The Haunting of Hotel Jerome
Hotel Jerome was built in 1889, standing as Aspen’s first luxury hotel. Jerome B. Wheeler built the hotel, but he would let it go before things started going downhill in Aspen. Even when silver crashed and Aspen’s economy plummeted, the hotel kept making money, in one way or another. Now, people are also attracted by the haunting of Hotel Jerome.
Hotel Jerome During and After the Silver Crash
Between the construction of the hotel and its slight decline, ownership changed multiple times. Archie Fisk bought the hotel in 1892, right before the silver crash, which happened in 1893. Thousands of residents packed up and hauled out of town. Fisk lost the hotel due to back taxes owed In 1909, and the hotel became the property of Pitkin County.
Then, in 1911, Mansor Elisha bought the hotel, and his son Laurence took over after his father’s death. Laurence managed the hotel until the 1940s. Things were pretty slow during his time in charge, and people weren’t visiting Aspen as they once had. Laurence turned the hotel into a boardinghouse and only charged $10 a month to keep things up and running. That wasn’t quite as cheap back then as it sounds today, but it wouldn’t have been as affordable either, especially during the silver bust.
It wasn’t until after WWII, when Aspen became a “playground for the rich” and was turned into a fancy resort town, that things would get better for Hotel Jerome. New life and energy were breathed into the building after Walter Paepcke took out a twenty-five-year lease on Hotel Jerome, which began in 1946. He had some updates made to the hotel, and it opened back up for business in 1947. Unfortunately, the hotel found itself in need of some significant repairs by the 1960s.
Rather than fixing the major problems, like a need for new wiring and plumbing, Paepcke gave up on the hotel, and it sat empty until 1968 when John Gilmore purchased and reopened it. Gilmore wasn’t able to find investors to help fix all of the things wrong with the building, and some even told him it was better to demolish the old hotel – that it needed far too much work and would be more costly than it was worth. He kept it open and remodeled small portions at a time, as he could afford the renovations. He also opened up some stores inside to help bring in some extra income.
The godfather of gonzo journalism, none other than Hunter S. Thompson, spent a lot of time at Hotel Jerome in the late 60s and early 70s, not deterred by the rickety shape in which some parts of the hotel were. He spent a lot of time writing at Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar and even turned a corner of the bar into his campaign headquarters in 1970 when he ran for Pitkin County Sheriff. Thompson was kind of a big deal in Aspen back then and still is over a decade after his death. Visitors to the hotel these days can ask to see Thompson’s favorite corner of the bar. While Thompson was a regular at the hotel and bar, many famous actors, hippies, and musicians spent time there, hanging out and having wild nights.
While a popular hangout to some, the hotel was still in need of more repairs and would remain so for over a decade. It wasn’t until 1984 that someone new would finally take over ownership and do a complete and much-needed renovation the following year. From stabilizing the framework to giving Hotel Jerome a complete face-lift, Dick Butera and Jim McManus gave the hotel a new life. The building was not only fixed up on the outside but the inside as well. The new owners had the old light fixtures reinstalled to bring some of the hotel’s old glory back on the inside. On the outside, they removed the layers of paint on the outside of the building so that it would once again have a brick facade, once again looking like the original Hotel Jerome.
The hotel would stay as it was for the next twenty years and then go through many new owners yet again. It got another significant remodel in 2012, and more work done since then. And, as we all know, remodeling wakes up the ghosts. Reports of ghosts in Hotel Jerome date back before the most recent updates, but the renovations can affect even the most dormant spirits, making them far more active.
The Haunting of Hotel Jerome
As one of Aspen’s most haunted buildings, Hotel Jerome’s rich history includes a history of ghost stories, with sightings reported by guests and employees alike. From ghost children to maids who are still working even after death, here are some of the hotels most talked about ghosts.
The Boy in Room 310
One story is set in 1936. There was a 10-year-old boy staying with his family in Room 310. The boy tragically drowned in the hotel’s swimming pool. While the boy may have died in that chlorinated water, his spirit lives on in the hotel.
Many guests and hotel employees have tales of running into a boy on the third floor, dripping wet and wrapped in a towel. He appears to be looking for his room to find his parents, and he’s even been seen walking through walls. Even when the boy himself isn’t spotted, people see wet footprints in the hallway when no one has been through to make them.
The Sickly Maid
Katie Kerrigan was a maid working at the hotel in 1892. It’s said she was 16 at the time. Kerrigan was a beautiful girl, and the stories go that because of her good looks, the other maids were jealous of the attention Kerrigan received from guests. They played pranks on her, including telling her that her kitten had gotten out of the hotel and fell through the ice of a pond near the hotel. Kerrigan left to go try to save her kitten and fell through the ice.
While Kerrigan survived her icy ordeal in the beginning, her rescuers couldn’t save her from developing pneumonia and dying. Kerrigan’s presence is still felt in the hotel, and sometimes she plays tricks on the maids. Though she’ll often straighten rooms before anyone gets to them, she also likes to mess up some of the finished rooms so that guests arrive and find unmade beds or crooked towels.
The Lonely Prospector
In 1889, Henry O’Callister came to Aspen looking for silver. He stayed at Hotel Jerome, where he fell in love. Clarissa Wellington’s parents, wealthy folks from Boston, didn’t much like their daughter seeing a prospector, so they sent her back to Boston to keep them apart.
O’Callister was distraught and lost himself in the bottom of many a bottle, dying lonely and broke after spending every last scent on alcohol. His ghost still sadly haunts the hotel, possibly waiting for his love to return. People have seen his ghost walking the halls and heard him sobbing.
The Spirit of Hunter S. Thompson
While there haven’t been any stories of the gonzo journalist’s ghost, Aspen was one of his favorite places, and Hotel Jerome held a lot of love for him and vice versa. When Thompson passed away in 2005, one of the services for him was held in the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Jerome.
Thompson had many crazy nights with other famous names at Hotel Jerome. There are stories about his antics that will live on, like the time he duct-taped Bill Murray to a chair before tossing him into the pool. Thompson’s rambunctious spirit is sure to spend some nights in the hotel, wondering what happened to the wild times he and his friends used to have. And, even if his ghost never shows up, the memory of this talented writer sure lives on within the walls of Hotel Jerome.
Hotel Jerome has spirits that don’t mind being noticed, so it is an excellent place to visit if you’re hoping to have a paranormal experience. Whether you see the wet footprints of the little boy who drown, here the sobbing of the poor lonely prospector, or your room goes from clean to messy without you doing a thing – there’s plenty of ghostly activity to be had in the walls off this very old hotel. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and be the first person to bump into the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson.