1501 Albion Street
Not all haunted locations in the Mile High City are tucked away in deep, dark alleys. Sometimes, they are found in the light of day, in places where the dead are no longer the main attraction, and the living is still making their mark on history.
The Denver Children’s Home fits the bill, because despite having a past as sordid as the era it once operated in, it has nonetheless grown into a prominent establishment that has, for many years now, been a touchstone of comprehensive care for Colorado’s abused, neglected, and traumatized children and their families.
But it wasn’t always that way, and back when the Denver Children’s Home was still the Denver Orphans’ Home, the world was a very different place. So much so, in fact, that some say a mark has been left on the facility—one that can still be seen to this day.
The Denver Orphans’ Home opened in 1883.
A 1888 fire on the 3rd floor supposedly took the lives of several children.
The Denver Orphans’ Home moved to their current location in 1902.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
The Denver Children’s Home has seen its fair share of young residents over its 120-year past, and in that time there has been no shortage of tales, rumors, and folklore designed to keep a fellow classmate up at night with a watchful eye on the shadows.
But even as the times have changed and the stories have evolved, some of these strange reports have held fast, embedded into the roots of the organization, and reinforced by the sightings that have come in like clockwork with each new generation of children.
These paranormal encounters, remnants of a time when the Denver Children’s Hospital was still young and finding its way, are an inarguable part of the facility's history, and further proof that when it comes to hauntings, the Mile High City stands above the rest.
Of the many sightings recorded within these halls, the lingering spirit known as the Bride is one of the most consistent, with reports not only going back as far as the early 20th century but still coming in today on a regular basis.
She comes in the form of a full-body apparition, a beautiful woman dressed in white who, in the late hours of the night, will appear suddenly at the top of the 3rd-floor steps, long after most have gone to bed and there are few left to witness her.
Sometimes she stays, looking over the stairway, and sometimes she floats gently down the stairs to the 2nd floor, where she will continue down the length of the 50-foot hallway before disappearing through the wall.
Nobody knows her story, who she was, or why she stays, and her appearance has been known to shock those who have seen her slipping through the halls, but many have still come to think of her as a guardian, watching diligently over the home and the children within.
Some have even claimed that she is one of the original members of Ladies Relief Society, the group who originally founded the Denver Orphans’ Home, hanging on to make sure that the children still have a bright future ahead of them.
Others, though, believe that her appearance on the 3rd floor is no coincidence, and it is proof that she is part of another haunting in the building, one that started long ago when the home was still in its early days, and a horrific fire had ripped through the building—and some of its occupants.
The fire, which broke out in late 1888, not long after the Denver Orphans’ Home came into being, is reported to have started near the stairs of the 3rd floor, creating a wall of fire that trapped many students in their rooms, unable to reach help.
While only a few children and staff were said to be staying on the floor at the time, none of them would escape alive, a horrifying event that, early on, would leave a permanent mark on the establishment, even despite their noble efforts.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), there is little evidence to support this tale, and with the organization moving buildings in 1902 to their current location on Albion Street, it is difficult to connect many of the paranormal experiences with this supposed event.
But, regardless of the veracity of the story, the reports of unusual activity within the children’s home have stayed consistent over the decades, and many children, over many generations, have reported evidence to support the claim.
Most commonly, these reports come in the form of a lingering, smokey smell that starts on the 3rd floor and comes and goes without warning, as well as the sounds of children crying out in the hallways, or running hurriedly down the stairs.
It is even claimed that numerous exorcisms have been performed at the facility over its long history in an attempt to quell these spirits—but to no avail.
Was the story of the fire true? Lost to history like so many other tragedies of its day, or perhaps even tucked away by the Denver Children’s Home itself, hoping to make a clean break from their troubled past?
It is difficult to say, but no matter how you look at it the reports remain the same, and for every new generation of children who step through the doors of the Denver Children’s Hospital, there is clearly something waiting on the other side.
The Denver Children’s Home, originally the Denver Orphans’ Home, was first formed in 1876 by the Ladies Relief Society, a group of affluent Denver women dedicated to the care of the orphans who were being brought westward to Colorado to help build the railroads and work in the mines.
Initially, the children were placed in the private homes of volunteers within the organization, but it wasn't long before it became clear that the number of orphans in desperate need of care had grown past these simple means, and a facility was needed to properly accommodate them.
In 1881, Margaret Evans, wife of territorial Governor John Evans, sought to open the first permanent location for the Denver Orphans’ Home, which was completed in 1883 with the financial support of a handful of wealthy and influential Denver socialites, including businessman Fred Salomon and philanthropist George Washington Clayton.
Within days of opening their doors, 40 children in need were moved into the home proving, indefinitely, the abundant need for the services they were provided. By 1889, more than a thousand children would move through the facility on their way to a permanent home.
Initially, the facility was open only for white children under the age of twelve with no living parents, but they would eventually broaden their reach as the need, and the times, changed. Still, the early teachings at the facility were narrow, focusing on Protestant, middle-class upbringings that were designed specifically to help assimilate children, many of whom were immigrants.
In 1902, the Denver Orphans’ Home moved to its current location on Albion Street, a massive, Second Renaissance Revival structure that was designed by the Denver architects Willis A. Marean and Albert J. Norton, and cost an impressive $35,000 to build.
The facility continued to grow, both in size and scope, and in 1962 the Denver Orphans’ Home was renamed the Denver Children’s Home, and their focus moved to help children who have suffered severe abuse, neglect, or have serious mental health issues.
The facility has seen many changes over the years, and the Denver Orphans’ Home of old would hardly be recognizable alongside the Denver Children’s Home of today, but as much as the employees and residents would like to make a fresh start, it appears that some vestiges of the past have continued to hang around.
Today, the Denver Children’s Home is under the umbrella of the Denver Social Services Department, funded by the city and the state, and continues to be a touchstone of residential treatment facilities for children in the area.
The Denver Children’s Home celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1981, and in 1999 the building on Albion Street was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, cementing the influence the organization has had on the community over the past century.
The Denver Children's Home is located at 1501 Albion and continues to offer services to children in need in the Greater Denver Area.