Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie


Durango Ghost Walk


October 6, 2017

Jacque Ritchie

Joe Nelson stands in front of the Elks Lodge in Durango where he tells stories of ghosts in the basement and tunnels under the building

Autumn is upon us and naturally thoughts turn to ghoulish pursuits. If you have an urge to zombie-walk through a graveyard to commune with spirits you are not alone.

A 2014 Harris poll reports that 42 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts. Similarly according to a Pew Research Center poll, 29 percent of Americans believe they have felt the presence of someone who has passed away, while 18 percent say they have actually seen a spirit.

For those with a wicked thirst for the supernatural, Durango resident Joe Nelson has a diabolical treat. Ghost Walk Durango offers tours of historic Durango, filled with 140 years of haunted history. Nelson himself reports that he has indeed seen a ghost. In 1887 a young girl named Tildey died after a fall down the stairs of her stately home on Third Avenue in Durango. Fast forward to a New Year's party in the 1990's at the very home Tildey passed away in. Nelson was walking upstairs and encountered a little girl sitting on the steps, crying. Concerned, Nelson tried to console the little girl and went back to the party and told the assembled guests about the child and asked for assistance. The home owners reported that the little girl was actually a ghost and she often appeared and they were accustomed to her sad presence. Years later Tildey may have been the catalyst for Nelson and brother-in-law Brian Nelson to start Ghost Walk Durango in May of this year. "When I go on vacation I always like to go on ghost walks and I noticed we didn't have one in Durango and I thought, I could do that." Nelson reports that business is 'boo'ming.

Debbie Israel

A Durango church on the ghost walk. Locals say they have heard children playing in an empty room in the church

Established in 1880, Durango sprang up as a hub for the Animas and Rio Grande railroads. Evidently, Durango is rife with ghost activity. That's not surprising given the town's history of range wars, fire, measles, cholera and a nasty Spanish flu epidemic, not to mention the occasional gun fights and hangings. As in so many wild west towns of the era a vivacious yet vicarious red-light district was located on the other side of the tracks. Reportedly, a system of tunnels, one located in the sub-basement of the Elk's Lodge on Second Avenue, led upstanding citizens under the tracks to the brothels. Nelson reports that three ghosts inhabit the basement and sub-basement and still haunt the Elk's lodge to this day. Another rather titillating account, according to Nelson, is of a long-dead lady-of-the-night who still haunts room 204 at the Leland House/Rochester Hotel on Second Avenue. She may have been a "soiled dove" but she still has scruples. Reportedly she appears in Victorian style undies but only to single male guests. If a couple checks in she does not visit (boo!). Kirk Komick has owned the Rochester for 25 years. He says, "We've had lots of comments about 'Lois' for many years." Not surprisingly there may be a wait-list to reserve room 204 but Komick says to just call and see.

The future looks great for Ghost Walk Durango. Nelson is currently researching a second old neighborhood to tour and is actively working with the city in hopes of accessing an abandoned graveyard for future tours. To book your date with the dead go to http://www.ghostwalkdurango.com.

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