When my Uber driver pulled up in front of this place, I considered asking him to turn around and take me back to downtown Denver. Everybody knows black people rarely fare well in scenes that start out like this.
Luckily my frugal mind weighed in and said, You paid to stay in this B&B for one single night. You wanted adventure, so get to steppin’.
So I guess I have my cheap a** to thank for the events that followed. When you pay for an unusual adventure, don’t be surprised when it sneaks up and scares the sh*t out of you.
Up the stairs I went, the sound of my cowboy boots echoing on the wooden steps. I already sensed I was alone, but I couldn’t quite come to terms with that reality, so I walked into the entryway and rang the bell. I heard a dog bark deep within and nothing else.
Just then I got a text message from Walter, the owner:
Hello Devon, welcome to the Lumber Baron.
We’re sorry we’re not there to meet you.
Your key is located in a book in the entryway.
I swiveled my head and there it was. It looked like the Fishers were the only other guests staying the night.
Seeing another name gave me just enough courage.
Before grabbing the key, I glanced back at the empty curbside and fantasized about pushing the Uber button on my phone, but I fought the urge. It’s still daytime, I reasoned. Nothing bad happens to people in the daytime. The least I could do was go inside and take a look.
Once I unclicked the lock, this is what I found:
Tour complete, there was nothing I could do but call my friend Lauren and beg her to stay with to me. No way was I going to sleep in this room alone.
That night Lauren and I neither saw nor heard any other people. We drank enough margaritas at a local taqueria to pass out and everything was peachy until the next morning when I had to mess with it.
The sun came streaming through the windows chasing away all the baddies, so I felt bold enough to go ahead and sample some Colorado weed because it’s legal. And nothing bad happens during the daytime.
Everything was fine until we got to the dining room. Only two places were set at the table. The other guests had already departed, I assumed. Or did they never exist? At this point we still hadn’t seen any other people. Paranoia was setting in fast, but it was such a beautiful day outside…
“Hi, welcome, good morning,” a gentle voice intoned as we took our seats. It was Walter, our host. He was about six feet tall, medium build with a graying ponytail snaking down his back.
There’s a certain intimacy that comes with B&B’s that I often find uncomfortable. I come from a conservative New England family. We don’t like to get all up in your face. A big smile and an enthusiastic “Hi” is all we need to connect. At almost every B&B I’ve ever visited, the owner needed more, and I could tell Walter was no exception.
“This is a pretty cool place,” I said to get the ball rolling.
“It was a twenty-three room apartment building when I found it. There were holes the size of dinner plates in the ceiling. It wasn’t a place where two girls from New York City might want to come to. Two million dollars later,” he said, looking around and not quite finishing the sentence.
And that’s what did it. The underlying sadness and strangeness of it all (not to mention the weed) triggered a full-scale panic attack. My heart was loud in my ears. I stared up at the wall pretending to admire the wood finish and gulped air as inconspicuously as possible. Suddenly I was in a life-or-death situation. In order to get out alive I needed him to think everything was completely normal.
Just then a trembling intern walked in and placed a plate of eggs, fruit, and pastries in front of us. With his apron and palpable discomfort he looked like a chef roused from a North Korean cell to cook for foreign dignitaries. After a moment’s chatter he hurried through a doorway never to return.
I glanced at Lauren, who was placing a strawberry in her mouth. I tried to give her a look that said, Don’t eat it! He’s sprinkled our food with poison like Flowers in the Attic. Plenty of bad things can happen in the daytime if you’re too drugged to fight back. Lauren placed that strawberry in her mouth and I knew it was up to me to get us out alive.
From that point everything Walter said became a precursor to murder. For example, he said, “So, Lauren, you just moved here from New York? And, Devon, you’re visiting?” What I heard was: So no one knows you’re here.
The conversation only lasted about five more minutes, and poor Lauren had to shoulder the whole thing because I was busy imagining what would happen if I donkey kicked one of the giant windows in an attempt to escape. And then I heard Walter say, “My wife and I are big Bette Midler fans.” Snap back to reality. There was just no way my mind could warp Bette Midler into something murderous.
Five minutes later I was feeling like a boss because I had survived a night in a haunted house and an imagined kidnapping.
The Lumber Baron was as creepy and haunted as I imagined, but for reasons I’d never expected. On my way out I couldn’t help, but notice a sign on the front lawn that read, “For Sale.”
2555 West 37th Ave