Editor’s note: Author/poet/recently retired teacher-writing instructor David Feela is a regular contributor to Telluride Inside… and Out. His latest book, “How Delicate These Arches: Footnotes from the Four Corners,” a collection of essays, is available at Between the Covers Bookstore and is up for a Colorado Book Award. The following excerpt from the book is David’s tip of the hat to Memorial Weekend, when there only a ghost of a chance of getting a parking spot because the tribe is returning to roost with the start of summer festival season. Mountainfilm in Telluride is all weekend long, May 25 – May 28.
Memorial Day had arrived and graveyards all across America were being decorated with wreaths, sprays, and garlands. Pam and I expected a low impact holiday, without any real plans in the works. No relatives stopping over, no picnics, nothing memorial…that is, until Pam had her “idea.”
Her idea amounted to driving across Lizard Head Pass, through the valley of fruit and corn, and eventually ending up at the old town of Redstone. We had been through this tiny mining, now tourist town many times while camping in the national forest, but we’d never stayed overnight at the historic Redstone Inn. Supposedly, it’s haunted.
We arrived as planned, a few days before the rate increase for summer tourists. A dormer room on the third floor offered a toilet and sink but no tub or shower. Those amenities were down the hall, shared with other third floor guests, which is why our rent was affordable. We unpacked our bags and stretched our legs by taking a walk through town before settling in for the night.
The only street in Redstone runs about a half mile, perfectly straight, with no fewer than five speed bumps evenly spaced along the way. During the height of tourist season, the speed bumps probably slow gawking tourists down, but on this day the center of the street served us well, with no fear of traffic. Local shops and residences occupy each side of the street, many of them the historic remnants of a turn-of-the-century social experiment sponsored by the town’s founder, John Cleveland Osgood, a wealthy coal industrialist from the East. Mr. Osgood believed that if workers could be provided decent housing, they would be “less troublesome.”
The Inn had been built at the south end of the street to lodge the town’s bachelors, while families were provided with small, tastefully designed cottages. It’s an attractive town even today, but when we visited many businesses were still closed and some of the immaculate half-million dollar “cottages” that had been tastefully renovated by present day homeowners were still locked, shuttered, and empty. It felt like a ghost town.
Actual ghosts don’t worry me much. What bothers me the most is that many of the people who supposedly live here hadn’t yet materialized. They were the real ghosts, residents who pay their taxes and disappear for the better part of the year, inflating property values and creating a community of absentee opinions.
I’ve never owned two or three residences, living at one location, then hopping to another when the weather turns hospitable, but multiple home ownership is happening all across the West. Finding a room for the night that’s under a hundred bucks is more than enough paranormal activity for me.
And all that remains of Redstone’s social experiment is the skeleton of its intent. Redstone is not the only town inhabited by the apparition of wealth. Telluride has an entire village that stays eerily empty once the skiers have gone home, then there’s Aspen, Vail, Steamboat Springs, and the greater Phoenix area. Hopefully another ghost village proposed for the top of Wolf Creek Pass will simply vanish. It’s just spooky when I try to count my neighbors and it’s virtually impossible to see them.
I stayed up late after we got back to our room, and when I reached up to turn out the light over our bed, I thought I heard a sigh. It was only Pam, glad I’d finally decided to go to sleep. I settled in, pulled the covers up, roughed up a pillow until it adjusted to the shape of my skull. Then something happened to set both of us suddenly upright in our bed, wide-eyed and staring at each other: The light came on by itself, both bulbs burning bright.
I knew Pam hadn’t turned it on, because she’d been half asleep when I turned it off. And it wasn’t me. I looked around the room, then reached up once more and turned the switch off. The room stayed dark this time, but I swear only one of us was breathing