Durango- 1920   (photo from: www.photoswest.org)

Located in the mountainous region of Southwest Colorado, Durango is situated at an elevation of 6500ft.

Durango means "water town", and was so named because of the beautiful Animas River which flows through the city.
Durango, unlike many other towns in the western US, was not founded as a result of pioneers looking for gold. In fact, much like today, the town was based around the railroad.

The city was incorporated in 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to serve the San Juan mining district.

Many of the original buildings constructed by Durango's pioneers are still in use today. They can be seen in the historic districts of Third Avenue and Main Avenue. Rio Grande Land, located at the far southern end of Main, contains the restored depot built
in 1881. The Strater Hotel, built in 1887, and a reflection of the town's prosperity, remains a central attraction in downtown Durango.



                                                                             Haunted Durango ~ Taking a trip on the darker side of town

Durango Telegraph article
October 29, 2009
by Brandon Mathis

 Mike Richard is a photographer. He has lived in Durango most of his life and likes sharing his work. However, his photos reveal something that most others don’t. Paging through his portfolio, one notices something different. Quite different. There’s the
séance photo of someone’s head coming out of the kitchen sink. Another startling image of a man in a cowboy hat sitting in a graveyard. There are photos of beams of light that “just weren’t there” and silhouettes of people in windows of old, abandoned
county jails. He has photos of inexplicable things from all over the country – photos of flying saucers over Colorado, ghosts in California and gnomes in New Mexico.

You see, Richard doesn’t photograph pretty mountain lakes and fields of summer flowers. He photographs the paranormal.

With countless images of spirits, aliens, energy force fields and more, he is a world leading paranormal photographer. Those who know him call him “the ghost guy,” a fitting label he is comfortable with. “People just call me,” he said with a shrug. “I’m listed in
New Age and metaphysical magazines,” Richard said. “But all my work is based on science. It’s a scientific thing, not based on religion.”

Richard, pronounced Ri-Shard, holds an MA in photography and says his interest in photographing the “other side” began 17 years ago with a phone call from Hewlett Packard in California. “They said they had a problem and flew me down there,” he said. “I
checked it out and said I’d come back that night. Meanwhile, at a bookstore, a book fell off the shelf right in front of me called Photographing the Spirit World. The owner said she had never seen the book before and we found out it had been out of print for
10 years. I thought, ‘OK, I can take a hint.’ I got the photos and I’ve been doing it ever since."

Since that first phone call, he has photographed everything from UFOs to extreme alternative healers. He uses a special infrared film and a 35mm camera to achieve his results. No tricky digital technology, no complicated computer software. He says he just
has a talent for it, a gift.

Perhaps an experience as a child affected him to some degree. “I drowned when I was 7,” Richard explained. “There was this big hole in the ocean, andI just slipped down it but was pushed up by this white light. The energy involved was incredible. I think it
was alive – that’s the only way I can describe it."

Photographing the spirit world is no easy task, and Richard says he never knows what to expect. “Sometimes you see things through the lens and other times you end up waiting. I’ll sit in total darkness and wait, even if it takes eight hours,” he said. “It’s a gut
feeling, an intuition. I feel it, even if I can’t see it. Like these ruins in Sedona, I just knew something was there.”

Richard boasts the only published photographs of an Ancestral Puebloan spirit, taken at the cliff dwelling just outside Sedona.

While many of his photographs evoke amazement and wonder, not all were positive experiences. “I’ve been terrified a couple of times. Seeing a dead guy chasing his wife with a knife, and I’m out there chasing him. It was terrifying,” said Richard, of a
haunting in Placerville, Calif., where he was called by the local sheriff to help eradicate the situation.

Fascinating or frightening, all of Richard’s photographs are distinctive. “I get more photos than anyone in the world. Nobody can do what I do,” he said.

Richard is planning his next project: working with archeologists at Mesa Verde to piece together ruins based on heat captured on infrared film. However, there are plenty of odd things happening around Durango, many right downtown.
Trick of the mind or paranormal activity? One Durango photographer says there's more than meets the eye when it comes to many old photos.

