CC's favorite ghost stories
by Nicole Wilkinson; images courtesy of Special Collections
As with any college campus older than 50 years, Colorado College is said to have some extra residents, particularly, residents from beyond the grave. There are a few well-known tales, such as the ghosts of Bemis and Cossitt Hall. There’s also the odd rumor or two floating around regarding haunted buildings on campus and the tragedies that go with them. I asked around about ghost stories on campus, and many students responded with both hearsay and personal experiences. I then started my research––I looked for corresponding tragedies to go along with the rumors and compared students’ experiences to determine the best ghost stories/rumors on and around campus. I went off of the following criteria: consistency, history and interest.
Lennox House Ghost(s?) (3 Stars)
The original residents William and Anna Belle Lennox moved to 1001 Nevada (the Glass House) in 1901 after having it commissioned. It was considered the finest house in Colorado Springs.
The Lennoxes were a family with a rich history in the growth of Colorado Springs, much like the Palmers or the Bemises. William Lennox was a philanthropist and was on the Colorado College Board of Trustees.
The Lennox family had children but the fate of those children was not as well-documented as the parents’ accomplishments.
In 1909, Anna Belle Lennox died. In 1936, William Lennox followed her to the grave. In 1937, the house was donated to Colorado College. It was a Student Union and the rooms were devoted to Student Government and recreation––for instance, the game room, which still holds a pool table.
For a while, it was the German Language House. Then, it was a fraternity house. Eventually, it became the Glass House.
When I heard that the Glass House is rumored to be haunted by a mother and her child, I was intrigued. I ventured forth with some trepidation of what I might hear or find.
The rumors regarding the Glass House Ghosts are varied. Some say that back when the Lennox family owned the house, one of the Lennox children had typhoid and died there. Others say that the house was a place where patients stayed during the tuberculosis epidemic (many of the ill came to Colorado, thinking the dry air would help. Hint: it didn’t) and that the ghosts are some of those who died of the disease.
Though I am a resident of the Glass House, I never encountered anything particularly strange. (Though I do experience a weird sense of foreboding when going into the communal second floor bathroom, so much so that I use the single. Other students have also shared this sentiment.) However, former residents of the Glass House described their experiences.
Aily Tran, a CC alumna, had incredibly detailed information regarding the history of some of the ghost stories on campus. According to her, the Lennox House is haunted by the son of the Lennox family, who died of typhoid. The rumor is that he continues to play throughout the house, unaware that he’s dead. He has reportedly been spotted carrying toys through the second and third floors of the house. His favorite spot: the beloved landing between the first and second floor, with the large bay windows, benches and table, a favorite study spot for the residents there. An acquaintance of Tran’s relayed the following experience to her:
“She was living in Lennox house at the time, and she told me about her encounter with the Glass House ghost. She lived on the third floor in a triple with two of her best friends and was coming down the main staircase to get down to the first floor and then the back staircase to get to the basement for a glass of water. She said as she was descending the second floor, just turning the corner onto the staircase, she spotted a little boy sitting on the bay window bench, pushing little toy trains along the window edges. She says he didn’t seem to see her, or if he did, he didn’t acknowledge her at all. Even though he didn’t seem to notice her or mean to do anything other than play, she said she was too freaked out to continue down to get her water.”
Brooks Fleet lived in the Glass House during the fall 2014 semester, during which time he said he felt a definite presence in the house. He said that during his stay, he felt the presence of a 30-35 year-old woman who was not sinister. He told me the following: “I always felt like she was watching over me because I felt comforted sometimes out of nowhere.” He also cited an incident in which he sensed her in his room, a sensation which manifested as a feeling like sleep paralysis. “The only reason I don’t really think it is sleep paralysis is because that doesn’t usually happen to me, but in the Glass House weird things would always happen to me when I was going to sleep or waking up.”
He also shared a previous experience:
“Freshman year there was a psychic on the grass outside, and I asked her if there was a ghost inside the Glass House and she said ‘yes, there are two women: mother and daughter.’ The mother died of tuberculosis and apparently liked to hang out on the porch outside the west triple of the second floor.”
In terms of consistency, the Glass House rumors don’t really coincide. There’s some debate over whether it’s the Lennox family or tuberculosis patients. I went to Tutt Library’s Special Collections in an attempt to find what would be more plausible.
There wasn’t much information on the Lennox children, save that there were a few of them. Given the time, it’s entirely possible one of them may have passed away in the house, but there isn’t much to speak to that.
As for ghosts who died of TB, I was perplexed as to when TB patients would have stayed at the house, since William Lennox lived in it from date of its construction until 1936. Then, in 1937, it was integrated into the Colorado College campus, so it is unclear when TB patients would have lived there.
My findings on the Glass House remain inconclusive.
