One of Denver’s grand old buildings, Union Station, has been beautifully restored and updated to serve as a modern transportation hub. The city didn’t always have such a fine space, though. From 1872 until Union Station opened in 1881, passenger trains pulled in at a much more modest brick depot at 21st and Wazee; that’s just about under home plate at Coors Field today.
Photo: Adrianne Montoya
The Station Agent at the old depot was a man named Frank Pierce, and he took his job seriously. As a tough new western town, Denver presented all kinds of possibilities for disorder, but the thorn in Pierce’s side was all who spit on the floor. It was more common then to chew tobacco, and so there was considerably more public spitting going on. So Pierce put out spittoons, he hung signs reminding people to use them, he cleaned up, and he did it all again, but the nasty, spitty conditions persisted.
Frustrated, Pierce bypassed what remained of his politeness and went for indirect threat. He grabbed a shovel, made his way to Mount Prospect Cemetery—that’s Cheesman Park to you, your dog, and your volleyball league—and came away with a human skull. He mounted it next to the ticket window with a sign that read, “This is the last man who spat on the floor.”
The public was spooked into minding their manners at the depot and those green-black gobs made their way directly into the spittoons provided. Problem was, now they had another kind of spook on their hands.
Denver Horror Collective is a sponsor of this recurring event at Bookbar hosted by our very own Tom Mavroudis, pairing horror and thriller readings with flights of beer & wine.
On Sunday, July 28 @ 6 pm we feature Carter Wilson reading from his new book The Dead Girl in 2A. RSVP here!
Jake Buchannan knows the woman sitting next to him on his business flight to Denver—he just can’t figure out how he knows her. Clara Stowe isn’t in Jake’s line of work and didn’t go to college with him. They have nearly nothing in common apart from a deep and shared certainty that they’ve met before. Despite their best efforts over a probing conversation, both struggle to figure out what circumstances could possibly have brought them together. Then, in a revelation that sends Jake reeling, Clara admits she’s traveling to the Colorado mountains to kill herself, and disappears into the crowded airport immediately after landing.
The Dead Girl in 2A is the story of what happens to Jake and Clara after they get off that plane, and the manipulative figure who has brought them together decades after they first met.
Carter Wilson is the award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of Mister Tender’s Girl. He lives outside of Boulder, Colorado, with his two children.
Collective member Adrianne Montoya is a Colorado native who’s spent most of her years in Denver. Though her podcast Southwest Gothic she shares spooky history and weird west stories and is currently working on two novels.
1. Name one horror author you admire. How did they help you become a better writer?
Paul Tremblay. His pacing is impeccable, the way he slams the reader with the right detail at the right moment. I’m inspired by his balance between the micro and the macro, and I’m striving to manipulate minimum details for maximum impact the way he does. He’s completely ruined Richard Scarry picture books for me, in the best way possible.
Saturday June 8 @ 6-8pm, Golden, Colorado (RSVP for directions)
The Denver Horror Collective Book Society–a book club for horror writers at any level–will be celebrating over thirty-five years of PET SEMATARY by Stephen King. Let your horror fiction flag fly, and be prepared to share your fave PS stories (when you first read/saw it, any PS folklore you’re fascinated by, and of course, what you love about it).
Have your writer’s cap on along with your party hat and spade. Directions will be PM’d to ya. Please RSVP to facilitate planning for this soiree, and thanks in advance.
1. Name one horror author you admire and explain how they help you become a better writer?
Peter Straub. Straub helps me become a better writer because of his beautiful use of language blended with professional execution of creating dread and scenes of absolute terror. His work is un-commercial in the best possible way, yet utterly accessible in readability and makes my imagination’s flesh crawl like no other writer. It helps me become a better writer in knowing that I can aim for the story first, and cut the commercial crap right out. His novel Shadowland is probably my favorite book I’ve ever read, and I read it at least once a year.
2. What author did you dislike at first but grew into?
H.P. Lovecraft. I think I associated his name too much with gaming and protracted paragraphs (that sounds like a swipe at gaming culture when it really isn’t; at one time I just felt like Lovecraft’s world was over-appropriated in it), but when I revisited his work a few years ago I came to appreciate it on my own terms and made my own discoveries in his work. He’s a controversial figure, but—at this point, at least—I’ve decided to appreciate the artist. Chew on the meat and spit out the bones, to use a blunt horror metaphor.
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.