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Colorado Semi-Ghost Town....Silver Plume a town with a ghostly tale and a modern mystery with a twist

Silver Plume, Colorado

Silver Plume, Colorado

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Silver Plume, a bit of history

Silver Plume is located 46 miles from the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. It is an easy drive heading west on Interstate 70 and just a couple of miles past another old mining town of Georgetown. Silver Plume sits at the base of Guanella Pass to the east and Pendleton Mountain just to the north. The town is also the beginning of the climb up to Eisenhower tunnel which is an engineering marvel that tunnels under the Continental Divide that connects the east slope to the west slope of the divide.

As an adventurous spirit and growing up in Colorado I have spent many hours and days roaming the mountains and mountain passes in or around the "Living Ghost Town" of Silver Plume, Colorado. What I mean by a living ghost town is that this is a town for all intent and purposes died a long time ago when the silver mines shut down, but for whatever reason it still breathes a little. Maybe because it is right on a major Interstate that is the byway to many famous ski resorts such as Vail, Loveland and Copper Mountain. I for one do not know the answer and all I do know that it is wonderful stop to visit this very unique old mining semi-ghost town.

Originally started as a gold camp in or around 1864. No gold was to be had, but one bright individual realized that the grayish rock everyone had been tossing aside, kicking around and cursing was in fact silver ore, and mining era for Silver Plume began. The buyer for the silver happened to be the United States government. At that time in American history the monetary system was based on a "Bimetal" standard of gold and silver. In the midst of the economic chaos that was termed the "Panic of 1893" America went to a one metal system "The Gold Standard". The price of silver tumbled and the heyday and boom of Silver Plume, came to a painful and slow death.

According to local legend in or about 1870 the town derived its name from a man named Louis Depuy who was not only the owner of the "Hotel De Paris". But Louis had also started up a local newspaper and was the only employee the editor. Upon seeing some silver ore samples brought to him by some of the miners Louis and the miners thought they should actually give a name to the mining camp and Louis being writer of sorts penned a poem right there on the spot.

"Knights today are miners bold,
Who delve in deep mines' gloom,
To honor the men who dig for gold,
For ladies whom their arms enfold,
We'll name the town Silver Plume!"

One of the many still standing houses in Silver Plume

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Sad tale of Clifford Griffin

One of the ghost legends that you will hear about Silver Plume goes back to its early days during the silver boom when the town was full of piss and vinegar. It is a sad tale of a man named Clifford Griffin.

Clifford Griffin was an interesting fellow that was born and raised in the high society of New York. Educated in the best schools on the eastern seaboard and was a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth, for his family was deemed wealthy. Clifford by all accounts was not a rich snob and actually was a fair minded and generous man who did not flaunt or exert his wealth.

In his early twenty's Clifford fell madly in love and won the heart of a young and charming girl whose family was also from the areas high society. Clifford and his lady love were known to lose track of all others in the room and just stare into each others eyes with love that only youthful lovers know. As most fledgling lovers do Clifford asked his new found lady to become his wife and she readily accepted and they were engaged to be married.

After several months of planning for the wedding tragedy struck the night before the actual wedding. The young bride, Clifford's beautiful and charming soul mate suddenly and mysteriously passed away in the dark hours of the night. A Doctor was called and the death was ruled death by "natural causes". Clifford never left her bedside for three days and it was only after his brother convinced him that he let her body be taken away for burial.

To distance himself from the memories of his brides to be death Clifford and his brother made their way west to Colorado and ended up in Silver Plume.

Clifford after a short time in Silver Plume became the owner and manager of the silver mine called then 7:30 mine (so named because their day shift started a generous hour later than the other mines, who started at 6:30 AM). By all accounts Clifford never lost his kindness and was much loved by the miners and the miners families that worked for him. Clifford every Christmas would buy a goose for the families Christmas dinner and every 4th of July Clifford made the rounds and paid the local bars in advance payment for drinks and food for his miners so the men would not spend any of the families money on celebration.

Even though he was loved by many Clifford was still a very heartbroken man due to the death of his young bride to be. Every night after the miners made their way home Clifford made his way to the entrance of the 7:30 mine 1500 feet above the town and he would play his violin and mourn the lost of love that should have been. Due to the acoustics of the surrounding mountains and valley the whole town could step outside and listen to Clifford play his violin and hear the sad but beautiful music.

