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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

Cheesman Park's Haunted History

Did you know that Cheesman Park wasn’t always a park? It was actually established as a cemetery in 1858, but by the 1890’s it was barely used as a cemetery anymore. 5,000 bodies used to be buried there, and now 2,000 bodies remain underneath the surface of Cheesman. The remaining bodies are unclaimed, either because their families didn’t have the money to relocate them, or no family or anyone who knew the deceased lived in Denver. Congress granted Denver the ability to change Cheesman from a cemetery to a park in January 1890.

Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer wanted to enhance the beauty of Cheesman Park while it was still a cemetery, but the city did not have the money to do so. He encouraged residents to donate to the cause but had little success until the children of Walter Scott Cheesman donated $100,000 for a park pavilion. Therefore, the park was renamed from Denver City Cemetery to Cheesman Park.

With so many bodies unclaimed, (and Denver wanting a corpse-free park,) the City of Denver hired E.P McGovern to help relocate the caskets to a more permanent home. McGovern and 18 of his employees were told to dig up and relocate the 5,000 bodies. They were paid $1.50 per relocated casket. In the first days of the transfers, this seemed like a great idea to all. If they got all the bodies moved and nothing went wrong, they would have roughly $9,500 by the time they finished. The process was going smoothly, until the Denver Republican newspaper wrote an article that changed everything.

McGovern realized that the more bodies he moved, the more money would be made. Allegedly, instead of putting each body in its own individual casket, they split the bodies up into portions and put them into children's sized caskets (making more money with each casket). After this horrible scam was discovered, McGovern’s contract was pulled. This presented a new problem: the job was partially unfinished. And headstones had been removed while many bodies remained.

Denver never hired anyone else to finish what McGovern’s work. Instead, the city left the remaining bodies and started to level the ground in order to start the process of building the park. The Denver Post states that four skeletons were found by people doing irrigation work in the park in 2010. In 2008, two rows of coffins were found by crews working near the Botanic Gardens. Bones and sometimes whole skeletons are sometimes still found.

Before the Homecoming Dance at East, most people go to Cheesman Park to take pictures with their friends. Most of the students do not know about the horrifying history of the park. Cheesman is a beautiful park that many love, but it comes with a haunted past.

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