But I will say that when I climb the beautiful staircase and pass the row of benches beside the bay windows, I’ll sometimes stop. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I’ll see that little boy, playing with his trains, completely oblivious to the world around him. Or maybe one night when I’m walking back home, I’ll look up to that porch and see a woman enjoying the spring night, looking at a view of Pikes Peak in the distance.
Though I havent found the history quite yet, I can’t help but wonder.
Bemis Hall/Taylor Theater (5 Stars)
Alice Bemis Taylor continues to survey Bemis lounge––a portrait of her holding her adopted daughter hangs on the wall. She was a benefactress to the city and to Colorado College. She was the first woman to be on the Colorado College Board of Trustees. She was a supporter of the arts and helped to fund the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, as well as a variety of other buildings in the community. She was lovingly dubbed “Lady Bountiful” for everything she did. Word has it, she also continues to watch over Bemis Hall in other ways.
“Lady Bemis” is likely the most well-known ghost story on campus. She and the ghost in Cossitt Hall have already had a Cipher article written about them (which you can find in the “Ghost File” in Special Collections). Essentially, Bemis and Taylor Theater, as well as the Fine Arts Center, have been reported to be places of some strange happenings.
I met with Anna Naden (’15) who lived on the fourth floor of Bemis throughout her junior year. She had heard about Lady Bemis and knew she was a ghost who haunted the hall’s male residents in particular. Anna admitted she was skeptical.
The first few months, everything seemed fine. However, rather suddenly, “shit got weird.” She started to get hallucinations every night and would see figures in her room when she would wake up. This discontinued after she moved out of Bemis.
“I’m convinced that Lady Bemis has a thing for windows.” Anna tells me. “Sometimes I would leave [my windows] closed and come back from class, and they would be open…Maybe the wind blew them open, but that seems sort of strange since they were locked.”
The weirdest occurrence, she reported, happened that fall. It was a cold winter night, and she was about to leave her room to head out for the evening. The girl across the hall would leave her shoes outside of her room before heading in. So, when she stepped out that evening, she expected to see the girl’s shoes there as usual. “There was a person. It wasn’t boots. There was somebody standing there, like, in the boots. So I looked away because usually it’s just her shoes, and I looked back, and [the person was] gone. An older woman in a dress, wearing this pair of boots and standing there. And when I looked back, she was gone. So I was like, ‘Okay, it’s Lady Bemis.’”
I also spoke with some theater techs, who have said that Taylor Theater is haunted. Elizabeth Lund (‘16), who was working in Taylor Theater, saw that a ladder had been left from the day before, but now a random wrench was on top of the ladder. When she moved it, the ladder fell and landed on her foot, breaking it. People still aren’t sure why that wrench was there––no one claimed it as their own doing.
There is another recurring rumor I repeatedly encountered: a woman murdered by a man in Bemis, in one of the rooms. The room of the murder scene was boarded up, and the ghost allegedly continues to haunt Bemis Hall as well.
I went through the Student Tragedies file in Special Collections and found no evidence of a murder in Bemis. However, the Cipher article “Old Ghosts Never Die, They Only Get Crazier” by Rachel Johnson had a similar story which may explain the rumor:
“For many years, [Bemis Hall] was the social center for women on campus. When the building was first created, 83 women lived there in total and men were not allowed to live in the building.
“Lady Bemis died in 1942 and was buried next to her daughter Marjorie Delight. Although the cause of Marjorie’s death is unknown, local rumor states that a man snuck into her room at night and murdered her. Because of this, the Bemises donated the all-female dorm in order to provide a safe haven for the women on campus. Apparently, the ghosts feel secure here too. Marjorie Delight is often heard skipping down the halls and laughing late at night.”
This would explain the rumor. However, I went searching for any information of Lady Bemis having a daughter named Marjorie Delight, and found nothing. Lady Bemis did have an adopted daughter, Alice Doree, who lived in Maine later in life. The painting in Bemis lounge shows her holding her daughter. I remain unconvinced about a daughter named Marjorie Delight being murdered.
Lady Bemis herself remains more than a rumored presence in Bemis Hall, but a fixture in our community that we can count on. As in life, also in death.
Cossitt Hall (4 Stars)
Dorothea Cornick was another valued member of the Colorado College community––she was a ballet dancer who taught in Colorado College’s own Cossitt Hall. She died in 1962, at the age of 34.
The Colorado Springs Independent ran an article in 2005 called “City of the Dead.” One of the hauntings mentioned in the article is our own Cossitt Hall.
The Independent interviewed Doug Sullivan, a facility technician on campus, who recalls this story:
In the early to mid 90s, Sullivan and a few others were working in Cossitt to remove asbestos from the basement. He came across one of his workers, frozen in fear. Something had scared this man so bad that he never came back to work on the project.
So, what scared him?
As it got late, he began to hear the pounding of drums. The drums got closer. Louder.
Suddenly, the crawl space lit up, and a staircase appeared. Upon the staircase: a woman, dressed in a white gown.
