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Woooo! Get your ghost on for flesh-crawling fun in Central City

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Fifth annual Creepy Crawl a telekinetic treat

By Patty Unruh

Forget Inner Sanctum’s creaky crypt door. Forget werewolves baying at the moon and the cheesy organ in the loft. Those are for amateurs.

The professionals at Gilpin Historical Society are raising goose bumps once again at Central City’s fifth annual Creepy Crawl. Those eager for the eerie are invited to levitate on over to the spooky reenactments and tours of the town’s most haunted buildings. Performances began October 12 and will continue on Saturday, October 19, Friday, October 25, and Saturday, October 26. See the Community Events section in this edition of the Weekly Register-Call for complete details on tour times, ticket purchase information, and check-in location.

The Gilpin Arts Association was the scene for the first dark tale of jealousy and murder. Historical Society member Chuck Roberts portrayed John Rice, who married the beautiful Emmeline, Madame Lou Bunch’s most popular girl.

“Women. They’ll rip your heart out and show it to you while it’s still beating,” he moaned. Women wanted to be her, and men wanted her. Unable to control his jealousy, Rice tried desperately to murder his wife, but she stubbornly refused to die … at first. Her spirit haunted him for years, until his torment finally ended. Tommie Johnston created a disturbing Emmeline in this vignette.

The scene at Williams Stables, second stop on the tour, opened with the sharp report of a gun. Mike Keeler enacted his role as a marshall who discovered a trail of blood near the Coeur d’Alene Mine. Following the trail, he discovered a wounded man who begged him to “finish it!” Was it all just a bad dream? Hear the tale involving the marshall, his wife, the saloon keeper, the bullet hole, and the continuing horror.

The Sauer McShane Mercantile building was the location of the third gruesome scenario. Anne Luedders portrayed the malevolent Woman in White. As patrons entered the building, they were immediately shrouded in a pale, damp fog. Luedders’ character materialized out of the mist to relate the history of the building.

The Sauer McShane Mercantile was built in 1886 as a warehouse for the storage of hay bales and mine equipment. Business was good at first. However, by 1940, the building was in sad shape and fell into disuse. Finally, it was purchased by Angelo DiBenedetto, one of the premier artists of the 20th Century. He fell in love with Central City and the building and made it his home for the next 50 years. He renovated the building, opening a restaurant on the first floor, maintaining an art studio on the second floor, and making his home on the third floor.

He died in 1992, and the building again was empty, until a purchaser opened a print shop. It was at this time that the Woman in White appeared and began showing her marked displeasure at the presence of strangers. To this day, she apparently continues to haunt the building.

Jennifer Rogers welcomed visitors to Scarlet’s Casino to hear accounts of the children of Central City “who chose to stay here after life.” She related sightings of the spirits of children, still playing in or near their homes, as well reports of sad discoveries made in the wall of a former doctor’s office and in an attic.

Scarlet’s was also the scene of the Sleepy Hollow Mine, which retold the worst mining accident in the history of Gilpin County in August 1895. George Jones played the role of a miner who died, along with many others, when water flooded the mine and collapsed the walls of that and other nearby mines. He led patrons to ponder whether Tommyknockers – legendary figures similar to leprechauns who were said to inhabit the mines – had knocked to warn miners of the impending cave-in or had actually caused it to happen.

David Forsythe, Gilpin History Museum director, wrote scripts for the performances based on allegedly real events. The performers developed their characters and scenes according to their own dramatic license and also came up with their own costumes and settings.

A “meet and greet” session with the actors at Dostal Alley Casino followed the evening’s presentations.

Several of the actors perform regularly in the Creepy Crawl, including Roberts, Keeler, and Luedders.

Newcomer Tommie Johnston is not a member of the Historical Society, but volunteered to enact her role, which she enjoyed. She has lived in Gilpin County for two years and is presently working at Lowe’s.

This is the first Creepy Crawl for George Jones, who is employed with Anne Luedders at the Federal Highway Administration. Luedders invited him to perform based on his outgoing personality and experience with speaking for crowds as part of his job. Jones had previous acting experience; he played the role of Snidely Whiplash in a melodrama in the late 1970’s and had a non-speaking part in the movie The Blue and the Gray in 1981.

Historical Society members Martie Fast and Gail Keeler, who also served as a tour guide, advised that Central City’s Business Improvement District (BID) hires the Gilpin Historical Society to put on the Creepy Crawl each year. Both the CC-BID and the Society benefit from ticket sales. Last year’s Crawl saw about 2,000 visitors.

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