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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

An Halloween Ghost Hunt at the Museum of Colorado Prisons

“When things aren’t happening, it really makes you appreciate that much more the times when something does occur,” I stated to our six-person group. And then, as if on cue, a motion sensor-activated light popped to life. We were sprawled on the floor in a hallway lined with cells on the upper floor of the Museum of Colorado Prisons, almost ready to call it quits for the night, when our attention was directed to the other end of the hall. Someone else who we could not see entered the dimly-lit hallway.
Built in 1935, the former women’s prison building in Canon City, Colorado is now home to the Museum of Colorado Prisons; an impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits explaining the history surrounding prisons in, obviously enough, Colorado. Visible through a few open cell windows to the west, the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility – open since 1871 – currently houses nearly one thousand male inmates. This was the setting for a ghost hunt lead by Mountain Peak Paranormal Investigations in which I was one of apprximately fifteen participants accompanying the investigating team.
We split into smaller groups, ours starting the evening with a walk around the building’s exterior and through a small outbuilding housing an old gas chamber. There was too much noise contamination – cars driving past and dogs barking – to legitimately accept any possible audio evidence. I became impatient because of this; I didn’t want to force an experience, but I also did not want to be in a situation where soemthing wasn’t possible.
Two different locations inside the building also revealed nothing. During a break in the investigation, I gave pause and wondered if the old building actually experienced any paranormal activity. But, that was simply due to my own impatience for an experience.
After the break, our group moved to the upstairs portion of the museum with the jail cells. As I walked through the corridor earlier in the evening, before the lights had been turned out, I paused near a mannequin dressed in an old black and white-striped prison uniform. I had gone through the hallway once before and experienced an uneasy feeling, but this time I stopped because I felt something pressing against my sternum.
Nothing was there, though. I was just imagining it. It was barely sunset. Nothing could possibly be lurking in the building at this point. Or so I thought.
Sitting on the floor and in a couple of chairs lining the walls, our group leaders set out a pair of colored flashlights and employed two paranormal investigative devices: a KII meter and an EVP recorder.
“Anthony? Are you here, Anthony?” asked Adrian, one of the two group leaders.
She requested who she named Anthony to play with the flashlights in front of her, turning on one color for yes and the other for no. But it seemed as though Anthony – who was actually Colorado’s infamous boy-murderer Anton Woode – had other things in mind. He preferred the lights of the KII meter and the simple level of interaction it provided.
“Were you put here when you were elven, Anthony?”
The KII meter flickered all the way to the highest level, two red lights.
“Was it because you killed your neighbor?”
It maxed out to red, once again.
“Did you like his gold watch? Was that why you did it?”
It popped to red again.
There were some contradictory answers, though, and it was unclear if Anton Woode actually killed his neighbor. But it was impossible to deny, based on the questions and answers, that someone familiar with the details of Woode’s exploits, maybe even the boy himself, was in the room with us lighting up the KII meter and turning on the flashlights.
“Anthony,” I asked, “is it OK if I take your picture? I’d really like to be able to take your picture.”
The blue flashlight, which we explained to the entity meant yes while the red one meant no, lit up. I quickly snapped a couple of photos and was surprised with the results:
Photographed orbs can easily be discounted as dust or reflections, but, as one of the group leaders pointed out, if it was dust, the large orb in the middle of the photo would move – as did the smaller three in the background of the first picture I took. It instead stayed there in subsequent photographs; I took a few more throughout our brief time in the hall with the same results:
Looking into the old cells as we left – explaining to Anthony that we would be back before the night was over – there was not a significant enough amount of light penetrating through any of the covered windows to cause such images to reflect and manifest in photographs. And if there was, then it would have done the same on a later photo in the same location. But, it didn’t:
Excited over our encounter with Anton, our group retired to the prison’s kitchen. We had no significant experience when we were first in the room, as was the case for us with the other rooms in the basement, but this time it was drastically different. When the building was used as a prison it housed female inmates and the kitchen was the location of a stabbing, we were told; one inmate stabbed another, who ultimately died, although not in the kitchen, of her wounds.
I didn’t know this until later.
