Exploring Local Lore | October 2021
Spooky season is upon us. With Halloween just around the corner, the Library is glad to offer you some spooky (or not so spooky) lore leading up to the special holiday.
Fort Collins is home to rich history that stretches over two centuries of settlement and expansion. Old Town Library sits at the edge of Downtown Fort Collins which is filled with its own unique brand of historical spookiness.
In fact, in 2019, Yelp.com (the highly qualified ghost experts?) named Fort Collins the 3rd most haunted city in America right behind Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana. Much of the local lore we are about to explore is sourced from the book Ghosts of Fort Collins: Haunted America by Lauri Juzak available for download via Hoopla with your Library Card.
Beneath Walrus Ice Cream, a local favorite, sits a haunted cement tunnel leading to a large room. The ice cream shop is rumored to have previously been a ladies hat shop neighbored by a morgue. The morgue was said to have used the large bunker as a bay for receiving human remains to later be transported to the cemetery.
The underground area, which is strictly ice cream free, has been known to resonate a chilling energy. Besides the spooky underground bunker, employees claim the resident ghost known as the “Walrus Man” has been known to pull ponytails and knock over cabinets.
Another interesting fact well known to many Fort Collins locals is the story behind Old Firehouse Books and the adjoining Happy Lucky’s Teahouse. The bookshop is named appropriately for its location, as it occupies the city’s former fire station. Just next door, in the very same building, the charming back corner of Happy Lucky’s Teahouse occupies the old Fort Collins jail.
With bars still adorning the windows and the jail’s door now leaned up against a wall, the teahouse has swapped criminal consequences for studying over steamy tea. Beneath Happy Lucky’s is a cement solitary confinement cell which is not well suited for studying and remains closed to the public.
Rather than ponder the shadowy individuals previously held in the old Fort Collins jail on a snowy Halloween of the past, join an upcoming virtual session at Fort Collins Book Fest this weekend where you can “Sip on Something Steamy” A session designed for romance lovers, stop by Old Firehouse Books (a sponsor of Fort Collins Book Fest) to pick up complimentary tea from Happy Lucky’s to enjoy during the session (while supplies last). October isn’t only for scares though it may still be worthwhile to peek into the old jail while picking up tea for Book Fest!
Other fabled Old Town ghosts include a haunting of the Avery building on Old Town Square by a man who was apparently poisoned by his wife, a harmless ghost of a former violin player at the Opera Galleria who struts along Trimble Court Alley, and a haunted butcher’s block at Choice City Butcher and Deli.
For Library District specific scares, perhaps take a walk by our administration house on the corner of Olive and Peterson Street right across from Old Town Library. Though the harmless looking building that houses administrative staff is not open to the public, it’s well known among Library employees that the Webster Administration House was formerly a funeral home.
The Webster House is accessibly filled with wide ramps for getting around and formerly for getting gurneys around. There is also a locked room in the basement rumored to be the former embalming room. New employees working in the Administration House are made painfully aware of the Center’s spooky history and told not to stay too long after 5:00 PM.
On a heavier note, there are also infamous and rather dark Fort Collins ghost stories connected to Colorado State University’s campus. Reminiscent of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University’s Statistics building on the Oval was previously made into an overflow hospital during the 1918 and 1919 Spanish Flu epidemic in Fort Collins.
Many citizens of Fort Collins fell victim to the Spanish Flu and the historical parallel reminds us to stay safe this Halloween. Learn lessons from the pandemic of the past with the books, Pale Rider by Laura Spinney, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Spanish Flu by Alfred W. Crosby, or for younger virologists, Spanish Flu by Kenny Abdo. All are available in the Library’s catalogue.
If this blog post has you in the mood to explore more about Fort Collins history, check out these titles from the Library’s collection: Fort Collins: A History by Barbara Fleming, Fort Collins: Then and Now by Barbara Fleming and Malcolm McNeill or Fort Collins at 150: A Sesquicentennial History by Wayne C. Sundberg.
The Library District co-sponsors the Fort Collins History Connection with the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery which houses a plethora of historical information about the Northern Colorado area and its rumored hauntings.
Stay safe this Halloween and don’t forget to avoid any underground bunkers, old solitary confinement cells, or embalmment rooms. You can also count on the Library to be a safe place though perhaps not our Administration House!