Fred Wildfang, local historian and co-owner of the Rochester Hotel, admits that unexplainable things occur in two of the rooms on the second floor of the hotel, and that guests and employees alike have been reporting strange experiences for years. “We
have indications that the hotel is haunted,” Wildfang said. “It has been on national TV and the hotel is now on the register of the ‘100 Most Haunted Hotels in America.’” Reports of a woman in a long Victorian wedding dress or nightgown in and around Room
204, the famous John Wayne Room, have put the hotel on the map for ghost hunters and paranormal aficionados. Wildfang, who co-owns the hotel with his wife and her son, says people are very interested in the hotel’s unregistered guests. “We get calls
every Halloween to rent out the room,” Wildfang said. “People come from all over the country

alike have been reporting strange experiences for years. “We have indications that the hotel is haunted,” Wildfang said. “It has been on national TV and the hotel is now on the register of the ‘100 Most Haunted Hotels in America.’” Reports of a woman in a
long Victorian wedding dress or nightgown in and around Room 204, the famous John Wayne Room, have put the hotel on the map for ghost hunters and paranormal aficionados. Wildfang, who co-owns the hotel with his wife and her son, says people are
very interested in the hotel’s unregistered guests. “We get calls every Halloween to rent out the room,” Wildfang said. “People come from all over the country.”

Other incidents include doors mysteriously locking from the inside, amenities getting rearranged and in one case, actor/jazz musician Bill Henderson changed his room after the Duke himself, John Wayne, allegedly began speaking to him directly from the
television set.

Although the Rochester is now decked out in Western film décor, with movie posters, antiques and more lining the hallways, it wasn’t always so inviting. “The hotel has been open since the 1890s, and there were a lot of incidents during prohibition and so
forth,” said Wildfang. “I did extensive interviews with the police and the fire department when we bought it in 1992, and there were a lot of stories of things that took place. Second Avenue wasn’t a street you would walk down at night. It was a rough end of

But the Rochester isn’t the only hotel with skeletons in the closet. The General Palmer Hotel has a few of its own. Paula Nelson has been with the General Palmer for 16 years and though it has been a while, she has seen a few abnormal, disconcerting
things. “We had a couple check out at 2 a.m. in the morning,” she said with grin. “They said they were awakened in the night and saw a woman hanging in the middle of the room.”

Another story she shared was first hand, and although it was from years earlier, her nervous smile let on that she still got the willies from telling it. “I was upstairs cleaning a room,” Nelson said, who worked her way up from house cleaning to general
manager. “There were no guests, it was winter and pretty quiet, and I heard my name called. It was so clear that I walked out into the hall, but no one answered back. It was really clear,” she said. “There was no mistaking it.”

Inferno Snowboards, a hip snowboard/skateboard and apparel shop in the old Jarvis Suites building, also has some unwanted clients hanging around. The former hotel has long been thought to have a young boy on a tricycle pedaling around the third floor,
his laughter echoing the hallways. A ghostly sailor has also been seen leaving the former hotel at night and walking the back steps to the street. Sam Krouse, a three-year employee of the shop, said she has witnessed something a little more disquieting.
“We were just working, talking, and all of a sudden, the door knob to a closet just started shaking,” she said. The closet, which is barely big enough for a few people, is located in the front of the shop, behind the retail counter. “Then the door flew open,”
Krouse said. “It didn’t just creep open, but flew open.”

Krouse also shared stories of unseen children’s laughter that left her and another employee rushing out of the building.

“Maybe that’s the sailor,” said Richard about the closet in the old Jarvis Suites. “Some people just don’t want to know.” He admits that people are often not interested in the paranormal. “People aren’t comfortable with it. It’s a different reality and they can’t
accept it,” he said. “Some people open up to it really well, and it just shuts others down.”

Richard is content knowing that there are people who don’t support his work. He feels comfortable talking about these bizarre and eerie events, unlike others who warily share their secrets, eyes darting side to side. Richard certainly remains confident in his
photographs. “I’ve been to court two times in New Hampshire over haunted houses, where the judges saw beyond a reasonable doubt and said, ‘OK, this house is haunted,’” Richard said.

So the next time you are walking home late at night, closing up shop in that century-old building or hearing things go bump in the night, take a second to stop, look and listen. While you’re at it, take a closer look at those old photographs.

“I’d say one in a hundred photos have something in them,” said Richard. “It’s amazing what’s out there. You just have to open your eyes.” •


                                                                                       Spook Central

October 26, 2003
Durango Herald article

By Jennifer Kostka
Herald Staff Writer

Railroad employees tending coaches overnight in the old train yard in Durango would swear they heard children running, screaming and making trouble in the cars. But when the employees reached the coaches, no one was there.

About twice a year, guests in Room 204 of a local hotel report seeing a woman with dark hair wearing Victorian clothing – or very little clothing at all.

And an East Third Avenue resident saw the translucent shape of a girl, who she later learned was named Tilde, near her guest bedroom.

Durango, a city that began booming with miners, railroad workers and their families in the 1880s, is bound to have a few spooky ghost stories hiding in its abandoned buildings and Old Western streets. With nights growing colder and darker, and jack-o’-
lanterns grimacing from front porches, Halloween is the best time of year to conjure up the spirits and their ghostly tales.

                                                                                                       Train tales

The 122-year-old Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad seems like the perfect place for ghosts to hide and frighten innocent tourists.

At least one railroad employee said he knows plenty of tales to raise your neck hairs. John Coker, a Durango-area resident for 30 years and a fireman for the railroad, said workers have reported seeing a man in overalls floating around the railroad’s
roundhouse in Durango. The man floats, because he has no legs after losing them in an accident on the tracks.

Workers have also the voices of running children in the yard after dark, where troublemakers damaged coaches and broke windows when the railroad was used to transport materials to the mines in Silverton, Coker said. Workers always ran to catch the
children, but they never found them.

Coker also recalled hearing about a strange incident near Carbon Junction, across the Animas River from Bodo Park, where the railroad split to go to either Farmington or Chama. Coker said a train heading to Chama had stopped to switch cars at the
junction one night.

"They were starting to move out of there and starting to climb towards Chama," Coker said, when "they saw a lamp coming out of the bushes."

The air in the train’s brake system let out, bringing the cars to an emergency stop. The lantern, which did not appear to be carried by anyone, came out of the bushes on the side of the tracks. As railroad workers watched with wide eyes, the lantern floated
onto the train, climbed up on top of the cars and jumped back down on the tracks.

Shortly after the lantern disappeared into the night, the air returned to the brakes, and the train started chugging toward Chama, Coker said.

                                                                                                            Downtown demons

Downtown Durango is full of its own creepy tales. The Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave., was a low-class apartment building for most of its existence. When its owners began renovating the hotel in 1994, contractors and workers refused to come back
to finish their jobs.

"They just ended up quitting," said Kirk Komick, co-owner of the Rochester Hotel and The Leland House. "They didn’t feel comfortable there."

Since the renovations were completed, Komick said he receives reports about twice a year about a ghost in the hotel’s "John Wayne Room," Room 204. Guests always see a woman standing in the bedroom, either wearing elaborate Victorian dress or classy

Carole and John Withers had their own strange experiences at their house on East Third Avenue, where some of the city’s oldest homes are. The Withers’ house, 1073 East Third Ave., was built in the early 1880s. Through research and by talking to past
residents, Dr. and Mrs. Withers have discovered that the house was once used as a funeral parlor.

Shortly after the Withers moved into the house in 1995, Mrs. Withers said she was walking into a guest room when she saw a "vague, wispy shape" at the top of the front staircase.

Two days later, Mrs. Withers was in the same spot when she saw the shape again. In a short account about the experience, Mrs. Withers wrote, "I saw this diaphanous vision and then felt something expanding inside of me. ... It was over almost as soon as it
began. I knew whatever it was was female and not aggressive towards me."

She never saw the ghost again. About six months later, Mrs. Withers’ friend brought a shaman to "cleanse and bless" the house. When the shaman went into the guest room, she said a little girl named Tilde was in the room. The shaman said Tilde was an
abused child, and was happy to have a loving mother – Mrs. Withers – in her house. The shaman asked the girl to leave, and the Withers have not encountered any ghosts in the house again.

The Withers have learned that other people saw spirits in the house. A woman who grew up in the house in the first half of the 1900s once told Mrs. Withers that she repeatedly heard a girl crying on the staircase. Carpenters who renovated the house and
several college students who lived there before the Withers also reported seeing strange shapes near the front stairs.

                                                                                                                 School spirits

Maybe Tilde moved down the street to the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building, 201 E. 12th Street. The building served as the city’s high school from 1888 to the late-1970s.

"It feels like there are ghosts in here," said Deborah Uroda, spokeswoman for the school district. While working in the building, Uroda said she can almost hear children’s voices as they run up and down the halls.

Perhaps those children are still playing pranks in their old classrooms. Frank Montoya, custodian at the administration building, said he would hear doors closing when he worked in the building at night. He would go to the doors and see nobody.

Despite the startling incidents, Montoya isn’t convinced the building is haunted. "There’s all kinds of creepy noises around here, but there’s always an answer for it," Montoya said.

Other people around Durango say they doubt the presence of ghosts here. Jim Bray, general manager at the Strater Hotel, said no ghosts wander the halls of the 126-year-old business, discrediting reports that some people have run into the ghost of Henry
Strater, the hotel’s founder.

Even though Coker has some creepy railroad tales, some employees say they have not seen or heard anything spooky in the train yard. Kristi Nelson Cohen, spokeswoman for the railroad, said she hasn’t seen anything strange, other than a recent
sasquatch sighting and some weird happenings "after a few libations" in the parlor car.

Maybe, the people who doubt local legends about ghosts are too scared to admit their presence in Durango. Happy Halloween.

Reach Staff Writer Jennifer Kostka at jennifer@durangoherald.com


** With nights growing colder and the days getting shorter, Halloween is a good time to share ghost stories – especially if one is caught in Greenmount Cemetery after dark.

** The Rochester House claims to have a woman ghost who appears every so often. Sightings are reported in the hotel’s John Wayne room.

** Kristy Rodri, Dr. Mary Barter’s assistant in the 9-R administration building, looks where students have written their names backstage in the auditorium over the years. Some people have reported hearing children’s voices and other things in the building
that they believe are ghosts.

The Strater Hotel

                                                                                                               699 Main Ave., Durango       (970) 247-4431 - or -   (800) 247-4431     




                                                                                                                                                       Photo taken by hauntedcolorado.net in 2005

The 112-year-old Strater Hotel in Durango may be haunted by ghosts.

Guests and employees have reported encounters with the ghosts of a little girl, a man in period costume and a bar girl.

The hotel was built in the late 1880s by Henry Strater, and the founder's presence still is felt, says Rod Barker, a member of the family which has owned the hotel since 1926.

"We're 112 years old - I guess we're entitled to a few ghost stories," he says.

"My sister claims she has seen two ghosts - one a little girl who tends to run around, and the other in the theater. She was walking through the theater one night when she noticed a man in period costume up on the stage. She turned around to see who it
was, and he was gone.
She's convinced it was Henry Strater."

Once, Barker was working the night desk when a couple came down the staircase in a hurry, barely dressed and hurriedly packed.

"The woman was wide-eyed, and the man was rolling his eyes. She swore she saw a bar girl from the Diamond Belle (the hotel bar) wandering around the room. He would have been happy with another room, but she was intent on leaving."

Hotel housekeepers have reported feeling ghosts repeatedly - mostly on the upper floors of the hotel. They claim being touched on the shoulder when they're in a room alone.
And each room has a diary, to which guests are asked to contribute. They're full of spirited tales, Barker says.

Source: The Gazette; Date:1999 Oct 24; Section:TRAVEL; Page Number 4,
Linda Duval

                                                                                                                     All above photos copyright of HauntedColorado.net



My wife and I were just talking about ghosts of Colorado and I searched out your site.

We were on our honeymoon in 1999 and stayed at the Strater Hotel in  Durango. We were taking some pictures of the room etc for our honeymoon album. I took some of my wife on the bed and she did the same of me. When we developed the film we found
this image behind me. I had just taken some from the same position of my wife, same lighting  etc but with nothing behind her. I thought you may find it interesting. If you zoom in you get better details.

Cheers, Bill and Marina

                                                                                                                                                 Above photo taken and submitted by: Bill and Marina


                                                                                                    The Rochester Hotel

                                                                                                                    726 E. Second Avenue,  Durango, Colorado  81301       (970) 385-1920      800-664-1920  


The Rochester Hotel was a low-class apartment building for most of its existence. When its owners began renovating the hotel in 1994, contractors and workers refused to come back to finish their jobs.

"They just ended up quitting," said Kirk Komick, co-owner of the Rochester Hotel and The Leland House. "They didn’t feel comfortable there."   

Since the renovations were completed, Komick said he receives reports about twice a year about a ghost in the hotel’s "John Wayne Room," Room 204. Guests always see a woman standing in the bedroom, either wearing
elaborate Victorian dress or classy lingerie.

The newly restored Rochester Hotel at 726 East Second Avenue is one of Durango's oldest hotel establishments, built in 1892 and continuously operated as a hotel for more than 100 years.
The parcel of land upon which the Rochester Hotel now stands was first owned by ex-territorial governor and founder of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, Alexander C. Hunt. Durango was created by the railroad in 1880 when the town was first platted.

The second owner of the property was James Luttrell, Durango's first land agent. Luttrell was known as the head of a committee of Durango citizens that drove the infamous Ike Stockton gang out of town after a midday shoot-out in 1883.

