I went to Ouray, Colorado for a ghost tour. (And a wedding.)
Our ghost tour guide, Morgan, was also scheduled to officiate the wedding ceremony. She told us her credentials before we began – she teaches rhetoric, and has had lots of practice making things up. (Disregard.)
Ouray started out as a mining town in the days of the Wild West. Those were desperate times, and needless to say the hollow-eyed miners and even hollower-eyed prostitutes left some grim funk in their wake.
Morgan opened with a classic bit about a haunted toilet.
At the turn of the century a miner named J. Dawson Hidgepath came to Ouray. He told everybody there he was “all about that mine lyfe,” which sounded plausible. But soon everyone knew his true colors.
J. D. Midgewapple was a fuckboy. He wanted to “marry” (old-timey euphemism) every woman in Ouray. That didn’t say much – Ouray at the time had approximately 73 men to every one woman. Most of the local women were either married or conspicuously the wrong age.
This didn’t slow down J.R.R. Buttlesqueek, much to the murderous chagrin of Ouray’s husbands and fathers.
During an ill-fated wildflower picking sesh, H.B. Piggledick “fell down the side of a mountain” (again, I assume a euphemism).
So they buried him and everyone said, “Phew, that’s over with. Now I can really get down to all that mining I’ve been putting off.”
But the townspeople hadn’t seen the last of O.G. NastyNugs. His bones continued to reappear outside the doors of women whom he had courted. This got so old that eventually the townspeople threw his bones down a deep latrine.
In the years to come women would hear him whisper in their ears as they relieved themselves. Boys will be boys!
Eventually the toilet hole was filled in, and that seems to have done it for Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
The tour moved on to this beautiful old whorehouse, a site where lots of arguments ended in playful shootings.
This building has since become a fancy hotel. Modern guests have reported feeling their beds shake while they’re sleeping.
Just when Morgan mentioned the shaking beds, a thunderclap clattered down the mountains.
As we headed to the local hot springs (haunted by the spirits of Ute Indians) the rain started to pour and a double rainbow shot out of the sky. The wind picked up and made quick work of my umbrella, turning it inside out before you could say “hostile spirits of displaced natives.”
We waited out the storm in a stairwell, near another violent old whorehouse (which were essentially the Subway sandwich shops of 19th-century Colorado).
Our tour concluded at the Beaumont Hotel, which according to hauntedplaces.org is one of the most haunted places in Ouray.
In the lobby of the hotel our tour guide told us the origin of the hotel’s most famous haunting. It began when a bonnie young lass rebuffed the advances of her stalker. This led to a series of misunderstandings that left her father injured and the woman dead.
“Actually, that’s not quite accurate.” The clerk from behind the front desk piped up. Clearly this is the moment she’s been waiting for. “Do you mind?” She grinned impishly.
She went into excruciating detail about the hundred-year-old murder. Because when you’re hearing a good ghost story, you want it to be as historically anally retentive as possible. To make matters worse, she claims to never have seen the ghosts that haunt the Beaumont Hotel. One time she saw a poinsettia fall over inexplicably, but that’s it.
I concluded that she was a pawn for hotel management, planted there to obscure the ghastly truth. I would not be discouraged by meddling hotel desk clerks and their dull potted plant anecdotes. After the tour I set out in fresh pursuit of ghostiness.
Earlier we had stopped outside the town’s first hospital, which has since become a museum of all things Ouray. Morgan had told us the story of one of Ouray’s first doctors who liked to inject patients with ground up organ meat, ostensibly to make them feel better. Eventually he and his wife left town in a hurry (don’t ask), and they forgot to bring all their haunted dolls with them.
The dolls remain in the hospital to this day, in the display devoted to children’s toys. I checked it out, but didn’t get a vibe.
But as I explored the rest of the old hospital I learned that the people of 19th-century Ouray had to deal with things way worse than haunted dolls.
There were these old-fashioned rectal dilators that had been inside hundreds, if not thousands of butts. Maybe millions.
Who knows, maybe hundreds of millions.
No matter what the staggering number of anuses, it turns out that there are at least two different types of butts. (Which one are you??? Leave a comment below!!!)
19th-century medicine consisted of amputating any part of you that had a disease. With each monthly bout of gangrene you lost a body part, until eventually there was nothing left.
Someone has absent-mindedly left a saw in this patient’s arm, as the nurse looks wistfully out the window, wondering what she’ll do with that leftover half of a cabbage she has at home.
Below is the first dentist chair ever brought to Ouray.
Someone nearby admired the dentist chair’s “steampunk aesthetic,” which I feel cheapens this chair’s rich history.
If I had one criticism of the Ouray County Musuem, it would have to be the uneven quality of their mannequins. Some of them look like retired J.C. Penney’s models, and others resemble murdered cabbage patch dolls.
Jim the Bear was a pet of one of Ouray’s early doctors. Like so many bears before him, Jim refused to act like a small cat (asshole).
The doctor had him killed, stuffed, and reinstalled at the hospital.
This old piano used to live in a house of ill repute, and it has a naughty reputation for playing all by itself.
In the museum basement we learned about Colorado miners and their many superstitions.
Women were thought to bring bad luck to mines. The Ouray women pictured below are seen bringing terrible luck to a mine, maybe because they clearly have no idea how to handle those pickaxes.
“Is this it? Am I mining?”
As if to underscore their incompetence, they have candles tucked into the brims of their hats.
In the basement, we saw a display about Ouray prisoners eating rats, or becoming very close friends with especially cute rats. There was a debate about which scenario this scene implied.
In any case, it made me hungry, and so I left the museum to go buy some of Ouray’s delicious buffalo jerky.
And I never saw a ghost.
Between this and my unsuccessful expedition to New Orleans, I was starting to think that maybe ghosts didn’t even really want to kick it with me.
Later I reviewed the ghost tour with my boyfriend.
“Could you believe that annoying hotel lady? Like, we get it. You’ve worked here a long time.”
“What hotel lady?”
“The one who kept interrupting.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The hotel clerk at the Beaumont! She was wearing a bustle and a pinafore and kept talking about poinsettias?”
“The Beaumont? Molly, we headed to the bar after it started raining. The Beaumont Hotel has been closed to guests for a hundred years.”