This Bed and Breakfast is the most haunted place in Denver!
Spectral residents include spirits from every era…
The most troubled spirits are those of two young murder victims.
When Tom and I stayed here in July of 2015, this beautiful 9,700 sq. ft. four storied, seven bedroom, ten bath, fully restored Queen Anne Mansion was up for sale. It sits on 14,000 square foot corner lot. It has a beautiful garden area in the front yard, and a charming wrap-around porch. The large garden has fountains, flowers, statues, and a green lawn in the back of the house, where people have enjoyed this space for their weddings and special events.
Its current owners, Walter and Julie Keller, have used it as a theatre venue, among other things, taking advantage of its generous space inside and out. The mansion has two large parlors, one in front, and one in back, which opens to the back porch area.
The Kellers have sold most of their antiques in the parlor and dining room, which allows visitors to admire the fabulous carved woodwork. There is a lovely bar as well. Back in the days of Prohibition, visitors could still enjoy a beer or a glass of win there. Local authorities often looked the other way in the western states.
The theatre is on the fourth floor, and features a large maple-floored ballroom. It has an occupancy for a hundred people, and a small stage area for performers.
The decor and artistry inside are as grand as the outside of the house. The wood carvings throughout are splendid, as is the stair case. The fireplaces, with their original mantels and beautiful carvings, are exquisite. Many upscale decor touches (dating as far back as 1890) are still there. It truly was a dream house of the John Mouat family, and the Fowler family as well.
In 1848, John Mouat, the original owner, was born in Scotland. He immigrated to America in 1873, at the age of 25, settling in Denver, Colorado. He worked hard in the lumber industry, got married, and settled down with his family.
By 1890, John was not only was the owner of the Denver-based John Mouat Lumber Company, but also a contractor. He used sawed lumber from his own mills to build over 200 buildings in Denver, helping to turn it from a rough mining town into a respectable city.
John built this fine mansion as a showcase for his accomplishments in wood production from his business; using his finest wood milled at his sawmills for the benefit of his family; wife and five children. Of course, there is a variety of woods used throughout the mansion’s rooms, featuring cherry, oak, poplar, sycamore, maple and walnut that was hand carved by gifted craftsmen.
Each room featured a different kind of wood that he chose himself. The dining room had carved rosettes for its finishing touch, that depicted the different kinds of tree wood used in each room of the house.
As of 1915, the Mouats still lived in the family mansion. John died in San Diego, California, and at some point the Mouat family moved out. Perhaps the cold, Denver winters were too much. With all the children up and out with families and homes of their own, who could blame them?
The Mouat family sold their mansion to Hiram Fowler and his family, who lived there while the neighborhood was still well-to-do. Hiram Fowler had made his money from his mining business, and was known for his kindness to the neighborhood children. The ballroom was used every day as a children’s playroom, and children loved to play with the Fowler daughter’s lovely doll playhouse. Other children enjoyed flying a little plane around the space!
The Fowler Family was attached to this mansion, and wanted to find a way to keep it, though they probably should’ve sold it when the mansion’s neighborhood was still considered a good one.
Various members of the Fowler family owned the mansion up until 1990, but stopped living in it at some point. They tried to turn it into a commercial property, raising income to meet expenses, what with its growing list of things to fix.
Sometime in its history, the mansion became a business school for awhile. Then a very popular, commercial effort was put into play; providing housing for the public.
Unfortunately, like many grand mansions, the John Mouat/Hiram Fowler Mansion wound up being divided into 13 apartments, bringing in a lot more people to live there, which sped up the wear and tear on this lovely building. The mansion served as an apartment building, perhaps starting sometime in the 50’s, if not earlier or perhaps later.
As the decades passed, the neighborhood changed, and this grand old dame slipped into serious disrepair. In the 60s, ’70s, and ’80s, a variety of people lived here, some not so careful, and some not so nice, which led to consequences with lasting effects.
The Fowlers became stuck with the mansion, unable to sell it at a reasonable price in a neighborhood that was now poor. Using the mansion as an apartment complex wasn’t profitable. Because they were not making much in rental income, the Fowlers unfortunately grew lax in putting in security measures that were badly needed for the safety of their tenants.
By 1970, renters were paying only $96.00 a month for a small room. The mansion suffered further decline. By the late ’80s, it qualified as a real fixer-upper opportunity, with severe issues, making it unacceptable for human habitation. It was condemned in 1990, when the redevelopment movement was in full swing in Denver.
Luckily, a very young Walter and Julie Keller fell in love with the mansion and rescued it, no doubt to the relief of Fowler and Mouat family descendants. The Kellers lovingly and painstakingly put the house back together as a single family home and restored it within a three year period, investing much money, time, perseverance and skill. They converted the basement apartments into one large apartment, and chose to live there themselves, having faith that the neighborhood was changing for the better, which it did.
