The Historic Haunting at the Grant-Humphreys Mansion
Many who work at the popular Edwardian-era wedding venue have long-reported unusual happenings. We asked some of them to break down the spooky (but mostly playful) encounters for us.
“I heard the house was haunted when I first started working here,” said John Andrews, the sales manager for Grant-Humphreys Mansion. “But at the time I didn’t believe in any of that stuff; I kind of wrote it off.” That changed about a month later when he was shutting things down after a piano recital. “I came up to the third floor to close up the windows, turn off all the lights. Up there, there’s a glass partition. When I turned around and looked through the partition, I saw a little girl standing in a doorway, staring at me. I did a double take—and she was gone.”
At first, he was sure his imagination was getting away from him. But he couldn’t forget what he had seen, and was even more thrown off when, several months later, a caterer came up to him and asked about the little girl. “I said, ‘Uh, how do you know about the little girl?’ And she told me everybody had seen her. Blonde, curly hair, pink dress…exactly what I had seen. And I hadn’t mentioned what I saw to anybody.”
For many decades, almost everybody who has worked at the Grant-Humphreys Mansion—whether they’re full-time staff, volunteers, or caterers working on contract—have reported strange things happening in the Edwardian mansion-turned-wedding-venue.
Most of the reported occurrences are small and easily written off. Strange noises after dark (most likely the sound of the house settling). Unusually cold patches in the basement (probably the result of a draft in the century-old building). Lights turning off or fire alarms sounding for no reason (well, the wiring is practically antique). But many staff members report more dramatic events, things that stand out as unexplainable, and—some believe—paranormal.
The Grant-Humphreys Mansion is one of the many historical buildings owned and maintained by History Colorado. But it, uniquely, is not a house museum or a historic site. Instead, it is a non-profit event venue, most popular for weddings.“It’s a beautiful site,” said Rita Rollman, director of the mansion. “There are other mansions in Denver. We are the only one that is completely non-profit, and the money goes directly to education and programs at History Colorado.”
Thousands of weddings, parties, and events have been held in the opulent house over the past few decades. And over the years, very similar stories pile up, some of which few can explain.“I’m a skeptic. I don’t want to be a believer…but, you know,” said Rollman, “it’s the first thing you hear about this house: It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. It’s haunted!”
Rollman has, herself, experienced very few unusual occurrences. Lights have gone out for no reason, and she’s had things fall while she was alone in the house. She’s heard plenty of stories from her staff, though.
“Every single caterer, they’ve experienced something,” she explained. “They’ve seen something, or even more often smelled something. They smell perfume or tobacco when we haven’t had any events. We even once had a police officer experience something! She said she felt something in the basement. It was like a pocket of coldness….She was super freaked out.”
The majority of the experiences that people report are similar. When something overt does happen, it’s teasing or playful. Even childish.“They hear playing and giggling, and sometimes someone singing to themselves,” said Rollman. “More than one person says they’ve felt someone tugging on their hair. Our tall cocktail tables, they have bows on them; it looks very pretty. One person tied up all the sashes into the bows, but when they turned around the sashes had all been untied.” And many staff members and caterers report seeing the same images: A flash of pink, topped by golden curls.“They all say it’s a little girl,” said Rollman.
John Andrews has worked at the mansion for seven years, including over 300 weddings there. As a result, he has reportedly seen more than most. After his first unexplained encounter he began asking around and found that many others seemed to have met the little girl on the third floor. And he believes he knows the identity of this supposed ghost: Alice Lucille Humphreys.
The Grant-Humphreys Mansion was constructed in 1903, and was first inhabited by former state governor James B. Grant. However, after Grant died the building was sold by his widow to oil magnate Albert E. Humphreys.
A.E. Humphreys soon filled the house with his family. Both of his adult sons, Albert Jr. and Ira Boyd, moved in with their wives. The Humphreys enjoyed a life of decadence at the pinnacle of Colorado high society.
Alice Lucille, Ira’s daughter, was the first child born in the house. She grew up there in that third-floor room, first as a nursery and then as her bedroom. Her entire youth was spent at that house, during both times of great joy and periods of deep, personal tragedy and loss. And though she grew to adulthood and would move on to live elsewhere around the country, John Andrews is firmly of the opinion that her presence still lingers—one way or the other—in her childhood home.
“After I saw her in that room, I started looking into who that nursery belonged to,” explained Andrews. “And I learned it was for Alice. I looked and found a portrait of her, around age nine, and it was exactly what I saw. Curly hair, pink dress.”
The Grant-Humphreys Mansion has garnered a bit of a reputation over the years due to these ghost stories. Many ghost hunters, mediums, and séance-holders have come to the mansion to investigate. Some of these investigations were featured on television, culminating in a memorable appearance on the second season of the Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell. Most of these investigators came away saying that there is some form of “presence” at the house, possibly even multiple ghosts, but that it’s completely benign. At worst, some warned that inhabiting a haunted space can be “draining” and asked Rollman if she ever felt tired after spending a lot of time at the mansion. “That just sounds like work to me,” laughed Rollman.
Nonetheless, that’s something everybody who has worked at the Grant-Humphreys Mansion can agree on: The unexplained events are seemingly harmless. Mischievous at times, but always playful, and not malicious. “There’s no reason for anybody to be afraid of coming here,” she explained. “The ghost seems to be more friendly or playful... It’s just teasing us. And if you’re interested in ghosts, [a visit] might be worth your time.”
It may not matter whether or not the Grant-Humphreys Mansion is haunted. It’s a very old building that harkens back to a turbulent time in Colorado history, with connections to both government and big business. And—in the strange way that these things happen—the ghost stories have become a part of that history.
History isn’t just the tale of rich businessmen and their granddaughters, or scandals and politics. It’s a story everybody writes about what we see and experience, what we remember, and how we remember it. And whether or not the Grant-Humphreys Mansion is haunted, that is how many people experience its history. To them, these ghost stories, true or not, are little windows into the past.