Former President Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Gold Camp Road as “the trip that bankrupts the English language.” But did he make that statement because of its treacherous muddy curves and ruts? Or did he experience paranormal activity within its tunnels?
The “ghosts” of the Gold Camp Road have caused many a thrill seeker — and even an innocent bystander or two — to shriek in terror and call out for help.
Gold Camp Road is 35 miles of history and terror that winds from Teller County Rd. 81 north of Victor down the mountain canyons to Old Stage Road near the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. A tunnel in the last leg of the route washed out in the mid 1980s and that portion of the original road is routed to the Old Stage Road. The scenery is spectacular and includes towering rock formations, overviews of Colorado Springs, and in the fall, brilliant gold aspen.
The best way to find Gold Camp Road is traveling from Gillett south on County Rd. 81 or from Victor north on County Rd. 81. The intersection is marked with a U.S. Forest Service sign and a directional map sign. The drive is ideal at night if you are looking for Casper and his gang of ghouls.
There are several legends — or myths — concerning the ghosts of Gold Camp Road, but the one that seems to get the most attention centers around a bus crash in 1987 in which dozens of school children were killed. According to stories, the children were returning to Colorado Springs from Cripple Creek after a field trip. While the bus was traveling through tunnel No. 3, the tunnel collapsed, killing them all. Tunnel No. 3 is about a mile hike from the trailhead above Helen Hunt Falls.
It is said that you can hear the children’s spirits laughing and giggling in tunnels No. 1 and 2 when you position yourself quietly near the tunnel entrances. You can hear their screams in tunnel No. 3. When you drive through the first two tunnels, the children leave their fingerprints on your vehicle, and maybe even slap or scratch you. In tunnel No. 3 you can see “blood spots” all over the walls and ceiling. Flashlights, headlights and radios have been known to fail. But is any of this true?
“This isn’t true at all,” said Casey May, a paranormal hunter who lives in Colorado Springs. “First of all, no bus with school children ever crashed in tunnel 3. Since 1987 wasn’t that long ago, you’d figure there would be some evidence that this happened. I couldn’t find anything in any newspapers or any other records. And I looked for it pretty hard.”
The bus crash story has taken on a life of its own. Numerous paranormal research crews have gone to the area to investigate. And as the story gets told over and over, new “information” is added.
The “truth,” according to May, is that in 1987, the rotted timbers of tunnel No. 3 pulled away from the ceiling and walls and caused a partial collapse. No known persons were harmed during the collapse. The “blood spots” are actually rust that has formed because of how iron-rich the rocks are.
“I think that the myth of this area is so strong and so many teenagers have heard it that they go there and are so scared that they truly think they see or hear something,” May said. “It becomes group hysteria. It just takes one person to think they heard something and it spreads to the rest of the group.”
Another popular story surrounds the ghosts of railroad workers (Gold Camp Road was originally a railway) who haunt the tunnels. Visitors claim to hear the sounds of workers talking, as well as the sounds of trains. Also in tunnel No. 2, it has been reported that there is a ghostly appearing figure of a man leaning against a wall at the north end. The image fades as you approach.
So the next time you head down Gold Camp Road, be sure to keep your video device in the on position. You never know who, or what, might be watching you.