Every town has a tale. Scary folklore that’s passed down to underclassmen at schools or shared between siblings before bedtime.
“For us,” says 5280 digital assistant editor Madi Skahill, reminiscing on growing up in Aurora, “Third Bridge was a frequent thing we drove to because—f*ck it. What else are we going to do?” High schoolers would tell all kinds of tall tales about why the hard-to-find Elbert County bridge became haunted. “Murder. Suicides. It was always different,” she says. It’s also rumored that Native American drums could be heard in the distance, as well as the screams of dead teens from fatal car accidents.
In the spirit of the season, we asked 5280 staffers to share more of their favorite tales about scary Colorado spots, along with a few stories from other states. From phantom footsteps to ghostly joggers, each one conjures the type of thrill high schoolers (without a fake ID) might seek out on a random Friday night. And as we learned, sometimes the supposed haunted house on the block is the one you live in.
Hauntings on Riverdale Road
“Somewhere down Riverdale Road in Thornton, this guy burnt down his house with his family in it and then killed himself. People debated whether there was a fire. And, it’s like, no, yeah, there was a fire in 1975. So, when I was a senior in high school—this was, like, 2016—I drove down the road in a truck with friends after a football game.
We piped in a spooky playlist and ran down a checklist of things we’re supposed to experience on Riverdale Road:
1. As you drive, you’re supposed to hear tapping on your car window. This is the haunted jogger of Riverdale Road.
[Editor’s note: It is unclear how said jogger became haunted.]
2. There’s a phantom lady in white, which is creepy anywhere.
3. And if you see seven deer on your drive—you’ll die.
(Audible pause) Listen, it’s a weird checklist my friends found, and I was scared.” —Angelina Dinsmore, Research Intern
Honk or Die
“Every time we drive over Monarch Pass, we always honk and wave at the Yellow House. Otherwise, we’ll fly off the edge of the cliff because, I swear, the one time I didn’t wave or honk, I spun out of control in my Chevy Cavalier.
[Editor’s note: The 121-year-old property in Chaffee County was home to a man who sat near a window and waved at passing drivers. It’s widely believed that not honking would give drivers bad luck. Hence, the average of 100 honks per day.]
It was an evening in 2006, and my then girlfriend (now wife) was in the car with me. All the roads were completely dry the whole way home, but when we came around a tight corner, past this ski area, I lost control. She was just screaming as we spun around, heading toward the cliff. So, I accelerated onto the other side of the road into a snowbank.
We were a foot away from hitting two other cars. It was terrifying. And five miles back was the Yellow House I forgot to honk at.” —Sean Parsons, Deputy Art Director
Ghost of the Child Beauty Queen
“I have this irrational fear of JonBenét Ramsey. The child-ghost-murder story and the house and how her parents fell apart afterwards. Not to mention the grainy, angelic videos of her dressed up in pageants—it’s all terrifying to me. And then every few years when a new documentary comes out, I can’t sleep. I get so uncomfortable.
There was this period for a year or two in college where my friends and I would get drunk and sneak into the alley of the house in Boulder. I’d be in the back of the car, crying, and my friends would prod me, saying, ‘Come with us.’ So, my options were to either stay in the car—alone—or go with them.
We also used a ghost detector phone app that started making all these sounds when we approached the house. (I’m not sure because there was a lot of vodka involved.) I was so freaked. I couldn’t sleep for two nights because, I mean, I just think she’s going to be behind me.
It’s still unsolved! It’s a ridiculous situation that is creepy as hell! WHY CAN’T THEY FIND WHO KILLED HER! I just don’t understand.” —Patricia Kaowthumrong, Food Editor
The Power of the Holy Ghost
“My family and I moved into our house in Parker eight years ago. Almost immediately, weird stuff started happening. Our television popped on at night; lights flashed on walls; translucent orbs floated upstairs. One time, my wife and I woke up to firefighters banging on our door—our home security system had sent a silent alarm.
At some point, I asked my kids if they’d seen anything strange. My then-10-year-old son mentioned a glowing orb—a white-ish-blue ball about three feet off the ground. ‘I think our house is haunted,’ my daughter said.
I searched Google and discovered some people pray when they see something supernatural. Was a spirit trapped between two worlds? Yes, I know. Just saying that sentence makes me sound like a weirdo. But get this: Every time I saw an orb, every time a light flashed on a wall, I prayed. I prayed that whatever this was would find its way.
Within a month, everything stopped.
Four years after my last haunting, I never felt like my family was in danger. If anything, it seems like this thing—whatever it was—was a jokester. So, I’ve told my kids that, when I die, I’ll rattle chains in their attics. After my ordeal, I might set off the security system, too.” —Robert Sanchez, Senior Staff Writer
Blood in the Attic
“OK, so this is Knoxville, Tennessee, in an old suburb in a house built in, like, the 1930s. My mom bought the place in 1992, and a few years later when I was in the fifth grade, I’m getting dropped off at home after a playdate, and the mom said: ‘Oh, you live in the M__ House?’ And I was like, I live in that house (pointing). And she’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s the M__ House.’
She didn’t tell me what the f*ck that meant.
[Editor’s note: Surname has been redacted to protect the identity of the family that built the house and still resides in Knoxville.]
Only later did I learn the story: The daughter of the original owners died on the way to prom and the parents lost their minds. So, the mom locked the father in the attic. That’s why there was a fire escape down the side of the house and a bathroom—without walls—in the center of the attic.
The urban legend was that he haunted the place after he died.
The coup de grâce was that, at my fifth-grade birthday party, I took six friends up there to prove there’s a toilet in the attic. So, we grab flashlights and waddle through boxes and clutter. Finally, we get to the sink, look down, and we see what looked like dried blood splattered in it, as though someone had thrown up blood.
We all screamed.
Now that I’m an adult, I’m pretty sure the dried blood was just rust stains from a leaky faucet, but at the time you wouldn’t have been able to convince me otherwise.” —Nicholas Hunt, Senior Associate Editor
“The closest I got to seeing a ghost was living on Long Island, New York, when my grandfather passed away. In the following months, several members of my family experienced something freaky.
My dad—this big guy, about six-foot-three—got pushed out of bed. He turned to yell, Quit it! at my mom, but no one was there. And then my uncle, while he’s in bed, feels this tickling sensation run from his feet up to his chest.
And then one night, before going to bed, I left my door open for some reason. On the stairway is a metal rail that my grandfather used because he had Parkinson’s disease; so, he had a certain rhythm when going up the stairs. That night, I could hear his hand rattling against the railing, and slow footsteps going up, one after another on the creaky wooden stairs.
It’s a very distinct noise. And I was just like, Uh-oh SpaghettiO, what’s happening? That’s when I heard the footsteps move along from the end of my bed to the side of me. So, I got up, and I scooted. I was like, Byyye…” —Gia Yetikyel, Research Intern