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Local historians Erick and Tammila Wright say ghosts are helping them research the Briarhurst estate.
Erick Wright: The first time I encountered a ghost at The Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs, I had just walked into the large front room inside of the grand entryway, and I saw a butter knife spinning around on a bread plate like a spinner somebody had pinned to the table. There was no one else in the room.
Another time, a friend and I were walking through the estate when I heard someone call my name. I looked at my friend, whose eyes were very large, and he said, "I didn't say anything."
These initial encounters with the paranormal, as well as the stories we heard from others who had experienced similar occurrences at the Briarhurst, led my wife, Tammila, and I to begin researching the historic castle.
Tammila Wright: I have been hearing ghost stories about the Briarhurst since I was a little girl. My ex-stepfather lived at the Briarhurst as a kid and he told me stories about a ghost he would run into out in the gardens late at night that had long, flowing hair and a skeleton face. We were recently contacted by Susan Wouk, a resident of the castle from 1968 through 1972, who verified the story, saying, "Oh yeah, that ghost or whatever it was would look at me through the second story window of my bedroom."
In early 2008, Erick and I started visiting the property on a regular basis and experiencing unusual things for ourselves.
We started digging into the past of the Briarhurst to solve the identity of the ghosts. It became a huge quest because very little information was available on the residents that lived and worked here. The more we learned about the previous tenants of the Briarhurst, the more it began to feel like the ghost sightings at the castle were history coming out to meet us.
Erick: The original tenants of the Briarhurst were the Bell family. Dr. William A. Bell fell in love with this area after visiting Colorado during a railroad route finding expedition with his friend, William Palmer, in the late 1800s. We've discovered that sightings of Bell's daughter, Hyacinth, have been corroborated by three different people over a 40-year time span.
Two summers ago, police arrived at the Briarhurst at 2 a.m. with guns drawn, responding to the building's security alarm. When they got to the master bedroom, the door to the room was still locked, but prints which appeared to be from a child's Victorian-era high-heeled boot led from the door of the master bedroom toward a back bedroom area where children would have slept in the 1880s.
In 1968, when the Wouke family lived at the estate, 13-year-old Susan Wouke witnessed the same boot prints appear up the back staircase from the kitchen to the 2nd floor bedroom area.
Tammila: Erick and I started giving tours of the Briarhurst to the public in early January for the first time in 40 years. And we're having all kinds of interesting phenomenon occur.
Erick: Three weeks ago, I had a lady on a tour get a picture of an entity right above my top hat as I was trying to figure out what was pushing down on it. I saw it on her camera. It was kind of amazing.
Tammila: We believe the Bell children are possibly helping us research the castle. We'll have things we think we need to find show up out of the woodwork, just show up for no logical reason. Calls are coming out of the blue with new information. Constantly pointing us in the right direction to find missing history of this castle. And we now have a complete history of the castle back to 1871.