News Column

Creepy & fascinating

July 4, 2014

By Tracy Harmon, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

July 04--CANON CITY -- Making prison history interesting sounds like it would be a hard sell. But at the Museum of Colorado Prisons here, the truth is, well, creepily strange and more intriguing than fiction. Ghost hunters, television producers and history buffs alike all are drawn to the museum and its rich tales of depravity and even some innocence in the state's lockups. The museum is a huge draw for visitors to the area.

That keeps museum Director Stacey Cline, a former Department of Corrections worker, plenty busy in the 1935 firstever women's prison turned museum.

Maybe it has been her stint as a living part of that history that makes her such a natural for sharing it.

Whatever the reason, she juggles television appearances and ghost tours along with a plethora of other interesting tasks that keeps her job far from boring.

"The ghost tours are hugely popular. We have different ghost-hunting groups come in and they teach you how to use their paranormal detection equipment and how to look for ghosts," Cline said.

Ghostly activity is highly prevalent in the former prison's laundry room area and one cell in particular, Cline said.

"Cell 18 is very active. Evidently, a woman went

crazy and died there. The cell stayed empty because no one wanted to be in there and even the women in cell 17 reported problems because of the noises," Cline said.

Enter "Mysteries at the Museum," with television's the Travel Channel, which interviewed Cline for its program due to air in September. It will include snippets from Cripple Creek and Salida as well.

Before Cline could even catch her breath, the National Geographic Channel was in town filming for its new TV program tentatively named "Mapology," which will focus on "big data and mappings as we try to draw some new conclusions about the world around us. We are meeting some of the people that are impacted by different things that we're seeing, for example the interesting density of prisons in the Canon City area," said Corey Robinson, associate producer.

The initial episode will focus on crime and punishment. Filming took place at the Territorial "Old Max" prison and the museum and features former Warden Benny Johnson and former correctional officer Dean Marshall, whose family has been prison workers for four generations.

Between television filming gigs, Cline graciously received an impressive gift from the Al Packer Chapter of E. Clampus Vitus in Colorado Springs, a fraternal order started by California miners who named their chapter after Colorado's well-known cannibal Alferd Packer.

A board member visited the museum and was so impressed that he talked his nonprofit group into creating a historic plaque for the museum that focuses on Territorial (Packer's place of incarceration located right next door to the museum). It is mounted in the museum front yard on a piece of prison sandstone.

The group also has donated historic plaques in Cripple Creek and at the Salida Steam Plant.

"They love history," Cline said. "They were especially fond of our Alferd Packer cell."

The museum is open daily during the summer. The cost is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for DOC and military and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. Paranormal nights are slated for Saturday (July 5) as well as Aug. 16, 22 and 23 at a cost of $35 per person.

Call 719-269-3015 for reservations.


(c)2014 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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