The quaint little town of Manitou Springs, Colorado offers scenic views of Pike’s Peak, cute little shops, healing waters from springs located all over the village, and ghosts!
Briarhurst Manor (located at 404 Manitou Avenue) is nestled in Manitou Springs, west of Colorado Springs. Manitou Springs is best known for the Garden of the Gods. These beautiful, red rock formations inspire climbers, hikers, and artists alike. Briarhurst Manor also attracts people from all walks of life. It is a beautiful Victorian mansion that appeals to architectural types, it has a rich history for those who crave that and for the paranormal enthusiast — the mansion offers some great experiences.
Briarhurst Manor was built in 1874 by the industrious founder of Manitou Springs, Dr. William Bell. Dr. Bell was born in Ireland. His family was English and his father was a physician to the elite families. William followed in his father’s footsteps and came to the United States in 1867 to attend a seminar on homeopathic medicine. This particular branch of medicine would later include immunizations. It was at this seminar, held in St. Louis, that William became enamored with stories of the West. St. Louis was at this time a bustling city. Bell became intrigued as he saw people swarming in to St. Louis to start their quests to the west.
William decided to join them and he secured a position as a photographer for a survey and mapping expedition with the Kansas and Pacific Railroad. This would prove very advantageous for young Bell. It was during this trip that he met the man who would later become his business partner, General William Palmer. They were very much alike and shared the vision of a “corporate empire”. Together, they founded the Denver to Rio Grande Railroad.
Now, our young Dr. bell was not all business, he left a sweetheart back in England and in 1872, he returned there for their wedding. Cara Scovell and William were childhood sweethearts and their wedding was reported to be quite a grand affair.
William wanted to share his love of the newly settled (at least by “civilized men”) West. Manitou Springs was thought to be a sacred place according to the Ute, Cheyenne and other Native Americans that called this area home. The springs that bubbled up from the ground were thought to have medicinal qualities. This is where William and Cara would build their dream house.
Not that the mansion that they would eventually build could ever be called a “house”. It was a beautiful place decked out in fine Victorian furnishings. Cara would manage the decorating and under her careful management the manor house became the “social center” of the little community that spring up around it.
They invited people from all over the world to come and be their guests in this lovely place, once described as a “place like in a fairytale”. What a scene it must have presented when these travel weary guests came through the rough and rocky area to descend from their carriages and look upon this beautiful mansion. They would bring their entire families and stay for months at a time.
By the time Colorado became a state, Bell and Palmer had 30 (or more) lucrative companies under them. Bell had five children with Cara, and with all of his business dealings, he considered Briarhurst and his family, his sanctuary.
Disaster struck in the winter of 1886 when the house was completely destroyed by fire. Everyone escaped safely but their beautiful home was gone. The family returned to England, heartbroken. They must have missed Colorado because in the spring of 1887, they came back and were determined to build an even grander home.
In 1890, Bell, nearing 55, decided it was time to retire. He liquidated his assets, left Briarhurst in the capable hands of two of his dedicated employees Ferdinand Schneider and his wife, Amalia.
In 1920, Cara and William paid what would prove to be their last visit to America and Briarhurst. He died on June 6, 1921 from a heart condition. He was 85 years old.
That would not be the last time the family was seen there, however.
The Briarhurst Manor has been lovingly restored and now has a couple of claims to fame. One is for their wonderful cuisine that is served there. The other is for being the runner up in the Ghost Hunters “Great American Ghost Hunt”.
Staff has been telling stories of weird experiences in the Manor for years. There have been apparitions seen, one of a skeletal lady in white that floats about the garden. Another story tells of a couple enjoying their dinner in front of one of the beautiful rounded windows. As they sat eating, they noticed a red haired little girl outside on the lawn playing with a ball. The girl was wearing a bonnet and dressed in clothes from over a century ago.
Once during a presentation with over 100 guests attending, a very expensive vase flew from one of the tables and was broken. Many in the room were witnesses to this startling event.
Other claims speak of children’s footsteps that are heard running back in forth in the attic. Apparently, the children had a playroom up there and would spend rainy days running and playing ball. During an investigation by Taps on their Ghost Hunters Show, they featured the Briarhurst Mansion and experienced the phenomena themselves. While they were there they also picked up a child’s voice on tape.
Another interesting story from the Manor tells of an incident in the master bedroom. Shortly after completely remodeling the second floor – local authorities reacted when the motion detector alarm was triggered. They showed up to investigate to find the house empty but definite “evidence of someone traveling room to room through the secured upstairs of the residence”.
Erik and Tammila Wright have been researching the family and the Manor for years. They even hold tours (historical and paranormal) in the Briarhurst. They believe that the family loved their home and loved to share this wonderful place with visitors so much that they are still continuing to do so even today.
“These apparitions are just the spirits of the family revisiting the joys of a life they once had.” states Tammila Wright.
I had the opportunity to visit Briarhurst Manor one September on a visit to Colorado. It was truly a magnificent place that definitely had the atmosphere of a haunted house. It was a beautiful place with gorgeous woodwork and stained glass windows. While I didn’t see a skeleton lady in white, a little girl playing on the front lawn or even a vase flying across the room, I would definitely suggest adding this wonderful, historic, haunted place to your trip.
Copyright © 2014, 2021 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events