One evening, after a mournful but heartfelt and beautiful recital the miners heard a gunshot and fearing the worse raced to the entrance of the 7:30 mine to find Clifford dead by his own hand shot through the heart in a grave he had dug for himself. A note left at the manager's office asked that they bury him there in that spot because that is the only place he had found any type of happiness since the death of his tender bride to be. Clifford had finally by his own hand found peace.

To this day it is said that on many evenings when the sun is just starting to fade into darkness that you can still hear Clifford up at his mine playing the violin. Some songs, some stories just never truly die.

Tom Young then later Keith Reinhard storefront that they rented

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Tom Young and Gus

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Tom Young mystery in Silver Plume

As in all mysteries we must start at the beginning and the beginning of this mystery starts with a man named Tom Young. In 1987 Tom operated a bookstore in Silver Plume and by all accounts was a very likable fellow who kept to himself most of the time. His ever constant companion was his much loved dog Gus. Residents at the time would talk about how Tom and Gus were inseparable as they strolled around the town going about their daily business they also could be seen wandering the local mountains on evening strolls.

On September 7, 1987 Tom locked the door to his book store and commented to some friends that he decided to take a vacation. Tom was last seen walking Gus down the main street of Silver Plume and into the unknown. Tom and Gus disappeared and never to return.

Keith Reinhard


Keith Reinhard

As mysterious as the disappearance of Tom Young was it gets even more compelling with the addition of Keith Reinhard into the mix of this very odd but interesting story.

Keith Reinhard was a sportswriter from Chicago and he decided for reasons of his own to move to Silver Plume, Colorado. Maybe for the slower pace of life or just to be able to write more clearly in the crisp mountain air. For whatever reason Keith ended up in the tiny semi-ghost town of Silver Plume in the summer of 1988 less than a year after the disappearance of Tom Young and his dog Gus.

Keith rented a storefront on main street to open an antique shop which happened to be the same store that Tom Young had been renting for his book shop. Keith was also hoping to find the time to write a novel and in no time he found the inspiration for his new novel, the mystery surrounding Tom Young's disappearance.

Within the same building with the same views as Tom Young, Keith began his novel with the main character named "Guy Gypsum" which was a blending and a composite of Tom and himself into one person. Keith spent most of his spare time working on his new novel and was quite obsessed with the disappearance of one Tom Young. It was a novel that would never get finished.

Ten months later, after Tom's disappearance on July 31, 1988 some hikers on a mountain about a half hour away from Silver Plume came across some skeletal remains and a discarded revolver. In time the remains would be proven to be Tom and his loved dog Gus. Both had died from a gunshot wound to the head. Authorities ruled his death a suicide even though no ballistics were ever preformed on the revolver.

August 7, 1988 roughly a week after finding Tom Young and Gus's remains, Keith at 4:00 PM told friends that he was going to hike to the top of Pendleton Mountain which most of the folks did not take seriously since it was a 6 hour hike. Keith was last seen at 4:30 PM that afternoon walking down the main street of Silver Plume to never be seen again. After discovering Keith had not returned the following day a rescue attempt with search helicopters searched Pendleton Mountain to no avail. Keith, like Tom before him had disappeared.

In a search several days later in Keith's office at the antique store the last word written for his novel was still blinking on the screen "Guy Gypsum changed into some hiking boots and donned a heavy flannel shirt. He understood it all now, and his motivation. Guy closed the door, then walked off towards the lush, shadowless, Colorado forests above," Some suggest this was meant that Keith intended to commit suicide. Some also suggest that in Keith's obsession with Tom Young that he felt compelled to end his life as Tom's ended. Others do not believe that either Tom or Keith committed suicide that they were murdered for something that they both discovered about the storefront and building they both rented.

The story of Tom Young and Keith Reinhard is a story of two men unrelated to each except that they both rented the same store front and both disappeared within a year of each other. As with all mysteries, there is really no end to this one as of this writing Keith or his body have never been found.

