The ghost of Mrs. Webber |

The ghost of Mrs. Webber

Henry Webber, one of Aspen’s most influential and controversial residents, left his mark on Aspen, literally. Look up at the facade of the restored Isis Theatre building and you’ll see his name. The former cobbler can also be credited for the Elks Building, which still towers over the intersection of Hyman and Galena.

But Webber’s past was marred with suspicion surrounding the circumstances of his wife’s death. His wife died in 1881 from an overdose of strychnine, and although a coroner declared her death an accident, there were rumors that Webber’s wife committed suicide because of Webber’s ongoing relationship with her niece, Julia Nevitt.

The rumors persisted in part because Webber married Nevitt just four months after his wife’s death. Local historian Larry Fredrick has read the inquest into Webber’s wife’s death, and he believes the overdose was truly an accident.

“Strychnia was an over-the-counter drug back then, used to calm your nerves,” Fredrick says. “I guess she was a nervous lady. It appears that Henry also took some because he was ill, but not fatally.”

Whether or not Mrs. Webber was taking the drug to ease the pain from her husband’s affair with her niece will never be known. But when Webber built a home for Nevitt and himself at 442 Bleeker St., six years after his wife’s death, locals told tales of Mrs. Webber’s ghost haunting the house.

“They said that there were ghosts because you’d hear footsteps on the roof, and that the windows would open and close randomly,” Fredrick says.

Of course Fredrick has explanations for all the ghostly sounds, saying the lead lining in the roof creaks like footsteps when it expands and contracts in the sunlight, and that movement of air in the house when a door is open can pop open windows that aren’t latched.

“But never let fact get in the way of a good story,” Fredrick says.

Webber was later elected mayor of Aspen in 1888, said to be the businessman’s and miner’s choice.

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