Tales from the Tread: Spooky storytelling at the Crawford mansion | SteamboatToday.com

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Tales from the Tread: Spooky storytelling at the Crawford mansion

During the 2013 Haunted Tours

If you go

What: Haunted Tours of Historic Crawford House

Where: Crawford mansion, 1184 Crawford Ave.

When: 4, 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $5 per person, and children must be ages 10 and older

RSVP: Reservations are required by calling 970-879-2214 or at

Ski Town USA surrounded by zombies! Piranhas infest the Yampa River during tubing season! Poltergeists on skis crash the Winter Carnival parade! While these faux headlines grab me, they don't hold my morbid curiosity the way that true stories do.

I'm the sort of person whose marrow chills more quickly from newspaper articles about exotic viral infections in Texas than bingeing on vampire episodes of HBO's “True Blood.” Perhaps this explains my six years of participation in the haunted tours of the historic Crawford mansion event presented every October by the Tread of Pioneers Museum and Spellbinders.

My spine tingles when regular folks mention haunted happenings at the Depot Art Center and the downtown Rehder building. My brain lights up when I read about the Sulphur Cave on Howelsen Hill being likened to an entrance to the underworld. I'm intrigued when the previous owners of the Crawford mansion, the Nettletons, wanted a clause in the title on the home that declared the home "free and clear of spirits." And I'm slightly sick to my stomach when I research the impacts of the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic in Routt County (Steamboat undertakers soon ran out of coffins). This is not mothball history.

Take these stories and put them into the hands of well-trained storytellers from Spellbinders. Add realistic costumes, lure the audience into a distinguished stone mansion more than a century old and dim the lights — or rather, allow the natural darkness from outside to infiltrate the interior. Then let the authenticity of the place set the scene as strangers view three floors of antique family photos and Victorian furniture.

Ignore the impulse to add plastic chainsaws and blood-soaked bandanas, and instead allow the based-on-truth stories to speak for themselves, sink into your soul and resurface on their own at, say, midnight.

There is no need to scream out loud when your imagination is silently shrieking in your own safe bed at home that night. This may be the quietest haunted event you ever have attended.

So, why should you come to 1184 Crawford Ave. on Saturday?

Sarah Kostin, one of the Spellbinders, explains, "These stories are mostly set in Steamboat or nearby. The one I tell is creepy and kind of gross, or so I am told by the kids who beg me to share it. It is a Ute legend of the Skinwalker — a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into a wolf, bear, bird, etc. and inherits its cunning, strength and speed to bend victims to its will. This program is completely unique because it is well researched and super entertaining with top-notch storytelling. Plus, we are only letting in 100 participants this year."

The event will have participants “experience fear, fun and fact. I love the gnarly history of the Hahn's Peak miners. This truly special home opens only a few days a year, and it will certainly be filled with spirited spookiness. Plus, your ticket helps fund more museum programming," said Julie Dalke, Spellbinder and mansion tour guide.

Whether you are swayed by based-on-truth stories or not, consider Steamboat resident Laurie Jazzwick’s comments about the female ghost residing in her home at the old Robinson homestead on Routt County Road 44:  "We've come to the conclusion that she is simply there even though we feel her more than we see her.” 

You will have to wait to get the rest of her story and more at the Haunted Tours event.

Join us if you dare Saturday.

Marianne Capra is a tour guide with the Tread of Pioneers Museum.