Every town has its local legends. Some are said to be haunted by ghosts. Some are the sites of the great kale-vs.-quinoa war, where the vegans and health enthusiasts fought gallantly for their superfood’s supremacy.

Am I lying about that last one? I’m not sure, but give me a Red Bull and an hour on the internet and I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, NoCo’s no different than anywhere else when it comes to urban myths, some of which you’re probably familiar with. From ghostly haunts to stolen treasure, here are some of our favorite pop stories of Northern Colorado.

1) The Fort Collins Subway

GettyImages: art202
GettyImages: art202

According to the Fort Collins History Connection, it was once said that Fort Collins had a secret subway, meant to be presented at the 1904 World’s Fair. Supposedly, there was an 11-mile network of tunnels beneath the streets, creating a subterranean mini-city which housed restaurants and shops for travelers to explore before their morning commute. The train’s rumble could be heard beneath your feet if you listened carefully enough, up until 1918, when the tunnels were closed due to flooding from the Poudre River. Now, the stores stand empty and silent in the dark, and the rickety stairs leading down from the surface world sit abandoned.

2) The Ghost of the Old Chief Theater

Many years ago, Greeley had a theater that was simply to die for—and one woman did, her ghost haunting the balcony of the old Chief Theater for years before the place was demolished. She was said to appear as a blonde woman in a white, Victorian-esque dress that billowed around her as she drifted through the seats. Accounts vary over who this woman was, with claims ranging from an actress killed and buried in the theater’s basement to Cora Rose, a local cold-case murder from 1916. But none can say she’s not persistent. After the theater’s destruction, the site was paved over with a parking lot, which might have banished a weaker spirit. But not this one— employees of the nearby Regency Hotel have come across a white phantom on the third floor of the hotel, suggesting that the lady of the Old Chief Theater lives on.

3) The Gruber Mining Company Treasure

Stage Coach at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

As the Fort Collins History Connection tells it, in 1872 a stagecoach departed from the Clark, Gruber Co. Mine, as heavily guarded as a coach could be. The rickety coach was escorted by 12 men of the Seventh Dragoons, yet no faces were peering from the coach’s window. Nothing interrupted the sound of the horse’s hooves from within the coach except for the occasional jingle from a locked strongbox tucked beneath the seats, a strongbox which carried $62,000 worth of gold coins within it. The money was meant to pay for added troops at Fort Laramie and was valuable enough that the guard would change at Fort Collins. However, once the Dragoons arrived, there was a slight problem: The Dragoons weren’t allowed to accompany the gold any further, but the fort’s men were out chasing the Ute Native Americans at the time. Seeing little alternative, Fort Collins’ Colonel Critchell permitted the coach to continue without an escort, much to his chagrin when the coach was ambushed by the notorious Borell Gang at Coyote Canyon, 17 miles north of Fort Collins. Although the colonel’s men eventually captured and shot the bandits, to this day the gold is nowhere to be found.

4) The Shadow of Hardin

About 13 miles east of Greeley, there’s a little town called Hardin just off of Highway 34. We’ve all seen one like it—the place is so small it’s barely made it to Google Maps, and once you’re there, you’re more likely to see acres of fields than another person. But don’t let its size fool you; Hardin’s just big enough to hide some intriguing mysteries. It’s said that over the years, Hardin’s residents have seen a tall, black-cloaked man creeping through town, supposedly killing farm animals and peeping through people’s windows. But before you peg your money on Hardin’s visitor being your standard creeper occultist, consider that the stories say he’s evaded sheriff’s deputies’ multiple times, often by leaping 7-ft.-tall fences. (So, excuse me while I add ‘Frankenstein-mutant’ to that creeper occultists list). Allegedly, the cloaked man returns to Hardin on nights around Halloween, though the town’s deputies remain skeptical of his existence.

5) Disneyland, CO

Old Town, Fort Collins
Jacob Laxen/TSM

This legend veers away from the mysterious and the adventurous, but it IS one of the most popular ones I’ve heard. Also, I’m not going to lie, it makes me feel the happiest. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and walked along Main Street USA, did you get this slight itch in the back of your mind, as though you’ve seen it before? If so, then you’re not wrong. Harper Goff, who helped to model and design the main street of America’s most family-friendly theme park, drew his inspiration from Walt Disney’s hometown, Marceline, and his own home, Fort Collins. Even specific buildings, such as Disneyland’s City Hall and the Bank, were copied straight from our streets to California’s. I think that should make us the second-happiest place on earth. Or at least put us in the top 10, just because we have Walrus Ice Cream.

Not bad, NoCo, not bad. From the creepy to the whimsical, our stories stack up with the best, and there was nary a kale war to be found.

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