Denver’s Haunted Cheesman Park

Denver’s Haunted Cheesman Park
With my son’s recent move to Denver, I thought it would be the perfect time to delve a bit more into the paranormal activity in that area.

One of the most interesting stories I came across in my research is about Cheesman Park located near the downtown area of Denver.

The history of this area is fascinating. The land belonged to the Apache Indians, but in 1858 General William Larimer claimed the town as his own and built the town of Denver.

Every town needs a place to bury its dead, and 320 acres was designated to be used for the cemetery named Mount Prospect.

Many criminals and people of ill-repute were interred in the boneyard as well as the poor and contaminated.

After the civil war, Larimer returned to his home state of Kansas; and, the cemetery fell into the hands of an undertaker by the name of John Walley. He didn’t take care of the property properly and it was in quite a state of disrepair when taken over by the federal government in 1860.

The property continued to decline, and in 1872 the government decided to turn the cemetery over to the City of Denver.

In 1881, a small pox hospital was established on the south side of the property. In 1890, the government to turn the cemetery into a park and requested that the bodies be removed by their families within 90 days.

The government’s request went unheeded for the most part, and in 1893 undertaker E.P. McGovern was hired to remove the majority of the graves. He was paid $1.90 for each casket he transferred to Riverside Cemetery.

McGovern decided to attempt to rob the U.S. Government by using coffins made for children rather than adults. He would then cut up each body and divide the parts into three of the smaller coffins. In addition to his deception, his work was shoddy and he didn’t clean up after himself, leaving a scene similar to something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre behind for people who liked to collect mementos. He was relieved from his duties.

Nothing further was done with the bodies remaining in the cemetery. They were just left there along with the holes from the graves that had been emptied. About 12 years later, shrubbery was planted in the open graves; and, in 1907 the park was completed. The park was named Cheesman Park after a pioneer in 1909.

The paranormal activity started being reported soon after 1890 and included stories of apparitions looking miserable and muddled knocking on the windows and doors of nearby homes and the sounds of moans and groans coming from the area where the dead still rested beneath the ground. There have also been reports of children from an earlier era glimpsed playing at night in the area and the sounds and smells of funeral services are often detected.

Adjacent to the park is the Denver Botanical Gardens. That land had been part of the original cemetery as well. In 2010, the remains of four individuals and the metal hinges from their rotten wooden coffins were uncovered during an excavation. This is a routine occurrence there, and people often carry away pieces of old coffins that come to the surface as they weren’t buried as deeply as they should have been. These individuals report paranormal occurrences that they believe are related to these mementos.

There is a tree in the park called the “Hangman’s Tree” and it is said to never cast a shadow.

The movie “The Changeling” is said to have been based on a paranormal activity occurring in one of the homes near the current park. “Poltergeist” is also based on occurrences in the area including the scene with the coffins in the swimming pool. Interestingly, real skeletons were used in the production of this film. Additionally, the film is considered by many to be cursed because of the tragedies that befell several individuals who had worked on the film.

The bodies have not been moved to this day, and there are said to be thousands of bodies still interred under the ground in this area. There is still a lot of paranormal activity reported in the area to this day.

References and additional information:,_Denver
Haunted Places: The National Directory by Dennis William Hauck (1996)

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