Keith Reinhard


Unsolved Mysteries does a story

On January 31, 1990 the TV show Unsolved Mysteries aired an episode about the mystery surround Tom Young and Keith Reinhard. Also at this writing a young filmmaker named Eric Walter, owner of Film Attic Pictures, an independent film production company is producing a film called "Dark Side of the Mountain" this film is currently in production.

"What happened to Keith Reinhard and Tom Young has been knocked around and embellished so much, it’s hard to know where the truth ends and glamorization begins." Detective Dave Dauenhauer, Clear Creek County Sheriff's Department

Silver Plume, Colorado

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography

Kurt Reifschneider of MidnightWind Photography


Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on March 06, 2018:

Joanne Haskins Wilcox - I loved your remembrance of the what use to be the Windsor Hotel - I have written several novels of the Rocky Mountain frontier and the Windsor is mentioned in my novel "Rocky Mountain Reckoning" - if you are interested just go on amazon in books and search for Kurt James ....

Joanne Haskins Wilcox on March 05, 2018:

I was just reading some of the stories of Tom Young and came upon this page, I know most of them were written a few years ago but I thought I would comment on the one on the Windsor Hotel, My Great Grandmother owned it and ran along with her family years before I was born and I never saw it as a Hotel but I grew up having many holiday family meals there and always enjoyed having tea with my great aunt Ellie Barns and her Brother Dave Collins who owned it after there mother died which was great grandma Collins...just a bit of history you might not have heard.

Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on November 24, 2017:

Lucifer - thank you for leaving a comment and I added a link below to one of my novels that you might be interested in - Silver Plume in the early years plays a big part of this fictional story of love and revenge.

Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on November 24, 2017:

Lucifer on November 24, 2017:

I grew up in silver plum as well. Its really neat to here the complete story's of the child hood legends I grew up with. Thank you for writing this article.

Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on July 03, 2016:

Thank you Anonymous for taking the time my article about your home. I think you for the tidbit on the name of the town...

Anonymous on July 02, 2016:

I am originally from SilverPlume. I grew up with all of these stories from the other locals. It was really cool to see this article about the place I grew up just randomly on Facebook, it seemed like the world forgot about SilverPlume. The name SilverPlume actually did not come from a poem. In the mines, the silver veins that they found looked like feathers, or "plumes," hence the name SilverPlume.

Peggy on June 17, 2016:

I need to go there again..I cant remember how long ago it was but your article brought back a lot of memories. It is so great to read all the history about these awesome towns. Keep them coming!!!

Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on March 16, 2016:

Thank you You might be interested in a novel I just had published called "Rocky Mountain Reckoning" by Kurt James and it is available on it is a fictional western novel that is partly centered in Silver Plume.

Kurt James (author) from Loveland Colorado on August 09, 2015:

JB and H Morgan I have never stayed at the Historic Windsor Hotel but it is on my bucket list to do so. I visited Silver Plume a couple of months and found that the bakery had shut down and was a tad dismayed at this. I would hope someone would reopen it again. I always bought a couple of loaves of bread when I happened to pass through.

JB on August 09, 2015:

We stayed at the Historic Windsor Hotel less than a week ago....This place is a wonderful preservation of the Victorian style of the late 1880's....the mysterious storefront the missing men rented is still there...still full of antiques, but not open to the public...

We love Silver Plume...plan to retire there. All old mining towns are full of mysteries, heartbreak, and tales of people gone missing....

H Morgan on June 17, 2015:

Interesting history and article, Kurt! I didn't know these storied from Silver Plume. Will mention a very unique stay at the 130 year old Historic Windsor Bed and Breakfast, which was the Bunkhouse Hotel for miners and salesmen passing through. As quaint as could be, and very thin walls yet comfortably appointed and very clean - with attention to details. Far from the four or five star hotel, it is an immersion in Colorado mining history; and of adding your adventures there to all the stories those walls have contained. Kurt and Jan De Smet, I am glad I didn't know about these guys when I stayed up there. And - I lived! It's an interesting town...

Jan DeSmet on June 17, 2015:

As a resident of Colorado, I can attest to the beauty of Silver Plume. This article was informative and very interesting. My fear is more people going up there LOL!!

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