In 1970, two teenage girls were murdered at Denver's Lumber Baron Inn. More than 50 years later, their killer is still unknown — but some guests say the victims' ghosts still roam the halls.
Once, the Lumber Baron Inn was the home of its namesake — lumber baron John Mouat. A lavish mansion he constructed for his wife and their five children, the building was equal parts home and showcase of Mouat’s work.
But as often happens with old buildings, Mouat’s mansion eventually passed from the family’s ownership and exchanged hands several times before it became little more than a deteriorating tenement building. By the mid-20th century, it was a skeleton of its former self — the sort of place where low-stakes criminals, drug addicts, and teenage runaways congregated together. In short, it was a place where people went when they had nowhere else to go.
Unfortunately, these sorts of seedy locales often attract tragedy, and the Lumber Baron Inn was no exception. In 1970, a 17-year-old teenage runaway was raped and murdered in her room. When her 18-year-old friend walked in on the act, the man shot and killed her, too. The perpetrator of the Lumber Baron Inn murders was never identified.
The mansion eventually changed hands once more and underwent a complete restoration, but the tragedy of the Lumber Baron Inn murders still haunts it to this day — perhaps, in more ways than one.
The Early History Of The Lumber Baron Inn
In 1890, Scottish immigrant John Mouat built a home for his family in Denver, Colorado. Mouat had made a name for himself in the lumber industry and amassed a large fortune, eventually starting his own company, Mouat Lumber. According to Legends of America, the Mouat Lumber company constructed more than 200 buildings in Denver between 1889 and 1892, helping the town grow from a humble mining camp to the city it is today.
Mouat wanted his home, however, to be the “best.” It wasn’t just that it was a massive, 8,500 square foot mansion — each room featured a different type of wood, each fireplace was intricately carved, the dining room had carved rosettes representing the trees used to make the guest rooms, and the guest rooms themselves featured private baths and phones.
But the Mouat children grew up, moved out, and started families of their own. Mouat and his wife eventually moved out, too — he lived in California by 1906 — and the mansion transferred ownership.
Per the Fort Carson Mountaineer, the mansion changed hands several times over the decades, eventually being turned into a 23-unit tenement building. The building was run-down, a stark contrast to the lavish showcase it had been in the past.
Then, in 1970, tragedy scarred the Lumber Baron Inn.
The Lumber Baron Inn Murders Of Cara Knoche and Marianne Weaver
In 1970, 16-year-old runaway Cara Lee Knoche was living in a rented room at the tenement building known today as the Lumber Baron Inn. Knoche had dropped out of school and run away from home, but on October 11, she seemingly had a change of heart.
She celebrated her 17th birthday at her parents’ house and made a bold announcement: In four days’ time, she would move out of her apartment and resume her high school education. She had already found a job, too.
Two days later, she was found dead inside her apartment.
That day, 18-year-old Marianne Weaver went to the Lumber Baron Inn to visit Knoche — and walked in at the worst possible moment. A man was in the apartment. He had already raped Knoche, and many reports claim that Weaver arrived in time to witness him murder her, too. Caught in, or just after, the act, the man shot and killed Weaver.
On October 13, 1970, Knoche’s body was found lying under the bed; she had been strangled to death. Weaver’s body was on the floor with a gunshot wound.
Over 50 years later, their murderer has not been found.
Within two decades, the city of Denver condemned the tenement building, as it had fallen into almost complete and total disrepair. It’s likely that would have been the end of the story, had it not been for Walter and Julie Keller, who purchased the building in 1991 and began the long process of restoring and remodeling the mansion, ultimately turning it into the Lumber Baron Inn.
Thankfully, no further tragedies have plagued the Lumber Baron Inn, and it now operates as a successful bed & breakfast — but given its history, many guests and paranormal researchers have come forth with claims that the Log Baron Inn may, in fact, be haunted.
The Alleged Haunting Of The Lumber Baron Inn
With the Lumber Baron Inn fully restored and decorated with antique furniture — and the neighborhood showing signs of improving — the Kellers converted the mansion’s basement into a single, larger apartment and decided to move in themselves.
Their work went beyond the interior, as well. They replanted the gardens on the property around the building and added decor reflective of the 1890s Queen Anne style it originally flaunted.
Soon enough, Lumber Baron Inn and Gardens was open as a bed and breakfast, wedding venue, and events space.
But according to HauntedHouses.com, that’s not all the Lumber Baron Inn has to offer. It is allegedly considered to be the most haunted place in Denver, with reports of six spirits who continue to stalk its halls.
Naturally, two of the alleged ghosts that haunt the Lumber Baron Inn are the spirits of Cara Knoche and Marianne Weaver, who have reportedly been seen in the inn’s Valentine Room, on the stairs, and in the hallway near their room.
Guests have reported feeling cold spots and hearing strange noises from unknown sources. Walter Keller even reported similar experiences, saying that while working to renovate the inn, he felt his neck hairs stand on end after an unnaturally cold gust of wind blew by him.
Beyond the spirits of Knoche and Weaver, though, guests and paranormal investigators have reported seeing a female apparition sometimes dressed as a flapper, the spirit of a maid, a male spirit believed to be a member of the Mouat or Fowler family, and an older, authoritative male apparition who is often seen in common rooms smoking a pipe. Occasionally, the smell of tobacco lingers after he is gone.
Multiple paranormal investigation teams have also visited the Lumber Baron Inn, including the team from Spirit Paranormal and the cast of the TV show Ghost Detectives.
Between two separate investigations, one in 2011 and the other in 2012, Spirit Paranormal claimed to have captured the full name of the person who murdered Knoche and Weaver — though they haven’t released that name publicly.
“Another unbelievable night at the Lumber Baron Inn last night folks,” they wrote on Facebook in October 2012, according to HauntedHouses.com. “If I was not there to see this in person I would not have believed it. For the second straight year we received the same name of the killer from the unsolved 1970 double murder on the ITC (spirit box) device!”
It’s unlikely this alleged evidence would be admissible in a court of law, of course, but the numerous investigations at the Lumber Baron Inn do attest to the one confirmed horror that looms over the otherwise quaint bed and breakfast in Denver, Colorado: the unsolved murders of Cara Knoche and Marianne Weaver.
After learning about the history of the Lumber Baron Inn and the tragic murders that occurred there, read about the unsolved Redhead Murders of the 1980s. Or, learn the history of another infamous location: the Amityville Horror House.