Within the underground caverns and passageways of Colorado Springs' oldest buildings, phantoms of unlucky police officers, thrill-seeking city councilmen and an unhappy dance instructor may be cavorting among the shadows.
Just ask Mike Anderson, assistant city manager and one of many city employees who honestly believe City Hall is haunted.
Or Doug Sullivan, who has worked as a facility technician at Colorado College for 15 years. Not a man for tall tales, he nonetheless insists that Cossitt Hall is home to an apparition.
Their stories hark back to real places, events and people that helped shape the city's history.
Lady in a white gown
Sullivan clearly recalls the cold winter day 12 years ago when he reported to the college and found one of his workers, a contractor removing asbestos from a basement crawlspace below Cossitt Hall, frozen with fear.
"He said he was down there and he heard these drums. Then, all of a sudden, it got very light and a spiral staircase appeared, and this lady appeared. This lady was walking up it, wearing a white gown and long hair. When she got to the top of the spiral stair, her head turned around and she had no face -- just bones showing.
"The next day, he never came back," Sullivan says.
Over time, those who know about the history of the hall have devised a theory as to who that worker may have seen.
For more than four decades, legendary modern dance instructor and choreographer Hanya Holm held a summer dance program in the hall, which houses the dance department as well as the writing center. The dance floor she used was directly above the crawlspace, and she used drums in many of the routines. Reportedly, Holm was crushed when the college discontinued the dance program in 1983. She died nine years later, shortly before the ghost appeared for the first and last time.
Patches of cold air
At City Hall, many employees talk about a ghost named George. A policeman in the 1940s, George was shot through the crotch when his gun fell off the back of the door of the bathroom.
The city's police station used to be on the first floor of City Hall, at 107 N. Nevada Ave. The force's firing range was in the basement, a murky chamber linked by underground tunnels to the City Auditorium across Kiowa Street and an old fire station, which later became a mortuary, across Nevada Avenue.
Anderson, then the city's budget director, says when his office moved to the renovated City Hall four years ago, he began to hear strange noises.
"I would hear this noise that sounded like one or two things: A small-bore rifle, like a .22, going off at a far distance, or a door with a push-bar, off in the distance."
The noise came from the area of the old police station. Anderson says he actually went into the atrium and asked the ghost to allow him to do his work. "It stopped for 10 minutes and then it did it every five seconds the rest of the day."
Eventually he was so freaked out, he had to leave the office and work from home. Other city staff have reported hearing elevator noises and monotone door chimes that break into melody, and feeling unusual patches of cold air.
While several city employees say they believe George is responsible for these unexplainable events, Anderson says it's equally likely the ghost is from the now-closed underground tunnels.
In the building's early years, he says, city officials used to leave the lights on at City Hall and walk through the tunnel to the City Aud, where they could gamble and drink -- both taboo in then-dry Colorado Springs.
The other tunnel, stretching under Nevada Avenue, led to a series of buildings that once comprised a mortuary. The basement space currently occupied by The Underground nightclub was used as a makeshift morgue during the great influenza epidemic of 1918.
Many visitors to the basement room where bodies once were stacked have reported unusual sounds and sightings, such as glowing orbs.
"When you come in here early in the morning, you can hear music playing and people talking," says Carolyn Goforth, a day manager at the club. "But nobody's here."
-- Dan Wilcock
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