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Haunted Ghost Town in Colorado
St. Elmo was once a thriving community originally founded as Forrest City in 1878. The name was changed to St. Elmo because the post office complained that “there were too many towns with that name.”
Deep in the Colorado Rockies, the ghost town of St. Elmo is well-preserved, and haunted by the spirit of a lady who spent many years of her life watching over the little town.
Cattleman Anton Stark came to St. Elmo to sell cattle in 1881, when the town had a couple of thousand people and became a station on the eastern end of the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad.
Stark liked the little settlement, and brought his wife, Anna, there to live. He was one of the bosses in a local mine. Anna ran the general store which included the post office and telegraph office. She also ran the Home Comfort Hotel.
Anna was known as a stern taskmaster with her three children. She was very controlling, even ruthless, and didn’t allow her kids to interact with the other children in the town.
The children worked very hard for their mother, and the hotel was always very clean, the general store always stocked full of goods, and the hotel meals were a big draw for miners and visitors to the town.
As time passed, the mines played out, and the nearby Alpine Tunnel was closed, families moved away from the area. The Starks remained. The family believed that St. Elmo would thrive once again, and bought up many of the properties at tax sales.
The town was abandoned in the 1920s when the railroad line ceased to go through.
The Stark boys realized that the mines wouldn’t be reopening, and considered the tourism industry. For a short time, they rented cabins out to vacationing families.
After the death of Anton Stark, Anna sent her daughter, Annabelle, to Salida, a nearby town. She worked in the telegraph office there as the family needed the money.
Annabelle was a pretty girl, and after moving away from her mother’s control, she enjoyed finally being able to have a social life.
Annabelle fell in love with a man whose last name was Ward. They were married in 1922, but something bad happened, and Annabelle returned home a couple of years later. Some sources indicate that they never did marry.
Roy Stark died in 1934. Anna died a bit later. The only residents of St. Elmo were now Annabelle and her brother, Tony.
As the town decayed, so did Tony and Annabelle. They still ran the Home Comfort Store, but it was “said to have been "sour-smelling", contained faded tins of outdated food and stale tobacco” according to a book written in 1947 by Muriel Sibell Wolle, called Stampede to Timberline.
The brother and sister stopped bathing and began hoarding things, filling up the rooms of their hotel with all kinds of clutter and debris. Annabelle was known as “Dirty Annie” in her older years. When she came into the town of Salida, she was unclean and unkempt. She often walked about St. Elmo with a rifle.
At some point, the two remaining Starks were sent to an insane asylum, but were released after a friend assured authorities that they were harmless.
After Tony died, Annabelle lived in a nursing home until she passed away in 1960.
Since that time, Annabelle’s spirit has remained in the town continuing to watch over her properties.
Soon after Annabelle died, the friend who had sought her release from the asylum was at the old hotel with her grandchildren. (She had been deeded the property upon Annabelle’s death.) The doors slammed shut and the temperature plummeted. The children were petrified and crying.
An older grandchild was a young woman, and she took it upon herself to clean up the old place. She and her friends scrubbed the place clean and made needed repairs. Every evening, they would put away their tools and cleaning supplies. Every morning, everything would be back out and ready for them! Even after putting a padlock on the closet door!
Nearly two decades after Annabelle passed away, a skier renting a cabin nearby, was skiing down the street where the Home Comfort Hotel had been located. She saw a lovely girl in a white dress in the window of the second story, although she knew the building was empty!
The woman in the window was looking at something in the distance. The skier followed her gaze, and saw some snowmobilers riding up and down a street. This activity was illegal in St. Elmo, and she asked the group to leave. When she looked back at the woman in the window, “she nodded at the skier…then turned away and vanished into the shadows of the hotel room.”
Locals in the area have no doubt that Annabelle is still watching over her town of St. Elmo.
Directions: To get to Saint Elmo, from Buena Vista, take US 285 south to Nathrop, and then County Road 162 west for approximately 16 miles to Saint Elmo.
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