Some did, most didn't, and suddenly Denver had a booming population of residents ... both the living and the dead. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how this all went down. Back in the raucous, early days of Denver, the gold rush brought over 100,000 prospectors, entrepreneurs, and more to the city with dreams of striking it rich. Denver’s Cheesman Park is a popular spot for tourists and local families alike, and it is easy to see why. Lee worked at King Soopers, a supermarket near Cheesman Park and lived in an apartment right across the street from the park. The History. Then he led me to a couple areas of the park where slightly sunken plots are noticeable. Located in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Cheesman Park is a lush 81 acres that didn’t make its debut until the late 1890s. You never know what secrets are just below Cheesman's surface. Construction crews in the 1960s were still exhuming bones in the park area, and there could be up to 2,000 thousands of bodies, or parts of bodies, right beneath the surface of Cheesman, today. Which brings us to this century. As I handed him a cigarette, he said, “Did you see them?”. Know what? Cheesman park is one of the oldest parks in the Denver area. Since the late 1800‟s, the area of Cheesman Park has been a place for the citizens of Denver to come and relax in peace. A report in 1866 stated that 626 persons were buried in the cemetery. It was originally a cemetery. In 1923, the bodies from the Hebrew Burial ground were removed to other sites and the cemetery returned to the city, where the site currently serves as the site of the reservoir in Congress Park. When I reassured him that if we saw “them” we would let him know, the pair casually moved away from us into the darkness. The contractor who was tasked with moving the graves was paid by the casket. No matter if you are chasing spirits or you're just enjoying a stroll through the beautiful oasis, it's best to watch your step (and keep your dog from digging). Early grave robbers during the cemetery relocation reported being touched by unseen hands. Almost immediately, when the bodies began to be removed from the cemetery in 1893, strange things began to happen. Others have also claimed that after lying on the grass, they have found it difficult to get up, as if unseen forces are restraining them. Larimer called it Mount Prospect Cemetery and several large plots were designated on the crest of the hill for the exclusive use of the city’s wealthy and most influential citizens. The graves were moved at this time, but bones do unearth in Cheesman Park from time to time. Our cookies are delicious. Have you ever stumbled across an unmarked grave or seen a spooky spirit in Denver's Cheesman Park? Along the tour you’ll hear haunting tales and hair-raising first accounts of paranormal activity. After receiving these many nicknames, the cemetery never gained the respect that Larimer intended for it to have. Cheesman Park's Past Life...as a Cemetery. One of the first reports was when a gravedigger named Jim Astor felt a ghost land upon his shoulders. In November 1858, Larimer set aside 320 acres for a cemetery, which is now the site of present-day Cheesman and Congress Parks. He said he was spoken to there by what he said was a ‘middle-aged guy wearing ripped up pants, no shirt, and a cowboy hat. At that time I had not yet learned about the park's history. This past Memorial Day, 2 days before the full moon, I took a "shortcut" To prepare for the park, families had 90 days to remove the bodies of their loved one. The park’s history began in 1858 when General William Larimer jumped the claim of the St. Charles Town Company and established his own town, which he called Denver. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. Still, he didn’t hear it and we could see no one. I have dubbed the ghost “Slackjaw.”. Today, these restless spirits are still said to occupy the park as dozens of tales continue to be told of paranormal activities taking place. Due to a large number of graves in the Roman Catholic section, Mayor Bates sold the 40-acre area to the archdiocese, which was named the Mount Cavalry Cemetery. Its sprawling lawns and elegant pavilion act as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Colfax Avenue and the surrounding city. In 1865, 40 acres of the cemetery became Mount Cavalry, a … Residents in the nearby neighborhood report seeing distraught apparitions, hear knocking on the walls, and some have even seen a woman holding her severed head sitting in their dining room. I believe him. The section once used as the Chinese cemetery was used as the city tree and shrub nursery until 1930 when a WPA project