Founded in 1878 during the height of the Gold Rush, the town of St. Elmo, Colorado, is rumored not only to be one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in the United States, but also one that truly lives up to its title of “ghost” town. The lively ghost of one-time resident, Annabelle Stark, roams the deserted streets and buildings of St. Elmo, still carrying out her job as self-appointed caretaker of the town.
Annabelle grew up as the town was suffering through the downfall of the short-lived Gold Rush during the early 20th century. As the prospect of gold dried up, residents quickly vacated the town in search of work. Annabelle and her family were some of the few people stubbornly clinging to their old way of life in the dying town. Annabelle left the town once for a period of two years to work in a nearby town where she became engaged. The engagement was short-lived, however, and Annabelle soon returned to St. Elmo without a husband or explanation, seemingly resigned to the fact that she would never leave the town again.
By the mid-1930s, the population of St. Elmo had dwindled down from 2,000 to fewer than 10. After Annabelle’s parents died, only Annabelle and her brother Tony were left in St. Elmo, and their mental state slowly deteriorated along with the town. They isolated themselves in the town’s hotel without running water or electricity and allowed the building to fill with trash and debris. Annabelle, with her unkempt appearance and straggly hair, became known as “Dirty Annie” and was sometimes sighted patrolling St. Elmo with rifle in hand. Despite her appearance and mental state, Annabelle was regarded as a kind and vigilant soul.
Annabelle Stark never left St. Elmo until her death in 1960, and it seems that even that does not deter her from her self-appointed caretaking duties. Soon after Annabelle’s death, the new owners of the hotel began the difficult task of cleaning decades’ worth of dirt and grime from the building. It wasn’t long before Annabelle made her presence known by rearranging cleaning supplies, including moving them out of a padlocked closet several times. The apparition of a ghostly woman has been spotted in the hotel on occasion, one of the most notable being in the late 1970s, when someone caught sight of her peering out of an upstairs window.
Following her intent gaze, the person found a group of snowmobilers down the street. After the person confronted the snowmobilers and informed them that snowmobiles were not allowed in the town, the apparition disappeared. A subsequent search of the upstairs room in which she had been spotted revealed that no one had been in that room at the time.
Annabelle “Dirty Annie” Stark seems determined to continue on indefinitely guarding her beloved town.
Written by — Melanie Billings Writer/Paranormal Investigator
ST. ELMO COLORADO (TO GET TO ST. ELMO, TAKE US 285 SOUTH FROM BUENA VISTA AND THEN COUNTRY ROAD 162 WEST FOR 16 MILES.)