`Fascinating' handprints at funeral home

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About the time that longtime mortician Travis Browne, 39, of Parker, decided to leave the corporate world and start his own little independent funeral home that would never turn people away regardless of financial circumstances, a co-worker and now partner, Dwight Bennett, 60, saw a “for rent” sign in the window of the little circa-1901 Castle Rock house that housed a barber shop.

They saw it as serendipity and grabbed the 800-square-foot space located at 211 Fourth St. in 2011. Before they were even ready for business, still unpacking, they were busy, and getting some “best funeral home” honors from customer-survey polls, they said. And things were proceeding normally. And still are, pretty much. But some interesting things have happened recently.

“I really don't know what it is,” Browne said. “It's fascinating.”

Things have appeared on their walls.

In March, the growing funeral home, Castle Rock Funeral and Cremation Services, needed more room. Their landlords, who also owned the two-story building just east of them, let them lease room on the first floor and build a breezeway to connect the two buildings.

They didn't know initially that their new space was the town's first funeral home, established there in 1899 by undertaker J.B. Hackett. It's been many things since.

The new space needed a paint job and their landlords, Richard and Sandra Bracken, recommended their longtime contractor to do it. He did the painting, left for the night, and it was the next morning when things got interesting.

That's when a child's handprints were discovered. Bennett said they were moving things in and out of a small supply closet, and on the inside of the door he saw distinct left and right handprints. They immediately considered it to be very strange, particularly since there aren't any children around and hadn't been. And then things got more interesting when he went into the next room to move a bucket that had been left by the contractor and saw a handprint, the same size as the others, on the wall.

“It freaked him out,” Brackens said about the reaction of their contractor, Dave Seeley, 48.

Seeley said he had actually seen the handprints in the supply closet and didn't think anything of it until Bennett showed him the similar handprint on the freshly painted wall. “Now I have chills going up my spine,” he said, about his reaction to seeing it. He said he knew that print hadn't been there before.

It turns out these weren't the first time someone had discovered a child's handprint.

Joe Sedberry, a dental technician, makes dentures and the like in his one-person lab on the building's second floor. He said in a recent interview that the materials he uses create a lot of dust, and about a year ago one morning he came into work and there was a very distinct child's handprint on his desk. He and a florist, who also has space in the building, found it very strange, as there would have been no opportunity for a child to be in that room. He left the handprint there for a long time until it deteriorated to the point that he finally cleaned it off.

Browne and Bennett haven't said if their handprints are going to stay or go. Maybe they don't know, can't know — or don't want to know.

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