Manitou Springs, Colorado
Stepping onto the grounds, one easily forgets the present. For a moment it is no longer Colorado in the 21st Century, but Europe of more than two hundred years ago. Rising high into the sky is a building that may seem out of time and place, a castle in the middle of the modern world. Stepping inside, the spell is broken, but not in a bad way. Those who care for the building and the past lead others through the halls, reminding them of what once was. But down the halls, the past still lives. A glance into a mirror reveals a different face staring out, and a child's lilting voice echoes through the halls. The castle walls hold more than history. They harbor ghosts.
In every aspect of the paranormal, there are skeptics. People who make it their business to disprove hauntings and to show the physical causes for alleged phenomena help to separate groaning pipes from the truly odd. And yet, there are those places in the world that seem to challenge skeptics, which almost dare them to walk inside with their rational minds and meters. They are the places that make believers out of even the most hardened skeptics. While such places are few and far between, they do exist and should be regarded as something of treasures, for while other places can be easily debunked, places such as Miramont Castle have turned many a skeptic into believers.
In 1892 Manitou Springs received a new resident, a French priest named Jean Baptiste Francolon. He was well known within the diocese as a great man of the church, having served as the secretary to an Archbishop, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and even conducting at least eighteen missions in churches among the Native Americans. It was because of some sort of intestinal illness, probably picked up somewhere during his work in Guatemala and Venezuela, that he was transferred to Colorado, where the Archdiocese hoped the mineral waters and natural springs might heal him.
Upon arrival, Francolon wired his mother to tell her of the beauty of the area. Because she was lonely after having recently lost her husband, his mother sent him an enormous sum of money and asked him to build a home for them to share. Without hiring any architect to actually draw up blueprints, Francolon designed and built the house from memories of his many travels. What resulted was a 46-room, 15,000 square-foot castle that overlooked the mountains. No one seems to know the total cost of construction, only that it took nearly three years to complete. Francolon and his mother, Marie, moved into the castle in 1895.
What is truly odd about the castle and the Francolons is that no one really knows why they departed their dream home. They stayed for less than five years before moving in 1900, leaving all business affairs to their attorney, George Renn. While stories circulate that Father Francolon departed amid some unnamed scandal, no one knows where he went or what he did for the rest of his life. It is known that his mother returned to France, where she died around March of 1900, but Francolon lived until 1922, when he died in New York City and was buried in the Cemetery of the Archdiocese of New York.
Though no one can really say why, there is little doubt that the old castle is haunted. Experiences in the building range from wall to wall and have been had by visitors and employees alike. But whether taken in by the beauty or the macabre, one thing is for certain: No one leaves Miramont Castle untouched.
Some of the more common phenomena, it seems, are the disembodied voices that echo through the halls. In some cases it is the voice of a child that is heard singing. In others it is a man and a woman engaged in a conversation from long ago. Employees attest that, when the voices are heard, there are no visitors in those areas of the castle. Reports from two guests involved unseen hands ripping a tablecloth and flowers from off a table.
Voice and moving objects are one thing, but apparitions seem to be more common in Miramont Castle than in any other place in the United States. Several people claim to have seen a man in a frock coat, possibly Father Francolon, standing with a woman in a bustle-dress in the butler's kitchen. There is also a woman in a cream-colored dress with long sleeves and a high collar, who doesn't seem to have a head, who has frightened more than one guest and employee. More disturbing is the number of times another woman in Victorian dress has been seen staring out of mirrors at startled guests and frightened employees. It is, however, the apparition of a little girl that seems to be the favorite. She is most often sighted playing with some of the restored dolls. The dolls, however, are inaccessible to guests.Present Day
Amid constant renovation and restoration, the Miramont stands just as it did in 1895. It is now a museum open to the public. During operating hours, and for a small donation, visitors can see pieces of the Victorian era of the Pike's Peak region. They're open from Labor Day to Memorial Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for self-guided tours and for the rest of the year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for guided tours. They are closed on Mondays, but they do hold special events such as their annual "Victorian Christmas" event.
No particular time of year seems to be better than another for encountering the paranormal, but most of the reported phenomena occur during a specific span of time. Just before closing, around 3 p.m., seems to be when the apparitions of the little girl and the headless woman are most active.
See you in two weeks!