converted it to an addition for Congress Park. Prospect gained yet another nickname when a popular professional gambler named Jack O’Neill was gunned down outside of a saloon in March 1860. However, most of those buried in the cemetery were vagrants, criminals, and paupers. Lee is also fascinated with ghosts. That's a lot of unsettled souls who might still be searching for their heads ... and feet ... and arms ... well, you get the picture. Those who could afford to began to transfer the bodies to other cemeteries throughout the city. As they grew closer, I could see that the pale man’s jaw was broken. Though Denver consisted of only 150 buildings at the time, about 1,000 spectators attended the Stoefel hanging. A residential community separates Cheesman from Congress Park. I'd heard it was haunted, but that was not on my mind that night. When we could see them no longer, Rubin and I quickly ran toward my apartment as fast as we could, never looking back. The town set about exhuming the graves to move them to ... er, greener pastures. He allegedly cheated the city by faking the movement of hundreds of graves. Cheesman Park is located at Franklin and 8th Streets and is open from dawn until 11:00 p.m. ©Kathy Weiser – Legends of America, updated October 2019. As many towns did in that era, Denver had to find a place to bury its residents, so own founder William Larimer plotted out a cemetery in 1858. The park is the masterpiece of Denver’s turn-of-the-century landscape architect, Reinhard Schuetze. In addition, it's said on moonlit nights, if you stand on the west steps of the pavilion the grave-filled cemetery of the 19th century will appear before you. The plots began to fill up quickly thanks to typhoid and other disease outbreaks, mining-related issues, and general Old West chicanery. Before then, the recently established Denver was home to the large Prospect Hill Cemetery, which spanned the area that is now the Denver Botanic Gardens, Congress Park, and — you guessed it — Cheesman Park. The contractor who was tasked with moving the graves was paid by the casket. When the Denver Republican got hold of the story, its headline proclaimed on March 19, 1893: “The Work of Ghouls!”  The article described, in detail, McGovern’s practice of hacking up what were sometimes intact remains of the dead and stuffing them into undersized boxes. "The Denver Republican newspaper ran a story on March 19, 1893, with a headline that read: 'The Work of Ghouls!' Courtesy of U.S. Air Force via Senior Airman Marcy Glass. Many were never moved and are still on the grounds. The Park has inexact borders, as it is framed on 3 sides by private residences, but is located in center of the Cheesman Park neighborhood, between Humboldt Street on the west, Race Street and Denver Botanic Gardens on the east, 13th Avenue on the north, and 8th Avenue on the south. Since the late 1800‟s, the area of Cheesman Park has been a place for the citizens of Denver to come and relax in peace. My friend Don told me basically the story told here. The hospital, more often referred to as a “pest house,” was where smallpox victims were quarantined, along with others having contagious diseases and some that were merely sick, elderly, or handicapped. Though officially annexed in the year of 1883, many of the plats in the city go back to the year of 1868. What lurks beneath the surface of Denver’s beautiful Cheesman Park? Walley did an extremely bad job of keeping up the cemetery which soon fell into a terrible state of disrepair as headstones were toppled, graves were vandalized and sometimes, even cattle were allowed to graze upon the land. In 1894, grading and leveling began in preparation for the park, though several of the open graves wouldn’t be filled in until 1902 when shrubs were planted in many of them. After the cemetery became unsightly and unused, it was converted to a park in 1890 and completed in 1907. He said those are the empty, looted graves the robbers pillaged. We use cookies. A year later, the cemetery’s name was changed to the Denver City Cemetery. When Larimer eventually left Denver, Mt. Around their edges were piled broken coffins, rent and tattered shrouds and fragments of clothing that had been torn from the dead bodies…All were trampled into the ground by the footsteps of the gravediggers like rejected junk.”. The majority of these bodies were then removed and shipped to their homeland of China. It was originally the Prospect Hill Cemetery built in 1858, which expanded east to Denver Botanic Gardensand Congress Park. The parks history began in 1858 when General William Larimer jumped the claim of the St. Charles Town Company and established his own town, which he called Denver. In its earliest years, it was a neighborhood where the wealthy resided in immense and gorgeous mansions. Some legends even tell of homesteaders who began to live upon the land. These experiences became the basis for a 1980 Hollywood horror film called The Changeling.. Cheesman Park is a wonderful reprieve from the concrete jungle of Denver. They stabbed me fifteen times,” the man said. Cheesman Park is located in central Denver, southeast of downtown. The History. The Dark History of Cheesman Park 1. In actuality, the property didn’t belong to the Town Company either; rather the land legally belonged to the Arapaho Indians. Yet more reports tell of strange shadows and misty figures that seem to wander through the park in confusion. Today, an estimated 2,000 bodies remain buried in Cheesman Park. Last month, workers digging a new irrigation system … Back in the early history of Denver, in the mid-1800’s, the land where Cheesman Park now sits was known as Mount Prospect Cemetery. That all sounds fairly normal, considering we're talking about the dead. Though numerous graves had not yet been reached and others sat exposed, a new contract for moving the bodies were never awarded. Just then I heard a rattling chain behind us and said, “Rubin, can you hear that?”  As I looked around, he replied that he hadn’t heard anything. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. If you visit the park, you might well experience the past for yourself. In 1950, the Catholic Church moved the remains of those interred in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery and sold the land back to the city, which is now the location of Denver’s Botanical Gardens. Most visitors tell of feelings of unexplainable sadness or dread in a place, that is today, meant for pleasure and relaxation. While taking a stroll upon the rolling hills or having a picnic under the shade of one of the many trees in the beautiful 80 acre Cheesman Park, many visitors don’t realize that they very well may be walking or sitting right upon the grave of one of the many who were buried here in the 19th century. McGovern was to provide a “fresh” box for each body and transfer it to the Riverside Cemetery at a cost of $1.90 each. Since its development, Cheesman Park has been plagued by reports of unexplained activity. He allegedly cheated the city by faking the movement of hundreds of graves. The gruesome work began on March 14, 1893, before an audience of curiosity-seekers and reporters. A couple of days later, Rooker shot O’Neil down as he passed by the door of the Western Saloon. However, the most often story told of the first person buried was a man hanged for murder. Only a portion of the park rests on cemetery land, today, with other sections turned into residential areas, Congress Park, and the Botanic Gardens. Not until my last visit in 2011 to see a friend did I learn of the park’s dark past. The Cheesman Park area neighborhood is considered to be one of the single oldest ones located within Denver. Having had friends in Denver, I’ve made the trip from Omaha several times. The first man buried in the cemetery was named Abraham Kay, who died after being suddenly stricken with a lung infection. The pavilion continues to stand today. (Last Privacy Policy Update July 2020), Byways & Historic Trails – Great Drives in America, Soldiers and Officers in American History, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Massachusetts. Many were never moved and are still on the grounds. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. In 1875, twenty acres at the north part of the cemetery were sold to the Hebrew Burial Society, who then maintained it, while much of the rest of the graveyard grew tall with weeds. It was officially named Mount Prospect Cemetery and was unofficially coined as Jack O’Neal’s Ranch after one of its first inhabitants, a gambler who was murdered. The Cheesman Park esplanade (between Williams and High Streets and 7th and 8th Avenues) connected Cheesman with the rest of the city parks system in 1912. Creation of the pavilion in the park, built with funds donated from Walter Cheesman’s widow and dedicated to the people of Denver, led to the park being renamed “Cheesman Park” in 1907. Body parts of dozens of corpses ended up in one box, leaving so many bodies dispersed and displace. Making for a far more interesting tale, it has become the more preferred version. Around their edges were piled broken coffins, rent and tattered shrouds and fragments of clothing that had been torn from the dead bodies ... All were trampled into the ground by the footsteps of the gravediggers like rejected junk.". The ‘guy’ said to him, “Have you seen my wife?” and he disappeared