May 4, 2011 8:41 PM by Andy Koen

A night in a haunted museum

The Museum of Colorado Prisons in Canon City is rumored to be among the most haunted places in the state. Over the weekend, I spent the night with the Canon Ghost Trackers, a local group of paranormal investigators, as they sought to capture evidence of the spirits said to roam these halls.

Tom Monaco, the lead investigator explains that his team of about 10 volunteers will split into smaller groups armed with cameras and sensitive audio recording equipment. They single out three locations specifically: cell number 13, the kitchen and the display case in the main hall that houses the noose used in the last hanging death in the state.

"We'll break down into probably four different teams and everybody will have a digital recorder, EMF detectors, we have K-II meters and we'll do EVP sessions the the different hot areas of the prison and see what we come up with."

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) are unidentifiable sounds, usually of human voices, that are recorded on sensitive audio equipment. The K-II meters are used to detect areas of high electromagnetic frequency (EMF). In the "hot spots" of the museum, Monaco and his team member use the meters to "talk" with the spirits. They asks yes or no questions out loud and if the meter lights up, the answer is assumed to be a yes.

After a period of time using the K-II meters with some success, Monaco decides to use a PX device to physically "hear" the ghosts. The device contains a digital dictionary and generates words based on the EMF it detects.

It announces a few random words "glib" "spirit" "property" and then begins to make a random series of high-pitched sounds. Monaco and his team are caught off guard.

"What was going on down here with it tonight, we've never had it happen before," he says.

The Colorado Museum of Prisons open in 1988 in the former Women's Prison. The building was built in 1935 and housed female inmates for 33 years until a larger facility was opened.

It sits just outside of the eastern wall of the Territorial Prison, the states first and oldest detention facility. The museum contains a macabre collection of prison artifacts including a display case filled with shivs, the gas chamber, and the aforementioned noose. 

Manager Nancy Larson says the history of the prison system is an integral part of the story of our society.

"It's part of the penitentiary system, it's how it made it work."

She says her own experiences here have left no doubt as to the validity of the haunting.

"Opening up, getting ready to open the museum for the day and I know I'm the only one here and I felt someone brush my neck."

Monaco and Larson both say there was a stabbing that occurred in the kitchen, but they weren't aware of any other traumatic events to take place in the building. Larson suspects the ghosts feel safe there.

"I think it's a safe refuge for them in some ways because it's a museum and it's safe, it's a safe harbor for them."

A few hours after the excitement in the kitchen, the activity seems to die out. The meters aren't picking up responses to questions and the cameras haven't spotted any orbs or other abnormalities.

The next day Monaco listens to the audio recordings and hears five distinct EVP's.  In one recording he asks the ghost to "give us two knocks" and then he demonstrates by tapping on the table. As he finishes speaking two light taps are heard on the recording that weren't audible to the team members at the time.

In another recording, an investigator asks "Are you a guard?" and a soft voice replies "no."
A third recording contains what sounds like a pair of whispers that are to faint to understand.

The fourth clearly says "what, what" and the fifth seems to say "be careful."
Monaco says he's been a part of six investigations of the museum and each time something unexplained as happened.

The museum of Colorado Prisons is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. They are located at 201 N. 1st Street in Canon City.

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