Cripple Creek Colorado
A female spirit has volunteered her services, claiming payment in a self-pleasing way.
A variety of other entities reside to remember their good times.
At one time, the Palace Hotel was a splendid building, built to attract gold barons, as one can see by the outside decor. This three story, rectangular brick building still has its fancy brickwork and dentils along the roof-line, and burgundy highlights around the windows and above the main door. The remains of fancy gold detailing can still be seen above the top of the entrance. The first floor bricks are turquoise, with burgundy brick rows that match the window burgundy highlights.
The first floor was used as a lobby, a dining room, parlor, and also originally housed an in-house Pharmacy. When limited gaming came to town (poker, blackjack and slot machines), the dining room became home to the slot machines. While the second and third floors were used as hotel rooms, more gaming rooms and another restaurant were located in the second brick building that once existed behind the building on First Street. Pictures from 2001 of the inside of the hotel show a charming, turn-of-the-century inn, as the Lays family, who owned the property at the time, worked hard to keep the decor faithful to its roots.
But when the property was sold to Century Casino, a gaming outfit located on the other side of First Street, this second building was torn down and replaced with a parking lot. At the back of the Palace Hotel, one can see a door on the second floor that must have opened into the older building. A first-floor hallway that once entered the older building has been bricked over.
Tearing down the remaining Palace Hotel building wasn’t an option though. Originally, that was the plan for both buildings, but the local Historical Society objected, and the Palace Hotel was rescued from the wrecking ball. This Palace is a huge fixer-upper opportunity, as it needs a boatload of investment funds to fix the roof, the pipes, and the heat. The interior also needs to be restored. Sitting empty for seven years hasn’t been good for this historic building. Old buildings need continuous upkeep. Century Casino wants to use it for their offices, but their jaws must have collectively dropped when they saw the price tag. They may decide that it is too far gone inside to restore, and choose to just gut the inside and start over, which is their right as owners, but it would be a shame for historical enthusiasts.
The Palace Hotel was originally a wooden structure, built to be the town drug store, which explains the words “Palace Pharmacy” on two of the doors. In 1892, it expanded to be a hotel, when the stage coach began stopping at Cripple Creek after gold was discovered in 1890. The mines drew in a variety of folks, from the rich to the hopeful to the shady, who always follow mass migrations of people. By the turn-of-the-century, Cripple Creek was an established town of around 35,000. The original Palace Hotel building burned in the 1896 fire, but it was rebuilt with brick, by people who didn’t give up easily. All the Bennett Street buildings were rebuilt this way. At night, all the tops of the buildings are lit up, showcasing the beautiful brickwork.
Around 1900, a Dr. and Mrs. Kitty Chambers bought the hotel. Dr. Chambers ran the Pharmacy, while Kitty took care of their guests, and provided hospitality, adding nice touches like turning down the beds. She also loved candles and handled this chore personally.
Over the years, The Palace Hotel managed to survive a variety of challenges, from the martial law imposed during the vicious Labor Wars in the mining industry in the early 1900s, to the closing of the gold mines, and the lack of economic opportunity that resulted. During the Labor Wars, the Chambers probably catered to people brought in by the mine owners and state authorities. As the mines dropped in gold production over time, the hotel shifted to tourists and probably nature lovers and hunters as well.
By the 1980s, Cripple Creek was considered a ghost town, though it still had a few hundred people. In 1991, Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to start its own limited gaming industry, which brought people and funds back to Cripple Creek, allowing the town to restore the old buildings, start new businesses in the old store fronts, and form a Historical Society dedicated to preserving old buildings. Another source of work was the open pit mine, which opened in 1994, just east of Cripple Creek, closer to sister city Victor.
While quite a few casinos have sprung up since 1991, the local economy has closed a few gambling establishments that couldn’t compete. The Palace Hotel and Casino was sold to a competitor across the street around 2003, and ceased its long history as a hotel. Hopefully, it will be renovated and transformed into a building that can be used by the living again, and not allowed to rot away.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Mrs. Kitty Chambers and her Doctor Chambers loved their business, and faithfully took care of their guests. After only a few years of ownership, Mrs. Chambers died in Room 3, in 1908. The spirits of former owners of hotels and homes have been known to stick around and supervise, helping the living. Guests and employees of cherished places sometimes choose to spend their afterlives there.
The entity of the original former owner: Mrs. Kitty Chambers
She is described as an older woman who still considered herself to be an owner even as a spirit. She has claimed two of the rooms for herself. Her apparition has been reported in Room 3, and she has been blamed for hiding all the Room 9 keys. But she has done her part to help the staff out, and add her own touches.
Staff would find lighted candles in various spots in the hotel, like the dining room, but didn’t know who the person was who was doing it until this entity was seen, wandering around the building, wearing a nightgown and carrying a candle. When the dining room was turned into a casino, the candles continued to light themselves. While Mrs. Chambers was alive, the placing of candles was one of her duties.
Her entity was given the credit by staff for turning down the covers for the hotel’s guests. The living get the feeling of being watched here. Some people over the years have reported being gently nudged on the central staircase. For many years, up to the present, a woman has been seen looking out the second floor window on the end, peering at the activity in the street, probably wondering when the living were going to come to her hotel again. It is thought to be Kitty, but it may be another entity as well. It seems that Kitty has some company!
A short fat man
He has appeared in a life-like, solid form, walking all over the hotel. Witnesses haven’t realized that he was a spirit, until he suddenly vanished into thin air. Though it isn’t known who this gentleman is, perhaps he is one of the previous owners, or the good Dr. Chambers himself!
A blind piano player
Looking in the 2001 pictures of the lobby, one spies an old piano. Perhaps this entity was seen playing it, and perhaps has been observed in some way to be blind.
A tall woman
Thought to possibly be Mary Hedges, who was the hotel manager from 1916-1918.
A BIG YES INDEED is in order.
Ghost investigators such as Southwest Ghost Hunters Association have captured evidence that points to paranormal activity, though no actual pictures of the entities described by witnesses have been caught on film. Though the building is closed and empty at the present, ghost hunting groups and paranormal enthusiasts come in to investigate for a fee, if one can believe the posted signs on the outside of the door. This is true of several haunted buildings in town, so it may be possible to try to investigate here.
Be sure to visit the Southwest Ghost Hunters Association page on Facebook and read about their investigation results at the Palace Hotel.
172 Bennett Avenue
Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813
The closed Palace Hotel and Casino building can be found at the corner of First and Bennett Avenue almost directly across the street from Bronco Billy’s Hotel, and about two blocks north of the old Teller County Jail Museum, and the 1902 County Court Building, which is still being used.
- Interview with a Century Casino employee.
- HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory
By Dennis William Hauck
Penguin Books, 2002
- Haunted Colorado
- Southwest Ghost Hunters Association
- Colorado Labor Wars article on Wikipedia
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr