Cheesman Park, Denver Colorado
While taking a stroll upon the rolling hills or having a picnic under the shade of one of the many trees in the beautiful 80 acre Cheesman Park, many visitors don’t realize that they very well may be walking or sitting right upon the grave of one of the many who were buried here in the 19th century. Surrounded by Capitol Hill mansions in the heart of downtown Denver, Colorado Cheesman Park is not only frequented by visitors wanting to explore its botanical gardens or enjoy its 150 mile panoramic view from the pavilion, but is also said to be home to a number of restless spirits.
The park’s history began in 1858 when General William Larimer jumped the claim of the St. Charles Town Company and established his own town, which he called Denver.
In actuality, the property didn’t belong to the Town Company either; rather the land legally belonged to the Arapaho Indians. In November, 1858, Larimer set aside 320 acres for a cemetery, which is now the site of present-day Cheesman and Congress Parks. Larimer called it Mount Prospect Cemetery and several large plots were designated on the crest of the hill for the exclusive use of the city’s wealthy and most influential citizens. The outermost edge of the cemetery was reserved for criminals and paupers, while the middle class were to be interred somewhere in between.
The first man buried in the cemetery was named Abraham Kay, who died after being suddenly stricken with a lung infection. He was buried on March 20, 1859. However, the most often story told of the first person buried was a man hanged for murder. Making for a far more interesting tale, it has become the more preferred version.
The second man buried at the cemetery was a Hungarian immigrant named John Stoefel. Having arrived in Denver to allegedly settle a dispute with his brother-in-law, he ended up shooting the man on April 7, 1859. Both men were gold prospectors, and witnesses believed that Stoefel was really there because he wanted his brother-in-law’s gold dust. Because the nearest official court was in Leavenworth, Kansas, a “people’s court” was assembled, where Stoefel was convicted of murder. On April 9, 1859 he was hanged from a cottonwood tree at the intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek Streets. Though Denver consisted of only 150 buildings at the time, about 1,000 spectators attended the Stoefel hanging. Afterwards his body, along with his brother’s were dumped into the same grave at the edge of the cemetery.
As the outermost edge of the cemetery began to fill with outlaws, vagrants, and paupers, Denver citizens began to call the cemetery the “Old Boneyard” and “Boot Hill.” Mt. Prospect gained yet another nickname when a popular professional gambler named Jack O’Neill was gunned down outside of a saloon in March, 1860. The whole event began when O’Neil, a handsome Irish man, quarreled with a less than credible man who went by the name of “Rooker.” As the argument progressed, O’Neill suggested the two settle the argument with bowie knives in a back room. However, when Rooker refused, O’Neill questioned his heritage as well as that of several of his family members. A couple of days later, Rooker shot O’Neil down as he passed by the door of the Western Saloon. When the Rocky Mountain News printed the story, the cemetery also became known as “Jack O’Neil’s Ranch.”
After receiving these many nicknames, the cemetery never gained the respect that Larimer intended for it to have. The influential citizens of Denver’s society were most often buried elsewhere, leaving the graveyard to burials of the poor, criminal, and diseased.
When Larimer eventually left Denver, Mt. Prospect was claimed by a cabinet-maker named John Walley, who also just happened to be an aspiring undertaker. A report in 1866 stated that 626 persons were buried in the cemetery. Walley did an extremely bad job of keeping up the cemetery which soon fell into a terrible state of disrepair as headstones were toppled, graves were vandalized and sometimes, even cattle were allowed to graze upon the land. Some legends even tell of homesteaders who began to live upon the land.
In 1872, the U.S. Government determined that the property upon which the cemetery sat was federal land, having been deeded to the government in an 1860 by a treaty with the Arapaho Indians. The government then offered the land to the City of Denver who purchased it for $200. A year later, the cemetery’s name was changed to the Denver City Cemetery.
Over time, separate areas of the cemetery were designated for various religious, organizational, and ethic groups, such as the Odd Fellows, Society of Masons, Roman Catholics, Jewish, the Grand Army of the Republic, and a far away segregated section for the Chinese, near the pauper’s graves. While some of this sections were well kept up by family descendants or their organizations, others were terribly neglected.
In 1875, twenty acres at the north part of the cemetery were sold to the Hebrew Burial Society, who then maintained it, while much of the rest of the graveyard grew tall with weeds.
In 1881, a “hospital” for those suffering from small pox was established just south of the Jewish Cemetery. The hospital, more often referred to as a “pest house,” was where small pox victims were quarantined, along with others having contagious diseases, and some that were merely sick, elderly, or handicapped. Most “patients” were simply left at the pest house to die. Behind the building was the Potter’s field section of the graveyard, where the vast majority of the dead were buried in mass graves.
By the late 1880’s, the cemetery was seldom used and had fallen into even worse disrepair, becoming a terrible eyesore in what had become one of the most prestigious parts of the burgeoning city. Real estate developers soon began to lobby for a park rather than an unused cemetery. Before long, Colorado Senator Teller persuaded the U.S. Congress to allow the old graveyard to be converted to a park. On January 25, 1890, Congress authorized the city to vacate Mt. Prospect and in recognition, Teller immediately renamed the area Congress Park.
Families were then given 90 days to remove the remains of their departed to other locations. Those who could afford to began to transfer the bodies to other cemeteries throughout the city. Due to the large number of graves in the Roman Catholic section, Mayor Bates sold the 40 acre area to the archdiocese, which was named the Mount Cavalry Cemetery. The Chinese section of the graveyard was placed in the hands of a large population of Chinese who lived in the “Hop Alley” section of Denver. The majority of these bodies were then removed and shipped to their homeland of China.
However, most those buried in the cemetery were vagrants, criminals, and paupers. When the majority of bodies remained unclaimed, the City of Denver awarded a contract to undertaker E.P. McGovern to remove the remains in 1893. McGovern was to provide a “fresh” box for each body and transfer it to the Riverside Cemetery at a cost of $1.90 each. The gruesome work began on March 14, 1893, before an audience of curiosity-seekers and reporters. For the first few days, the transfer was orderly. However, the unscrupulous McGovern soon found a way to make an even larger profit on the contract. Rather than utilizing full-size coffins for adults, he used child-sized caskets that were just one foot by 3 ½ feet long. Hacking the bodies up, McGovern sometimes used as many as three caskets for just one body. In their haste, body parts and bones were literally strewn everywhere and in the disorganized mess, “souvenir” hunters began to loot the open graves and coffins.
When the Denver Republican got hold of the story, its headline proclaimed on March 19, 1893: “The Work of Ghouls!” The article described, in detail, McGovern’s practice of hacking up what were sometimes intact remains of the dead and stuffing them into undersized boxes. The article, in part, described the scene thusly:
"The line of desecrated graves at the southern boundary of the cemetery sickened and horrified everybody by the appearance they presented. Around their edges were piled broken coffins, rent and tattered shrouds and fragments of clothing that had been torn from the dead bodies…All were trampled into the ground by the footsteps of the gravediggers like rejected junk."
The Health Commissioner immediately began an investigation into the matter and as a result, Mayor Rogers terminated the contract. Afterwards, the city built a temporary wooden fence around the cemetery, leaving it in shambles with open holes still displayed. Though numerous graves had not yet been reached and others sat exposed, a new contract for moving the bodies was never awarded.
In 1894, grading and leveling began in preparation for the park, though several of the open graves wouldn’t be filled in until 1902, when shrubs were planted in many of them. The park was finally completed in 1907, without ever having moved the rest of the bodies. Two years later, in 1909, Gladys Cheesman-Evans, and her mother, Mrs. Walter S. Cheesman, donated a marble pavilion in memory of Denver pioneer, Walter Cheesman. The donation was conditional that part of the park’s be designated as Cheesman Park and so it was. The pavilion continues to stand today.
In 1923, the bodies from the Hebrew Burial ground were removed to other sites and the cemetery returned to the city, where the site currently serves as the site of the reservoir in Congress Park.
The section once used as the Chinese cemetery was used as the city tree and shrub nursery until 1930 when a WPA project converted it to an addition for Congress Park.
In 1950, the Catholic Church moved the remains of those interred in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery and sold the land back to the city, which is now the location of Denver’s Botanical Gardens.
The vast majority of present day Cheesman Park was mostly the Protestant portion of the old cemetery. A residential community separates Cheesman from Congress Park.
Today, an estimated 2,000 bodies remain buried in Cheesman Park. It comes as no surprise that the spirits of these forgotten, looted, and sometimes desecrated bodies continue to make their presence known, not only at Cheesman Park, but in neighborhood that surrounds it.
Almost immediately, when the bodies began to be removed from the cemetery in 1893, strange things began to happen. One of the first reports was when a grave digger named Jim Astor felt a ghost land upon his shoulders. Astor, who had been looting the graves as he moved the bodies, immediately ran from the graveyard and failed to return to work the next day.
Those living in residences surrounding the graveyard began to report sad and confused looking spirits knocking at their doors and windows, as well as the sounds of moans coming from the still yet open graves.
Today, these restless spirits are still said to occupy the park as dozens of tales continue to be told of paranormal activities taking place. Most visitors tell of feelings of unexplainable sadness or dread in a place, that is today, meant for pleasure and relaxation. But other reports are more specific, often including the sounds of hundreds of whispering voices and moans that continue to come from the fields where the open graves once laid.
Children have been seen playing in the park during the night before they mysteriously disappear and a woman is said to be seen singing to herself, before she too, suddenly vanishes.
On some moonlit nights, the outlines of the old graves can still allegedly be seen. Others have also claimed that after lying on the grass, they have found it difficult to get up, as if unseen forces are restraining them.
Yet more reports tell of strange shadows and misty figures that seem to wander through through the park in confusion.
Cheesman Park is located at Franklin and 8th Streets and is open from dawn until 11:00 p.m.
The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel
Anneliese Michel (21 September 1952 – 1 July 1976) was a German Catholic woman who underwent an exorcism and died in the same year because of stopping medical and psychiatric intervention; the investigation and court case which followed attracted public attention, and the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose is loosely based on her. When Michel was sixteen, she had her first epileptic attack and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. She was soon in depression and was treated at a psychiatric hospital. By 1973, she became intolerant of various religious objects and began to hear voices. Her condition worsened, despite taking various medications, and she became suicidal. Her family was soon convinced she was possessed and appealed to a Catholic priest for an exorcism, which was rejected at first. In 1975, after much hesitation, two priests got permission from the local bishop and performed exorcism rites on her secretively. She died on 1 July, an investigation revealed that she was malnourished and dehydrated; her parents and the priests responsible were charged with negligence. It was stated that her death was due to the strain of the rites and the investigation concluded that she could have been saved if medical help was given to her even a day before. This case attracted media and public attention since the Catholic church allowed such an old rite to be performed. After a guilty verdict, the defendants were sentenced to six months in jail but given three years of probation and a fine. The case has been labelled as a misidentification of a mental illness, negligence, abuse and religious hysteria.
Michel was born on 21 September 1952 in Leiblfing, Bavaria, West Germany to a Catholic family. She was brought up along with three sisters by her parents, Josef and Anna. She was deeply religious and went for mass twice a week. When she was sixteen, she suffered a severe convulsion and was diagnosed having temporal lobe epilepsy. In 1973, Michel graduated and joined the University of Wurzburg. Her classmates later described her as “withdrawn and very religious”.
In June 1970, Michel suffered a third seizure at the psychiatric hospital where she had been staying. She was prescribed anti-convulsion drugs for the first time, including Dilantin, which did not bring about immediate alleviation. She began talking about seeing “devil faces” at various times of the day. That same month, she was prescribed another drug, Aolept, which is similar to chlorpromazine and is used in the treatment of various psychoses including schizophrenia and disturbed behavior. In depression by 1973, she began hallucinating while praying, and complained about hearing voices telling her that she was “damned” and would “rot in hell”. Michel’s treatment in a psychiatric hospital did not improve her health and her depression worsened. Long term treatment too, did not help and she grew increasingly frustrated with the medical intervention. Being a devout Catholic, she began to attribute it to demonic possession. Michel became intolerant of sacred places and objects, such as the crucifix.
Michel went to San Damiano with a family friend who regularly organised such pilgrimages to “holy places”—not officially recognized by the church. Her escort concluded that she was suffering from demonic possession because she was unable to walk past a crucifix and refused to drink the water of a holy spring. Both she and her family became convinced and consulted several priests, asking for an exorcism. The priests declined, recommended the continuation of medical treatment, and informed the family that exorcisms required the bishop’s permission. In the Catholic church, official approval for an exorcism is given when the person strictly meets the set criteria, then they are considered to be suffering from possession (infestatio) and under demonic control. Intense dislike for religious objects and “supernatural powers” are some of the first indications. Michel worsened physically and displayed aggression, self-injury, drank her own urine and ate insects. In November 1973, Michel started her treatment with Tegretol, an anti-seizure drug and mood stabilizer. She was prescribed anti-psychotic drugs during the course of the religious rites and took this frequently until shortly before her death.
The priest Ernst Alt, whom they met, on seeing her became convinced that Anneliese was suffering from both a neurological sickness (epilepsy) and from symptoms that were not connected with the epilepsy. These symptoms were the ability to speak fluently foreign languages (including Aramaic), the ability to foresee hidden and future events (she had predicted the date of her own death), the ability to emit two distinct voices simultaneously. Alt attributed these symptoms to demonic possession. Alt believed she was suffering from demonic possession and urged the local bishop to allow an exorcism. In a letter to him in 1975, Michel wrote, “I am nothing, everything about me is vanity, what should I do, I have to improve, you pray for me” and also once told him, “I want to suffer for other people…but this is so cruel”. In September of the same year, Bishop Josef Stangl granted the priest Arnold Renz permission to exorcise according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614, but ordered total secrecy. Renz performed the first session on 24 September. Her parents stopped seeking medical treatment and relied solely on the exorcism rites. 67 exorcism sessions, one or two each week, lasting up to four hours, were performed over about ten months in 1975–1976. Michel began talking increasingly about “dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church”, and she refused to eat towards the end.
On 1 July 1976, Michel died in her home. The autopsy report stated the cause was malnutrition and dehydration because of being in a semi-starvation state for almost a year while the rites of exorcism were performed. She weighed 30 kilograms (68 pounds) and the previous day, she had broken knees due to the continuous genuflections and was unable to move without assistance, and was reported to have been suffering from pneumonia.
There is no room in our hearts
for the dead, though we often imagine that there is,
or wish it to be so,
to preserve them in our warmth,
our sweet darkness, where their fists
might beat at the soft contours of our love.
And though we might like to think
that they would call out to us, they could never do so,
being there. They would never dare to speak,
lest their mouths, our names, fill
quietly with blood.
We carry the dead in our hands
as we might carry water - with a careful,
There is no other way.
How easily, how easily their faces spill.
Danvers State Hospital
In 1873, the need for another psychiatric hospital to serve the Boston population had risen once again; the asylums constructed in Tewskbury, Worcester, Taunton and Northampton were already quite overcrowded. A site called Hawthorne Hill (AKA Hathorne Hill) in Danvers was chosen for the new hospital; the scenic vistas, fresh air, and acres of farm land to work were part of the therapeutic treatments thought to have cured insanity.
During this time period, elegant asylums were being constructed at an enormous cost to provide the best care for the mentally ill; many of these ornate structures followed a plan devised by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride called the linear plan, or the Kirkbride plan as it was later known. The asylum at Danvers was structured in this Kirkbride framework by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee. Gothic spires rose from eight wings that radiated from a 130 foot central tower. Construction of the hospital began in 1874, and the 70,000 square foot building was completed four years later at a cost of $1.5 million. The extravagant asylum drew some criticism from the working class residents of Danvers living in its shadow during the first years of operation, wondering why the “insane” were given such grand treatment from the state while they worked hard for little pay.
Other buildings on campus included a boiler house, a treatment group for patients with Tuberculosis, maintenance and farm buildings, and Asylum Station (later named Hathorne Station), which was a stop along the Essex railroad. The large Kirkbride building was only meant to hold 500 patients, but by the 1930s there were over 2,000 residents crammed in every available space. The lack of funding was the root of many problems that were plaguing state-run mental hospitals all over the United States, including staff shortages, low wages, overcrowding, and substandard care. This exquisite hospital building that was becoming a nightmare was left with the only option available - custodial care. Instead of researching progressive treatments and administering therapy, patients were given the most minimal levels of care the strained system could provide, and the result was not pretty. The wing tips which housed the most violent patients (A and J wards) became “back wards” for the hopeless and incurable, and was likened to a human cesspool in investigations that turned into sensational newspaper headlines. DSH held over 2,400 patients during its peak operation, and employed a variety of treatments as medical history progressed, including the lobotomy, electroshock therapy, insulin shock therapy, and drug therapy. Reports of using these therapies as a means to control or subdue the patient population were criticized in addition to allegations of abuse. Amidst the horror stories and legal battles, heartwarming stories of caring staff and successful treatments can be found from past employees and residents.
A slow deinstitutionalization process began in the 1960s, releasing patients to community-based group homes and other Massachusetts state hospitals. The Kirkbride building began to close the wards at the wing tips in the mid-1980s and most services were moved to the Bonner Building; the entire building was eventually shuttered in 1989. Danvers State Hospital continued to operate until the entire facility closed in June of 1992. The hospital was used as a filming location for the movie Session 9 (2001); afterward the building was boarded up and 24-hour security was placed on-site. An article about trespassing on the grounds states that over 120 people had been arrested since the year 2000.
In 2007, three-quarters of the Kirkbride building were demolished to make way for a residential community called Avalon Bay Danvers. The central administrative area and the first two sets of wings were gutted and refurbished into condominiums.
With such a trivial history its no wonder why Danvers was dubbed one of the scariest places on earth. Although converted to apartments the lure and legends of Danvers remain. People have reported flickering lights, full body appiritions, hearing invisible footsteps and doors that open and close on their own.
APPARITIONS: The supernatural appearance of a deceased person or animal. It is often too distant to be in the normal range of a persons view and is uncommon to see an appearance. A full bodied apparition shows the entire body of an animal or person. A partial bodied apparition are shown more often but only show part of a body such as; torso or arms. They often appear as white (or various shades of white/gray) or solid black. Usually apparitions can appear to hover in the air. It is rare that apparitions show their legs or feet.
Evp of a woman saying “okay”
The Villisca Axe Murder House
The Villisca Axe Murders occurred during the night of June 9–10, 1912 in the southwestern Iowa town of Villisca. The six members of the Moore family and two house guests were found bludgeoned in the Moore residence. All eight victims, including six children, had severe head wounds from an axe. A lengthy investigation yielded several suspects, one of which was tried twice and acquitted. The crime remains unsolved.
The Moore family consisted of parents Josiah (aged 43), Sarah (39), and their four children: Herman (11), Katherine (10), Boyd (7) and Paul (5). An affluent family, the Moores were well-known and well-liked in their community. On June 9, 1912, Katherine Moore invited Ina (8) and Lena (12) Stillinger to spend the night at the Moore residence. That evening, the visiting girls and the Moore family attended the Presbyterian church where they participated in the Children’s Day Program, which Sarah Moore had coordinated. After the program ended at 9:30 p.m., the Moores and the Stillinger sisters walked to the Moores’ house, arriving between 9:45 and 10 p.m.
