The Ghosts of St Elmo, Colorado
In 1881 Anton Stark, a cattleman, was so taken with the town of St. Elmo that he and his family quickly took up residence. Anton became a section boss for one of the local mines and his wife, Anna, ran a general store and the Home Comfort Hotel, which later became home to the post office and telegraph office.
Anton and Anna raised three children in St. Elmo, Tony, Roy, and Annabelle, who worked in the hotel and the store. The hotel was said to have been the cleanest in town, the meals the best, and the supplies at the store more abundant than the other establishments.
The Stark family were part of St. Elmo’s elite. Anna was said to have been a humorless woman who severely controlled the children, believing that they were better than the other townsfolk – miners, railroad men, prostitutes and hard women. The children were rarely allowed to leave home, banned to attend local dances or social activities and had only each other for company.
The failure of numerous mines and the closure of the Alpine Tunnel in 1910 started the decline of St. Elmo. But the Stark family stayed, believing that St. Elmo would thrive again, buying up character at tax sales.
For many years, Roy and Tony stark tried to influence developers in re-opening the mines, but when they were unsuccessful they turned to tourism, leasing the empty cabins to vacationers and continuing to run the general store.
After Anton Stark’s death, Anna realized that the tourism trade in St. Elmo was not providing for the family and sent Annabelle to work in the telegraph office in Salida, 20 miles south of St. Elmo.
Before long, Annabelle met a young man named Ward and in 1922 they were married. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work and just two short years later she returned to St. Elmo, where she spent the rest of her life.
The three eccentric Stark children, along with their mother, continued to run the general store and rent cabins to tourists, though the general condition of the town deteriorated. By 1930, the population of St. Elmo had dwindled down to only seven.
In 1934, Roy Stark passed away and his mother, Anna, died a short time later. The only residents left were Annabelle and Tony who lived in the dead town without indoor plumbing or electricity. The store, said to have been “sour-smelling,” contained faded tins of outdated food and stale tobacco.
Though Annabell was always said to have been kind and generous to the few who nevertheless frequented the store, the locals began to call her “Dirty Annie” because of her filthy clothing and tangled hair. She was also known to have roamed the old town, with rifle in hand, to protect her character.
ultimately, Tony and Annabelle were sent away to a mental institution. However, after just a few weeks, a sympathetic friend convinced the authorities that they were of no harm to anyone and they were released.
Tony died a short time later and Annabelle was sent to a nursing home in 1958 where she died in 1960. Their character was left to the sympathetic friend who had helped them.
Shortly after Annabelle’s death, the friend’s grandchildren were said to have been playing in a room of the hotel, when suddenly all the doors in the room slammed shut and the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees. The terrified children refused to play in the hotel again.
Another one of the grandchildren, a young woman in her twenties, decided to take on the hotel as a project, cleaning out the rooms, making minor repairs, and washing down the walls and floors. After cleaning up for the day, she and her friends would put away their tools and cleaning supplies, only to find them in the middle of the floor when they returned the next day. After this continued to occur, they started placing the items in a padlocked closet, but nevertheless they would be in the middle of the floor when they came back.