Forever Haunted: Cheesman Park, Denver

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By Arrnica Dayannandan

Living a mile high can play tricks on your psyche. Even in Denver, a tranquil day in the park may not be what it seems. Especially in Denver, you’re very likely to encounter a park with a macabre stratum.

Denver’s Cheesman Park – despite its comedic moniker (it’s actually named after the 19th century water baron of Denver, Walter S. Cheeseman) – will call out to your need for serenity. The calming aura and collection of sombre trees can be a refreshing sight. You may think that you’re finally going to get off the busy streets of the city once and for all. Looking around, you might stop and wonder what kept this place so untouched? How could such a peaceful locale remain virgin and untouched by developers? Certainly, it isn’t the 150 miles of panoramic views.


From Congress Park to Cheesman Park

To really dig into its history, you’ll need to consider its life as and former name of “Congress Park.” Even before the location was known as Congress Park, it was an abandoned and disused cemetary, full of broken coffins and grave-robbed holes. Local landowners didn’t want an abandoned cemetery bringing down land values, so real estate developers determined a park would add more to property values. Colorado Senator Teller went to the U.S. Congress to have the cemetary converted to a park. In recognition of the swift approval in Congress, Denver named the place Congress Park.


Then came the dirty work. Families of the deceased were asked to claim their corpses. For those who went unclaimed, the city inked a contract to a local undertaker known as McGovern. McGovern’s contract was terminated as a result of unscrupulous business practices. His work went incomplete, and unclaimed bodies remained underground.

Over the years Congress Park was demarcated in half by a residential community. The sale of this land towards the end of the 19th century, gave rise to an ordinance motion being passed and approved by the City Council, thereby preventing future sale of this park.

Heroes and saints were not interred here, but rather the first to be buried here were John Stoefel and the brother-in-law that he murdered. These are the two people who never found peace in the exact place where you might be standing. So now you need to ask yourself: Why were you led to Cheeseman? Was it the unclaimed souls who couldn’t find peace in a park?

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Today, Cheesman Park is host to scores of unsuspecting tango dancers. Do they know that they could be dancing over the remains of past Denverites?

Today, Cheesman Park is bounded on all four sides by the historic districts of Wyman’s Island, Humboldt’s Island and Morgan’s Island. It is one of the first residential areas in the whole of Denver that has the honor of being classified as a historic district. Its controversial history, spooky stories and beautiful landscapes make it an enigmatic location of interest for locals and tourists alike.

8 comments on “Forever Haunted: Cheesman Park, Denver

  1. nona jones on said:

    arnica dayannandan —

    i would like to use the photo of cheesman park at night in a story about cheesman’s cemetery to be published in our congress park neighborhood newspaper. could you tell me the requirements for using this photo? also, who the photographer is so that credit could be given?

    thanx for your help.
    nona jones
    editor / publisher

  2. Ahh, yes…. I lived quite near this park in ’89/’90. Happy times, wonderful places!

    Memories of my dog Gus and I tromping through new-fallen snow under moonlight, the park empty of all others. Huge empty spaces and several playgrounds made it a wonderful place to romp with a dog.

    I remember doing tai chi in the marble columned building.

    The place could be spooky by day or night. Not evil or bad, just… a watching… I read the story of the park, and was quite amazed. Local history is always interesting!

    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. about 3 or 4 months ago, around 3 in the morning my girlfriend and i went for a late night drive to park! we parked the car and headed for the playground, we got about 4O feet from the car and out of no where the car lights came on and would not turn off. we didnt think much of it, so went to set on the grass, we were laughing and having fun and so on! when about 100 feet from the slide there is a porta potty. the door came open a few times but no one was there! then the temp seemed to get very cold.

  4. then that freakin car lights came back on and the alarm went off the porta potty door slamed one more time. needless to say we ran are butts back to are car and left in a hurry and never to return at night! true story! that place is freaky!!

  5. My Grandparents lived in a condo on the second floor, facing the park in the mid 90’s. One morning around sunrise my Grandfather went out on his balcony to have a smoke and someone had hung themself from a tree in the park just 20 feet from his balcony. Just thought that I would share the story.

  6. outdoor on said:

    Just because the park used to be a cemetary doesn’t spook me much. However, knowing that it is a site where a man hung himself really sends shivers down my spine. A violent death accompanied by powerfull emotions of dispair and self-loathing is far more likely to result in paranormal activity.

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  8. Partlow funeral home on said:

    just awesome!

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