The seeds of speculation are slowly growing into local legend at Castlewood Canyon State Park, sprouting from a 39-year-old murder mystery and what …
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The seeds of speculation are slowly growing into local legend at
Castlewood Canyon State Park, sprouting from a 39-year-old murder
mystery and what some call supernatural occurrences.
Ron Claussen, a volunteer naturalist, has heard stories of
ghosts and poltergeists at the state park, located along Colo. 83,
since he started as a seasonal employee four years ago. Some of the
little things can possibly be explained - like small items being
moved or odd shadows skimming across the floor.
"I do that all the time," he said. "I moved (something) and
forgot or I misplaced it."
But there have been other happenings that are difficult to find
a true and reasonable explanation for, harder to dismiss as
coincidence or a consequence of what Claussen calls chaos
One evening in April 2004, a single employee in the park's
visitors center, which is locked after 4 p.m., heard a display rack
of postcards and maps in the main room being shaken, as if someone
had walked by and bumped it. Upon hearing of the event, Claussen
mentioned off-handedly it happened on the anniversary of the
discovery of a body under the bridge that crosses the
"The event was attributed to Roger," he said.
The body of Roger Henry Floth, 26, was found on April 7, 1965.
Floth's last known address was the City Mission on Larimer Street
in Denver. The coroner's report said he hadn't been dead for long
before his decapitated, dismembered and nude body was discovered by
a motorist stopped on the bridge to admire the view.
According to newspaper reports at the time, authorities had two
suspects in Floth's killing, but it is unknown whether either was
prosecuted. News articles also reveal the grisly fact that the
trunk of Floth's body and his head were found on the west side of
the bridge, and his legs on the east side of the bridge.
"In the 1960s, the bridge was way out in the boondocks and a
good place to commit murder, dump a body and get away with it," he
Claussen said Roger is credited with another strange event. One
evening a back door to the visitors center slammed closed, harder
than normal, as Claussen tells it. Employees went back to
investigate and in the park manager's office, three books were
found on the floor. One was quite far away from the shelf where it
sat, as if it flew across the room and landed upright and
"The door slamming would explain how the books fell, but not how
one of them ended up all the way across the room," Claussen
The pages displayed were about some old, obsolete equipment that
had been removed from the mechanical room in the visitors center
"The feeling by the person who noticed what was on the pages
felt that the ghost was trying to get them into the mechanical
room," Claussen said. "So there was an uneasy feeling
A couple of weeks later a water filter failure in the mechanical
room flooded the visitors center with six inches of water. Park
employees who believe there's a spirit haunting the park and
visitors center concluded Roger tried to forewarn them by slamming
the exit door and bringing the book to their attention, Claussen
Once in a while, there is a rapping on the east wall of the
visitors center. Claussen said it doesn't sound like a woodpecker
or an animal, but like a fist beating on the wall. There are no
water pipes in the wall, but it's an exterior wall and the noise
could be heating and cooling effects, normal expansion or
contraction emulated as a "boom, boom, boom."
"If you're a believer in ghosts, it's easy (to explain the
unusual happenings at Castlewood Canyon State Park)," Claussen
said. "If you don't believe in ghosts then it's a geomagnetic storm
in coincidence with high sunspot activity. There has to be some
explanation other than it's a poltergeist."
What makes Claussen skeptical is that perhaps some have what he
calls "Roger on the brain," attributing things to him that maybe
shouldn't be. Park employees who close up in the evenings are the
ones who usually experience things, and three have experienced
events on a consistent basis.
"There's a radio in the visitor's center used by the
supervisor," he said. "On a couple of occasions, it turned on by
itself. Of course, now, with everyone talking about Roger, he gets
credited with everything."
And maybe it isn't Roger at all. There is no evidence he was
dismembered at the bridge, nor were there bullet holes or other
signs of violence on the body, other than the
There have been other deaths at the park - suicides off the
bridge seem to be the most common. But Claussen discounts these.
People who commit suicide chose the time and place of their deaths
and he doesn't believe their spirits would stay to haunt the
Shaun Boyd, an archivist for Douglas County Libraries, said a
man by the name of Conrad Moschel was killed on the Cherokee Trail
by Native Americans in 1884 on what is now the Winkler Ranch south
of Castlewood Canyon State Park.
Moschel was serving a 100-day enlistment in the Colorado Cavalry
stationed at the ranch. On Aug. 4 of that year, he was detailed
with three other men to recover some cattle. They were attacked by
about 30 Native Americans. Everyone survived but Moschel, whose
body was found with an arrow in his back, a bullet wound to his
forehead and his scalp missing. He was buried where he was found,
on a bluff just south of the state park.
Claussen keeps a written record of stories of the ghost, "just
from a historical point of view." He tries to write everything down
to see if there's a pattern, to find whether the strange events are
something that can or can't be explained. He listens to stories and
explanations from non-believers and believers.
Despite his healthy skepticism, the idea there may be an entity
out there haunting Castlewood Canyon State Park is
"If this is really a poltergeist and it's really true, then it
would be my first knowledge or experience of something
unexplained," he said. "Wow, what a learning experience."
Contact Kiersten J. Mayer at
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