours, a scratching noise is heard on the inside of the doors.

The spirit of George is seen going down the stairs toward the bar doors, the site of his former apartment.

Could he be visiting April, or just following an old habit?


There have been a boatload of reports of paranormal activity; mostly caused by resident spirit, George Long.

In 2016, the Spirit of the Rockies Paranormal Convention was being held in The Imperial Hotel and Restaurant’s conference room. Dennis Batchelor caught a one-in-a-million interesting photograph of a see-through male spirit passing the open doorway of the conference room.



YES INDEED! Despite being temporarily closed, the Imperial Hotel is still the home of George Long and maybe the spirit of April or her residual energy.



123 N. 3rd St.
Cripple Creek, CO.80813

The Imperial Hotel historic building can be found near the corner of Bennett and N 3rd. The other cross street to the north of the building is E Carr Ave. It sits right behind the Christmas Store business.



    By Ben Miller – Contributing Writer
  • –
  • Ghost of George Long at the Imperial Hotel in Cripple Creek,  by Dennis Batchelor
  • StanJanParanormal
  • , Cripple Creek-Haunted, Imperial Hotel, Ricky Rock.

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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