It’s taken me a long time to write about this because I knew it’d be long. But it’s a Sunday and my laundry is currently washing, so I can’t think of a better time than right now.
When I booked my trip to Denver in October, I Googled ghost tours and was sad to find out that the ‘best’ tour was more than sold out and although I put my name on a wait list, I knew I should have a back up plan. It was the weekend before Halloween, after all, so a ghost tour was a must for me. Some more Googling led me to discover the Nightly Spirits ghost tour of Denver. It had pretty good reviews so I said, “take my money!” and booked a spot for the Friday night that I arrived in Denver.
The meeting place is at The Celtic on Market, a pub on Market Street in LoDo. They gather everyone at the basement bar and then we were transferred to a smaller, private back room on the same floor. Our tour guide was a local Denver-ian (?) named Joaquin and at first I was nervous because he said we’d be going to several bars and hearing stories and I thought, “OH NO. Did I sign up accidentally for a bar crawl?!” That was honestly the last thing I wanted, but I decided I’d keep an open mind and luckily it turned out to be an amazing two and a half hours. Here are all the places that we stopped at on our walk around town:
Celtic: We all went around and said where we were from and if we’d done ghost tours elsewhere, then Joaquin dove into the first story. Apparently bars have trouble staying in business where the Celtic is located and he asked if we’d noticed the stain glass windows when we’d walked in. Those were brought over from Ireland and the legend is that bad spirits were brought over with them. There’s supposedly a lady ghost who will occasionally knock glasses off tables, too.
Second he pointed to a painting of a little girl hanging on the wall behind him. He said the photo is supposedly haunted and if you stare at her and move around, her eyes will sometimes follow you.
Market Street: We walked along Market Street towards Coors Field afterward and he told us about the history of Denver. He told us that the first order of business when Denver was founded was to build pubs, obviously, and the next priority was brothels. Market Street was essentially Denver’s Red Light District back in the day. One of the most famous brothels was the House of Mirrors and it’s supposedly haunted by a ghost named Ella Wellington. Ella was supposedly an owner of the brothel at one point but ended committing suicide via gunshot in the brothel. She was rumored to be depressed but her ghost haunts Market Street between 18th and 19th Streets and you can hear her ghost saying, “I’m happy too.” Bit of a paranormal denial. (You can read more about that here!)
Also Known As Stranglers’ Row: In the 1890’s, Market Street became known as ‘Stranglers’ Row’ because prostitutes kept getting strangled. There were backdoors to the brothels that led to a below-ground alley, parts of which still exist today and Joaquin made sure to take us down into them.
We stopped at what was once a doorway to a brothel and we were told the story about a prostitute named Rosemary who haunts the alleyway right there, and specifically this doorway. She was shot and occasionally you’ll smell her – the gunshot residue, I believe.
Our tour guide, Joaquin, also told us a personal story that happened to a close friend of his at a nearby bar on the street to illustrate how the Strangler’s victims look our for locals today. He said that a friend of his had been working in a bar along Market Street when her and a colleague were closing up. They attempted to leave through the back door several times and each time they heard a voice tell them “no.” This happened three times, so they went out the front door and heard people running away from the alleyway behind the bar. They found out the next day that three men had murdered a woman in the vicinity, so by all means, the ghost that told them not to go out the back saved their lives.
Mario’s Double Daughter’s Salotto: Next Joaquin took us to what had to be the coolest bar I’ve been in for as long as I can remember, also located on Market Street, called Mario’s Double Daughter’s Salotto and told us the story of the origin of the bar as well as the story of the ghost of Josephine.
First, I will say that the drinks are fantastic and the atmosphere is SO cool. It’s like walking into a Tim Burton movie. The bar was inspired when the owner’s met Mario Guccio, who had conjoined twin daughters. His daughters supposedly decided to start their own circus once they were old enough and it was wildly popular. If you look around the bar, you’ll see that it’s a romanticizing of what their circus was like. There are doves flying, circus tents, trees growing out of the cement, pretty wild stuff. The real-life twins unfortunately died in 2003. This place reminded me a lot of MeowWolf in Santa Fe, too.
I wish I could say I remembered more about the story of Josephine, but I believe she was a prostitute who died of consumption. I noted that Joaquin told us bartenders at the Double Daughter’s hear voices and lots of coughing when they’re closing up with no one else around. (If you happen to remember more about this story, let me know in the comments, please!) But I promise you she’s real because they’ve even named a drink after her on the menu.
Union Station: A building this old in a city with this much history is bound to have some paranormal tales. He told us several but the one that I remember is the about a chair. Yes, a chair. Apparently when they were renovating Union Station, they found a chair under a grate inside one of the doors and any time they attempted to move it, no one, no matter how strong, could move it, so it’s been left there. We looked down and indeed it was there. I couldn’t get a photo of it because my camera wouldn’t focus on the chair, but now you know where to go get a peak of the haunted chair.
There was also a big Halloween party at Union Station that night so there were people running around in costume – including a T-Rex, of course – so it was pretty awesome. Joaquin also told us that a few little girls have died in Union Station and late at night you might see or hear them running around, playing.
It was in Union Station that he told us all about Cheeseman Park (which I wrote about a bit before), how it was built on 2000 bodies, and the movie The Changeling is based on paranormal experiences that were recorded there. I still have to check that movie out!
Oxford Hotel: After we had a few drinks inside Union Station (I went for a boozy milkshake from the ice cream shop that’s inside. 100% recommended), we walked up 17th Street and stopped in front of the Oxford Hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel no longer allows ghost tours to stop at their bar but while we were stopped outside, Joaquin told us we should definitely stop inside for a drink while we were in town because it’s Denver’s oldest hotel and definitely haunted. He told us the story about Florence, who haunts room 320 now. She supposedly met her lover in that room at the end of their affair and he told her that he was married. She proceeded to kill him and then herself.
Their Halloween window displays are definitely on point though.
The last stop on the story and stop on the two and a half hour (!) tour was at Pour House, back on Market Street, between 14th and 15th Streets. We got our drinks and went to the outdoor seating area in the back on the second floor. The bar was hopping, as it was the weekend before Halloween. Joaquin told us the last story for the night. He asked us two things: Did we notice the little red door at the landing of the staircase and did we notice the crack in the wall behind the bar?
Most of us said no. I think, if I’m remembering correctly, former tenants had no idea what this door had been built for and only speculated the worst (though now it’s used as a supply closet by the bar). But bartenders do feel cold gusts and sense someone behind them late at night when they pass it.
The crack in the wall comes from the wife who owned the bar with her husband some time ago. The wife apparently became obsessed and would say that something was behind that wall, something was behind that wall, etc. He always wrote it off as craziness until one night when she was down behind the bar when no one was there and she had an axe, trying to chop her way through the wall.
She kept repeating, “There’s something behind that wall…” over and over and over. Her husband tried to pull her away and then she turned and swung the axe into his skull, killing him. She’s now said to haunt the bar late at night when all of the drunk college kids are gone.
Overall it’s a really awesome ghost tour and a great end to my first night in Denver. I learned a ton about the history of Denver and a few chilling tales, too. If you’re planning on going to Denver, I’d definitely book a tour (and book early because they sell out!).