The Tragic Ghost of Fraser
October 30, 2009
Travelers passing through Fraser, Colorado, recently noticed a new coat of paint being plied to the Crooked Creek Saloon. Their honks and waves were politely returned by several local musicians, brushes in hand, hired by the new owners of the historic edifice, Toni and Scott Hallgren.
The curiosity of these passersby would have deepened further if they knew that beneath the decades of cracking paint lie the distant embers of a fire, the howls of the Great Blizzard of 1909, and a real ghost story of Grand County.
In the 1900s, the town of Fraser was “complete with a single dusty street, community saloon, gaunt clapboard general store, sheriff, grizzled characters in sweaty Stetsons and a cluster of unpainted board shacks which, in the winter, must surely let the howling blizzard in” wrote Russell Baker of the New York Times in 1955.
As both an oasis to pioneers seeking fortune in the lumber-milling boom and a railroad stop for homesteaders settling the Wild West, Fraser quickly became a destination for weary travelers. One of the most famous and most beautiful denizens of those years was known simply as Rosie. Her stunning portrait as a reclining lady in red still hangs above the entrance to Crooked Creek for all to admire.
After losing her parents in the flu epidemic of 1898, Rosie turned to practicing the world’s oldest profession.
It wasn’t long before the illustrious madam opened her own saloon and dance hall and found a steady flow of customers among the railroad workers and loggers.
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Calamity struck, however, during the Great Blizzard of 1909.
Trapped inside her saloon by the mounting drifts, Rosie and several stranded customers and employees inadvertently caught the building on fire while stoking the wood burning stove in an attempt to stave off the merciless cold.
In the chaos and confusion of that horrific night, the tavern burned entirely to the ground. To this day, the exact identities of those who perished with Rosie are still clouded in mystery.
According to local legend, some of the victims never left.
A quarter of a century later, the Crooked Creek Saloon was rebuilt on the very site of Rosie’s former brothel. From the first opening of the saloon’s doors, patrons and staff have claimed to see ghostly apparitions, particularly when the wind blows and the temperature drops. Most of the spectral sightings have occurred near the stove in the back dining room, where the fatal blaze started.
On one of these cold nights, owner Toni Hallgren remembers a family taking portraits near the stove in the back room.
Breathless, the mother showed Toni the picture of her daughter next to an eerie phantom ablaze in yellow and orange light.
“Oh, that’s just Rosie,” she told the family. “She must like you!”
Keeping in time to its century-old reputation as the heartbeat of Fraser, patrons of the Creek partake in good times with friends, comforting food, and live entertainment.
Don’t be too surprised in you catch a glimpse of Rosie while you’re there.