“Did you just push me?” I demanded to no one. “Did you just jab me in the back with something?”
I felt a slight push followed by a concentrated pain in my back to the left of my right armpit. It was as though something just jabbed me. I became angry and started to incite whatever was responsible. As I did so, the KII meter in my hand immediately sprang to life.
“I don’t feel so good,” said Jason, the other group leader. “I feel really lightheaded, like I’m going to faint. I have to get out of here for a second.”
The KII meter in my hand was pointed at Jason when it lit up. Is it possible a spirit was there, maybe even the one who jabbed me in the back, using his energy to manifest? Certainly. Is it possible it was something else, maybe even just a thought in his head, causing him to feel lightheaded and weak? It is just as possible. But, I found it difficult to imagine it was untrue when, shortly after Jason returned to the room, Adrian would have issues that would also cause her to leave.
I moved to where she stood when she left and continued to incite whatever may be in the room.
“Do you want to do something to me? Then do it! Use my energy and do it, you coward – stabbing me in the back. I think you’re scared and won’t do it. If you’re so strong, use my energy and turn on the lights on this device in my hand or in the pantry to my left. Do it!”
My short hair felt electric and goose bumps ran up and down my arms. The KII meter was going crazy. And then, as it dropped off, the motion sensor light flicked on in the adjacent small pantry room. The other group members stood quietly by, so I continued to talk and push my luck.
The pantry light turned off and popped right back on. Nothing was visible in the room, but something was causing it to turn on. And it wasn’t one of us. The sensor was purposefully positioned facing into the pantry, away from us in the kitchen, so we wouldn’t accidentally trigger it.
Disappointingly, another break was called for all of the groups shortly thereafter. I didn’t want my time in the kitchen to end, though; it was evident that at least one spirit was there, likely two based on other interactions, and I wasn’t finished with the experience. So, as we exited the room, I looked back over my shoulder and shouted, “You stabbed me! If you want some, come get some!”
It didn’t. Whatever was in the kitchen, or that I was imagining was in the kitchen, stayed there and did not show itself again – not even when I returned moments later to take a few photographs of the room.
When the break was over, we stayed in the basement area. An archival room in the back of the basement, located underneath the jail cells above, was once a laundry room and a location for a larger cell – up to ten beds were once in the back room for trustee inmates who worked in the kitchen. I felt a bad energy in the room earlier in the evening, before our investigation started, but on our previous visit our time there had revealed nothing of interest, which is interesting in itself.
Another group leader told us a woman in his group felt something when standing by the washing machine. So, as if to bait something to happen, one of the women in our group stood in the same location. Nothing immediately occurred, but a motion light started to flicker on after we split into two smaller groups of three between the two rooms.
I walked back into the laundry room, interested in the possibility of another encounter. The KII meter in Adrian’s hand was having several spikes and the motion light seemed to be going on, as if by command. Studying the situation, I wondered if Adrian was standing too close to the back of the light and causing it to trigger when she stretched out her arm for a KII reading. It was possible, however unlikely; something else may have been in the room with us. But, without any other strong evidence to support the thought, I discounted anything we experienced between the two basement rooms.
We rotated locations and were back upstairs amongst the jail cells. Anton, who appeared to have a crush on Adrian, was still there. He seemed excited to have her back in the room. But then a group member saw something at the end of the hall; “I think I just saw something, like a shadow, move down there.”
The group picked up all of the equipment on the floor and moved twenty feet down the hall. Whatever she saw, though, seemed to have entirely disappeared. There was nothing there. And no was was playing with our flashlights, nothing was triggering the KII meter, and Adrian wasn’t hearing anything through her headphones connected to the EVP recorder.
It made me appreciate those times when something did happen that much more, even if it meant I was being stabbed.
I was chilled from lying on the floor, so I got up and sat in an open chair. Recalling my phone’s Ghost Radar application in the process, I pulled it back out of my pocket; I had tried using it earlier in the evening, but had no sensible results.
As soon as I turned it on the phone said, Carlos.
“Is that your name? Is your name Carlos?” I asked. “If so, please go over to those two green lights on the floor. If you do, it’ll light up to red and let us know you mean yes.”
Nothing happened to the KII meter.
“Does your name start with the letter C? Light it up if…”
It maxed out.
“So what’s your name? Is it Carl? Or…”
“Is it Charles?” Adrian cut in.
The meter spiked again.
“Light it up again, please, if your name is Charles.”
