Sinister Tour reveals dark, spooky side of Steamboat Springs |

Sinister Tour reveals dark, spooky side of Steamboat Springs

Marianne Capra shows pictures of the bottom floor of what is now Old Town Pub, but used to be a hospital with a crematorium in its basement, during a Sinister Tour on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Marianne Capra’s Sinister Tour invites locals and visitors to learn about the dark side of Steamboat Spring’s history. 

During her supernatural tour on Friday, Oct. 21, she explained most people don’t know the trustees of the Steamboat Springs Cemetery warned the builders of the new Sunlight Crossing housing development that the new homes were being built on top of unmarked graves. 

“Did they not watch the movie ‘Poltergeist?’” Capra asked rhetorically.

There was a time in Steamboat when burying the dead in graves was a luxury, especially during the Spanish Flu in 1918, which overwhelmed local doctors. Even though there aren’t headstones showing where the bodies are buried, Capra said, people at the time marked the locations on maps.  

Capra is a historian by trade, but her curiosity for the supernatural and paranormal has made her an authority on the strange and spooky aspects of the Yampa Valley. 

Her Sinister Tours include stories of supernatural and paranormal activity in the Yampa Valley. Capra will lead a tour at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, focusing on stories of paranormal occurrences in Steamboat. At 4 p.m., she will give the supernatural tour. All tours begin at the Carl Howelsen Statue at 705 Lincoln Ave.

Sulphur Cave at Howelsen Hill, according to Capra, is the source of many legends.

Marianne Capra shows an artist’s rendition of a Skinwalker during her Sinister Tour around Steamboat Springs on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Capra said the Yampatika Ute tribe — later renamed the White River Ute tribe — believed Sulphur Cave was a hole to the underworld, or hell. 

To be thrown into Sulphur Cave would have been a fate worse than death, Capra explained. Capra said those who harmed horses, an especially important resource for the mountainous tribe, would be cast into the cave as punishment, but they would tie a rope to the bodies to make sure they didn’t become Skinwalkers, which Capra clarified was an English translation of a Navajo term that references shapeshifters, as the Yampatika word for Skinwalkers hasn’t been recorded. 

Capra said the shapeshifters in the area around Howelsen Hill were believed to shift between humans and elk, and when pioneers first settled the area, they killed off much of the elk population near Howelsen Hill. 

By the time Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen first arrived by train to Steamboat Springs in 1913, the hill that would later be renamed in honor of Howelsen was fenced off by local conservationists who were working to replenish the elk population, Capra said. 

Marcellus Merrill was among the first of Howelsen’s students. According to Capra, Merrill was reluctant to make his first jump off the recently built ramp, but suddenly an elk burst out from the nearby foliage and scared Merrill into taking one of the first leaps at Howelsen Hill. 

“I don’t know,” Capra said, admitting it might be a stretch connecting the two, but said she found it interesting personally. “Maybe it means nothing to you.” 

Marianne Capra shows pictures of Logan Crawford, the son of James Crawford, who found a butcher knife near a creek that inspired the Crawford family to call it “Butcherknife Creek.” Capra led one of her Sinister Tours on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.
Spencer Powell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Perhaps the gloomiest story Capra told on her tour was one that happened just a couple years ago.

She first explained the legends of mylings from European folklore. Mylings are the spirits of children who were killed without being properly buried, typically by parents who drown them.

According to Capra, many people have heard the sounds of crying children near Butcherknife Creek. She told a story that happened in 2018, when tenants of her rental property along the creek complained they couldn’t sleep at night because of the loud crying that seemed to grow louder when the creek was roaring after heavy rain. 

“They make a recording of it,” Capra said. “I listened to the recording of the crying. But I’ll just be honest with you, it just sounds like about a one-year-old crying.”

Capra said those tenants didn’t renew their lease when it came up, and subsequently, a group of college students moved in. 

“The kids next door,” Capra quoted one of the new tenants saying, “they cry all the time.”

Capra said that was all she can say. 

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