Badly mangled miner haunts the Dunn building

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It is easy to dismiss the idea of a ghost or spirit in the light of day.

Alone, under the stars or in the dim lighting of an ancient building, among the night sounds of creaky floors, unknown varmints, sagging ceilings and the frightening history of a once violent 100-year-old mining camp, it can be an entirely different deal.

Maybe it is that sudden unexplained draft in the room, or the feeling of not being alone, or the dog's low growl and raised hair on her back. Or perhaps the fleeting image (at least you think you saw it) of young girl, dressed in the old fashioned garb and saddest of looks, at the foot of the stairs -- that convinces you to reconsider.

The Dunn Building, at 213 Victor Avenue, in Victor, Colorado, has all the pre-described elements that might make such a statement.

The building was once the prosperous business address of one Thomas F. Dunn, undertaker, who also lived with his wife in the upstairs apartments above the busy funeral parlor. By some accounts, Dunn was an artist at patching up bodies that had been shot, stabbed, dynamited, buried in ruble, fallen from great heights, entangled in machinery, or otherwise twisted and torn in rigors of the gold camp mines, saloons and brothels.

But death eventually catches up to us all, and T.F. Dunn passed from this world before the turn of the century, as surely as we all will.

Mrs. Dunn, surviving her husband by many years, of course was left to cope. To do so, she converted the upstairs apartments into a boarding house taking on tenants.

In the 1983 book “Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek,” by Chas Clifton, then owner of the Dunn building Skip Phillips is quoted, “I love my ghosts,” and says he has felt Mrs. Dunn presence and referred to her as his caretaker.

“Not only does `Mrs. Dunn' manifest as the usual footsteps, Phillips says but an earlier tenant is said to have seen a women dressed in black leaning over his bed upstairs in what had been one of Mrs. Dunn's eleven rental rooms. The man also told Phillips of a `crying' sound in the building all the time,” according to Clifton's book.

“Phillips tells how he and other persons have felt `watched' in particular parts of the building, especially around the rear door, and where the stairway comes up from the basement, a point he jocularly refers to as the `haunted stairwell.' Several psychics have told him that `something really sad' happened in an upstairs bedroom, others that they could feel the concentrated essence of sorrow distilled from all the mourners who visited the undertaker decades ago.”

But perhaps it had something to do with Thomas F. Dunn actions before his own death. For that, has become a legendary tale in the district.

“For the longest time, people just assumed the spirits of those bitterly departed that once went in and out of the funeral parlor were responsible for the goings-on in the Dunn building. Until 1899, that is, when a man who had been one of Mr. Dunn's assistants spoke up about a disturbing incident that took place in the funeral home in 1893,” wrote Dan Asfar in his 2006 book “Ghost Stories of Colorado.”

“According to this man's story, it happened while Dunn was working on the corpse of a miner who had been badly mutilated in a cave in. He had just begun preparing the miner for burial when the supposed cadaver suddenly twitched on the embalming table. A moment later, the badly bleeding body came to tortured life; one of its hands darted out to grab the startled mortician while the other reached up to feel the remnants of its mangled face. It was an undertaker's nightmare come true: the dead man at the table wasn't quite dead yet,” writes Asfar.

“The realization hit the mortician, his assistant and supposed-to-be dead miner with equal force. As Dunn took a few horrified steps backward, the man on the table let out a blood-curdling wail and tried to sit up. Although the miner did manage to get up, it quickly became obvious he didn't know which way to go; he couldn't see a thing through his one remaining eye.”

According to legend. Dunn and his assistant administered morphine to quiet the man, and upon evaluation and consideration of what a doctor might be able to do for the man, more morphine was used to put him to his final rest.

“Dunn himself administered the lethal injection and hardly waited at all before resuming his work on the miner. The young assistant couldn't help noticing that the miner was still producing a faint pulse while he was being prepared for burial,” according to Asfar's account.

It is said that the badly mangled miner's spirit haunts the Dunn Building to this day.