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Aspen’s ghosts come alive on this local’s tour

Oct 29, 2015

The Ute Cemetery has graves dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

Halloween brings the spookiness out in people...those who are among the living, anyway.

But there does exist a local who brings to life some of the more spine-tingling stories of the dead, and his name is Dean Weiler.

He's a pretty unassuming guy. Normal weight. He is the man behind Aspen Walking Tours. When Halloween season comes around, he brings people to the Ute Cemetery in Aspen.

 


“The more you know about the stories of the people buried there, the more it truly does bring them to life," Weiler says.

 

His tours cover everything from crime and murder, to creepy happenings in and around Aspen.

 

When Halloween comes around, he does tours in Aspen's Ute Cemetery. If you can imagine any creepy cemetery, especially like the one from the original Night of the Living Dead, this is it. Leaves rustling. Dead trees sway in the wind. The dead rise from their graves…

 

So Dean hasn’t seen any apparitions, or zombies, or anything like that, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been freaked out.

“I go around the cemetery and it’s right around that time that dusk settles in and the evening really starts," says Weiler. "I want to get out of there pretty quickly."

 

A grave marked by planted flowers.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

It’s an eerie setting even if you aren’t thinking about the century-old graves scattered around you. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason to their location. Dean says that cemeteries seem to be scarier and creepier around this time of year because of how the environment changes.

“The trees and grass and everything is dying all around you so that thought of death is in your mind," says Weiler. "It hits home even more, I think, when you visit a cemetery at that time of year. For me at least, you can’t help think of life and death.”

 

Because of how fast Aspen's silver came and went, it was hard to fully establish an organized way to lay out the grave plots, especially because of the cemetery’s hilly terrain. Some of the graves are hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. There are only 78 marked graves in the cemetery, which amounts to a little more than a third of the people buried there. The graves are marked by anything from traditional headstones, to wood planks on trees. Some aren't marked at all.


But the creepy history of Aspen isn’t limited to a cemetery on the east end of town. Quite a few ghosts have made appearances in the area. One hot spot? The Hotel Jerome.

 

The most well-known haunting, or ghost, or whatever you want to call it, is the water boy. A young boy who drowned at the hotel early 1900’s. To this day, he still reveals himself to visitors at night.

 

But something, or someone, also has made its presence known on the property. During renovations to The Library in the hotel, some security guards were monitoring the area through their cameras and monitors.

 

"The security guards see this woman walking into The Library, and then she walks over to the monitor (the camera), and looks directly up into the camera," Weiler says.

Dean hasn’t had any run-ins with the spirit world, and that’s because he believes that he has permission from the people who he talks about on his tours to share their stories. It’s when the sun goes down that he starts to think about things a little more cautiously.

The improvised headstone of a man buried under a tree. His name is burned into the wood.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

“I think when night comes, it’s almost like some of the folks I don’t have their permission… I don’t know what it is," Weiler says. "(The cemetery is) kind of creepy in its own element and then at night it just comes even more so. It’s that fear that I’m going to run into someone I do talk about.”

It’s more about the stories of the people he talks about on his tours. There is one marker that is simply a piece of wood nailed to a tree. The name is burned into it.

"There’s no date," Weiler says. "There’s just the name in the wooden marker there. What’s his story? That to me is a little more intriguing than that gigantic monument to wealth and power."