Another spike.
“How old are you, Charles? Light it up, please, if you’re in your twenties.”
A quick spike on the KII occurred.
“Were you in prison here, Charles?”
Yet another spike. Although it wasn’t likely Charles, or Anton for that matter, was in prison here, since this was a women’s facility. It is possible they both wandered over form the neighboring facility for men, though, which has a much longer history than the women’s prison. It was no more than ten feet from the exterior wall to the museum.
“Why were you here, Charles?” I asked. “Did you kill someone?”
Again, the meter lit up.
“Did you do it to defend yourself?”
Another spike.
“Charles, are you telling us that you killed a person to defend yourself because he was going to kill you?”
The KII meter once again spiked at two red dots.
We paused, collectively holding our breath, and I wondered if we were truly in the presence of an intelligent spirit. As we sat there, back on the ground, the KII meter did nothing. It was back at its base level of two green dots.
There is an old mob story about buried treasure in the Canon City area. Adrian, interested in the idea, questioned Charles about the possibility of finding where it may be buried. She heard answers on the EVP recorder, but nothing that was conclusive; another group was walking up the stairs, talking loudly, and in turn contaminating any possible audio evidence.
I quickly shushed them and went back to questioning Charles; I didn’t care about the treasure, I wanted to know more about him. But, I was so excited at the possibility of intelligent contact, that all questions escaped me. So, to demonstrate what was occurring to the other group members joining us, I reiterated our previous questions to Charles. The lights on the KII meter went on and off, just as they did during the previous line of questioning.
The third and final group joined us.
“Charles? Are you still here, Charles? If so, please light up the lights again to red.”
The KII meter flickered a little, but did not spike.
“You can use our energy, Charles. Use our energy to light up the lights again and let us know you’re here.”
Either Charles was tired and unable to manifest further or the larger group scared him off. So it was now impossible, at least on this night, to learn anything more about him. There was no denying though, shortly before midnight on Halloween weekend, that there was something intelligent communicating with our small six-person group. And it wasn’t picky, either, happy to communicate with anyone of us – unlike Anton, who obviously preferred communicating with Adrian.
Unsatisfied and wanting to know more still the next day, I did what any normal person does today: I googled Charles. The results were sparse and unconvincing, yet curious. The first result I found was for a C.E. Wagoner. That didn’t seem likely, though. Wagoner, who was in his mid-thirties when he was convicted, was in on charges of burglary, larceny, and assault. Charles told us he was in his twenties when he was convicted of murder. And to add to it, I had no reason to believe the C in C.E. even stood for Charles.
Another search, phrased a little differently, came up with an article mentioning a Charles Bennett. He was convicted for murder in a Denver metro area county – Arapahoe County. But, the article wasn’t thorough; it didn’t list Bennett’s age at the time of his incarceration during the early months of the prison’s existence in 1871, just that he was there for murder and it was an ordeal transporting him and another inmate to the prison.
How could I be so stupid! I thought. How is it that I choked and didn’t think to ask Charles about his last name?!?
With a last name, the mystery and intrigue surrounding Charles would be lost. It would be easy enough to ask him about it, too, and learn his true identity. And if he answered that his last name was Bennett, then there would be little doubt left to his crime.
And who was with us? Was there really anyone there? Did someone actually trip the motion sensor light, speak Carlos to us through my phone, and then have a conversation about their past with the help of the KII meter? It sounds highly unlikely, but is possible nonetheless. The skeptic in me wants to think otherwise, though. But it is difficult to discount the experience as something created in our minds.
The Museum of Colorado Prisons is, without a doubt, an interesting place with a fascinating history that may still be alive through the likes of a shy boy with a living crush in Anton Woode, an angry woman in the kitchen who still tries to stab visitors, and through the likes of a previously unknown reaching out for contact in Charles. It is possible, all the same, that it is nothing more than a little history mixed with imagination. Yet, when so much doesn’t happen, the skeptical optimist in me thinks it is unlikely that the paranormal and reality aren’t sometimes one in the same – at least on one night during a Halloween weekend.

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  1. Taking a Ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad | Jason's Travels - July 5, 2012

    […] last time I was in Canon City it was for a ghost hunt at the prison museum. This time I made the drive for a scenic railroad ride up the Royal Gorge, a 50-foot-wide canyon as […]

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