For days he had been calling me. And it was always revolving around the same subject. "You gotta come here and check it out. You won't believe it."
My brother had moved from San Diego to Denver the previous year, and because he was well aware of my interests in the paranormal and all things macabre, he would go on forever about the phenomena he lived around.
The residence he lived in was less than two blocks from Cheesman Park, a park with a history behind it that was more than a tad compelling. It was the same park that the film Poltergeist was loosely based on. Rumored the past few decades to be haunted, it was originally a cemetery in the late 1800s.
When a shady businessman was hired to move the graves so the cemetery could be transformed into a state park, he decided to try the city by filling coffins with dirt and rocks instead of bones. Caught and fired, he left the job unfinished. At least 2,000 bodies stayed behind. Hearing my brother speak so adamantly and doing my own research as well, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Upon arriving in Denver, my brother was excited not only to see me, but also to explain the plethora of haunted sites in the area.
WIth its wild frontier history, Denver has more than its fair share of bizarre and tragic tales. From the woman who was walled in alive at a former laundry that's now a P.F. Chang's to the cracked marble at the Capitol building where a distraught man landed after jumping to his death. So many tales and legends that I almost lost track of all of them. Still, no matter the subject, the conversation always returned to Cheesman Park.
One interesting fact he pointed out was that no matter the day, the park was always empty after sundown. I found that especially hard to believe since the park was over four acres and only two blocks from Colfax Avenue, one of the busiest streets in all of Denver. Parks that large and located next to busy streets in San Diego always had people in them no matter the time. This I had to see.
When we got to his place at Lafayette Avenue, we were greeted by my nephew. The two of them then proceeded to take me on a walking tour of nearby haunted sites. The first was the Croke-Patterson mansion, supposedly the most haunted home in all of Denver. To my dismay, the house was under construction and no one was allowed on the premises.
The next stop was the Molly Brown House. Now a museum, this was the former home of "Unsinkable" Molly Brown of Titanic fame. It, too, was supposedly haunted. Unfortunately, by the time of my arrival in Denver, the house was closed.
The three of us decided to get a bite to eat at a local pizzeria. By the time we were finished, the sun was starting to set.
I was at my brother's place for what seemed like a blink of an eye before venturing to Cheesman Park. Walking the two blocks to the park, I couldn't help but notice the groups of people walking the opposite direction as us. I turned to look at my brother; his response was a simple nod. As if to say "I told you so." By the time we reached the park, the moon was out but there was still plenty of light from street lamps.
The first thing I noticed was that what my brother had been saying was no exaggeration. Aside from a small number of people speedwalking out of it, the park was empty. Looking around, I found it odd that outside the perimeter of the park an active city nightlife remained.
Starting at one end of the park, we slowly covered every grassy crevice. Looking down while we walked, I noticed that the ground had rectangular indentations. When we reached the grand-looking pavilion in the middle of the park, the indentations became much easier to see. According to my research, these were former grave sites.
Whether they still had bodies in them is anyone's guess.
Taking a breather at the pavilion, my brother mentioned to me to keep my eyes open for a weeping woman in Victorian dress. He told me that several people had reported seeing her, and when they did she didn't appear transparent, like typical apparitions, but solid. As if she was herself alive.
He then took me to the infamous "Hangman's Tree." On the other side of the park, it was here that an innocent man was wrongfully hanged by an irate mob. Legend has it that the tree never casts an afternoon shadow. And during my whole trip, I must admit, I never saw one.
Reaching the end of the park, we decided to head back. My brain still processing all the information I'd heard about Denver that day, I was slightly mentally preoccupied when my nephew noticed something. By a patch of evergreen trees was a small, strange fog. It was the only fog present in the area. As we looked closer, we could see the shape of a short, stout man walking.
Judging by his features and clothes, I could tell that he was a Native American vagrant. In the middle of the fog, he stopped and looked at us with an expression that was less than pleasant. He then made a grunt-like sound and disappeared behind the trees. My nephew noticed that the strange fog also left when he did.
Continuing, we were again plodding over the grave-indented grass when the three of us at the same time felt a gust of very cold air. As it wasn't cold outside, this struck us all as beyond strange. Feeling the cold gust, my nephew started picking up his walking pace. My brother followed suit. I, myself, followed more slowly, hoping to get a glimpse of the crying woman in Victorian dress. I never did see her.
Back at my brother's place, I was introduced to a few of his neighbors who all had their share of stories about the park. When one of them described a man who had been stabbed to death at the park two years prior, I became slightly perplexed. His description was an exact match of the man we'd all seen walking in the strange fog. But when I saw him, he was solid. Like the rest of the living.
The remainder of my trip, though comfortable, was not as eventful as that first night. One thing was constant though. After sundown, Cheesman Park became as empty as a ghost town.
Considering Denver's history, that really is saying something.