Those who could afford to began to transfer the bodies to other cemeteries throughout the city. The influential citizens of Denver’s society were most often buried elsewhere, leaving the graveyard to burials of the poor, criminal, and diseased. Your email address will not be published. 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. (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. Though Denver consisted of only 150 buildings at the time, about 1,000 spectators attended the Stoefel hanging. 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. This week, it’s time to fact-check this ghost story! Open spaces, gorgeous trees, and wonderful places to stretch out on the grass and look at the beautiful blue Colorado sky. When the Rocky Mountain News printed the story, the cemetery also became known as “Jack O’Neil’s Ranch.”. 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. Many were never moved and are still on the grounds. 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. Rather than utilizing full-size coffins for adults, he used child-sized caskets that were just one foot by 3 ½ feet long. 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. Vincent Scully, former Yale University art historian, described the 1898 Cheesman Park as one of the finest urban spaces in America. It was originally a cemetery. 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. “The ones who did this to me. Required fields are marked *. Body parts of dozens of corpses ended up in one box, leaving so many bodies dispersed and displace. The park is the masterpiece of Denver’s turn-of-the-century landscape architect, Reinhard Schuetze. Lee is also fascinated with ghosts. Pavillion at Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado by Carol Highsmith. The park was created in 1907, but before that, the land actually served as a burial ground – Mount Prospect Cemetery. Afterward, the city built a temporary wooden fence around the cemetery, leaving it in shambles with open holes still displayed. Because the nearest official court was in Leavenworth, Kansas, a “people’s court” was assembled, where Stoefel was convicted of murder. The History. Though officially annexed in the year of 1883, many of the plats in the city go back to the year of 1868. He then approached us and asked for a smoke. Courtesy of Western History Collection Denver Public Library. Making for a far more interesting tale, it has become the more preferred version. He allegedly cheated the city by faking the movement of hundreds of graves. The long-disused cemetery was converted to a park which opened in 1907, after city planners felt it would provide an amenity to new residents as land development moved east of the central city. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. Denver, Colorado (CNN)-- Its wide green expanses and scenic trails are nestled alongside Denver's skyline. McGovern to remove the remains in 1893. Cheesman park is one of the oldest parks in the Denver area. If you want to learn more, the Denver Public Library has some cool research and pictures of the old cemetery and Cheesman Park. I don't really need help but I do need to tell this story, even though it's not all that dramatic. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. He was buried on March 20, 1859. 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. Discover Cheesman Park in Denver, Colorado: A downtown park built on top of unclaimed graves. Moments later we were surprised when we saw a kid riding a bicycle with a chain dangling from his pocket. strange experiences they've had in Cheesman Park. The park was finally completed in 1907, without ever having moved the rest of the bodies. Most “patients” were simply left at the pest house to die. On January 25, 1890, Congress authorized the city to vacate Mt. Along the tour you’ll hear haunting tales and hair-raising first accounts of paranormal activity. When the majority of bodies remained unclaimed, the City of Denver awarded a contract to undertaker E.P. 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. 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. Courtesy of U.S. Air Force via Senior Airman Marcy Glass. It was obvious looking at the land that these hadn’t been actual graves in decades. Many were never moved and are still on the grounds. Until lately. The town set about exhuming the graves to move them to ... er, greener pastures. However, most of those buried in the cemetery were vagrants, criminals, and paupers. Having had friends in Denver, I’ve made the trip from Omaha several times. Two years later, in 1909, Gladys Cheesman-Evans, and her mother, Mrs. Walter S. Cheesman, donated a marble pavilion in memory of Denver pioneer, Walter Cheesman. With that, the residents decided that the cemetery needed to move. 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. At that time I had not yet learned about the park's history. 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. A singing woman can be heard and seen at night. In 1872, the U.S. Government determined that the property upon which the cemetery sat was federal land, having been deeded to the government in an 1860 by a treaty with the Arapaho Indians. 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). Early grave robbers during the cemetery relocation reported being touched by unseen hands. Yet more reports tell of strange shadows and misty figures that seem to wander through the park in confusion. Know what? However, when Rooker refused, O’Neill questioned his heritage as well as that of several of his family members. "The Denver Republican newspaper ran a story on March 19, 1893, with a headline that read: 'The Work of Ghouls!' For the first few days, the transfer was orderly. Its sprawling lawns and elegant pavilion act as a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Colfax Avenue and the surrounding city. Cheesman Park is a wonderful reprieve from the concrete jungle of Denver. Before it became Cheesman Park, in 1890, named Congress Park. If you visit the park, you might well experience the past for yourself. In fact, one of the most recent exhumations was in 2010 during irrigation work near Cheesman's pavilion. He then lifted his sleeves to show us what looked like very deep stab wounds in his arms, back, and chest. 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. On April 9, 1859, he was hanged from a cottonwood tree at the intersection of 10th and Cherry Creek Streets. 