into a bush; as if he walked right through it. A singing woman can be heard and seen at night. It was originally a cemetery. But if you dig a little deeper, literally, you will exhume an interesting, and pretty creepy, piece of Denver history and few buried secrets, too. Continuing our stroll, we moved toward the middle of the big field where it was more open and sat down in the cool grass to smoke a cigarette. There have been numerous stories of ghostly encounters in and around the park. However, when Rooker refused, O’Neill questioned his heritage as well as that of several of his family members. The Park has inexact borders, as it is framed on 3 sides by private residences, but is located in center of the Cheesman Park neighborhood, between Humboldt Street on the west, Race Street and Denver Botanic Gardens on the east, 13th Avenue on the north, and 8th Avenue on the south. He then lifted his sleeves to show us what looked like very deep stab wounds in his arms, back, and chest. Cheesman Park. Then he took me to an area where paupers, criminals, and the destitute were buried, and said that area was basically untouched; the bodies never were moved to other cemeteries. Afterward, the city built a temporary wooden fence around the cemetery, leaving it in shambles with open holes still displayed. Cheesman Park is one of Denver's oldest neighborhoods — a small, densely populated area bordered by Colfax Avenue on the north, York Street on the … It comes as no surprise that the spirits of these forgotten, looted, and sometimes desecrated bodies continue to make their presence known, not only at Cheesman Park but in the neighborhood that surrounds it. The influential citizens of Denver’s society were most often buried elsewhere, leaving the graveyard to burials of the poor, criminal, and diseased. Open spaces, gorgeous trees, and wonderful places to stretch out on the grass and look at the beautiful blue Colorado sky. Legends, Ghosts, Myths and Mysteries Main Page. There have been numerous stories of ghostly encounters in and around the park (The Changeling was based on experiences the author had at a mansion near the park). Discover Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado: A downtown park built on top of unclaimed graves. While some of these sections were well kept up by family descendants or their organizations, others were terribly neglected. “The ones who did this to me. strange experiences they've had in Cheesman Park. But other reports are more specific, often including the sounds of hundreds of whispering voices and moans that continue to come from the fields where the open graves once laid. McGovern to move the rest in 1893, at a cost of $1.90 each, and you could say he did a real "hack" job on the whole thing. We talked about work and other mundane things as we strolled away from the old pavilion to the rose gardens, where there is a natural maze of huge rose bushes. The town then turned to contractor E.P. Having arrived in Denver to allegedly settle a dispute with his brother-in-law, he ended up shooting the man on April 7, 1859. When the Rocky Mountain News printed the story, the cemetery also became known as “Jack O’Neil’s Ranch.”. Many were never moved and are still on the grounds. Last week, I wrote about Russell Hunter’s paranormal experiences while renting a Denver home near Cheesman Park in the late 1960s. One night my friend Rubin and I decided to take a walk through the park. Mount Prospect Cemetery opened on the 160-acre site in 1858. In November, General Larimer designated around 320 acres of land to be used as Mount Prospect Cemetery. Cheesman Park is located in central Denver, southeast of downtown. These experiences became the basis for a 1980 Hollywood horror film called The Changeling.. Before long, Colorado Senator Teller persuaded the U.S. Congress to allow the old graveyard to be converted to a park. He was buried on March 20, 1859. Before then, the recently established Denver was home to the large Prospect Hill Cemetery, which spanned the area that is now the Denver Botanic Gardens, Congress Park, and — you guessed it — Cheesman Park. What lurks at Cheesman after the sun goes down? On January 25, 1890, Congress authorized the city to vacate Mt. The Park has inexact borders, as it is framed on 3 sides by private residences, but is located in center of the Cheesman Park neighborhood, between Humboldt Street on the west, Race Street and Denver Botanic Gardens on the east, 13th Avenue on the north, and 8th Avenue on the south. Most “patients” were simply left at the pest house to die. The whole event began when O’Neil, a handsome Irish man, quarreled with a less than credible man who went by the name of “Rooker.” As