What is it about a ghost town that's so fascinating?
To me, it's not just the sense of history. It's that aura of bleakness left behind. The reminders of our own mortality, and how everything we've built will eventually fade into dust... And isn't it fun to imagine a few actual ghosts hanging around, ready to tell their stories?
While I was writing Devil's Night, my very patient family drove around Colorado with me to do research. I could only visit a few of our state's ghost towns, so if I left out your favorite, I'm sorry! I also didn't meet any ghosts in these spots, but that's not to say they aren't haunted.
Here are the real Colorado ghost towns that inspired Eden in Devil's Night. All pictures taken by me, with background info supplemented by the excellent book Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps by Sandra Dallas.
Tomboy Mine near Telluride
Telluride is a stunning ski town in Southwest Colorado, but hike uphill on Tomboy Road for around five miles and you'll find the ruins of the Tomboy townsite. The mine closed in 1927, but in its time, it had electric lights (yep, way up that hill at the turn of the century!) and a peak population of around 2,000 people.
Above, you'll see ruins that housed part of the cable system that carried rock downhill from the upper mine shafts for processing. The surrounding views are stunning, far grander than the canyon setting of Eden in Devil's Night. I wanted Eden to be more claustrophobic and hemmed in. (Tomboy and Telluride also served as major inspirations for my novel How Much It May Storm.)
I partly based Penny Wright's hometown of Ashton on modern-day Telluride, although its location in Colorado is different from where I've set Ashton in the book.
Saint Elmo was founded in 1880 and served the miners working in nearby mines. Back in 1880, a traveler could find a hotel for three dollars per day, but even for that high price, the room might not be private. Just imagine all the miners crowding into the town on Saturday nights for some debauchery.
Look closely above, and you'll see the tattered remains of the wallpaper. Not to mention those creepy curtain shreds... Spooky!
The town of Independence near Aspen, up by the treacherous (in winter) Independence Pass. This was never a huge boom town, but women lived here, too, and not just prostitutes. It's a common misconception that all women in mining towns were ladies of ill repute. Some were teachers and ran stores. Though of course, it was a very hard and dangrous life--part of my inspiration for Marian's backstory in Devil's Night.
Like Independence, Ashcroft is an easy drive from Aspen. It's buildings are maintained by the Ashton Historical Society. It's been a ghost town since 1935. But in its heyday, around 1883, Ashcroft was larger than Aspen! Its population varied from twenty-five hundred to five thousand people. Ashcroft had six hotels and seventeen saloons. It's truly incredible how fast these towns popped up to serve the mines. And just as fast, they could go bust. By 1892, the population of Ashcroft had dwindled to fifty.
Mayflower Gulch was never much of a town, but this mining camp is a stunner! So I couldn't leave it out.