April 16, 2015
‘Most Haunted’ Fort Collins (Colorado) Building’s Days Numbered
It’s been a carriage house, a hay loft, a repair shop and a car dealership.But through its long life in Old Town Fort Collins, the garage near the corner of Walnut Street and Mountain Avenue has mainly held stories.The white brick garage in the parking lot of the former Armadillo Restaurant sits on the site of a future 165-room Old Town hotel that was announced late last year. The property is owned by Walnut Street 354 LLC, part of Bohemian Companies. The Armadillo, which used the garage for storage since the 1970s, closed two years ago.
The property will be leased by Loveland’s McWhinney real estate company and Denver-based Sage Hospitality, which will manage the hotel and open a restaurant. A spokesman for McWhinney said the garage will be deconstructed prior to construction of the hotel, which is still in the planning stages. A timeline for its construction has yet to be determined.
With its days numbered, tour company Fort Collins Tours is still taking groups through the garage as part of its haunted tour offerings. Given its dark past, the white brick building has been a spooky cornerstone in Fort Collins’ “haunted” history.
“It’s one of the three most haunted, maybe one of the two most haunted (places in Fort Collins),” Lori Juszak, of Fort Collins Tours, said of the garage. “We’ve had some really strange, unexplainable things happen there.”
Pacing around the property’s perimeter Friday, Shane Sheridan, lead tour guide for Fort Collins Tours, used a wooden cane to point out the building’s original foundation and where its footprint has changed since.
“Local history is a bit dodgy,” he said, “… (but) we believe this is actually the old carriage house for James and Eva Howe.”
The Howes, a married couple who moved to Fort Collins in the late 1800s, landed in local history books after James, drunk and in broad daylight, slit Eva’s throat in the front yard of the couple’s home on April 4, 1888.
An angry mob of Fort Collins residents decided to take matters into their own hands, broke James out of his jail cell that night and hanged him in Larimer County’s first and only lynching, according to Juszak’s book, “Ghosts of Fort Collins.”
“In addition to the Howe murder and lynching there are, depending on which accounts you believe, between three and four suicides that are associated with this property as well,” Sheridan said.
According Juszak’s book, one suicide took place on the property in the 1960s, when the garage was a Rambler car dealership and its general manager came in one morning to find one of his salesmen hanging from a beam in the dealership’s showroom.
Other accounts say the garage was also used to store wreckage from a 1951 United Airlines flight that crashed on Crystal Mountain west of Fort Collins, killing all 50 people on board.
As the building’s uses have changed over the years, it transitioned into a dedicated storage space for the Armadillo Restaurant and is filled with old benches, stacked boxes and dusty restaurant booths. Since the restaurant’s closure, the garage has been mainly used by Fort Collins Tours, which opened in 2011. Juszak said the company hosts tours at haunted spots in Old Town year round — about five per week out of season and up to 40 per week during the fall.
Over the past four years, there have been several strange occurrences reported at the garage during ghost tours, Juszak said.
“We’ve seen multiple full-body apparitions, full silhouettes (in pictures),” Sheridan said, adding that once, while getting her picture taken inside the garage, a woman said she felt something grab her ankle. In the photograph, Sheridan said you could see the fuzzy image of what looked like a fist near the woman’s ankle.