Friday, February 26, 2016

Cripple Creek’s Imperial Hotel

Cripple Creek, 1894 two years
before fires.
In 1890, Bob Womack discovered gold in poverty gulch * in southern Colorado. Almost overnight the town of Cripple Creek sprang up. Hotels, theatres and saloons catered to the miners needs—taking their hard-earned gold.

*  Ironically, Womack died in poverty.

At its peak Cripple Creek had 25,000 residents and during this boom the mines yielded 600 million dollars. Today the area between Cripple Creek and Victor is still actively mined.

Two fires devastated the town in 1896. The result was 6 deaths, 2 million dollars in damage and 5,000 people left homeless.

During the reconstruction of the town The Collins Hotel opened its doors. At the turn of the century it was renamed The New Collins Hotel.

The hotel was renamed once more in 1905. The new owner was an Englishman by the name of George Long. The hotel was now known as the Imperial.

Imperial Hotel
The story goes Long left England because his “deafness” was an embarrassment to his aristocratic family. He also married his first cousin Ursula, which guaranteed his family shunned him.

George and his wife had 2 children a daughter and a son. Long was an architect, painter and loved his scotch whiskey a little too much. He also loved his new hotel and it flourished under his guidance.

He and his family lived in an apartment that was near the hotel’s lobby. After the boom ended the Long family remained hoping for the best.

As Long’s daughter became older it was apparent she suffered from a mental disability—probably a result of the couple being first cousins. When she had “fits” the family would lock her in their apartment.

In the 1930s, after a heated argument with her father this girl followed him to the top of the basement stairs. She took an iron frying pan and hit him over the head, killing him. She then was placed in a mental hospital.

In a tamer version of how George Long died it is stated he accidentally fell down the rickety basement stairs on his way to a coal chute.

Long’s widow sold the Imperial Hotel to Stephen Mackin in 1946. Mackin and his family lived in the same apartment that the Longs used. This space later was used for the Red Rooster Bar.

Mackin and his family endeavored to bring “theatre” back to Cripple Creek—by 1953 the Imperial was producing turn of the century melodramas.

The director of this theatre and several actors reported seeing George Long’s ghost. Several of the kitchen staff also encountered his ghost. In the early 1980s one actor, Pat Sawyer saw Long.

One afternoon, while in the theatre he saw George standing behind the bar. Sawyer described him as a well-dressed bald man, with a monk like turf of hair surrounding his head.

This matched descriptions given of George Long.

Mackin while he owned the hotel downplayed this haunting—not wanting what he characterized as “the attention of strange folks” coming into the hotel to do investigations.

Imperial Hotel
In 1992 gambling came to Cripple Creek, Mackin sold the Imperial. The new owners renovated the hotel—restoring it to its Victorian beauty. The hotel now has new French wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings.

It also has a new restaurant and a casino. It was renamed Imperial Casino Hotel.

Richard L. Duwe was employed at the hotel from 1994 to 1997. He states most employees who worked the night and graveyard shifts encountered George Long’s ghost.

This activity mostly centers on the casino’s slot machines. After the casino closed one night a security camera caught a slot machine spilling all its coins out.

These machines have two fail-safes so this cannot happen. The Colorado gaming commission determined that the machine caught on video was working fine. It appears George doesn’t like gambling in his beloved hotel.

On another occasion, Duwe heard a slot machine being used, coins being fed into it, after the casino was closed.

Thinking a patron had been left behind he and several others searched the slots but found no one in the room and not one machine had their light on—indicating it had been played recently.

In one secure room where the rolled coins are stored, Duwe heard a knock and then extremely loud slams on the two sets of entry doors. He searched but no was at the door or in the hall. Duwe then announced out loud, “Knock it off, George.”

This is a trick the employees have learned to use to stop George’s impish behavior.

George and Ursula Long's bed
Room 43.
Recently, people have seen George’s ghost wandering the hotel’s hallways. Rooms 39 and 42 are active. He is known to open and shut doors and turn on the bathroom facets.

When people go to turn this water off they hit their legs on an open drawer in the bathroom that Long’s ghost opens to bar their entry.

Cripple Creek today is sometimes called "Creepy Creek" because there are so many ghost stories told about the town.

Excerpts from Jeff Belanger’s book entitled, World’s Most Haunted Places.

No comments: