What Haunts Riverdale Road in Colorado?

Between the cities of Thornton and Brighton, Colorado a winding stretch of road is said to be home to some of the worst terrors the state has to offer. Stories of ghosts born of tragedy, revenge, and anger line the road waiting for unsuspecting travelers.

A murdered jogger, a phantom Camaro, witches, and even the gates of Hell are just a few of the myths that have earned this eleven-mile stretch of Riverdale Road the title of the most haunted road in the United States.

But beyond the myths, legends, and stories, which ones are actually based on truth, and what evils are truly waiting for you?

PART 1 – The Witches and Ghosts of the Road

The Phantom Camaro

Driving along Riverdale Road, it may appear like any other road trip down any other byway but as the sun sets and the darkness creeps around you, the ghosts of the past begin to make themselves known. 

From your rearview mirror, a light emanating from a single headlight approaches you, and within seconds a black Camaro roars to your side. The Phantom Camaro of Legend. 

Stories say back in the late 1970s a speeding Camaro racing down the winding road lost control crashing into a nearby tree. Later it was found by the remaining flickering headlight from the totaled car. The driver was killed on impact.

For the next several decades, random drivers would claim to see a black Camaro with a single headlight dashing past them before vanishing around one of the many bends. Some drivers claim the black Camaro is not out for a joyride but instead attempting to egg on drivers to a race to the death.

Legend says many have died racing the ghostly car around the same bend as the phantom driver decades earlier.

The Vengeful Jogger

The best way to avoid the Camaro is to pull over and let it pass but if you pull over near an area known as Jogger’s Hill you may run into an angry spirit looking to take revenge. Many drivers have reported being forced to pull to the side of the road when their car mysteriously begins to fail, attempting to lurch forward before it finally dies.

If you’re silent enough you’ll start to hear the sounds of a set of rushing footsteps approaching. Only seconds later a handprint will appear on your windshield before a violent pounding of ghostly fists slams onto the sides of your car.  

The story goes that there once was a jogger who went out for a nighttime run. Around one of the bends, a speeding car raced down, not paying attention, and hit the jogger. The unknown car pulled over for just a moment as the jogger lay dying, begging for help only for his calls to be ignored as the driver sped off.

The jogger’s spirit is said to wander Jogger’s Hill looking for his killer. When a car stops on the road the jogger rushes to the car and places his hands on the windows to get a look at the driver before beating the car in frustration.

Witches and Satanism

But the road isn’t the only supposedly haunted or evil place in the area, the high activity of spirits created an interest in those who believe in the satanic. Rumors tell of the road being a meeting spot for many trying to conjure up the spirits of long-dead witches.

According to legends, centuries ago the trees along Riverdale Road were used to hang those found to be using witchcraft. Their lifeless bodies were left swaying with the wind as a warning to others of what would happen to them if they decide to practice the dark arts.

Police and other travelers have reportedly found satanic symbols and ritual places in abandoned structures all along the road. Many have even found headless animals used in such rituals attempting to call upon the devil or even open the rumored gates of hell. 

PART 2 – The Gate to Hell

“If the living are haunted by the dead, then the dead are haunted by their own mistakes.

  • Chuck Palahniuk

During the U.S. westward expansion in the 19th century, many families grouped together to make the treacherous trip out west. Some wanted new lives enticed by the government’s promise of free land as long as it was used for farming while others were drawn in by the stories of gold found in other states.

After the gold rush changed hundreds of thousands of lives in 1849, many didn’t think twice to make the journey even if it meant almost certain death for a few of the family members. One man who took on the journey was David Wolpert in 1859, who along with sixteen others heard of the discovery of gold in the Colorado Rockies.

Arrival at Riverdale

Not finding any gold there, they made a trip to New Mexico, then to the city of Denver, finally, David gave up the dreams of gold in 1863 after meeting Catherine Henderson. The two fell in love, married on January 20, 1864, and settled in a house David built at 9190 Riverdale Road.

By the end of the year, the couple welcomed their first child but David had also welcomed something sinister into his home. Rumors began to spread of David reaching out to the supernatural to help with his farm.

A year prior he had built a large underground chicken coup but was plagued with bad luck, the chickens would often die before maturity and the crops would wither before ready. Hearing the stories of the witches that once roamed the land, he began to think the only way to ensure a healthy harvest would be to call upon the devil for help.

David carved satanic and black magic symbols in the middle of the underground chicken coop, using his own chickens as sacrifices, chanting the words of the devil, and smearing their blood on the walls and onto himself. The late-night sounds began attracting neighbors and travelers, crossing into David’s land to get a better look at what was happening.

In order to keep out peering eyes, David constructed a gate around his property but unable to afford the metal for a new gate, he scrounged around where he could, finding whatever rusted metal he could use.

According to legend, a day after he finished building his iron-rusted gate, the devil finally responded to one of David’s rituals, agreeing to make him a deal for a bountiful farm. That night David Wolpert set his home ablaze, trapping his wife and newborn son in the fire.

Neighbors came rushing to the site but they were too late, the fire had engulfed the family killing Catherine and the child. David was never heard from again.

Gates to Hell

The burnt remains of the home stayed in the spot for several years before being torn down but the gate David built prior to murdering his family stayed up for almost a century. The story of a crazed man burning his family alive for the devil attracted many who wanted to see the site for themselves. 

Many claimed if you crossed the gates during the night around the same time the family died the air would become thick as the smell of fire engulfed you. Distant footsteps would be heard all around before the tortured screams of a woman echoed in the dark seemingly coming from where the home once stood.

The longer you spent beyond the gates, the darker the surrounding lights appeared, and the sounds of dragging footsteps and heavy breathing would surround you. And if you left, you had to ensure you left through the gates, those that didn’t and reached their homes soon realized they were no longer alone.

Whatever evils they met beyond the iron gates followed them back home. Some say it was a demon or an evil spirit from hell latching onto the living. Whatever it was, many agree the death and rituals in that location thinned the walls between Earth and Hell allowing something or several things to walk among us.

The location eventually earned the nickname the Gates to Hell.

But if we go beyond the gates and research the history of the area we can find the true story of the Wolpert family.

PART 3 – The Truth of Riverdale Road

Researching the stories proved to be somewhat difficult mainly because the stories of ghosts and spirits, demons and witches have seemingly been around for decades, changing ever so slightly every time they’re retold.  Blogs and websites reporting the stories change details and none provide any real sources or newspaper articles on the ghosts or those who supposedly died on Riverdale Road.

The stories of hauntings have even appeared on the local Denver news but, once again, no sources or names of those spirits reported appear in the article. I also couldn’t find any actual evidence of ghosts from any paranormal investigators or anyone promoting the idea of Riverdale Road being haunted.

Dangerous Roads

More importantly, it turns out Riverdale Road has always been a dangerous road not because of spirits or demons but because of its dark winding roads and speeding drivers. In 2019 the local Denver 9News spoke with Thornton Police Department spokesperson Matt Barnes, who shared that by September of that year, there had been over 30 injury accidents and numerous fatal crashes on the road.

With all the accidents on the road, it’s not hard to see why the stories of ghosts causing accidents spread. It’s easier to blame a supernatural entity for a tragedy than to accept the randomness of tragic events. 

Looking at the Phantom Camaro, I could find no record or newspaper article detailing a Camaro crashing and killing its driver on the road. But stories of phantom cars causing accidents are popular on dark roads where accidents have happened especially after the popularity of Stephen King’s “Christine” in 1983. Unsurprisingly the book takes place in the late 1970s at the same time the phantom Camaro supposedly crashed on Riverdale Road.

As for the ghostly jogger, tragically there are stories of fatal accidents happening on the road involving those walking or jogging. But no matter how many articles and websites I researched I couldn’t find any identifying information for the ghostly jogger and like with car accidents on long winding roads, it’s not uncommon for those walking along to be struck by speeding careless drivers.

Taking this into account the stories of the ghostly joggers sound more like warnings to prevent people from jogging at night along the road. Myths are conjured as warnings to prevent a real tragic accident. 

Truth of the Wolpert Family

But when it comes to David Wolpert, unlike the last two myths, there is a bit more truth to his story, just nothing related to the demonic. David Wolpert did make his way to Riverdale Road in search of gold in 1859 and did, meet and marry Catherine Henderson in 1864. There was even a fire that burned down the Wolpert home except it happened over a hundred years later in 1975.

In reality, the couple lived long and healthy lives with three children. David Wolpert passed away in 1909 and Catherine in 1915. After the children moved away from the home, the ownership was passed to unknown tenants and the home fell into disrepair.

In May of 1975, a small fire in the chicken coop garnered the attention of the fire department who then inspected the home, they determined the home itself was a fire hazard and forced the owner to evict all tenants. Six months later a fire started in the home burning it down.

No one is certain how the fire started, some believe it was caused by squatters especially since after the tenants were evicted many squatters made their way to the home and vandalized the property. They were able to easily access the home because there was no gate.

Turns out the stories of the gates to hell were also made up, possibly garnering attention after the former Wolpert home burned down. Even today the stories of the gates to hell have different locations or origins but there is no actual evidence any of the gates existed.

The truth is Riverdale Road, like many long winding dark roads, can be dangerous and with many accidents and tragedies that have occurred in the location, it makes sense for there to be stories of ghosts and demons to scare off would-be travelers or to give the road a sense of danger.

Like the stories of witches hanging from trees that had no real basis in fact or history, there are also stories of a ghost child who leaves bloody handprints on signs, stories of bloody signs saying “help me”, and even one of the most common types of spirits, a lady in white.

Some say she is the spirit of Catherine Henderson wandering the roads since her murder, the very same murder that like all the other stories of Riverdale Road, didn’t actually happen.

But how about you, do you think we have it wrong and Riverdale Road is actually haunted? Or do you agree the stories are all just made up for entertainment and warnings for travelers going down Riverdale Road?

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