At 7 a.m. the next day, Mary Peckham, the Moores’ neighbor, became concerned after she noticed that the Moore family had not come out to do their morning chores. Peckham knocked on the Moores’ door. When nobody answered, she tried to open the door and discovered that it was locked. Peckham let the Moores’ chickens out and then called Ross Moore, Josiah Moore’s brother. Like Peckham, Moore received no response when he knocked on the door and shouted. He unlocked the front door with his copy of the house key. While Peckham stood on the porch, Moore went into the parlor and opened the guest bedroom door and found Ina and Lena Stillinger’s bodies on the bed. Moore immediately told Peckham to call Hank Horton, Villisca’s primary peace officer, who arrived shortly thereafter. Horton’s search of the house revealed that the entire Moore family and the two Stillinger girls had been bludgeoned to death. The murder weapon, an ax belonging to Josiah, was found in the guest room where the Stillinger sisters were found.
Doctors concluded that the murders had taken place shortly after midnight. The killer or killers began in the master bedroom, where Josiah and Sarah Moore were asleep. Josiah received more blows from the ax than any other victim; his face had been cut so much that his eyes were missing. The killer(s) then went into the children’s rooms and bludgeoned Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul in the head in the same manner as their parents. Afterward, the killer(s) moved downstairs to the guest bedroom and killed Ina and Lena.
Investigators believed that all of the victims except for Lena Stillinger had been asleep at the time of the murders. Investigators also believed Lena attempted to fight back. She was found lying crosswise on the bed, and a defensive wound was discovered on her arm. Furthermore, Lena was found with her nightgown pushed up to her waist and no undergarments on, leading to speculation that the killer(s) sexually molested her or attempted to do so.
The murderer, or murderers have never been caught.
he house had many owners and tenants over the years but in 1994, a real estate agent approached Darwin and Martha Linn, local farmers, about the possibility of them purchasing the house. At the time, the Linn’s already owned and operated the Olson-Linn Museum located on Villisca’s town square and they felt that purchasing the house would give them the opportunity to preserve more of the area’s history. Because of its deteriorating condition, the Moore house was in danger of being razed. If the Linn’s had not purchased it, it’s likely that it would have been destroyed. They soon set about obtaining the necessary funds to restore the home to its condition at the time of the murders in 1912.
Using old photographs, the Linn’s began the renovation work in late 1994. The restoration included the removal of vinyl siding and the repainting of the original wood on the outside, the removal of the enclosures on the front and back porch, the restoration of an outhouse and chicken coop in the backyard and the removal of all of the indoor plumbing and electrical fixtures in the house. The pantry in the original house had been converted to a bathroom years before and this room was now restored to its 1912 condition. Then, using testimony and records from the coroner’s inquest and grand jury hearings, the Linn’s placed furniture in approximately the same places as it was located at the time of the murders. Unfortunately, the furniture that had belonged to the Moore’s had vanished many decades ago but antiques were used to replace what was lost.
The Moore home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and remains today as a colorful time capsule of 1912, the ghastly murders that occurred here and the mystery that followed. The walls of the place hide many secrets —— from the identity of the murderer to just how he managed to carry out his dark deeds without awakening the occupants of the house —— and these secrets still bring many visitors to the door. Some come looking for the history of the place but most of them come looking for the ghosts.
Ever since the Moore house was opened to overnight visitors several years ago, ghost enthusiasts, curiosity-seekers and diehard paranormal investigators have come here in droves, all seeking the strange, the unusual and the haunted. Some have stayed here alone, like the Des Moines disk jockey who awoke in the night to the sounds of children’s voices when no children were present. Others have come in groups and have gone away with mysterious audio, video and photographic evidence that suggests something supernatural lurks within these walls. Tours have been cut short by falling lamps, moving objects, banging sounds and a child’s laughter, while psychics who have come here have claimed to communicate with the spirits of the dead.