Spooky stories of spirits lurking in Fort Collins

Sarah Ehrlich

Even the town that inspired Main Street USA at Disneyland has a dark past.

Ever since Fort Collins was founded as a military post in 1864, many paranormal entities have called it home. Here is a look inside some of the spookiest stories of Fort Collins’ past: 

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Walrus Ice Cream

Walrus Ice Cream sign
Walrus Ice Cream hosts a spirit names Charles Dinneback, nicknamed the Walrus Man. He lives in the tunnels under the ice cream parlor and likes to make his presence known to people on a ghost tour. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

According to Lori Juszak, the founder of Fort Collins tours and author of “Ghosts of Fort Collins, a Fort Collins businessman named Charles Dinneback is said to haunt the tunnels beneath Walrus Ice Cream. The Dinneback family was known for their barber shop, boarding house and Dinneback Café, where Walrus Ice Cream now stands.

The tunnels beneath Walrus is where “Charlie’s” spirit now hangs out. He enjoys grabbing the ankles and hair of ladies and making things move inside the ice cream shop.

Juszak said Dinneback is considered to be an “intelligent spirit,” manifesting himself in physical ways and simply seeking the company and attention of others.

If you ever find yourself in the tunnels beneath Fort Collins, Charlie will be a friend in an otherwise very creepy place.

Frank Miller

Juszak describes a story about Frank Miller, a Danish immigrant and a jack of all trades in the late 1800s. Miller was best known for his part in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as a trick shooter, traveling all over and becoming good friends with Buffalo Bill himself. 

The Linden Hotel, now home to retail businesses such as Nature’s Own, has an interesting history of guests who have decided to stick around. One such guest is Frank Miller, and an unknown woman who haunts the staircase. (Photo Illustration by Sarah Ehrlich and Tony Villalobos May)

According to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s Local History Archive, in 1920, Miller purchased the Trail’s End Ranch, where he created a wild animal zoo and a wild west show. Guests from across the nation, including celebrities, came to see the ranch that had over 1,400 animals. Miller was also a photographer and artist, and many of his works can be seen throughout Fort Collins today.

Sadly, after losing his business, wife and son, he spent the rest of his days living in the Linden Hotel, which is now the local science store, Natures Own.  His ghost can be seen by one of his paintings in the back of the store. However, if you try to approach him, he will disappear.

Nature’s Own employee Kelly Reynolds reveals there have been some disturbances around the store that indicate a possible entity but not necessarily a ghost.

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“We’ve had a bowl fall of the shelf and a vase split down the middle,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know what I believe. (It) is kind of fun to think there’s something I’m unsure of here.”

Customers can perhaps experience paranormal feeling in the back corner of the store, where one of Miller’s paintings hangs on the wall.

The Avery House

The Avery House was built for Franklin Avery, a founding father of Fort Collins, his wife, Sara

Avery house stands on Mountain street
The Avery House, named after owner, Franklin C Avery Moore stands on the corner of W. Mountain Avenue and N. Meldrum street. (Brandon Mendoza| Collegian)

Avery, and their three children Edgar, Ethel and Louise in 1879. Franklin founded First National Bank and helped agriculture flourish in northern Colorado. The sandstone house cost $3,000 at the time of its building and is now a National Historic Landmark, according to the Poudre Landmarks Foundation, which currently operates the restored house. 

Today, the Avery House is open on weekends for public viewing. According to the foundation, many guests have reported strange encounters. A ghost of an unhappy child is believed to haunt the upstairs bedroom, and people have reported other interactions with spirits who are members of the Avery family.

Fort Collins Museum of Art

What used to be the Post Office of Fort Collins is now the Fort Collins Museum of Art and host to a ghost named George, according to Juszak. 

outside of the Fort Collins Museum of Art
The Fort Collins Museum of Art was originally Fort Collins first post office, and before that a cemetery. It’s no surprise employees of the museum and Blue Agave Grill have had experiences with one particular spirit, nicknamed George. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

General Manager Gloria Boresen gave the spirit this nickname because she knows he is there and has definitely encountered him.

“At the time of the construction of Blue Agave grill, the building supervisor said that the fire alarm kept going off during nightly inspections,” Boresen said. “I said, ‘well did you talk to George about it?’ We went down to the construction site where we said hi to him.”

Both Boresen and the building supervisor felt intense pressure on their left shoulders as soon as they started communicating with George. The ghostly shenanigans stopped for awhile after that. She later discovered the site for post office and now museum was Fort Collin’s first cemetery, with an unknown number of bodies still resting beneath the museum and Blue Agave Grill.  

James and Eva Howe

According to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s Local History Archive, the last and perhaps spookiest haunting of Fort Collins is a story about James and Eva Howe who moved here in 1880. Although married for 15 years, Eva decided she had enough of her husband’s violence brought on by drinking.

a white house
1314 Myrtle Street is the address of the house James Howes killed his wife Eva in on April 3, 1880. The house was originally on Walnut, but was lifted from its roots and placed on Myrtle. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

On April 3, 1888 Eva was ready to lead herself and her daughter to safety when a drunk James arrived home unexpectedly. James was furious and knocked Eva out, stood over her and stabbed her in the neck. The neighbors who had seen this travesty took James to the jailhouse.

The same evening, all the lights went out in Fort Collins and a mob ensued to drag James to the gallows where he was hung. This incident was a large part in the promotion of temperance and led to Fort Collins becoming a dry town from 1909 to 1968. It is rumored James haunts the building where The Armadillo Mexican Restaurant used to reside. Full body apparitions have been seen in photos along with some ankle grabbing of guests, according to Juszak.

Any location with a history as rich as Fort Collins is bound to have a few souls of the past who intend on sticking around for a while. The question is, are you brave enough to encounter them?

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @SarahEhrlich96.