Written by Kat Honaker
Nestled in the small Wild Western Mining towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in South Central Colorado, lies a cemetery that was started in the early 1800’s. The cemetery doesn’t just provide the deceased a final resting place from these quaint towns but, reportedly since 1882 has sparked imaginations, encouraged curiosities, campfire ghost stories and lots of local talk of the residents and visitors alike with reports of orbs and strange moving lights seeming to appear over the cemetery.
Both towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff are known for their bustling mining of silver back in the day, famous for their Dark Skies Community program with brilliant front row seats to the stars and Milky Way; and we mustn’t forget the breathtaking and stunning views of the great Sangre De Cristo Mountains; which I am partial to claim are the most beautiful mountains in the United States.
The Silver Cliff Cemetery is located about a stone’s throw due South from State Highway 96 outside of the town of Silver Cliff. The earlier settlers of these Western towns separated the cemetery into two sections for the Protestants and the Catholic residents. The Protestants named their section the Cross of the Assumption Cemetery. I had heard from my best friend, who also lives in Westcliffe, about the famous ghost lights long before I ever made the trek from the South to the West. As a writer, a Paranormal Investigator and an awkward and semi-skeptic Medium in training; the lights and the ghostly legends caught my interest and piqued my curiosity.
The original report was recorded in 1882 with two local Miners witnessing strange moving lights, floating and bouncing in the cemetery as they were passing through. Most believed them to be intoxicated or possibly just playing a trick. After much persistence from the bewildered miners, however, a few of the town’s people went to investigate. There, just like the miner’s stated, were the mysterious lights.
By 1892, more and more reports began surfacing. Over the next 135 years, the reports have been consistent with eyewitness claims of bluish, white and yellow balls of light floating above the cemetery. Some reported the lights float lazily and with no real purpose while others have reported the strange orbs appear to be just as interested in the living as we are of them. In other reports, orbs were in numbers of twelve to fifteen being present whereas others claimed hundreds of lights bouncing around with sizing ranging from pinky nail width to that of softball size.
In each of the claims, the orbs are consistent as well as the reports of the lights being in the air, resting or “dancing” on head stones or in the prairie grass. With anything that doesn’t have an immediate explanation, theories arose of what could be the cause of such strange lights.
Many speculate that it’s a natural environmental reaction of gas releasing itself into the oxygenated air or simply high levels of radon. Many dismissed any other explanations and stuck solely to the lights in town causing a reflection when the light hit the headstones. Other reports gave the explanation of foxfire, which is a bio-luminescence that is created by certain types of fungi that is commonly found on old, decaying wood. Others maintain that headstones generally have a surface that could reflect like a mirror whereas others claim it’s weather related or a moon phase result. In all the reports, it has been a general consensus that the best time to see the lights are on a misty or hazy night with little to no moonlight.
In 1969, the famed National Geographic Magazine (August, Volume 136, No.2) published an article on the mysterious dancing lights with no explanation and scientists and paranormal investigators and enthusiasts alike, have remained unable to explain why these lights appear.
In each of the reports, every theory that was offered up was struck down by debunking the possibilities offered. The idea of gases appears to be the most believable cause of these ghostly lights although no high amounts of any gas were found and Scientists have found no natural causes for it to be gaseous or mineral related. Weather proved to produce no better results as even on the ideal conditions stated to see them clearly, didn’t always mean they were there. Fungi growing on old wooden markers seemed like a good explanation but, any wooden markers are long gone so bio-luminescence fungi didn’t solve the mystery. Reflections from headstones were also debunked as the tombstones are very old and weather worn; leaving the stones to be dull, lack luster and porous. The town’s electricity seemed to fit the bill until the 1950’s when the towns decided to shut down their entire power which proved it wasn’t reflections at all.
In June of 2016, I decided to take a visit out to the cemetery just to take a look around and bring some equipment with me such as a K-2 meter, EVP recorders and cameras. The cemetery itself is simple with a small gated entrance; tombstones that date back to the late 1880’s and is a peaceful, quiet place. As a Medium and Empath, it was one of few places that I actually felt comfortable and at ease.
We arrived right around sundown so we could map it out with light and get our bearings. The very first thing I picked up was a playful energy and the name, “John”. We split up with our equipment to cover more ground and I walked and talked with the dead resting there in Silver Cliff. I noticed immediately that the lights from town were just too far away, the conditions of the gravestones were severely weathered and extremely dull, and that the wind blowing occasionally would make EVPS nearly impossible.
We did choose to go on a moon lit night so to have some idea of comparison for when we went back on a more ideal night where others claim a guaranteed experience. As the sun set, we had several unexplained K2 hits and strange sounds here and there. I walked around and took a lot of photos; all of which were consecutive burst shots so we could have a comparison.
While I took pictures, I asked the spirit identified as “John” to guide me to his resting place. In all the photos I took, there were many unexplained orbs that appeared. What I found amazing was that in some photos you could definitely see where the wind blew and how those dust particles showed in the photos. Yet, in all my photos we had strange yellow and bluish orbs seeming to follow us during our walk.
When I came across stones with the name “John”, I told him to please do his best to appear so I would know which headstone was his. The photos with other names, didn’t have the orbs showing until I landed on the last one where two visible orbs showed themselves side by side; one being the same yellow orb that stayed close to us since we had started. The burst photos taken that night match the reports so many claimed in their own experiences as well as showed a thoughtful direction of the mysterious orbs. I thanked the spirits and explained I would be back to visit especially with my new friend, “John”.
Whether it’s truly the spirits of past residents of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe or just a simple and natural scientific explanation, it’s worth a visit to these towns. The towns pride themselves in their rich heritage, maintenance of original buildings and homesteads and their dark skies where lights are dimmed or off at night so visibility of the skies are at maximum view. For such tiny communities, these towns have quite the paranormal activity. So if you ever find yourself on Highway 96 in Colorado and want to see something pretty amazing; drive by the Silver Cliff Cemetery.
Don’t worry…..they’ll leave the light on for you.