Foundations were laid for the Rochester Hotel in 1890. In 1891, construction of the building was taken over by E.T. Peeples, a local accountant and one-time Durango County Commissioner. In 1892, J.E. Schutt (president of the Schutt Mercantile Company)
and W.C. Chapman (director of the Colorado State Bank, vice president of the Durango Iron Works and a dealer in hardware) bought the property and completed construction of the building which became known as the "Peeples Hotel."

The two-story brick building - originally thought to be built with about 30 rooms - was approximately 40 feet by 90 feet, with 8,000 square feet total. Flat-roofed and rectangular in shape, with a balcony in the front, the building featured radiating brick lintels
on all windows and doors, rough cut-stone sills on the windows and a classic portico at the main entrance.

SOURCES: The Rochester Hotel website, and The Durango Herald, October 26, 2003, "Spook Central."

This beautifully renovated hotel offers fifteen spacious rooms with high ceilings, king or queen beds, and private baths, and is decorated in an Old West motif. This hotel, located in downtown Durango, was designated as "The Flagship Hotel of Colorado" by
Conde' Nast Traveler. They are very pet-friendly and offer two pet rooms, with a $20 per day pet charge.

                                                                              Ghost stories: Capturing Spirits

Durango Herald article
October 26, 2003

By Jennifer Kostka
Herald Staff Writer

Mike Richard, of Durango, opened the door to a local hotel room and walked in slowly. His entourage of three curious observers cautiously followed him.

Richard turned to his wife, Susan. "Do you feel that?" he asked. She quickly nodded with her eyes open wide.

"This is creepy," he said. "This is almost nasty." Then, the couple lifted up their cameras and began shooting photographs in the empty room. Though the other observers in the room felt little more than unease, Richard felt the presence of his next
photography subject – a ghost.

For 18 years, Richard, the Durango Arts Center theater manager, has traveled the country taking photos of so-called spirits using infrared and high-speed film.

On Thursday, Richard took his camera to a historic downtown Durango hotel. The hotel’s owners requested anonymity, because they don’t want customers to be influenced by beliefs that ghosts exist there.

Guests at the hotel reported strange occurrences in three rooms. Some claim to have seen a man in a 1950s sailor suit, Richard said. Some hotel employees say they have seen a boy dressed in 1960s-clothing riding a tricycle through the hallways on the
hotel’s security cameras. On Thursday, Richard photographed two of the hotel rooms and the basement.

Richard, who has lived in Durango for most of his life, is a longtime photographer, but spirit photography literally jumped out at him one day.

"It just started out as a joke," he said. Richard agreed to try to photograph a ghost for security guards at his brother’s workplace in California. He walked into a bookstore to research the topic, when a book titled Photographing the Spirit World fell off a shelf
in front of him. The store’s owner said she had never seen the book before and later found out that it had been out of print for 10 years.

If you go ...

Mike Richard will hold a slide show of his photos at 8 p.m. Friday at in the Durango Arts Center Theater, 802 East Second Ave. For more information, call 259-2606.

Since then, he has traveled to many places around the United States,including historic Durango buildings and Mesa Verde National Park, to catch the spirits on film.

Richard hasn’t found riches in photographing ghosts.

He was paid twice for his services. A man once paid him to take pictures of the man’s house after the man discovered it was possessed by a violent poltergeist. The man sued the real-estate agent who sold him the house and won, Richard said. Another
man, in Colorado Springs, paid Richard to photograph a female ghost whom the man alleged was sexually assaulting him at night.

Richard takes the photos using a Pentax fully manual camera and infrared film. As he takes the photos, Mrs. Richard follows him around with a point-and-shoot camera and a clipboard. She takes the same photos Richard does so they can compare them
later. She also records information about people and heat sources in the room, so they don’t mistake the light from legitimate heat sources as spirits.

"We’re trying to get real images," Richard said. Sometimes, the photos just show bursts of light, but sometimes they show actual silhouettes of what he claims are ghosts. He also sends the film to an infrared developer in Colorado Springs to eliminate any
beliefs that he doctors his photos.

On Halloween night, Richard will present a slide show of his photos. Within the next year, he also plans to release a book titled S.P.I.R.I.T.: Sacred Path Involving Rebirth and Intensive Teachings.

Everyone, he says, can be a spirit photographer. Richard said people should examine their own photos for strange shapes and silhouettes instead of throwing them out as mistakes or bad film.

"You just have to be careful what you throw away," he said. "You don’t know what you might have."

Reach Staff Writer Jennifer Kostka at jennifer@durangoherald.com



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