Nearly 125 years ago, geologists discovered dinosaur remains in the Garden Park Fossil Area just north of Canon City, Colorado. The three stegosaurus skeletons date back to the prehistoric age, and these discoveries are one of Canon City’s claims to fame. They aren’t, however, the only bones buried inside the city.
The Abbey of the Holy Cross, located within Canon City’s boundaries, has a unique spiritual past. The cemetery is home to hundreds of Benedictine monks who lived there from 1928 to 2005. With private investment companies perpetually developing these sacred lands, their souls might never be able to rest.
A History of the Abbey of the Holy Cross
The Abbey of the Holy Cross started in 1886 when two Benedictine monks left Latrobe, Pennsylvania to establish a monastic community in Colorado. Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, a member of the American Roman Catholic missionary and the first bishop of Denver, invited them as the Vicar Apostolic for Colorado and Utah. After originally settling in Boulder in 1886 with the Priory of St. Mary, other monks from various territories started to arrive.
In 1924, the community outgrew the original settlement, forcing the monks to move to Canon City. The Roman Catholic Church, through an intermediary, purchased the Fruitmere Orchards, over 90 acres of undeveloped land. Upon the completion of a larger Gothic Revival style monastery and a couple of other minor buildings, the land parcel was granted the title of abbey.
The abbey, originally named Holy Cross, was completed in 1925, but ended up costing roughly three times the original estimate of $200,000. Other Benedictine abbeys across the country ended up absorbing the additional $400,000.
The Abbey served three primary functions throughout the years, all overseen by the monks. The boys school, created by the first abbot Father Cyprian Bradley, prepared children for high school. The Holy Cross College and Seminary helped students decide whether God called them to serve as part of His Church through priesthood or brotherhood. Camp Holy Cross provided boys ages 8 to 14 a community in which to grow and develop their faith.
After prospering in the 1950s and 1960s, the boys school, Holy Cross College and Seminary, and Camp Holy Cross closed in 1985. The community grew from 35 students in 1928 to 250 students in 1972, but enrollment quickly declined in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This untimely collapse caused the abbey to abandon plans for a grand cathedral, electrical plant, football stadium, and other buildings. Approximately 20 elderly monks continued to live in the abbey until it eventually closed entirely in 2005. In 2007, it sold.
The elderly monks allowed the property to be developed by a professional viticulturist for wine production, and the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey remains open to this day. Each year, annual events such as the Harvest Festival, Winemakers Dinner, Farm-to-Table Fun Run and Dinner, Palette to Palate, and Spring Wine Extravaganza are held, spreading cheer to all those in attendance.
Every Halloween, the Boy Scouts organize a haunted house event in the basement for cheap thrills and laughs, but with a graveyard on site, perhaps not all the spine-tingling frights come from actors dressed up in costumes.
The Dark Spirits That Remain
The construction of the Abbey of the Holy Cross was difficult and dangerous. Built mainly by prisoners, it was unlikely that on-site deaths were reported and recorded. The possibility of prisoners’ spirits being trapped inside the abbey they were forced to build forever remains.
Post-construction, the abbey served as living quarters for hundreds of people. It housed the sick and elderly in an on-site infirmary and many monks were buried in the cemetery behind the Sister’s house. It is surrounded by green space but hosts an eerie aura after the sun goes down.
Among those buried in the Holy Cross cemetery are four abbots: Cyprian A. Bradley, Leonard Schwinn, Augustine Antoniolli, and Bonaventure Bandi. The first person buried in the cemetery was Father Agatho Strittmatter in 1938. Could one of these men of God still reside in the Abbey of the Holy Cross, watching over the spiritual land that recently sold to a private investment group in 2007 for $11 million? This is surely not what the founders of the abbey envisioned in 1928.
The maze of dark corridors throughout the abbey provide plenty of space for the paranormal to occupy. The basement taunts all those who enter with an unpleasant energy. Previous guests reported feeling like they were followed through the monastery, only to realize no one was behind them.
Chanting can sometimes be heard late at night, as if rituals never ceased after 1985. The darkest energy, however, comes from the secret passageway that connects the basement of the monastery to Ullathorne Hall, which allowed monks to travel through the community undetected.
The happenings in that hall throughout the years remained unseen by the outside world.
Find Out for Yourself with Ghost Hunt USA
Are you skeptical about all the previous reports? Ghost Hunt USA invites you to find out for yourself. The ghost hunt at the Abbey of the Holy Cross includes exclusive overnight access to the most haunted areas of the complex, including the previously-mentioned basement and secret passageway, as well as the chapel.
You can purchase your tickets directly online here.
Additionally, group seances and vigils are conducted with an experienced ghost hunting team. Ghost Hunt USA’s specialized equipment can detect dark presences and trapped spirits via trigger objects and electromagnetic field meters, or EMFs.
If you dare, private time is available to explore the abbey uninterrupted (at least, by the living).
Oh, and don’t forget snacks and beverages. Ghost hunting is a long, tiring process. Ghost Hunt USA makes it a little more comfortable with a selection of snacks, coffee, soda, and water. If you’re going to scare yourself half to death, you might as well enjoy it!