The 1980 film The Changeling starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere is based on the paranormal events Russell Hunter experienced while living in an old home near Cheesman Park in the late 1960s.
Hunter had worked as a musical arranger for CBS-TV in New York City, but moved to Colorado in the mid-1960s to help his parents manage the Three Birches Lodge in Boulder. In the late 1960s, Hunter began looking for an apartment in Denver where he could live and work on his music. He rented a home at 1739 East 13th Avenue (which has since been torn down).
Hunter claimed that beginning on February 9, 1969, he started experiencing strange phenomenon in the house. First there was the “unbelievable banging and crashing” that occurred every morning at 6 a.m. (and stopped as soon as Hunter’s feet would touch the floor). Then, faucets began to turn on by themselves and doors opened and closed on their own. Walls vibrated violently, tossing paintings to the floor.
Shortly thereafter, Hunter and an architect friend uncovered a hidden staircase in the back of a closet. The stairway led to the third floor of the home where Hunter found a child’s trunk containing “a nine-year-old’s schoolbooks and journal from a century ago.” The journal detailed the life of a disabled boy who was kept in isolation. The boy wrote about his favorite toy, a red rubber ball. A few nights after discovering the trunk, a red rubber ball dropped from the top of a spiral staircase in the home.
Hunter claimed that a séance revealed the story of a sickly child who was heir to a fortune from his maternal grandfather. When the child became gravely ill, his parents worried that the boy’s inheritance would pass to a different branch of the family. When their son died, the couple secretly buried him in a field in southeast Denver and adopted a boy from a local orphanage who perfectly resembled their deceased son. They trained him to take on the identity of the deceased boy (hence, the “changeling” film title) and the boy went on to become well-educated and successful.
Hunter declared that it was the deceased child who spoke through him at the séance, revealing directions to his burial place under a house on South Dahlia Street. Hunter stated that after gaining permission to dig under that home, human remains and a gold medallion inscribed with the deceased boy’s name were found in the grave. A few days later, Hunter stated that he began to experience more violent ghostly activity in his home. He said, “glass doors blew up in my face and severed an artery in my wrist. The inner walls over the head of my bed violently imploded.”
Hunter left the house and only returned to it again to watch its demolition make way for a high-rise apartment building. He remarked of the razing, “As the walls of the wing which had contained my bedroom collapsed, they suddenly flew outward and crushed to death the man operating the bulldozer.”
THE HISTORY OF THE DENVER HOUSE THAT INSPIRED A HORROR FILM
At the turn of the century, a childless couple lived in the home at 1739 E. 13th Avenue.
The couple, Henry Treat Rogers, a prominent lawyer (1837-1922), and his wife Kate Rogers (1865-1931) filed a permit with the City of Denver in July 1892 to build a “brick dwelling” in the Wymans Addition of Denver. Architect Henry Ten Eyck Wendell designed the home.
Though the couple did not have children, they did have a niece and nephew who spent time living in their home.
The niece, Frances Clarke Ristine (1881-1934), came from Illinois to live with the Rogers when she was 10 years old and stayed until her marriage to George Ristine. After living in Chicago for several years, Frances and her husband returned to Denver after the death of her uncle, Henry Treat Rogers, in 1922, and lived in the 13th Avenue house with Kate (who formally adopted Frances as her daughter around 1927). Frances became the longtime secretary for Denver Orphans Home and the president of the Globeville Day Nursery while living in Denver. She inherited 1739 E. 13th Avenue and a small fortune after the death of Kate Rogers in 1931. Frances Clarke Ristine died in 1934.
The nephew, Henry Treat Rogers II (1892-1918), graduated from Yale in 1914 and came to work in his uncle’s law firm, Rogers, Ellis & Johnson, around 1916. This younger Henry Treat Rogers also lived in his uncle’s house on 13th Avenue, however, he enlisted in World War I in 1917 and never returned to the house. He died in 1918 at the age of 25.
There were conflicting reports about Henry Treat Rogers II’s death. While one obituary claimed that he died from physical exhaustion on August 18, 1918, in Cincinnati, another claimed he died in France “from the effects of nervous strain from the close application of his duties.” A memorial fund at Yale was established in his name by his uncle, Henry T. Rogers.
Despite what we've learned about the Rogers family, many other mysteries of the house at 1739 East 13th Avenue remain.
source - Denver Library
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