After stabilizing and restoring the mansion, The Kellers filled the common areas with antique furniture, adding antique beds, bath tubs, showers, and dressers to the various guest rooms.
They replanted the gardens in the front and back and added statues and fountains and decor from the 1890s era outside as well.
Because a hundred-plus year old home always needs a hearty upkeep budget, the Kellers put their mansion to work to bolster their efforts. They started their bed and breakfast business, The Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens. They also made good use of their indoor and outdoor space by starting a wedding venue and event business.
When they started their stage theatre, they found themselves well-supported by the Denver community. The Kellers found that they loved producing plays as well as acting in them, even more than they enjoyed running a bed and breakfast, and other people’s special events.
By April of 2008, the Kellers had burned out on the bed and breakfast and special events businesses, and set their sights on a bigger place for their theatre group. As of July 2015, their beloved Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens was still for sale, with an asking price of $2,300,000. While they have stopped serving breakfast, you can still stay there.
While we didn’t get breakfast or coffee, we appreciate the fact that we were able to stay at the Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens in a glorious room, before the mansion could be sold. We also got to hear about the recent paranormal experience an affable staff member who gave us a tour recently had. As we were leaving, a couple who had spent the night in the very spirit-occupied Valentine Room told me about their experiences they had during their evening stay.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
People who have loved their homes in this world sometimes choose to spend their afterlife in them. Or they may choose to simply visit often, especially if they moved out (by choice or not), or lost it suddenly due to unexpected death.
Past spirit owners may also have concerns about their property, due to past or present treatment of it by the living.)
People who have enjoyed working in a building often like to visit, or keep doing their old jobs, not letting the fact that they are in spirit form get in the way.
While The Lumber Baron Inn has long had a dedicated staff, Walter and Julie have apparently had another employee or two in spirit form, who perhaps worked for past owners or the business school, who are not on the Keller’s payroll.
People who have been violently killed are sometimes restless and aren’t ready to leave this world. They are stuck; they can’t let go of the memory or emotions of their deaths, and want to stay to see and hope for justice. Sometimes they choose just to continue as if they were still alive, having some sort of life in this world. These restless spirits yearn to accomplish their dreams, and mourn being ripped away from their life’s desires. They may also have regrets about choices that may have led to their death.
In 1970, a very pretty, independent and free-spirited ceramic artist, a 16-year old Kara Kanoch, dropped out of high school and moved from the comfort of her suburban Denver home into her own little space, all done with the consent of her parents. Her father, Richard, explained to Denver Post crime reporter Kirk Mitchell, who was writing an article on cold cases in Denver, October 11th, 2014… he shared “She was independent as all get out. It got to the point where we felt, rightly or wrongly, that if we didn’t allow her to do so, and not go along with it, and not stay on good terms with her, that she might possibly run away, and then we wouldn’t know where she was.”
She moved into the run-down Mouat/Fowler mansion, now in a scary neighborhood, and was paying $48.00 dollars a month for the room now known as the Valentine Suite. She had a roommate. The ballroom on the third floor was often the scene of wild drug parties, held by people you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, who perhaps also lived in the other rooms in the building.
After going home to celebrate her 17th birthday, on Sunday, October, 11th, 1970, Kara informed her family that she wanted to return to school and graduate. She planned to move out of her rented room in four days, and had found a job, with the help of her father, who guided her into a better rental and a job to support herself. Kara was planning on going to art school after graduating high school.
She’d had enough living in her dingy room and had learned an important lesson in the realities of life. While her roommate was away in California, someone had broken into her room several times with a knife, and stolen some of her possessions, worth 280 dollars.
One wonders why the owner at the time, J. H. Fowler, hadn’t screened the tenants better, put a stop to the wild parties in the ballroom, put in a dead-bolt in Kara’s door, or tried to put in better security. All of these things could have saved Kara’s life, and the life of her friend, Marianne Weaver.
The last time Kara spoke to her mother and dad was the day after her Sunday birthday party. Early Monday evening, a violent man broke into Kara’s room while she was there. Despite her efforts to defend herself with a kitchen knife, he brutally raped her, strangled her to death, and stuffed her body under the bed.
Unfortunately, Marianne Weaver, the mother of a small child, who lived with her parents in Lakewood while going to Arapahoe Community College, stopped by around 9 pm to visit her friend, Kara. Marianne walked into the murder scene while the killer rapist was still there. Marianne was shot in the head, execution-style, and left with her hands folded over her chest, in an attempt by the killer to fool the police into thinking that the killings were the result of a drug deal gone bad.
