Like many states out west, the history of mining is varied and expansive in Colorado. Cripple Creek began as a mining camp in the late 19th century, complete with prospectors searching for gold ore and the town that would grow up around it to support the miners and gold strikes. The first gold strike in the camp that would become the town of Cripple Creek was in 1890 by a man named Bob Womack. From there, the town began to grow quickly like many mining towns in the surrounding states. A boom town that never went bust, the mines are still active in some capacities to this day.
Back in the old days, it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary to see a grizzled prospector come down from the mountains, using gold dust as their currency to obtain more supplies, perhaps a nice night in a boarding house, and other entertainment like brothels and gambling. In the late 1890s, the town would be devastated by a fire ripping through the wooden buildings, but businesses quickly rebuilt and were back in the game of gold and gambling.
Today, the town of Cripple Creek embraces the history of gambling in its city limits, offering multiple casinos for those wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Denver Metro area and Colorado Springs. With a dozen casinos, the town relies more on tourism lately than the mining strikes of the past. Two casinos in particular, Bronco Billy’s and the Colorado Grande, are said to be teaming with ghosts from the rough and tumble days of the prospecting days.
Bronco Billy’s has been named the #1 casino in Colorado, and its vintage wild west look brings a sense of adventure to the enterprising gambler. If you stay after hours, however, you would learn about the mischievous spirit of a young girl who haunts the establishment. The casino first opened in 1896 as a Gentlemen’s Club known as the Turf Club. Modern employees and guests are frequently pranked by a young girl known as Lilly. Lilly enjoys drawing on the walls, like any kid, but she also throws glasses at guests and staff alike. There have also been full- bodied apparitions of the young woman reported throughout the casino and hotel. Miss Lilly is often seen as a young girl in a nightgown, holding a beat-up rag doll.
One eye witness went as far as to call security about a lost little girl who couldn’t find her family. By the time the staff got to the staircase where she’d been sitting, the little girl had vanished into thin air. Another guest who was visiting with her own young daughter reported that Lilly had been the girl’s playmate for a while before, again, disappearing without a trace. Lilly is known to be seen most often on and around the stairs or looking out the upstairs windows, peering over the streets of cripple creek with a woeful expression.
Next is the Colorado Grande Casino, where an older ghost is said to haunt the gambling floor, specifically. As if still hoping for that next jackpot, the woman said to haunt this establishment has a particular penchant for playing the penny slots after hours. The casino was first built by two brothers who moved to the mining camp to find their fortune, opening the doors at the turn of the century and using the building with many different uses for the next few decades. It had served as A masonic Lodge’s ballroom, a medical center, and even, eerily, a mortuary.
Many visitors to the casino have reported sightings of the infamous “Maggie,” for which the restaurant in town was later named. Maggie is described as a woman of around 25, dressed in turn-of-the-century attire and wandering the halls with her high heeled boots clacking on the wooden floors of the hotel. She often leaves a rose-scented perfume in her wake as she wanders. In life, Maggie was a singer and can still occasionally be heard singing Italian Arias in the ballroom. After hours, she’s also been sighted by security guards, playing the slot machines with an unknown gentleman friend.
In the morning, one might find a jackpot sitting in the coin collector that Miss Maggie had hit the night before, but had not collected. Excitingly, Maggie has even been caught on camera with the security cams that criss-cross the modern casino. Unfortunately, the tapes have been lost or hidden away. Keeping the haunting stories speculating about the young woman and why she haunts the historic landmark hotel and casino.
The entire town of Cripple Creek is said to be haunted to this day. There are dozens of old mining tunnels in the mountains nearby, more paranormal activity reported in the historic downtown which is today designated as a National Historic Landmark. That means these ghosts will be haunting Cripple Creek in their history-laden locations for decades to come. We’ve only touched on two of the hauntings in this very active town full of spirits, both ghostly and drinkable. A visit is sure to bring stories and excitement, whether it’s on the gambling floor of being pranked by a little girl who draws on the walls.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.