the argument progressed, O’Neill suggested the two settle the argument with bowie knives in a back room. He wasn't particularly respectful of the dead in other ways, leaving bones and coffins everywhere during the process. Shadows From Beyond the Grave: The Ghost Lore of Cheesman Park In their haste, body parts and bones were literally strewn everywhere and in the disorganized mess, “souvenir” hunters began to loot the open graves and coffins. Instead of finding another contractor to finish the job, the City of Denver left the site as McGovern left it for years, and eventually simply removed the remaining headstones and, voila, a park was born. Required fields are marked *. Real estate developers soon began to lobby for a park rather than an unused cemetery. On April 9, 1859, he was hanged from a cottonwood tree at the intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek Streets. I ‘ve visited Cheesman Park on numerous occasions with friends, but none of them told me about the graves that still exist there. It was originally a cemetery. I hope this is the correct address to email. Haunted history: from cemetery to Cheesman Park Kelly Jensen DENVER - The 80 acres of Cheesman Park where today dog-walkers, joggers, and outdoor enthusiasts gather, … As the outermost edge of the cemetery began to fill with outlaws, vagrants, and paupers, Denver citizens began to call the cemetery the “Old Boneyard” and “Boot Hill.” Mt. Located in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Cheesman Park is a lush 81 acres that didn’t make its debut until the late 1890s. The second man buried at the cemetery was a Hungarian immigrant named John Stoefel. The park was finally completed in 1907, without ever having moved the rest of the bodies. The vast majority of present-day Cheesman Park was mostly the Protestant portion of the old cemetery. Cheesman Park is one of Denver’s oldest parks and one that is alive with visitors every day of the year. The park was originally named for the US Congresswho gave permission to change the cemetery to a park and was renamed Ch… Afterward, we talked about what we saw for a long time, both confident that we had seen and talked to “the walking dead!”, So, if you ever go out to Cheesman Park at night, know that you just might be questioned by a ghost in a hospital gown who continues to look for his killers. Cheesman park is one of the oldest parks in the Denver area. But, Denver grew past its mining and railroad hub town needs into a burg with more amenities, power, and prestige. Though it was intended as a high-society burial ground, those with money chose to bury loved ones in different places, and Mount Prospect fell into disrepair as mainly a place for the poor, diseased, and otherwise unwanted. Afterward, his body, along with his brother’s were dumped into the same grave at the edge of the cemetery. Its sprawling lawns and elegant pavilion act as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Colfax Avenue and the surrounding city. “There, I heard it again!”  I exclaimed as I heard the chain jingling. During this 1.5 hour interactive walking ghost tour you will uncover the eerie history behind the park (Denver’s first city cemetery).. This week, it’s time to fact-check this ghost story! It’s often considered haunted, with numerous ghost stories to read about online. Children have been seen playing in the park during the night before they mysteriously disappear and a woman is said to be seen singing to herself, before she too, suddenly vanishes. But if you dig a little deeper, literally, you will exhume an interesting, and pretty creepy, piece of Denver history and few buried secrets, too. It's no secret in Denver that Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens sit on land that once served as cemetery grounds. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Though officially annexed in the year of 1883, many of the plats in the city go back to the year of 1868. He is also a musician and recording artist trying to make a living in this field part-time. When the majority of bodies remained unclaimed, the City of Denver awarded a contract to undertaker E.P. Last week, I wrote about Russell Hunter’s paranormal experiences while renting a Denver home near Cheesman Park in the late 1960s. By the late 1880s, the cemetery was seldom used and had fallen into even worse disrepair, becoming a terrible eyesore in what had become one of the most prestigious parts of the burgeoning city. On some moonlit nights, the outlines of the old graves can still allegedly be seen. And so, Cheesman Park was born. The Thompson-Henry Mansion in Cheeseman Park, which was originally built in 1905 for Alonzo Thompson, has been