Saturday, October 20, 2012

Things That Go Bump in the Night -- Denver's Peabody-Whitehead Mansion

Nothing like a Denver ghost story to help ward off the damp chill of an October morning. We’ve been talking haunts and haints for the past few weeks around here, so I guess it is time to talk about the Big Mama of Denver haunted houses, the Peabody-Whitehead mansion at 1128 Grant Street, in Denver's Capitol Hill.

Peabody-Whitehead Mansion
Built in 1889, the three-story red brick building has served as Colorado’s governor’s mansion, as an apartment complex, and numerous nightclubs and bars. Whatever reason puts people in the the old house, no one ever seems to stay more than a year or two.

People who lived and work in the building say they've witnessed flying objects, disembodied voices and shadow figures. Along with the Colorado State Capitol, the Croke-Patterson Mansion and the Lumber Baron Inn, the Peabody-Whitehead mansion is considered among Denver’s most active haunted properties.

First a bit of background: The mansion, a designated Denver Historic Landmark, was built by renowned architect Frank Edbrooke, designer of Denver landmark, the Brown Palace Hotel. The mansion served for two years as the state’s governor’s residence during the turbulent tenure of widely despised Colorado Governor James Peabody. Peabody was the only governor in United States' history to ever dispatch the state militia against its own citizens. When Colorado miners went on strike Gov. Peabody sent out the militia and killed 13 non-union miners. The ghosts of the miners are said to haunt  the mansion to this very day.

It also was home to William Riddick Whitehead, who served as a battlefield surgeon during the Russian Crimean War and American Civil War. Denver folklore claims that many of the spirits of those dead soldiers followed Dr. Whitehead from New York to Denver and took up residence at the mansion.

In the 1980s the house was turned into one failed restaurant after another. My  favorite incarnation was the  aptly named “Spirits on Grant.” An old friend who worked at the mansion when it was the Bombay Club told me that staff was often spooked by lights and water turning off and on by itself. One story from the mansion’s restaurant days was of a ghost who reportedly poured a bottle of beer down the shirt of a cook who had disparaged homosexuals. A female ghost was also was a regular sight -- in the men's restroom mirror.

Indeed, restaurant employees often told of knives, forks, pots and pans flying around the kitchen and dining room areas. Books fell off of shelves, drinks were poured down peoples backs all without the help of anyone living in the vicinity. At one point an electrician was called in to repair a "short" in a chandelier that was flickering on and off.  When the electrician got to the mansion, he informed the restaurant manager that the chandelier was not wired or hooked up to electricity!

Key among the spooks is the spirit of a woman, who committed suicide in the basement. Some stories say she was a jilted bride named Ella. Others say it was a waitress from the mansion’s nightclub days. It is said that her image has been seen in mirrors and also in the men's restroom.  Other stories tell of a woman who was raped, murdered and buried in the basement by a construction crew that clearly didn’t come from Angie’s List.

Any way you cut it, the basement is  a very disturbing area. In the mansion’s restaurant/nightclub years it was used for storage and wait staff were known to quit rather than descend the stairs.

According to the Haunted Houses website, the owner of the Bombay Club, Greg McAllister, in 2002, reported to author Dennis Hauck that he sold drinks to spooks in the form of cowboy types who would occasionally visit the bar. They would order a drink and then disappear, leaving an empty glass in their wake.  

Many paranormal investigators have studied the Peabody-Whitehead mansion. Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures sent a crew in 2012. See their findings here.
The Peabody-Whitehead Mansion has been owned for several years now by  Malbur Properties, LLC. Tenants include Commercial Mortgage Consultants Inc. and the company website reports that staff has regularly witnessed activities such as a faint baby's cry, objects mysteriously moving or a strong odor of cherry-tobacco. Malbur Properties offshoot Mega 1031 is another company located in the building. Their take on the building’s haunted history is here.

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