The 5 most haunted places on the Auraria Campus
Paranormal investigator and MSU Denver alumnus Jason Cordova reveals the ghostly history of the tri-institutional campus.
Story by Matt Watson | Photos by Alyson McClaran
Every October on the Auraria Campus, students swap ghost stories like biology notes, eagerly adding to the oral histories of a college campus constructed in Denver’s oldest neighborhood. For some, such as MSU Denver alumnus Jason Cordova, pursuit of the paranormal is more of a year-round trade.
Cordova, who founded the Crypto Science Society more than a decade ago as a student, has long been intrigued by the eerier side of life. He came back to campus this month to highlight the haunted hot spots of his alma mater.
In the 1940s, Ramon and Carolina Gonzalez turned their home in what is now the Ninth Street Historic Park into the Casa Mayan restaurant, a cultural center that served the residents of Auraria for decades.
“It was a very happy community space with a lot of people coming and going,” Cordova said. “We did an investigation there and set up a remote station. At that time, it was office space, and we had caught on video some rare orb recordings, where the orbs are moving and dancing around.”
Cordova said the orbs represent the spirit of the space – evidence that the paranormal can be positive.
Cherry Creek Building (formerly South Classroom)
Ghost hunters don’t spend all their time in haunted houses, looking for trapdoors or trapped spirits. Cordova says some ghosts are right there out in the open.
“By [the building], people have described hearing a bicycle with a little bell. You can hear the whir of the wheels coming by when there’s nothing there,” he said. “A number of people have reported hearing or experiencing that on that section of the campus. It’s on my list of things to investigate.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church
In 1908, an Italian anarchist attended Mass at St. Elizabeth’s and shot and killed a priest, the Rev. Leo Heinrichs, during Communion. The aggressor, Giuseppe Alia, twice attempted to escape death row before being hanged at the Colorado State Penitentiary, concluding a sad saga that captured national news headlines. But some say the saga continues.
“I was granted an interview with someone who works at the church, which is fully active. They told me that people have often witnessed a full body apparition of what most believe to be Father Leo in the sanctuary, in broad daylight,” Cordova said.
The Tivoli Catacombs
One of the most well-known ghost stories on the Auraria Campus is that of a little girl wandering the halls of the Tivoli. Some suggest this is the daughter of Moritz Sigi, the original owner of the brewery. The catacombs are large rooms in the basement where beer was stored, now serving as campus storage rooms.
“The daughter of the brewer was said to have free rein of the building when she was a little girl. It was her own private play castle,” Cordova said. “Some theories around her presence are that perhaps her spirit might regress to the point in her life when she was most happy and joyful, and expressing that throughout the building.
“Not all ghost stories are horror and fear.”
The Tivoli Turnhalle
The Turnhalle Opera House was constructed in 1882 and has hosted numerous concerts, plays and lectures in the 100-plus years since it opened. The stage, overhanging balcony and cathedral ceiling also make the Turnhalle a popular place for weddings.
“Even today, many people still hold weddings here,” Cordova said. “We have come across stories of people who have encountered an apparition of a woman in white, perhaps a bride.
“One story a caterer has relayed was that they were cleaning up after a wedding, and they were sure everybody was out of the building after the event, but then they noticed a woman in white standing on the balcony. They went up to confront her to make sure she wasn’t lost or had forgotten something, and to their surprise, when they arrived at the top of the stairs there was nobody there.”
Countless couples throughout the years have spoken the phrase, “Till death do us part.” Or does it?