The Hatchet Lady of Red Rocks

– by Adrianne Montoya

Red Rocks

Photo: Adrianne Montoya

The road that runs the east slope of Lookout Mountain has a great view of the city lights, but as a Lovers’ Lane, it gets a little crowded. If you and your date require a more secluded spot, there are plenty of half-hidden pullouts along the backroads of Morrison where you can slip under the wild plum and gambel oak. Ignore the litter of empty beer cans, discarded prophylactics, and coyote scat, and it’s peaceful and private. If you manage to get close to Red Rocks on summer concert night, you can even enjoy the background thrum of the music.

Until the Hatchet Lady wanders past. She’s known to be less than friendly to people she considers trespassers. That hatchet may be getting dull, but she swings it with surprising force.

If you grew up on the West Side of the metro area, the Hatchet Lady of Morrison was probably a familiar urban legend. There was likely at least one person at your high school who claimed to have been chased by her, and many more knew someone who had. The older generations claimed she had been a real person, which led to the reasonable conclusion that the current hatchet lady lurking Red Rocks Park is a ghost. She’s an exceptionally angry spirit, with special spite reserved for amorous couples and hotboxers.

There are several variations on the Hatchet Lady story, but this is the one I know: Sometime in the mid-twentieth century, a poor couple lived on the outskirts of Morrison. He was ill, and she was mean and already a little crazy. They struggled to get by. When he died, she lost the house, but she took up residence in one of the many small caves that riddle that section of Dakota Ridge. Her mental health tanked. Soon, she took to wandering the edges town with her hatchet in hand, muttering to herself while she gathered firewood. She became more unhinged, more violent with the passing of time. She snarled at anyone she saw, sometimes charging without provocation. She always slipped away before authorities could address the problem. She became a sinister presence among the red sandstone formations along the banks of Bear Creek, especially around dusk and after dark.

At some point she must have died of old age, but that hasn’t stopped her harassing anyone foolish enough to wander upper Bear Creek at night, or presumptuous enough to sit in their car on an unlit stretch of winding road. If anything, taking spectral form has liberated her.

The Hatchet Lady appears as a hag, dirty and ragged, bony, hunched, with a formidable nest of gray hair. She moves with astonishing speed and strength. When she swings her hatchet, she yowls like an animal and bares her gapped yellow teeth. She’ll chase you on foot or in your car, but everyone seems to lose her at some point.

Next time you enjoy a good smoke on a quiet night near Red Rocks, keep an eye out for the Hatchet Lady.

Adrianne Montoya is a member of Denver Horror Collective and shares spooky history and weird west stories through her podcast, Southwest Gothic.