‘Scarier than fiction’: Sinister Steamboat tour returns in time for Halloween | SteamboatToday.com
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‘Scarier than fiction’: Sinister Steamboat tour returns in time for Halloween

While Sinister Steamboat does not take place in a graveyard, local historian Marianne Capra said she talks about the local lore surrounding the decimation of Colorado’s grizzly bear population — and one man who’s grave epitaph reads that he killed 56 of them in Routt County.
Courtesy/Marianne Capra

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sometimes the creepy, crawly facts from the past are even scarier than fiction. Local historian Marianne Capra agrees.

With little happening this Halloween in Steamboat Springs because of COVID-19, Capra will be one of the few to conjure up some spooky stories just in time for All Hallows Eve.

“It’s kind of a fizzle,” Capra said of this year’s lackluster Halloween season.

Enter Capra, who will offer some gnarly nostalgia in her Sinister Steamboat: Dark Histories tours, the first of which will be held Saturday.

An unexpectedly busy Capra found herself lamenting the lack of festivities surrounding this year’s Halloween. So, she decided to resurrect her popular tours for people to enjoy while learning about local lore.

While it’s not in-your-face blood and guts, the Sinister Steamboat tours could be considered scarier, in Capra’s opinion, because these stories will stick with you.

Capra’s immense background in history, specifically natural history, has led her to work with large groups of people. Now a smaller crowd, forced by the ongoing pandemic, adds an extra bit of intimacy to the public tours.

The historian’s credibility and passion for all things historic shines through the stories she shares — ranging from tales about the former Ute people that walked the Yampa Valley to exploding buildings to the local decimation of the grizzly bear.

If you go

What: Sinister Steamboat: Dark Histories tour
When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday; 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 30; 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 31
Where: Meet at 705 Lincoln Ave., No. 103, in front of the statue
More info: Sign up at signupgenius.com/go/9040E44AAA92DA1FC1-sinister2

One of the more harrowing stories Capra shares along the tour — without giving away any spoilers — involves the Ute belief of a “water baby.” That, as she explained, is a haphazard combination of the Celtic changeling and Scandinavian myling. It was the Ute’s belief that it was a real thing living in one of the local creeks. Because of the decades of engineering performed on local natural water systems, the beings have been treated extremely poorly.

“They’re very angry and violent,” she said. “It seems so innocuous — and it’s so not.”

An exceptionally timely stop during her multi-block tour of Steamboat involves the Spanish influenza, which ravaged the nation in the early 1900s. Steamboat was spared no exception from that tragedy. That stop is connected to a local building that served as an important institution in Steamboat’s history.

At this stop, Capra performs — admittedly with a weak singing voice — a popular tune sung inside the parlors of some Steamboat homes during the influenza outbreak. That’s much akin to the local community sing-alongs during COVID-19.

“But there’s something much darker there,” Capra said. “Whether you’re talking about the dark stories or the local history — this place is full of amazing people and events.”

Despite the supernatural and paranormal themes, Capra professes she is not a medium, nor a physic. While she’s been involved with the A&E sci-fi series, “Ghost Hunters” — they recently focused one of their shows on the legends and hauntings of Perry-Mansfield — she admits she’s not a real ghost hunter. Some people join the tour and are disappointed to discover such an admission.

Instead, Capra offers a preponderance of truth. She shares stories gleaned from her studies and research but also incorporates the paranormal aspect in things she learned from her experience working on “Ghost Hunters.”

“Human nature has a light side and a dark side,” she said. These tours happen to focus on the latter.

Capra has been a resident of Steamboat for about the last 20 years. She’s an experienced storyteller and lecturer. She began her Sinister Steamboat tours in 2017, initially as a fundraising venture for two Olympian friends looking to attend the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. But the tour was found to be equally entertaining and informational.

Capra sees herself as a connection between the past and present. What is offered is a cerebral experience, as she described it, something that hours or even days later still kind of haunts a person.

“If you find it scary, it’s because it’s true,” she said.

Instead of relying on typical Hollywood CGI tricks to score cheap thrills, Capra’s words force the impact. Her focus relies on the real things that go bump in the night here in Steamboat.

“It’s the things that are hiding in plain sight,” she said. “Things that are stamped into the sidewalk or a creek that’s always been there. These are things you’ve walked by every day, and you don’t know what you’re looking at.”

Hearing the haunted history surrounding those places tends to sink into the psyche, she said.

“What I can bring are the true stories of these places in common locations,” she said. “I hope you never think about these places the same way again.”

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.


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