Historical Society’s Ghost Walk highlights women through Glenwood History | PostIndependent.com

Historical Society’s Ghost Walk highlights women through Glenwood History

Live tours return Friday-Saturday and again Oct. 29-30 at Linwood Cemetery

If you go…

What: Ghost Walk 2021

Who and why: Glenwood Springs Historical Society fundraiser

Where: Linwood Cemetery, 12th and Bennett

When: Friday-Saturday, Oct. 22-23 and Oct. 29-30; tours at 6:30, 7:15, 8 and 8:30 p.m. (early tour recommended for families with young children)

Tickets: Purchase online [glenwoodhistory.com/ghostwalk2021]

Amelia Williams was a “bit of a maverick for her time,” notes Glenwood Springs Historical Society board member Clara Miller.

Born in England and later coming to the United States and settling in the Midwest, Williams eventually made her way to Glenwood Springs where she ran one of the town’s many boarding houses during the early part of the 20th century.

Hayley Keller who will be portraying Elmira Kier during the second weekend of the Frontier Society's annual Ghost Walk stands near a grave marker in Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“She never married, and was kind of sassy … a bit different from other women of the time,” Miller said. “But her friends were always there for her.”

Then there was Elmira Kier, a lady of the night who was known around town as the “9 of Diamonds.”

“She was from the lower class and, to put it nicely, not as wealthy (as the aforementioned Ms. Williams),” Miller said. “But she made her way the best she could.”

Those are just two of the women from the pages of Glenwood Springs history who participants in the Historical Society’s Ghost Walk 2021 will get to know.

Two volunteers get prepped and ready for a night at Linwood Cemetery for the 19th annual Ghost Walk in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

This year’s two-weekend run of tours up the rocky trail from Bennett Avenue to Linwood Cemetery — Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22, 23, 29 and 30 — returns to its live, or shall we say, after-life setting, after going virtual for the pandemic last year.

Four tours take place each night, at 6:30, 7:15, 8 and 8:30 p.m. The early tour is recommended for families with young children.

Due to the fact that more women volunteers stepped up this year to portray the characters at different stations along the trail, organizers decided to go with the “women-of-history” theme, Miller said.

“We’re always beholden to our volunteers and whoever is able to play the different characters, and since we had a lot more women this year than men, it just kind of happened naturally,” she said.

As history was written, though, a lot less was known about the women who helped shape Glenwood Springs in those early years, unless they were relatively wealthy.

An image taken from filming of last year's virtual ghost walk at Linwood Cemetery.
Chris Tribble

“So, we tried to find some stories that you don’t necessarily get to hear about, and people you might not have thought about,” Miller said.

Like Ella Stellar, who died at a young age. “It was quite the tragic story,” Miller said, careful not to reveal too much for those planning to join the tour.

Altogether, there are 10 different characters who will be portrayed during the walk, and it might not be the same ones each weekend. Multiple visits are encouraged.

A few male characters will make cameo appearances, including several of the men who worked the area coal mines; all portrayed by a single actor.

And, of course, Ed Hughes, one of the founders of Glenwood Springs who was credited for helping turn the somewhat rowdy, Wild West town into something a bit more civilized.

Ghosts reappear

After making a return in 2019 following a year’s hiatus due to a lack of volunteers, and then going virtual in 2020, the Glenwood Ghost Walk is now entering its 21st year.

The live-streamed event last October butted up against the 2020 presidential debates, so the live audience wasn’t what had been hoped for, Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight said.

“But we recorded it and put it on our website with Spanish translation through a grant,” Kight said. “So, people can still go online and view last year’s virtual tour for free.”

Kight said he’s excited for this year’s theme, and the surprise format where people can take the tour twice and get to know a few different characters each time.

An image taken from filming of last year's virtual ghost walk at Linwood Cemetery.
Chris Tribble

Not being portrayed this year, or for the past few events, is the infamous Doc Holliday, after the actor who played the notorious gunslinger retired and moved away, Kight said.

So, if anyone out there thinks they might be up to the task in future years, there may very well be an opening.

To portray any character, part of the task is researching that person and becoming familiar enough with them to talk off the top of your head as if you are that person, he explained.

That’s not an easy thing to do, “but it comes across really well because our volunteers really get into the character and make it real, like you’re listening to them tell their story,” Kight said.

For the most part, the tour has always focused on people who are actually buried at Linwood Cemetery, which contains the grave of Doc himself.

The Ghost Walk serves as the largest single fundraiser for the Historical Society, usually generating about $8,000 to $10,000. Another fall fundraiser will be a gingerbread house contest at the Hotel Colorado, during the post-Thanksgiving holiday lighting celebration Nov. 26.

This year, money raised at the events will go to support some major historic preservation projects that are in the works, Kight said.

Glenwood Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight and other volunteers work to fill and light lanterns before the start of the Friday night Ghost Walk at Linwood Cemetery in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

One of those projects aims to refurbish the Cardiff Coke Ovens near the Glenwood Springs Airport that had been vandalized.

“We haven’t been able to really stabilize them and we’re hoping for a grant so that we can reconstruct a couple of coke ovens and protect them better,” Kight said.

In conjunction with the city’s South Bridge project, the Historical Society also hopes to build a pullout and parking area at the coke ovens for people to visit and learn about their history.

Ghosts of Glenwood

Glenwood Springs’ ghost stories are pretty well known, especially those associated with the Hotel Colorado. Those stories are chronicled in some of Colorado’s ghost story books, including “Ghost Hunting in Colorado” by Clarissa Vazquez and “Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” by Perry Eberhart.

“Apparition Manor — True Ghost Stories of the Hotel Colorado” by Kathy Rippy Fleming is all about those local ghost stories.

“There are some really good ghost stories right here,” Kight said of the 1905 Victorian-style house at Colorado Avenue and 10th Street that houses the Frontier History Museum.

“This house reportedly has the presence of ghosts, and we had a group come in that has some special meter that they use, and they did get a reading up in the bedroom, where an image appeared,” Kight said. “Some people I know in town said they had experienced ghosts here when they were children coming here to visit … and smelling and seeing one of the characters smoking a cigar. They’ve come back since and said they smelled a cigar in the dining room.”

The Historical Society also gave ghost tours at the Hotel Colorado prior to the pandemic, and hopes to resume those again some day, Kight said.

“It always seems to be around this time of year that they have things happen at the hotel, like electronic stuff not working or the chandelier in the big dining room being broken,” he said. “We just lay it on the ghost … you just accept that we live with ghosts, and keep moving on.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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