Size doesn’t matter
“Step right up and buy your tickets. Visit an authentic mountain ghost town within minutes of Aspen, Colorado. Hurry, hurry, hurry. The tour begins in a few minutes … Hey, wait a minute. Where are you going?”
“We’re heading up to Independence to see it.”
“Now just hold on there. That one up there is old hat. You don’t have to go that far. Aspen Highlands Village is much closer and twice as scary. Come on, follow me into this dank parking cavern and up the escalator.”
“Sheesh, this is creepy. It looks like an abandoned shopping mall. EEEK! I hear the ghosts!”
“Now, now, calm down a minute. That’s just the wind howling through the empty corridors. You’ll get used to it. OK, here we are. Go ahead and step off that escalator and we’ll head out into the courtyard … What do you think?”
“Oh, my gosh! Look at this. It’s hideous! Are you sure we’re safe?”
“Just as long as you’re not shopping for a timeshare.”
“Anybody ever get killed here?”
“Yeah, in fact an entire company got killed here. They were called Hines Aspen Inc.”
“I heard that they only took a beating. Are you sure they got killed?”
“Look around. See for yourself.”
“Hmmm, I guess you’re right. Probably was a massacre. How’d it happen?”
“They shot themselves in the foot.”
“Well, it all started innocently
enough back in the late 1900s. A man named Gerry came to Aspen and fell in love with the place. He would have been fine except rumor has it that he started to read stories about some old local ghosts named Walter Paepcke and Jerome B. Wheeler. He saw how these men came to town and helped create a thing called the ‘Aspen Idea.’ It was originally an ingenious way to siphon money out of rich people’s pockets but later came to be associated with just about anything lofty and pure.
“Well, by-and-by, ‘ol Gerry’s soul got possessed by these ghosts. He was filled with a great desire to be honored and revered by the townspeople. He wanted to have monuments around here named after him just like Paepcke and Wheeler. He started off all right in getting them too. He wooed the townspeople by getting straight to their hearts. He promised to provide them with all of the important things they needed.”
“He gave them love, security and comfort?”
“No, ski area improvements. After that, he had them eating out of his hand. Everyone trusted him and pretty much gave him the green light to erect his own shrine.”
“He must have been a bad guy.”
“Not really. He was pretty ordinary. The problem was that Gerry really had no vision, creativity or sense of building something with lasting worth. He was a developer. He and his team of architects and planners came up with a plan that was so bad, nobody liked it.”
“Wow! It’s hard to imagine that it could have been any uglier than this.”
“Oh, it wasn’t any uglier. It was just bigger. Anyway, Gerry and the townspeople started arguing about the size of the tribute … er … I mean village. The fight was really awful and, looking back, we see it was totally pointless.”
“In what way?”
“Well, if Gerry got his way, the thing would have been a giant Trojan Horse of sorts. As soon as they opened it, people would have come pouring out all over the place and destroyed the entire area; very frightening. As it is, the thing is so small that it generates about as much excitement as a mortician at the returns counter in Brooks Brothers.”
“Oh, I get it. Size doesn’t matter.”
“Right. Either way it was going to be a scary mess. They were jamming a square peg into a round hole.”
“What could they have done differently?”
“Gotten a round peg. But, they’d have had to make an effort to find one. That takes patience and foresight. Nobody has seen one around here since about 1981. It requires exceptional talent to create something that is timeless and beautiful.”
“Well, that’s a great story. It seems kind of far-fetched though, for a man to go to all that trouble just to build a monument to himself. Who would do such a thing?”
“Ever seen the pyramids in Egypt?”
“Yeah, good point. I think you’re right. This is really a great tour. Have you got any plans to expand?”
“Sure. We’ll have one that’s 10 times as frightening in Snowmass Village in a few years. It’ll be our Crown jewel.”
“Cool. Is there anything else to see on this tour?”
“I’m glad you asked. Step right on over here and grab a set of earplugs. We fire a cannonball right through the center of the village once every hour just because we can. It’s time again now.”
“Holy cow! Has anybody ever been hit?”
“Nope. The few people that come out here now are mostly in real estate. These shots go right over their heads.”
Roger Marolt thinks Aspen Highlands is a great (but not the best) place to ski. Tell him your ghost story at email@example.com.
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“Many of these stoic commuters endure brain-numbing traffic jams so they can service vacant mega homes, making sure all the lights are on and that the snowmelt patios, driveways, sidewalks and dog runs are thoroughly heated so as to evaporate that bothersome white stuff that defines Aspen’s picturesque winter landscape and ski economy,“ writes Paul Andersen.