She slowly climbed to the top of the spiral staircase, as this construction worker watched. She turned her head towards him, and he was shocked at the horrifying sight: she had no face. All he could see was her exposed skull, the dark sockets staring at him.
According to Rachel Johnson’s Cipher article, Dorothea Cornick died of sinus cancer––it ate away at the skin of her face, revealing the bones beneath.
Slocum (1 Star)
Slocum is a relatively new building, so I was surprised to hear stories of it being haunted, combined with a rumor that a girl had fallen from one of the windows to her death.
However, I decided to look into the Student Tragedies file in Special Collections to verify this. Out of respect, I won’t go into too much detail. A girl never fell out of a Slocum window, but a girl did fall out of a fourth floor window in Bemis Hall in 2004.
So far, nothing verified Slocum possibly being haunted.
Dale Street (5 Stars)
I came across the following story in a book by Stephanie Waters called “Ghosts of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak.” Various sources covered the murder, but only hers mentioned the dogs. I contacted her via Facebook to ask about how she discovered that particular detail. She found records of the tale through Genealogy Bank.
In 1911, dead dogs were showing up around the Colorado College campus and the Old North End neighborhood, including Ballou, the dog of the Colorado College Dean of Students.
Authorities realized the cause was bits of sausage littered around the town, covered with strychnine.
Slick, the Palmer High mascot, was one of the victims. Bystanders claimed that soon before his death, they saw an Italian man laughing maniacally from a butcher’s van and throwing sausages over the fence. The town was warned to keep their dogs safe.
During this time of dogs being poisoned, it wasn’t really an oddity when the Burnham family’s pet dog showed up dead on their lawn. What was odd was when no one came to clean the decaying dog up for days. In fact, that house, as well as the Wayne family home next door, had been eerily quiet.
A concerned sister had a spare key and decided to go and check on her sister Alice and her family. She was met with the putrid stench of death and a gruesome sight: her sister Alice and the children’s skulls bashed in, still tucked into their beds, save for the toddler, who appeared to have woken up and tried to escape. She did not succeed.
The police checked on the Wayne family next door, who also hadn’t been seen in a while. The Waynes had met a similar fate.
The first suspect was Arthur Burnham, who was at a local sanitarium. He had TB. However, the police hardly suspected he could have actually committed the murder. They arrested him anyway, to quell public outcry. He was eventually released, but died two months later due to his illness.
The next suspect was Anthony Donatello. People claimed he was in love with Alice Burnham and wanted her husband dead. A landlord and butcher, he also admitted to killing the occasional dog. He enjoyed the exotic taste. When police searched his home, they found a bone yard. His home was upholstered by dog skins. He was arrested, but due to lack of evidence regarding the actual Burnham/Wayne murders, he was released.
In Iowa, also near a train track, there was a similar murder around this time. Some suspect that the murders may have been the cause of a serial killer.
The murder still remains unsolved. Not too much later, neighbors demanded that the city destroy the two cottages. The city obliged.
The bloody history of the Burnham/Wayne murders still haunts the neighborhood. The lots of 743 Harrison place and 321 West Dale Street remain empty. The people who live nearby still say they can hear screaming and the howling of dogs.
Before the highway, these murders would have felt much closer to campus. I know a bunch of asphalt and speeding cars doesn’t matter to the ghosts, but having I-25 between Colorado College’s campus and that empty lot is a relief.
Until I hear the howling of a train from the nearby tracks, that is.
* * *
Some of the stories seemed substantial, and some didn’t. What struck me was how these stories spread, diverged and corresponded. The ways that some lines were blurred, and others stayed crystal clear. While I can research histories, obituaries and testimonies, ghost stories will always be as intangible as their subject.
I inevitably ended up doing more research about the living than the dead. As in, I researched the way these supposed ghosts lived––their homes, their families, the things they did for the community that made them such memorable characters. In researching ghosts, their humanity becomes the most interesting, but also most terrifying thing about them. There is an amazing amount of buildings in Colorado Springs named after Alice Bemis Taylor and her family. Dorothea Cornick was an incredibly passionate dance instructor. William Lennox and his family were philanthropists who were well-loved by Colorado Springs and the Lennox house was so admired in the community for its beauty.
The thing about ghost stories is that no matter how much personality you give a ghost, it loses its past humanity.
This isn’t to say I dislike ghost stories. In fact, I appreciate them. Any ghost story I’ve ever been told has always motivated me to try and cut through the rumor and find the potential truth in the story, and the truth always lies in the lives of the people. I ask readers who are likely just as morbidly fascinated with these stories as I am to try and remember how these people lived, and let the stories of their lives persist longer than the stories of their deaths. You can do what I did: take a trip to Special Collections, look through the Pikes Peak Library District newspaper archives or just ask around. Take a trip through the history around you.
I still don’t know if I believe in ghosts, but I believe in the power of stories more than ever.