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. I followed the narrow dirt path that people have created by cutting across the park at 12th Avenue. The Chinese section of the graveyard was placed in the hands of a large population of Chinese who lived in the “Hop Alley” section of Denver. Since its development, Cheesman Park has been plagued by reports of unexplained activity. After receiving these many nicknames, the cemetery never gained the respect that Larimer intended for it to have. I have dubbed the ghost “Slackjaw.”. 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.”. He said those are the empty, looted graves the robbers pillaged. 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. In November, General Larimer designated around 320 acres of land to be used as Mount Prospect Cemetery. Have you ever stumbled across an unmarked grave or seen a spooky spirit in Denver's 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. However, the most often story told of the first person buried was a man hanged for murder. Some did, most didn't, and suddenly Denver had a booming population of residents ... both the living and the dead. The plots began to fill up quickly thanks to typhoid and other disease outbreaks, mining-related issues, and general Old West chicanery. He allegedly cheated the city by faking the movement of hundreds of graves. After the cemetery became unsightly and unused, it was converted to a park in 1890 and completed in 1907. 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. 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. Cheesman Park's Past Life...as a Cemetery. 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 1881, a “hospital” for those suffering from smallpox was established just south of the Jewish Cemetery. 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. When we could see them no longer, Rubin and I quickly ran toward my apartment as fast as we could, never looking back. Geography. The town then turned to contractor E.P. 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 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. But beneath Cheesman Park lies an eerie history, unearthed from time to time by city workers. 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. It was originally a cemetery. Legends, Ghosts, Myths and Mysteries Main Page. 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. I believe him. Prospect gained yet another nickname when a popular professional gambler named Jack O’Neill was gunned down outside of a saloon in March 1860. Cheesman Park has been a fancy-pants part of Denver for years…at least since it stopped being Mt. Almost immediately, when the bodies began to be removed from the cemetery in 1893, strange things began to happen. Today, these restless spirits are still said to occupy the park as dozens of tales continue to be told of paranormal activities taking place. The second man buried at the cemetery was a Hungarian immigrant named John Stoefel. When Larimer eventually left Denver, Mt. I'd heard it was haunted, but that was not on my mind that night. “To this day it is estimated that there are 2,000 bodies still buried in the earth here at Cheesman Park,” tour guide Shube said, citing local historians and research. As they grew closer, I could see that the pale man’s jaw was broken. 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). Those living in residences surrounding the graveyard began to report sad and confused looking spirits knocking at their doors and windows, as well as the sounds of moans coming from the still yet open graves. © 2021 Our Community Now - All Rights Reserved - Device. There are thousands of bodies under this popular Denver park from its time as a city cemetery. Lee worked at King Soopers, a supermarket near Cheesman Park and lived in an apartment right across the street from the park. The Cheesman Park area neighborhood is considered to be one of the single oldest ones located within Denver. These experiences became the basis for a 1980 Hollywood horror film called The Changeling.. In its earliest years, it was a neighborhood where the wealthy resided in immense and gorgeous mansions. In its earliest years, it was a neighborhood where the wealthy resided in immense and gorgeous mansions. 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.". 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. Real estate developers soon began to lobby for a park rather than an unused cemetery. Cheesman park is one of the oldest parks in the Denver area. The Dark History of Cheesman Park By Amanda H. King 2. I ‘ve visited Cheesman Park on numerous occasions with friends, but none of them told me about the graves that still exist there. 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. 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. It's my favorite park, you may say. Last month, workers digging a new irrigation system … Located in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood, Cheesman Park is a lush 81 acres that didn’t make its debut until the late 1890s. That all sounds fairly normal, considering we're talking about the dead. To prepare for the park, families had 90 days to remove the bodies of their loved one. 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. These experiences became the basis for a 1980 Hollywood horror film called The Changeling.. 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. Today, an estimated 2,000 bodies remain buried in Cheesman Park. Cheesman Park. It was originally a cemetery. Cheesman Park is located in central Denver, southeast of downtown. The History. Last week, I wrote about Russell Hunter’s paranormal experiences while renting a Denver home near Cheesman Park in the late 1960s. The History of Cheesman Park In 1858, General William Larimer arrived in what is now Denver and claimed the land from the Arapahoe Indians. 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. He wasn't particularly respectful of the dead in other ways, leaving bones and coffins everywhere during the process. However, the unscrupulous McGovern soon found a way to make an even larger profit on the contract. The contractor who was tasked with moving the graves was paid by the casket. The pavilion continues to stand today. What lurks at Cheesman after the sun goes down? Colorado Experience investigates. I hope this is the correct address to email. 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