Ridge Home, A Division of the Colorado School of Mental Defectives, was the kind of place where ghost stories are born. It originally opened it’s doors in 1912 and was closed by the state in 1991. Ridge was closed for a variety of reasons. I have heard allegations of patient abuse, asbestos issues, plus budget woes brought on the closure of the hospital. Sadly, this site was demolished in 2004 to make way for a major renewal project.
The facility has housed children as young as five to patients in their seventies. It began as a “detention” center. The public view at the turn of the last century of people with disabilities wasn’t very favorable, and these detention centers, or asylums, were created to house the people deemed mentally defective. It was a place for the public to put those who were “lesser” to forget about them in my opinion. Later, Ridge Home became a place of rehabilitation.
The stories of Ridge Home are almost mythic to the locals. It seems everyone who has ever visited the facility has a story to share, myself included. People report seeing apparitions in the tunnels, hearing screams and moaning, feeling a sense of dread, and seeing shadows everywhere. I have heard stories about doctors and nurses treating patients like science experiments, keeping children in cages, and there even used to be a story about a nurse whose head was chopped off by a patient. All of these stories have a gruesome edge to them. They remind me of the movie House on Haunted Hill.
The story that was most interesting to me is the one of a boy hit by a train. There are tracks at the edge of the property, and a boy was killed there. I’ve heard the story a couple of different ways. One version says the boys escaped from Ridge Home, and as he was running toward the edge of the property a train struck him. The other version I’ve heard says a boy in a wheelchair pushed himself out on the tracks, and committed suicide to escape the torture he suffered at the hands of the staff at the facility. Apparently this story lives on with employees who work at the Target that was built near the property. They call this spirit The Runner. The story of where the runner came from appears to match the stories of the boy and the train.
Several years ago, these stories compelled me to go see the property for myself. I wanted to bring back my own spooky story. My brother and I drove to the facility around midnight in the middle of summer. We had been hanging out with his friends and driving around aimlessly when I told them the stories I heard. My brother’s friends didn’t want to tag along, so it was just the two of us.
It was one of those hot, still nights in the middle of July. I remember driving with all the windows down in my car, and it was still hot that late at night. I pulled up to the property and pointed out some of the buildings to my brother. We were parked on the side of the road when my brother noticed the main gate to the property was unlocked. We decided to drive through the gate. As we approached the main administration building, I stopped the car and put it in park. My brother started to open the door to the car to get out when something caught my eye. An old swing set sat near the road. We passed it as we came in. One of the swings started to move. There was no breeze, and we didn’t drive close enough to it to disturb it with the car. Plus, only one of the swings was moving. There were two or three swings on the swing set. I yelled at my brother to get back in the car. I didn’t hear, or see anything else. Just the swing moving, as if something was playing on it. I was so spooked, I refused to hang around. I slammed the car into reverse, and got the heck out of there!
I wish I had thought to contact the owners of the property to get permission to go back to Ridge Home before it was torn down. It is my favorite source of Colorado ghost stories. At the suggestion of a friend, I plan on talking to some of the employees at the Target that is near there now, and seeing what kinds of activity may be left.
What do you think? Is the Ridge Home site haunted? Do you have any stories of your own to share? Let me know in the comments!