Cripple Creek Fire and Police Department
Colorado became a territory in the U.S. in 1861 and a state in 1876. In regards to the Cripple Creek Fire and Police Department, the history runs deeper. A man named Bob Womack and his brother William moved from Kentucky with their family to Colorado City, now known as Colorado Springs. The brothers bought a ranch about forty miles to the southwest, on the far west side of Pikes Peak in 1876.
A Bit on Cripple Creek
Bob Womack worked on the ranch and prospected in the area for gold anytime he wasn’t working on the ranch. He searched for gold around the Southwest slopes of Pikes Peak for years and years. Bob’s dream was to strike it rich in the gold industry. After only finding minor amounts of gold in local creeks, his luck changed when he claimed to have struck gold in Poverty Gulch in October of 1890 and even filed a claim at the assay office in Colorado City.
It took a couple more discoveries by other miners to get the word out about Poverty Gulch, and soon the hills were filled to the brim with hopeful miners and their families. After a few months of exploring the hills, Winfield Stratton also struck gold neat Battle Mountain on the 4th of July, 1891. He became one of the richest men in the area and laid out a town on the Broken Box Ranch.
The town’s first buildings were built from hastily made wooden frames and logs along dirt roads, and some of the town’s first residents even lived in tents. At first, the gold camp was known as Fremont but was later renamed Cripple Creek after the issues the town experienced with cattle falling into the creek and injuring their legs.
With the town on the rise, a need for a fire and police department became apparent, especially in April of 1896 when two massive fires devastated the town. The wooden buildings were no match to the blazes. The town was primarily rebuilt in brick in an attempt to prevent future fires. Around 20,000 residents lived in Cripple Creek before the fires, and many were left homeless after them.
The history of Cripple Creek itself is dotted with tragedy and hauntings, which you can read about in our Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum article.
Cripple Creek Fire Department
Cripple Creek Fire Department was founded in 1893 and was one of the best in the area. The CCFD was essential to the area; with all of the mines and fire risk, the department kept the town safe and sound as it grew into the city it is today. With a place in such a historic town, it’s no surprise that the firefighters and staff at the department have a few (paranormal) stories to tell.
In the Cripple Creek Fire Department, one spirit is the cause of most of the drama at the firehouse. A ghost known as Jack roams the halls of the department but is mainly reported in the kitchen and the offices. On his ‘bad days,’ he opens all of the drawers and cupboards, causing quite the scare for anyone who goes into the kitchen after. He tidies up the offices on his ‘good days,’ picking up pens, organizing papers, and other office duties.
But Jack isn’t just seen at the fire department. He has also been reported at the nearby Butte Theater, joining the other spirits there in celebration and entertainment. The Butte Theater has been in business since 1896 when proprietors Halbekann and Hertz featured nightly entertainment with the Ladies Vienna Orchestra. Sometime later, the theater reopened as the Butte Opera House, and within two years, numerous clubs were sponsoring benefits and parties at the theater on a regular basis.
One spirit at the Butte Theater is said to play piano for visitors, and a male entity in the Star Building is known to bother female visitors when they’re alone, tapping them on the shoulder. Jack is reported at the theater, being seen as a full-bodied apparition walking throughout the theater, laughing and enjoying his time with the living.
Cripple Creek Police Department
In a little brick two-story building lies the Cripple Creek Police Department. With its conception in the midst of the gold rush, a time dotted with violence, murders, and forced labor, the police department of Cripple Creek has seen more than its fair share of negativity.
The building once housed a grocery store on the first floor and a brothel on the second. The building itself dates back to the turn of the 20th century and can be unsettling at nighttime when the desert is dark.
With colossal production of gold beginning to pour out of the mines of Cripple Creek, the money from the mines brought with it jobs and unions. After an initial strike of miners, mine owners and even some union members were driven out of town. For protection, mine owners brought in outsiders, financing much of the county’s law enforcement.
In 1903, violence struck Cripple Creek again, and Governor James Peabody even brought in the National Guard to protect the town’s residents, intending to destroy union power in the gold camps. This aggravated the miners and precipitated the Colorado labor wars. Miners were threatening the town and even threatened to lynch Sheriff Henry Robertson if he refused to resign. The crowd even created a hangman’s noose, and Robertson resigned on the spot.
It says a lot about the state of Cripple Creek and its miners for an experienced sheriff to resign so quickly after threats. Sheriff Ed Bell succeeded Robertson and served the town until 1908.
The Cripple Creek Police Department has experienced the violence of the mining town for over a hundred years. When the town first came to fruition, the greed that came from the gold resulted in assaults, fraud, and even murder.
These days, the dispatchers at the Cripple Creek Police Department still experience the spirits of ages gone by. One late-night dispatcher in particular, however, experiences more than the others.
One employee says that when dispatchers are by themselves at night, things happen. Chairs move across the floors upstairs, disembodied voices echo throughout the station, and phones dial themselves. Dispatcher Diann Pritchard stated that she hears someone coming down the hall towards the phone center; she looks to see who it is and doesn’t see anyone there.
The faucets are also known to turn on by unseen hands, requiring the dispatchers to leave their seats and phones to turn off the taps before the bathroom floods! Pritchard says that she figures if she doesn’t bother the entities, they won’t bother her. She’s even made a deal with them, stating that if the spirit leaves her alone while she is working her shift, she’ll allow the ghost to continue to stay at the station. She says the ghost listens, stays quiet during her shift, and then returns to activity when others are working.
Have you ever visited the haunted town of Cripple Creek? Did you know the extensive history of the area? If you’d like to learn more, please check out our article about the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum of Cripple Creek, and learn about all of the resident spirits that still reside in the mining town.