Annabelle can speak Chinese?
Just got back from Colorado from a brief visit. When I was looking for places to visit around Buena Vista where we stayed for the weekend, I came across this town called St. Elmo.
I had one night to shoot, Saturday night. The party animal Luna was going to bed late like at 2:30am. Moon phase was Waxing Gibbous 81% of full moon. Which meant it was not a serious night for star gazing. Also weather in Colorado at this time of the year is crazy. Sunsets and sunrises are devoid of much needed clouds. For Pete’s sake, I had my eyes closed for a large group photo that was shot mid morning. But come night time, the clouds come out of the woodwork.
This night was going to be no different but I had no choice. I had to take a chance. So I drove about one hour around 11pm on dirt roads and up a 10,000 foot mountain with no cell phone coverage of any sort along the way. I had been there during the day to look at the place so that helped. At dinner time in the quaint little but expensive town of Buena Vista, the sky was promising the storms having passed through. I was excited to see the stars. Once back at the hotel, I was chatting and my wife got bored of me sticking around and talking for the sake of talking or perhaps she was just tired and wanted to go to sleep asked me “When are you leaving and what time are you going to be back?” I replied I will be back by the morning. said, I might have to nap in the car to wait for moonset. Before I left Nayana told me, “Daddy, don’t sleep in the car. Stay awake”.
Once I arrived here, I parked my car at the entrance to the town and was very disappointed to see the thick clouds. I was hopeful that it would get better as the night progressed. I parked the car and walked into the town. Sadly the town has bright lights. Not too many but just enough to cause any astrophotographer to feel extremely annoyed mildly put. I remembered reading earlier in the day that they had to install security cameras and lights to keep out people stealing antiques from this well preserved “Ghost” town.
I walked around by myself and went back to the car to wait and it started to drizzle. I reclined the seat and began to nap. Around 12:30am, a pick up truck pulled up behind me and I woke up with the bright headlight shining from behind my SUV. Now who would come to an abandoned Ghost Town in the middle of the night except of course some crazy night photographer from Texas! Several thoughts quickly passed through my head. Are they photographers like me? Are they antique thieves? Could they be some really unfriendly people perhaps with a fire arm? Or, did I trip off some security camera alarm when I walked in to town and they have come to investigate. I decided to stay put in the car until one of them walks up to me and asks what I was doing there.
After what seemed like a long 5 or 6 minutes. The headlights were turned off and several people got out of the pick up truck. I saw them walk towards me in the rear view mirror and several of them walked past me. I thought I saw one person turn towards me and look at me and I tried my best to stay reclined. I could hear them talking and laughing as they went past. I could tell they looked caucasian like any white person but I heard a female voice speak in what I thought was Chinese. They had no cameras or tripods so they were not photographers. But what were they doing there and why were they going into the town?
Now, I was tempted to get out of there and drive back to the hotel. But the stronger temptation to be the first person to shoot Milky Way in this Ghost Town won (PS: I think I am the first person to shoot the Milky Way core here. I have not found any other photos online and if you have shot before me, you should share it)
So another hour or so later, the group of people came back and now I expected someone to knock on my window but instead they knocked on the log cabin to my left, laughed and went to their truck. I don’t know what truck it was but it sure held a lot of people. After another very long 5-6 minutes, they turned around and left.
The moon was too bright and clouds thick and it was drizzling a little. I decided to take a chance and walk into the town and shoot some pictures Milky Way or not. I shot some compositions and finally gave up on being able to see the Milky Way clearly and around 2:50 am, decided to drive back. I returned to the car and looked back at one of these intact homes and there behind it with the moon gone and the clouds disappearing, I saw the Milky Way flaming up the sky. I wasted no time and composed this shot and fired away a few. Then I got into the car and started my drive downhill.
Once I came back to the hotel and had caught up on my sleep, I asked Nayana “Why did you ask me not to sleep in the car and stay awake?” She replied “I just did not want those people to come”. I said “what people?” She replied “Those random weird people”.
Now read the rest..I read this not before I went to St. Elmo but after I processed this image and wanted to share some details about this intriguing place.
St. Elmo, Colorado is one of America's best-preserved ghost towns. It's a town that's frozen in time. Located 10,000 feet deep in the Sawatch Range, 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista. It's probably one of the coolest abandoned places to visit. St. Elmo was founded in 1880, and quickly swelled to a population of2,000 people. The draw: Gold and silver mining. Within just 10 years the town had reached its peak, with the establishment of a telegraph office, General Store, a town hall, five hotels, a local newspaper, school, and of course the obligatory Wild West saloons and dancing halls.
Unfortunately within just 4 decades the mining industry began to decline, and once the railroad stopped running in 1922, the town was abandoned. Saint Elmo today has numerous structures that have been preserved and are all privately owned. It is one of the best preserved ghost towns anywhere in Colorado and still has a few residents. The remaining structures include a general merchandise store, which still operates from May through October, a church, a school building, and many other business structures and cabins.
The Stark family were part of St. Elmo’s elite, a high-class group that attended church regularly. Anna was said to have been a humorless woman who severely controlled the children, believing that they were better than the other townsfolk – miners, railroad men, prostitutes and hard women. The children were rarely allowed to leave home, forbidden to attend local dances or social activities and had only each other for company. In 1890 a fire destroyed the business section and the town was never entirely rebuilt.
The survival of the town was largely due to the Stark family and their descendants, who remained the sole year-round residents for many years. According to local legend, perhaps at least one of them, Annabelle Stark, still keeps a ghostly watch over the town.
Though Annabelle was always said to have been kind and generous to the few who still frequented the store, the locals began to call her “Dirty Annie” because of her filthy clothing and tangled hair. She was also known to have roamed the old town, with rifle in hand, to protect her property. The town officially died on Sept. 30, 1952, when the post office closed.
Eventually, Tony and Annabelle were sent away to a mental institution, for their own safety and that of others. However, after just a few weeks, a sympathetic friend convinced the authorities that they were of no harm to anyone and they were released. Tony died a short time later and Annabelle was sent to a nursing home in 1958 where she died in 1960. Their property was left to the sympathetic friend who had helped them.
Shortly after Annabelle’s death, the friend’s grandchildren were said to have been playing in a room of the hotel, when suddenly all the doors in the room slammed shut and the temperature dropped nearly 20 degrees. The terrified children refused to play in the hotel again.
Another one of the grandchildren, a young woman in her twenties, decided to take on the hotel as a project, cleaning out the rooms, making minor repairs, and washing down the walls and floors. After cleaning up for the day, she and her friends would put away their tools and cleaning supplies, only to find them in the middle of the floor when they returned the next day. After this continued to occur, they started placing the items in a padlocked closet, but still they would be in the middle of the floor when they came back.
On another occasion, a skier was said to have seen a very attractive woman in a white dress framed in the second story window of the old hotel. The owner was away on vacation, so who could it have been? The young woman’s eyes were focused on something in the distance and when the skier followed her gaze, she saw a group of snow mobilers who were riding through the street. The skier flagged down the group, informing them that snowmobiling was illegal in St. Elmo. The group apologized and rode away. When the skier looked back at the hotel, the woman nodded to her, then turned away and vanished.
The legend of Annabelle’s ghost lives on with the part-time residents of Saint Elmo, believing that she continues to protect her property from vandals or trespassers.