A haunting in Fort Collins

Katie Schmidt

Photo illustration: The Fort Collins Ghost Tour takes guest through haunted underground venues throughout Old Town.
Photo illustration: The Fort Collins Ghost Tour takes guest through haunted underground venues throughout Old Town.

Lori Juszak considers herself a skeptic of ghosts. However, she says she’s had brushes with the paranormal.

One night, Juszak walked through the basement of an Old Town business she tours for Fort Collins Ghost Tours. She turned the corner to see a tall man wearing a black coat.

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“You scared me to death,” Juszak said to the man, thinking it was her son, who is also a tour guide.

After Juszak spoke, the man faded away. After speaking to the other tour guides, Juszak learned she wasn’t the only one to see the figure.

“I am a skeptic who has come to believe there is something going on,” Juszak said.

Situations like this aren’t uncommon when participating in a Fort Collins Ghost Tour.

The tours began as a family business in May 2011.

“I started doing historical walking tours with my three sons and daughter-in-law,” Juszak said. “We interviewed building owners and they almost universally said, ‘Did you know it’s haunted?’ We started the ghost tour and it was wildly popular, more than the historic tours.”

Juszak said she and the tour guides acquire their ghost stories through history books and archives.

“We immersed ourselves for six months to get ready for tours,” Juszak said.

Since then, Juszak has written “Ghosts of Fort Collins.”

Those who attend the Fort Collins Ghost Tours are treated to an evening of Fort Collins history with a morbid twist. Each night unveils different locations and ghost stories.

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Shirley French tells the story of James and Eva Howe. (Photo credit: Eliott Foust)
Tour guide Shirley French tells the story of James and Eva Howe. (Photo credit: Eliott Foust)

Juszak’s favorite ghost story to tell is about the ghost of a boy who resides at the former city jail and morgue. Juszak said she feels connected to this story because, of the five photographs of the ghost, three of them depict the ghost standing next to her.

One of the most haunted locations on the tour was once a route to the morgue and was later used as a bomb shelter.

Juszak said at this location, the paranormal sometimes interact with the tourists.

“A clump of my hair pulled straight up while I was telling a story,” Juszak said. “The crowd was wide-eyed. I ran right into the crowd, I’m kind of chicken about these things.”

Tour guide John Miller said on one tour, a young girl said her back was burning. Her mother lifted her shirt and found scratch marks on the girl’s back. On another occasion, Miller said he found scratch marks on his chest after touring this basement.

At this location, the tour guides often use an electric voice phenomenon to detect paranormal activity. Although no ghosts were detected on this night, Miller said in the past, they have detected the voice of a Frenchman saying, “She’s not my daughter.” Miller said this may be the ghost of a man identifying a body at the morgue.

Juszak said when the tours were new, a medium attended the tour and encountered a ghost at this location who spoke French and English. The ghost asked where Juszak’s sons Robin and CJ were, who also give tours.

The basement is above the Cache la Poudre River. Tour guide Ali Hotto said mediums have identified this as a location of portal hauntings, which occur over waters. Hotto, a senior business major at CSU, said sometimes the walls of the room feel as though they are vibrating.

Tickets for Fort Collins Ghost Tours cost $15 per person. The next tour will be held Friday, July 25.

Collegian Staff Reporter Katie Schmidt can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.