We arrived at the hotel around 7:00 PM Friday night, after an uneventful 2 hour drive from Denver. There was a cozy, blazing fire in the hotel lobby and we were greeted by the friendly and knowledgeable concierge/caretaker Richard. When informed of our quest for dinner, he suggested we walk down the street to the Front Street Cafe, and to hurry since they closed around 8:15. We dumped our bags off in our room and trotted cautiously down the icy street to a most magnificent meal. We were pleasantly surprised to find such delicious offerings as "cilantro and lime encrusted salmon with avocado", "grilled T-bone with mushroom-Dijon cream sauce", a killer "Cajun Shrimp Scampi" and incredible fresh baked foccacia bread. This may have been a small mountain town cafe, but it was 5-star dining... all cheerfully served up by Pauly our effervescent waiter. Pauly was quite animated when he found out we were there for the much anticipated Holistic Fair and we joked about being the "psychic" and the "sidekick". Pauly told us that his roommate Mike worked at the Hand Hotel in the mornings and he suggested that we ask him to show us the basement while we were staying there.
We got back to the hotel by 9:00 and looked over our accommodations. Room #9, the "China Mary" room is one of 11 themed rooms at the hotel, Richard explained that it was named after the formidable old Chinese laundress who was also leader of the local Tong. The decor bordered on "Chinese bordello" circa 1890 and was less impressive than we'd imagined, owing mostly to the shower, which was basically a converted closet in the hallway. The shower walls were dripping with a snotty amber colored goo that we thought was some strange condensation, or a really poor job of hotel housekeeping. We didn't like the fact that the shower was not in the bathroom, and would necessitate a juggling act of standing naked in our room's hallway while trying to figure out where to hang the bath towels.
I'd been aware of "presences" since our arrival, from a strong impression of a cigar smoking man by the lobby fireplace (the hotel is totally nonsmoking) to a troubling image and physical pain, from a girl I felt as "Jenny" in our room. I told Susan that I felt that Jenny had died in childbirth... I felt an empathic pain in my pelvic area, I was also "told" that she was only 14. I tried to mentally convey to this sad spirit that she could pass to the other side when she was ready. We discovered in the hotel literature that the Hand was built in 1931, but I mentioned to Susan that I really felt it was much older... that whatever it was, it had probably burned down and The Hand may have been built over it.
We changed into our jammies and decided to play Nancy Drew and check out the other rooms to see if we could have done a better job of selecting one, and to see if we could pick up on any more of the etheric residents. We tiptoed down the creaking hallway like 2 giddy teenagers on a sleepover. We were both struck with the heebie jeebies at "Grandma Hand's" room which was directly across the hallway from us. There was a distinct coldness from the doorway and I was instantly aware and put off by the rocking chair in the corner. We both agreed that we would NOT be staying in this room.
All of the other rooms seemed to have the same icky amber-colored goo on the shower or tub walls in varying degrees, we attributed it to the age of the rooms or some strange form of mold. We found one room, "The Indian" had a more hospitable atmosphere, a full tub and shower (less icky goo than the others it seemed...) and the smell was more pleasant than the dank, musky odor of Room #9. We agreed to ask for a room change in the morning before we had to use the horrid shower of room 9.
We settled in for the night, I spritzed my bed and the room with lavender and cedar to cleanse and to try to mask the musky odor. I Reikied the room and burned some cedar incense hoping to clear out the unnerving vibes. Susan and I chatted and joked before bed, there were no TVs or radios in this hotel probably owing to the paper thin walls... so there was nothing to mask the odd noises of an old building.
I meditated and grounded myself before bed, preparing myself for the fair the next day. I finally went to sleep around midnight. It was 4:30 AM when I awoke, or was startled by something, I was experiencing sleep paralysis, a horrifying feeling of having my eyes wide open, seeing the dark room and all in it, but being pinned to the bed by some unseen force, unable to scream... I tried to scream out to Susan in the next bed, I heard her faint snores.... then I head the unmistakable sound of a dog running across the floor to my bed... it's toenails click, click, clicking quickly on the wood floors, the rattling of a chain like a dog collar.... it almost felt like the dog was coming to aid me, that it knew I was in distress.... I finally screamed and woke up Susan... by the time she was fully awake I was whimpering and shaken. Although most ghosts don't really "spook" me... the feeling of helpless paralysis bothered the heck out of me. I told Susan what had happened. I have to say that Susan is a true friend for staying up with me the rest of the morning, we were both unnerved... to say the least.
At 7:30 in the morning, Susan went down to ask the desk clerk if we could move to room 11, "The Indian", thankfully, it was available at no extra charge and we quickly hauled our stuff down the hall to what felt like sanctuary after the ordeal in China Mary.
The Holistic Fair was being held in the South Park High School Gym, I met several of the friendly locals who organized the fair, they asked about my night at the Hand Hotel and I mentioned my sleepless night and the invisible dog. Although everyone in town seemed to be familiar with the haunted history at the hotel... no one volunteered any information about any dog.... I sort of laughed it off and thought that maybe it was a bit nutty.
The fair attracted many of the town locals and featured psychics, holistic healers, bodyworkers and vendors. There was also a booth manned by the local Baptist church that we later found out was quite a controversy... it seems they took great offense at a holistic fair in their town and insisted on representation amidst these "heathens" so they gave out bibles and bottles of water, led group prayers and mostly gave the rest of the fair participants "the skunk-eye". I do hope we alleviated their fears, if we had not expanded their consciousness.
I had noticed a policeman pacing around the gym, he glanced at us several times before walking up to my table and asking if one of us was "Susan Wines". We immediately feared the worst... someone must have died to warrant notification by police. We braced ourselves and held our breath as Chief of Police David Gottchalk sat down and informed us that "the hotel we were staying at was hit by an unknown chemical last night"... that our rooms were the most badly affected, he wanted to know what we had sprayed on the shower walls to make it look like dripping blood.
There is this surreal quality when fear mixes with disbelief... part of me was thinking, "Ok, where's the hidden camera?", while another part was thinking, "Oh God, we are going to be arrested in South Park for a crime we didn't commit!" All I could muster in response was "What?!", followed by "What????!!!" I think Susan and I both looked like deer standing in the headlights of an oncoming UFO at this point. He ominously pointed out that we had moved from room # 9 to room #11 and that those were the hardest hit... that only the south wing of the hotel was hit with this unknown" chemical attack", as he was calling it. I was about to faint thinking of the implications... 9-11, this cop obviously suspected us of being Al-Qaida terrorists or something equally unimaginable. I wondered if there was anything even remotely embarrassing or compromising in my bags at the hotel, as they had most surely been searched by now.
When we finally understood what he was saying, we explained that the stains were there when we arrived, that we thought it was condensation or bad housekeeping but didn't want to be impolite by mentioning it since we had seen it in all the other rooms that were open, we told him that it was amber-colored when we saw it... that we had not seen anything that looked like blood. Finally after being satisfied with our timeline, whereabouts and pleas of innocence, he believed we had nothing to do with the "chemical attack". He said the substance in question had permanently stained the walls and had not been there that afternoon, he concluded that it must have been the work of a young vandal, explaining that there is little to do in South Park and kids turn to vandalism for kicks. He took our license and phone numbers and then took his leave.
If the invisible dog the night before unnerved me.... I was a jittering mess by now.... the cold, drafty gym combined with my jangled nerves had me shaking like a wet chihuahua. We wondered if we had a place to stay that night or if we'd be forced to drive straight home. One thing that really puzzled us was why would a vandal go through all that trouble and take such a risk for such a unspectacular result? I mean, it certainly didn't look like dripping blood, just an icky yellowish gunk.... it didn't make sense. Another fair participant suggested that it might be ectoplasm. When I tried to discern the nature of this phenomena by pendulum... the only answer it would offer was that it was not the act of a vandal. I now wish I'd thought to take a sample of the substance for analysis.
I did manage to finally settle and center myself to focus on the few beautiful souls that I had the privilege of reading for that day, and we ended up having a lovely time. We returned to the hotel to find that we were held blameless for the damages and that our room was still ours for the night. We were laughingly informed that there is usually not much going on in town for a South Park cop to do but formulate conspiracies and suspicions. He also told us that there was not a lot of vandalism in South Park... the town was so small that everyone was known, any "troublemakers" were easily spotted and dealt with. This made the "chemical attack" even more mysterious.
We spent our final night in South Park with another wonderful meal at the Front Street, this time fortified with a nice Shiraz, I hoped this would be the only "spirits" we would encounter tonight. Walking back to the hotel we passed by a little bar that had some incredible music spilling out into the frigid street. We stepped into this friendly saloon and listened to this terrific, bluesy, swamp-funk, guitar band called "Music Juice", a talented and nice bunch of boys we were told were from Morrison, Co. Lead singer/guitarist, Ian tried to round up a CD of their music for us, but couldn't find one handy. He gave us the address to their website which has several wicked good MP3's to listen too, be sure to check them out, they rock.
The Park Bar was a rustic, rowdy bar filled with a diverse group of friendly young locals. We were informed that there was only one other bar in town... one with a name I will not mention due to it's X-rated nature.
Owing to exhaustion, we called it an early night and were back in the comfort of "The Indian" by 10:30. This room just "felt" better from the start even though ladders were almost needed to climb into the high, but cozy beds. We slept soundly except for a rude awakening at around midnight when other "living" guests made their way noisily to their rooms. Susan swore it sounded like they were moving furniture, but she was not about to investigate it.
Sunday morning we awoke, showered in a relatively gunk-free tub and went down to a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy, sausages, omelets, fruit and gingerbread in the lovely sunroom of the hotel, overlooking a frozen lake. Luckily Mike was working and I asked if he might be able to show us the basement, he said he could take us down if we were quick... the manager wasn't around yet and didn't like people nosing around down there.
Mike had worked at the hotel for 6 years and had his share of ghost stories to tell. When we got down to the basement the first story he told was about the dog. Susan and I both picked our jaws off the floor... "The dog?!" We stammered in unison. He told us a 3-year old boy was bitten by an invisible dog in the basement 6 years ago.... his dad was constructing a Halloween "haunted" house and the boy wandered off to a back room and came running back crying about a dog biting him... there were actual teeth marks on his hand between thumb and forefinger. He told us the boy is now eight years old and still had nightmares about the "ghost dog". The dog was also known to pull the covers off the beds, one guest was awakened to find a snarling black mastiff that disappeared before her eyes. He also told us that the dogs of hotel guests or staff would refuse to enter the basement, some would refuse to enter the upper floors of the hotel too.
Mike also told us of seeing a Chinese man in full 1800s gear, he watched as this man dematerialized in front of him. He explained that many of the Chinese from South Park's past were buried in unmarked graves around the hotel. He pointed out a particularly nasty part of the basement behind an old furnace... "The "ladies of the evening" used to come down here and the local doctor would perform illegal abortions on them and bury the fetus there." My blood chilled as I remembered "Jenny" from two nights before... she very well could have been a 14-year old prostitute who bled out and died after a botched abortion.
Mike led us back upstairs and handed us a big white notebook full of stories about The Hand Hotel and the Fairplay/South Park area. We learned there had been a major fire that destroyed much of the town in 1877. There was also an eerie photo of one of the ghosts believed to be the "School Marm" walking the hallway of the Hand. Mike said they had set up a remote camera at one end of the hallway to capture this ghostly image. There was an article about the ghost of "Ben", The Hand's former cigar-smoking caretaker who was known to haunt the main lobby. Ben's ghost had also saved the hotel from fire by shutting off the gas stoves in the kitchen during critical times. There were also stories about the ghostly mastiff and several other characters that lived here way past check-out time.... including the woman who built the hotel, "Grandma Hand" whose room gave us the willies. Mike said he often smells rose water in that room, Grandma's favorite scent. The story goes that a guest was napping in that room one day when he was awakened by the disembodied voice of a woman asking where her rocking chair was. The guest searched the other rooms and found the rocking chair, he brought it back and the voice was silenced. It turns out the rocking chair had been moved from Grandma's room much to her ghostly displeasure. The chair remains in her room now and no one dares to move it.
All in all, we had a great weekend... a weekend of adventure, thrills, chills,(Fairplay's weather seemed to vary from cold to "freaking cold" when the wind kicked up) mysteries, laughs, excitement, great food, terrific music, disembodied spirits, close encounters with law enforcement officials, all in the company of dear friends and new friends... and no, we never did find Kenny.... dead or otherwise.