Weld County's Past

Explore the fascinating history of Weld County's rustlers, killers, outlaws and lawmen.

The Ghost of WD French…Happy Halloween!

The ghost of WD French has been well documented over the years by people who possess a reasonable level of intelligence and are not known to exhibit excitability or irrational behavior.  Mike Peters, the ageless and talented reporter of the Greeley Daily Tribune, has singularly championed the notion that WD French’s ghost still haunts Greeley…here….here….and here.

The courthouse and WD French were also the subject of an investigation conducted by people who are paranormal experts in determining if ghosts are truly present in suspected facilities. You be the judge of their affirmations!

The Chief District Judge of the 19th Judicial District recently offered his opinion about the haunted Weld County Courthouse as well.  His commentary was then followed by District Attorney Michael Rourke’s office conducting an investigation (tongue in cheek) into the hauntings of the courthouse. They recently released the findings of their investigation into the hauntings of the courthouse.

Perhaps the citizens angered the spirit of WD French when they constructed the current courthouse  atop the site of the tree upon which he was strung up. I looked at the 1886 Sanborn map to determine if indeed the current courthouse’s site was the culprit and here is what I found:


Location of the tree (Star) WD French was hanged.

The map shows the Courthouse at that time occupied the Northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 9th Street. When the new courthouse was constructed it was built over the same location, yet with a much larger footprint. So… as the below aerial view of the current courthouse depicts,  the ground previously occupied by the hanging tree lies beneath the Weld County crown jewel.

Present day Aerial view Courthouse

I have since learned that the legend of the ghost of WD French is not a modern day phenomenon. While trying to determine if the ghost was attributed to Michael Peter’s, I found two mentions of encounters with WD French’s ghost  before the turning of the 19th Century. In the December 8, 1892 edition of The Greeley Daily Tribune, then editor Patton, is reported to have received a “terrible fright” while walking with his lady near the State Normal School. It is surmised it was the ghost of WD French.

On December 22, 1889, The Greeley Daily Tribune published an opinion by a woman refusing to identify herself spoke of her frightening run in with the ghost of WD French.


                                                             THE MYSTERY DEEPENS

Speaking of ghosts, in last week’s TRIBUNE and the intimation in regard to French, which I suppose was only a joke, reminds me of my experience in that line—which was certainly no joke as far as I was concerned. Perhaps French, if it was French, might have been “just in fun.” Before relating my experience, however, I will state a few facts.
I am not a spiritualist in the ordinary sense of the term, as I have good reasons for avoiding all “séances,” “sittings” or gatherings in which spiritualists usually delight. Yet in a quiet way I often see and converse with people that are dead; but these audiences are always of their seeking, not mine. I did not know where French was hung or that his legs were tied, until my husband informed me, after the occurrences which I am about to relate.
Being at the post office one evening, a month or so after the hanging, in company with my husband, and wishing to call on a friend before going home, we necessarily had to pass the court house and jail. When about half way between the court house corner and Mr. Ewing’s corner, I heard someone run up behind me on my left, my husband being at my right, and supposing that some boy was about to run past us, I looked around, but no one was there—although it was bright starlight and any object large enough to make noise could have been easily seen.
I was frightened and about to call …..and instantly tied fast together. I grabbed my husband around the neck, to keep from falling, and of course screamed, as any woman would under such circumstances. He tried to quiet me and even clapped his hand over my mouth, as he afterwards explained, to prevent arousing the inhabitants and creating a scene. He partly carried and mostly dragged me across the street to Mr. Ewing’s sidewalk, when my limbs were released as suddenly as they had been tied and I could walk as well as ever.
A long time after this we were going to the M. E. church at the usual Sunday morning service. Just before going in we remembered that something special (I have forgotten what) had been advertised at the Presbyterian Church and concluded to go there. We turned the corner by Doctor Law’s, going straight east to the church. Not being familiar with that street, I had no idea that we were in the vicinity in which the above mentioned episode happened, and no thought of French or any other dead person was in my mind at the time. Just as we were crossing the sidewalk at the corner north of Mr. Ewing’s, my legs were again instantly tied. Realizing the situation this time, and not being afraid of spirits generally, I did not “holler,” but told my husband to “Help me, for I am tied.” He partially carried me across the street the same as before until we struck the Thompson sidewalk, when I was again instantly released.
I went home by way of the opera house and have never been in that vicinity since. I am just as sure that I would be tied, if I should go there, as I am that I am living. If you can make any use of this communication, without knowing more of the writer than you can gather from the initials, you are at liberty to do so.

M. J. 

This Halloween you may wish to avoid the area surrounding the courthouse, just in case!

Happy Halloween from Weld County Past!



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