Casper in Conifer?

Paranormal experiences occurring in Conifer High School


Ellie Chase

The Head children’s memorial sits peacefully in the afternoon sun in the midst of fall at the Beaver Ranch Cemetery.

Conifer is a small town, but being small doesn’t mean it lacks fascinating and unexplainable things… like ghosts. Colorado is ranked as the 15th most haunted state, and CHS could be contributing to the paranormal sightings and potential hauntings in Colorado.

Facility Manager Gene Smith was the first to notice paranormal activity at Conifer High School. In 2012, Smith noticed that the security cameras had triggered in the middle of the night. When looking back on the footage Smith saw something unexplainable. 

“It was just like a silhouette, and in the camera it was white,” Smith said. 

The clip was 12-15 seconds long and Smith watched as the figure came out of the women’s restroom on the basement floor, moved to the male’s restroom, and then took 3 steps up the main staircase. After moving back down the staircase, the figure went into a workroom and disappeared. 

“It was something that was unidentifiable and unexplainable,” Smith said. 

Upon finding the clip, Smith showed it to Deputy McDonald who at the time agreed with him that it was unexplainable. Though the footage was lost over the years, the memory and unsettling feelings are still present for Smith.

And this wasn’t the last incomprehensible event. A few years later, new fire alarms were put in the school and the electrical company ran into some unexpected problems. Modulars were placed through the building to signal for the fire alarm system, and the process didn’t go as usual.

“They said that they have never had so many of these modulars malfunction,” Smith said. “I mean, they would just burn out for no reason.”

An electrician that was a part of this operation named Ish, shared his experience with Smith. Ish was working on the electrics of the school around 9:00 pm when he saw weird things as well. Ish was working on a wire in the same hallway that the ghost had been seen in when he felt someone close to him. He watched as a figure that looked like a person came through the door about 30 feet away from him. Because he was in the middle of an electrical job, he turned away for a moment to finish, and when he looked back the figure was gone. He hadn’t heard a door shut or open. 

He told Smith that, “I came off the ladder, left my tools where they were at and went home for the day. Because I couldn’t explain it.” 

Though the sightings and feelings of Smith and electrician Ish are hard to ignore, world-renowned Psychic and Paranormal Investigator Kate Spry believes that hauntings are not common in schools, but not impossible. 

“There are many factors that come into play here,” Spry said. “It can often be the land that the school was built on that has a lot of spiritual activity.  Or, if there was a death on the property where depression or violence occurred, spirits can get stuck there.” 

Spry believes that schools that have experienced a school shooting or a student suicide would very likely be spiritually active. Conifer High School has experienced neither, but Spry emphasizes that ghosts are not as uncommon as they might seem. 

“The greatest thing people don’t understand about ghosts is that it makes more sense to know spirits do exist rather than to think they don’t,” Spry said. “Most don’t realize spirits are simply energy, so when our vessel is not healthy enough to hold that energy anymore, our energy releases from the body into the air after the last breath, sometimes a bit sooner. Based on the theory of science, energy can’t be destroyed.  So if that energy-matter (soul) doesn’t move on to heaven or hell, it’s still around us.  Most people don’t know that there are spirits around us all the time…everywhere.”

Because you can rule out a more recent trauma that might lead to a spirit, looking into the past of small-town Conifer reveals heartbreaking and mysterious deaths. Conifer Historical Society Volunteer Susan Switzer is very knowledgeable about the town of Conifer’s past, and one of the most depressing deaths in the area is the tragedy of the Head family’s children.

“Each died within days of each other, and are now at the Beaver Ranch cemetery,” Switzer said.

The Head children, Celia, Charles, Orrilla, and Willard Jr all died within a month of each other of diphtheria in 1879. The children were 10, 8, and 3 years of age, with Willard Jr only being 16 days old. The parents were named Christie and Willard.

“He [Willard] almost lost his mind with grief,” Margaret Bentley wrote in Upper Side of the Pie Crust.

Though Willard is buried at the Fairmont Cemetery in Denver, his children’s memorial exists about 3 minutes by car from Conifer High School. According to Spry, hauntings often occur when someone dies in a depressed state. Maybe Willard Head came back to haunt a high school to see kids grow up because he never got to see his own kids grow up.

Death in depression and violence is what makes a haunting happen. Willard Head died in the midst of depression. But violence comes into play with the Lubin family. 

On September 21st of 1881, it was reported that John Lubin’s wife had died under mysterious circumstances. John Lubin claimed that she had gone to bed with a severe cold, and died 36 hours later. However, when she was being prepared for burial they found evidence to suggest that it wasn’t a cold that killed her. 

The basement floor main staircase that Gene Smith witnessed the shadowy figure step foot on. (Ellie Chase)

“Some of the neighbors prepared Mrs. Lubin for burial, and bruises were found all over her body,” Author Lee Heideman wrote in Homesteaders, Moonshiners, and Frontier Law. “This led to the belief that she had died from ‘violent treatment’ from her husband.”

A neighbor confirmed that she often heard fighting between the couple and that Mrs. Lubin often came to her home to seek refuge. The couple had 4 children, three sons, and one daughter. One of the sons also stated that his mother wouldn’t have died if not for the cruel treatment of his father. John was arrested and went to prison in Golden. 

But Mrs. Lubin’s mysterious demise was not the end of the Lubin’s family violence. John was discharged from jail just a week later. Not long after, one of his sons found him dead in bed with a bullet wound to his head. It is unclear to this day whether he was murdered or if he committed suicide, but regardless, the Lubin parents both died a violent death.

The Head father and the Lubin couple both make good candidates for the ghost at Conifer High School, but until another sighting occurs it will remain unclear if any of these people are truly the pale figure that wanders the basement floor. 

Though the mysterious human-like figure hasn’t been sighted since Ish’s night at work, Smith often gets an unsettling feeling that he can not shake. Because of snow removal and various other commitments, Smith occasionally finds himself in the school at 3:00 am and earlier. When he walks around the building in the darkness of the morning he sometimes feels a presence.

“You feel like there is someone or something is watching you, but there’s no one there,” Smith said.