listed for sale at $4.5 million. However, the unscrupulous McGovern soon found a way to make an even larger profit on the contract. Your email address will not be published. He allegedly cheated the city by faking the movement of hundreds of graves. McGovern to remove the remains in 1893. We walked across the south lawn to the pavilion where there were several skateboarders making jumps on the sides of the old fountain and other people walking about. The park was created in 1907, but before that, the land actually served as a burial ground – Mount Prospect Cemetery. When McGovern was finally pulled off the job, he had only managed to move about 1,000 bodies (with various body parts in different coffins). Vincent Scully, former Yale University art historian, described the 1898 Cheesman Park as one of the finest urban spaces in America. In its earliest years, it was a neighborhood where the wealthy resided in immense and gorgeous mansions. The History of Cheesman Park In 1858, General William Larimer arrived in what is now Denver and claimed the land from the Arapahoe Indians. Rather than utilizing full-size coffins for adults, he used child-sized caskets that were just one foot by 3 ½ feet long. Behind the building was the Potter’s field section of the graveyard, where the vast majority of the dead were buried in mass graves. Until lately. I live and work only blocks from the infamous Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado and I’ve heard stories of its haunted nature but never thought much of it. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. And the land it once occupied would be made into a park named after a notable local resident, Walter Cheesman. But beneath Cheesman Park lies an eerie history, unearthed from time to time by city workers. through the park at about 9:30 at night. Cheesman Park is a wonderful reprieve from the concrete jungle of Denver. Denver, Colorado (CNN)-- Its wide green expanses and scenic trails are nestled alongside Denver's skyline. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. Pavillion at Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado by Carol Highsmith. Before it became Cheesman Park, in 1890, named Congress Park. The government then offered the land to the City of Denver who purchased it for $200. Horrified, I said, “Shouldn’t you be in the hospital?”, Shaking his head, he answered, “They let me go because I didn’t have any money.”, He then warned us to watch out for “them” and stated several times:  “I’m going to get them!”. The transformation of Mount Prospect Hill into Cheesman Park dates back to 1890, when Congress authorized the city of Denver to vacate the burial ground. To say the least, we were petrified! Astor, who had been looting the graves as he moved the bodies, immediately ran from the graveyard and failed to return to work the next day. Prospect and in recognition, Teller immediately renamed the area Congress Park. Both men were gold prospectors, and witnesses believed that Stoefel was really there because he wanted his brother-in-law’s gold dust. It's my favorite park, you may say. Children have been heard and seen playing in the park well after dark, only to vanish in the night. Surviving family members were given 90 days to move the bodies of their loved ones to a nearby cemetery. He then approached us and asked for a smoke. Cheesman Park is located in central Denver, southeast of downtown. If you want to learn more, the Denver Public Library has some cool research and pictures of the old cemetery and Cheesman Park. Courtesy of Western History Collection Denver Public Library. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. Hacking the bodies up, McGovern sometimes used as many as three caskets for just one body. Seeing a chance to profit on others' loss, McGovern took it upon himself to chop up bodies and bury them in smaller, child-size (3 feet by 1 foot) coffins to triple his money. In the late 19th century, the land that is now Cheesman Park was Prospect Hill Cemetery, which also included the land that is now the Denver Botanical Garden and Congress Park further east. For the first few days, the transfer was orderly. The park is the masterpiece of Denver’s turn-of-the-century landscape architect, Reinhard Schuetze. The Health Commissioner immediately began an investigation into the matter and as a result, Mayor Rogers terminated the contract. With that, the residents decided that the cemetery needed to move. Colorado Experience investigates. This week, it’s time to fact-check this ghost story! Moments later we were surprised when we saw a kid riding a bicycle with a chain dangling from his pocket. 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