THE RICHTHOFEN CASTLE
THE GHOST STORIES OF
MURDER ON CASTLE GROUNDS
In 1911, the Richthofen Castle was the site of one of the strangest and most salacious stories in Colorado history.
Towards the end of his life, Baron von Richthofen had built a tuberculosis sanitarium on his castle property that was intended to help patients heal with the help of expensive milk (considered a tuberculosis cure in those days), beautiful views, and dry air. Some years later, Charles Patterson was staying as a patient at the sanitarium when his wife, Gertrude Gibson Patterson, shot him in the back after meeting him in the gardens of the property.
VIOLENCE AND INTRIGUE
Mrs.Patterson claimed after she was arrested that her husband had been a violent and abusive man and that she had murdered him in self-defense. The prosecution argued that Charles had been on his hands and needs when she shot him and that there was no way that she was in distress at the time of the killing.
The public was fascinated by the story, and by the salacious gossip that swirled about Mrs. Patterson’s early life as the poor, beautiful protégé of a much older, wealthier man. In the end, she was exonerated by a single corroborative testimony from a stranger who disappeared into Canada as soon as the verdict was read.
A MYSTERIOUS END
No one knows what happened to Mrs. Patterson in the end — some say she fled to Europe, changed her name, and re-married. Others said she tried to flee but never made it. The boat she boarded, the Titanic, had another fate in store for her.
One thing’s for certain, for the last hundred years there have been strange tales of ghosts and spirits in and around the castle property. Neighbors have reported seeing phantoms in the castle tower, lights flickering on and off, and strange figures roaming the grounds — including a man wearing a surgeon’s mask...the same kind that they wore at the sanitarium all those years ago.
MAID'S QUARTER MYSTERY
Before we moved into the castle, the former owners, the Priddy family, shared a story with us that they had heard when they bought the castle from the family that preceded them, the Seidens.
Apparently when the Seidens first moved into the castle they children experienced something so spooky that it was retold as a family legend for years. Now it’s become a legend of ours, too.
STRANGE SOUNDS IN THE DARK
In the 1970s, when the Seidens first moved into the castle, their children were young — in middle school at the time — and were very afraid of their bedrooms.
The kids were supposed to stay in the castle's traditional Maid’s Quarters, a long, dark, narrow hallway with a row of rooms at the end of the house where servants used to sleep at the end of the last century. But when the children tried to go to bed, they began hearing the strange sounds...of someone shuffling around.
The kids heard noises and grunts, doors closing and opening, and footsteps up and down the back servant’s stairs. There wasn’t a lot of working light fixtures in the house at the time, so, in the darkness, the children fled their rooms and went to their parent’s bedroom, refusing to sleep in the rooms they had been given.
AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
The next morning, when the family got up to make breakfast, they could still hear noises from that part of the house. The noise got louder … and louder … and louder … until it sounded like it was right outside the kitchen door. Then, as the family sat there, the door to the kitchen slowly opened, and an old man, confused and sleepy, with bushy white hair shuffled into the room, over to their coffee maker, and helped himself to a cup of coffee.
When they asked him who he was, he answered “I’m Carl! Who are you?”
It turns out that the previous owner, the elderly Perenyi widow, who had died when she was in her 90’s had employed Carl as her caretaker. Carl, an elderly man himself, had developed dementia, and though a real estate agent had come by to ask him to leave when the property had sold, he had forgotten to move out.
And so the Seidens had bought a castle — with a person inside of it. And the kids, sleeping next door to his room, had the scare of their lives when he began shuffling around.
To their credit, the Seidens let him stay in the house for a few weeks until they could find a safe and comfortable place for him to move into. And after we heard that story?
We invited our extended family over for a big house-warming party tour of the castle, just to make sure that no one was living in any of our new home’s nooks or crannies.
A CHILL IN THE BACK HALL
Although we love a good ghost story, we’ve only had a few spooky encounters during our time in the castle.
We tend to find lights on here and there, or doors open inexplicably — one time, one of our daughters, Molly, came home to find the light on in a castle closet at the top of the stairs that we rarely use. That was certainly strange (!) though nothing that couldn’t be explained by old electric wires having a life of their own.
There was a time, though, when we did feel like something was amiss, and it was shortly after we moved into the castle.
For the first few months of our lives here, Sylvia would feel a draft or a chill in a single section of the back servant’s stairs that lead to our kitchen. We couldn’t figure out what the chill was — or where it came from — but it was always there. Night and day. And whenever she went down the stairs, she said, she wouldn’t just feel cold, she would feel creepy...like someone or something was there that shouldn’t be. There felt a strange vibe. It was a scary staircase!
Around the same time that we began to feel the chill, Sylvia began to have dreams about the staircase. In every dream, a tall servant was running in front of her down the stairs. In the dream, Sylvia would chase him or try to catch him but she never could — this tall, ghostly figure was always one step ahead.
In the dream, Sylvia also saw an older woman, who would tell her about the servant. The woman explained that he was upset that the gatehouse had been sold because it meant that he could no longer live there together with his wife. He was mad, she said, and that’s why he circled the stairs.
COINCIDENCE...OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Here’s the strange part.
The chill and the dreams persisted night after night — right up until we bought the gatehouse and returned it to the castle property. From the moment we broke down the fence between the castle and the gatehouse, everything stopped. There was no longer a chill on the back stairs. There weren’t any more creepy feelings on that side of the house.
And Sylvia never had her dreams again.