Employees ponder what's haunting Castlewood Canyon State Park

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.

By By:Kiersten J. Mayer
Posted 9/23/04

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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Employees ponder what's haunting Castlewood Canyon State Park

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.

Posted

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 theory.

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 canyon.

"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 said.

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 open.

"The door slamming would explain how the books fell, but not how one of them ended up all the way across the room," Claussen said.

The pages displayed were about some old, obsolete equipment that had been removed from the mechanical room in the visitors center years before.

"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 there."

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 said.

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 dismemberment.

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 living.

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 enticing.

"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

kmayer@ccnewspapers.net.

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