The murders made became a front page headline in The Denver Post on Oct. 13, 1970: “Teen Girls Found Slain in Denver Apartment.” It produced a lot of unwanted publicity for J. H. Fowler, who blamed Kara not just for her own death but that of her friend. Kara was a “hippie”, who had taken part in the wild drug parties.
Despite the excuses and this blame-the-victim strategy, J. H. Fowler shared the blame for their deaths, and had to live with that on some level. The despicable killer has never been caught, and this is still an open, cold case. The number to call if you have any information on the killer: The Denver Police Department at 720-913-7867.
Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens is considered to be the most haunted place in Denver.
Six regular spirits now call it their earthly home or place to visit.
The female spirits of Kara Kenoche and Marianne Weaver
Staff of the inn, former residents, and visitors have seen a young female apparition in the Valentine Room, in the hallway and on the stairs.
These two spirits have also made their presence known when they are not visible, in the Valentine Room, on the central stairs, and in the hallway that runs by their room.
We interviewed a young couple who stayed at the Lumber Baron Inn the same night we did. They told me that they heard strange noises, felt unexplained cold spots and chills, and were a bit uncomfortable about it. It is always a bit scary for a person when they realize for the first time that yes indeed, spirits are real. There is an unseen world around us.
As we came up the central stairs to our room, I felt slightly dizzy and tingly, the sign I get when spirits are present and watching.
According to Kirk Mitchell’s cold case article in the Denver Post, the owner, Walter Keller, had an encounter with a spirit one night in 1993 when he was in the hallway space between The Honeymoon Suite and The Valentine Suite, squatting down as he cut tile for a shower.
Walter was interviewed by Denver Post reporter El Ashanti Jefferson. He told her that he felt an unseen presence, standing over him, watching him work. When Walter turned around to see, no one was there, but he felt a frozen gust of wind which made the hairs on his neck stand up. There was no reasonable explanation for this frozen gust of wind.
A female apparition, sometimes dressed as a flapper
Perhaps a family member or friend of the family who loved the 1920s parties.
This female apparition has been noticed and seen in the ballroom over the years.
The staff member who gave us a tour told us of his experience, while taking down chairs after a play. He heard the sound of something moving in the back of the ballroom. Looking up, he briefly saw a woman in the back of the ballroom, walking quickly. Thinking it was his wife, he went down to see why she was up in the ballroom. He found her down in the kitchen, and she hadn’t been in the upstairs area. They were the only two people in the mansion.
The apparition of a black female maid
She is dressed in a uniform from an earlier era, and has been seen going about her chores.
A male apparition
Thought to be a family member of either the Mouat or Fowler Family, or a male servant of some standing. I think it is most probably a teacher from the business school, still teaching.
This fellow has made himself visible, and has been heard talking in various rooms of the house.
An older, authoritative male apparition
Probably a former owner of the property, or perhaps a former administrator of the business school.
He has made appearances in front of the living, in the first floor common rooms, smoking his pipe. The living can smell the aroma of tobacco. Sometimes, if he chooses to be unseen, just the aroma of tobacco is noticed.
EVP evidence, videos, or other forms of communication have caught some serious evidence of spectral presences.
Spirits have made it plain to the living that they are here, as many people have experienced their efforts to be made known and noticed.
Several paranormal groups have made contact with the two young murder victims, and through EVPs have recorded the horrible tale of their murders, but not with enough clues to catch the killer’s name, until Spirit Paranormal did two investigations (one in 2011, and one on October 19th, 2012). At both, they captured the full name of the killer, said by multiple spirit voices. All of the spirits who stay there chimed in to set the record straight. They want this creep to be brought to justice. Knowing the killer’s name is a start, but finding enough proof to convict is still something standing in the way of justice.
Spirit Paranormal reported it on their Facebook page on October 20th, 2012; “Another unbelievable event at the Lumber Baron Inn last night folks. If I was not there to see this in person I would not have believed it. For the second straight year we received the same name of the killer from the unsolved 1970 double murder on the ITC device! The EXACT SAME NAME said multiple times by several different spirit voices!! It literally gave me the chills!! We also ran into several members of the cast of the TV show Ghost Detectives while we were coming in so it seems we are not the only ones trying to help solve this 40 year old cold case!”
A Big Yes Indeed!
The truth is slowly coming out, as it did in the murder of Helen Vorhees, the Brach candy heiress. Voices of all the spirits have been recorded. Many people have had experiences staying and working there.
2555 West 37th Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80211
Phone: (303) 477-8205
John Mouat’s 1890 Mansion, known as The Lumber Baron Mansion since 1991 can be found in the Potter Highlands Historic District in the heart of the historic Italian section of Denver. Its rough days are behind it now, thanks to city redevelopment efforts some twenty years ago.
- The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
by Rich Newman
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr
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