GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In the late 1880s, Tillie Gibson Forker and her first husband, Eli, were pioneer ranchers in Spring Valley. The couple faced tragedy and illness, losing two infant children, among other family, as they settled in the area.
“They are a great example of how hard life was in those days. Their first child, a son, was born and died the same day,” said Cindy Hines, executive Director at Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “One year later, when Tillie was pregnant with their second son, her husband died of pneumonia and her sister Mattie came to help her out. Mattie got sick and died. The new baby was named Eli for his deceased father and that baby died when he was a few months old.”
The Gibson’s story of home and hardship on the range comes to life at the Frontier Historical Society’s annual Ghost Walk starting this weekend at the Linwood Cemetery trailhead.
Historical re-enactor Merrilee Hindman will tell Tillie’s story throughout the month, as the Ghost Walks take place at 7, 7:45, 8:30 and 9:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, Oct. 11-26.
“Tillie later married William Forker and all of the family is buried in the same plot in Linwood,” Hines said. “The Gibsons died in 1886, 1887 and 1888, so their story is really early in our history.”
Along with Tillie, new Ghost Walk characters from Glenwood’s past include local actor Jack Green as a grave digger.
“He should bring some fun improv to the event,” Hines said.
In its 14th year, the Ghost Walk is fundraiser for the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. Hines said this year also marks the return of James Riland, Civil War veteran and subsequent murder victim at Sweetwater at the hands of Herman Babcock. Glenwood Springs Old West legends Doc Holliday and Kid Curry will also make sporadic appearances.
“I think the fact we have so many characters and we rotate them over the weekends, people can come back time after time and see a different show,” Hines said. “Also, there is just something really cool about walking around an historic cemetery at night by lantern light in the crisp fall air.”
The Ghost Walk not only features locals in period garb, but also homemade cookies and hot apple cider served at the bottom of the hill after each tour. Janelle Rhoton, broker/owner of The Property Shop, said she loves to get in the autumn spirit surrounding the event.
“I slip on jeans, furry boots, a fuzzy sweater and matching hot pink sparkle scarf and hat. I just wish I had a pair of bedazzled night goggles,” she said.
Rhoton also likes to prepare boyfriend and Glenwood native Gus Lundin for the annual tradition.
“I run a spook-attack,” she said. “I quickly hide behind the door and jump out just as Gus enters and I scare the bejesus out of him. I have to get him ready.”
This year, Rhoton plans to recruit friends to make a social night of the Ghost Walk event.
“We’ll pile into the Jeep with a few of our buddies and share a quick happy hour treat at one of our favorite downtown hot spots, then to the trailhead we go,” she said. “We’ll step into the brisk fall evening air and head to Doc’s Trail, crunching leaves all the way up Eighth Street. We like to meet at Doc’s for a hot toddy right after.”
Rhoton said she and her friends have fun discussing life in the Wild West after meeting some of Glenwood’s most famous settlers in the lantern-lit cemetery setting.
“A life of gamblers and gunslingers in a camp of tents, saloons, and brothels, oh my,” she said. “This is perfect Halloween holiday prep, under the moonlight, flashlights in hand as we set off on our ghostly adventure.”
Hines said the Ghost Walks have generated years of memories for those in attendance.
“We’ve had some fun stories over the past 14 years, many involving wildlife,” she said. “We’ve had a bear peer out from the oak brush as one of the actors was waiting for the tour to arrive at his grave. Luckily, the bear was as scared to see him as he was to see the bear and it ran off.”
Hines said re-enactor Anders Rosen’s Ghost Walk story while in character remains one of her favorites.
“He was playing Harry Landis and in the middle of his talk a black cat showed up and jumped up on his headstone, wanting attention,” Hines said. “The fantastic actor that he is, Anders just incorporated the cat into his talk.”
Hines hopes Ghost Walk tour takers like Rhoton and her friends will join in the event’s festive atmosphere this year.
“We have had people participate on the walk dressed up in crazy costumes for Halloween and we’ve had our share of participants who have imbibed just a little too much, as well,” she said. “It all makes for a fun time.”