Designed by architects Willis A. Marean and Albert Julius Norton in 1910, the 80 beautifully landscaped acres that make up Cheesman Park in central Denver has long been considered one of the most haunted sites in America. Haunted or not, the park’s ghoulish past makes it a prime location for those interested in finding a good ghost story.
In 1858, 320 acres in the new and expanding city of Denver were set aside to be used as a cemetery. Named “Mount Prospect,” the cemetery was designed to hold the bodies of the rich and wealthy on one side, those of beggers and criminals on the other side, and be filled in between with the bodies of everyone else. When the lower side of the cemetery filled more quickly—with victims of brutal crimes and accidents—residents in the area dropped the “Mount Prospect” name and started referring to the cemetery as “Old Boneyard.”
With time, the cemetery fell into serious disrepair. Cattle grazed among fallen tombstones, maintained by neither the owner of the site nor the families of those who were buried there.
When the city took control of the cemetery in the 1890s, it ordered all bodies removed so that the area could be cleaned up and repurposed. The lowest bidder was awarded a contract to remove the more than 5,000 dead bodies that had gone forgotten and unclaimed. Because the contract only required that 3.5-foot-long boxes be used to transport the bodies, reporters and curiosity-seekers came to watch as workers chopped up the dead who had not decayed sufficiently and shoveled them into the new crates.
It was around this time that residents of the area began to report seeing spectral manifestations in their homes and out in the cemetery. Confused spirits, they said, were knocking on their doors and windows. Low moaning sounds were reported to be coming from the field of open graves.
With front-page stories of the atrocities occurring at the park running in several local newspapers—”The Work of Ghouls!” ran across the top of the Denver Republican on March 19, 1893—City Hall stopped the removal of bodies pending an investigation. Over time, the holes were filled, and the rest of the bodies were forgotten. To this day, it is estimated that there are as many as 2,000-3,000 bodies still buried under the park.