Yampa Before Kris Ager heard the folklore, she heard the footsteps.
When she and her husband, Bill, purchased the historic Royal Hotel about 18 months ago, they knew little about its fabled ghost.
But sometimes, experience is the best teacher.
Renovation and some restoration began immediately on the interior of the century-old building after the Agers acquired it in August 2000.
Kris Ager spent many days sprucing up the guest rooms on the second floor.
As she cleaned upstairs one day, Ager said, she heard the sound of footsteps coming down the hall.
The sound echoed more distinctly, she said, because she had not yet placed runners along the wooden floors.
The footsteps stopped suddenly behind Ager, who said she turned around to find no one there.
"It made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end," she said.
She thought her husband might be upstairs, she said, but Bill Ager was at work below with a few other men.
Kris Ager was the only person upstairs.
It was not long after her experience that she learned about the ghost who reportedly makes his home at the Royal Hotel.
Rufus has supposedly haunted the hotel since 1918. Stories report he died during a flu epidemic in Yampa when the Royal Hotel provided a makeshift infirmary for patients.
Another tale paints Rufus as a gambler who suffered a fatal gunshot or stab wound after people saw him cheating during a poker game.
The playful spirit reportedly pushes furniture, turns lights on and off and flushes toilets.
Her supposed run-in with the hotel's oldest resident convinced her of his existence, she said.
"I'm not a believer until it happens to me," Kris Ager said. "This made a believer out of me."
The couple continues to work on bringing the historical building back to life, despite the rumors and accounts of occasional visitors.
The Royal Hotel, built by Thomas P. Lindsay in 1906, remains noticeably unchanged, despite the effects of time and mishaps on neighboring properties along Yampa's main streets.
"It's one of the last buildings that didn't burn down," Bill Ager said.
The building requires significant foundational work and the second floor rooms lack any kind of heating system.
Both are projects that take time, money and energy requirements the new owners said they don't mind filling.
The hotel's false front represents the character of buildings in that historical era, said local historian Paul Bonnefield.
People in town took advantage of the false fronts to promote Yampa to potential investors, he said.
"They used it to make their town appear wealthy," Bonnefield said.
Before they purchased the building, Bill Ager said, the land on which it stands might have been worth more than the building. He intends to honor the hotel's original interior as best he can, he said, because the building merits preservation.
People can easily tear down old buildings in the interest of replacing them with something nicer and newer, he said, but so much history is lost in the process.
In the meantime, Kris Ager continues to work on refurbishing the upstairs rooms so they can eventually offer guests a small glimpse of the Old West.
And she said she'll keep her ears primed, in case Rufus happens to pay her a second visit.
"I kind of want to hear them again," she said.