The Benevolent Spirit


Steam that rises from unheated pots, shadows that flicker just out of sight, utensils that fall from counters untouched, music that turns on by itself, and clicking saloon doors that swing mysteriously back and forth are some of the inexplicable occurrences at the Ore House Restaurant.

The restaurant, which is actually two buildings combined, is certainly a historic landmark. The area where the Ore House is located was considered the town’s red light district until the 1970s, just before the restaurant opened. The restaurant itself used to be a garage, where mechanics in the 1950s worked on cars and offered paint work. The big cross beams on the front of the restaurant actually cover large garage doors. The building right behind the auto body shop was a separate machine shop. Today, the buildings are combined, with office space in the back of the restaurant. However, the chalk drawings from the 1950s are still visible on the overhead metal beams.

Lowe said that it’s difficult to say if the presence that some have felt is from the days of the auto body shop. The previous building owners’ history isn’t well known, and no one from the history of the restaurant has passed on in a significant way. “We’re not saying the Ore House is haunted,” said Lowe. “It’s an old building.”

But if there is a presence, Lowe had some ideas. “I’d like to think it was someone significant to Durango.  That this could have been one of their old haunts.” he said. “Maybe he or she used to spend time at the bar.”

Or, Lowe added, “It could be our miner.” The logo for the Ore House is of a miner and his donkey, named Don and Donkey, done by a local artist, Miki Harder, who worked at the Ore House for 20 years.

Patrick “Patty” McCauley, a prep cook at the restaurant since October 2012, has had his share of experiences but no theories. One morning, he filled a pot with water to blanch asparagus, but forgot to turn the stove on. When he glanced at the pot from across the kitchen, he saw steam and thought the pot was boiling. However, closer inspection revealed his error. He, like Lowe, has heard the music mysteriously turn on during early mornings of prep work. But, McCauley said, “Maybe it’s my imagination. I get worked up sometimes.”

The reports from other staff members are vague – or practical jokes. Prep cooks have complained that things fall off of shelves or that they’ve spotted shadows out of the corner of their eyes. Since the kitchen is full of stainless steel, the constant reflections may account for some of the mysterious shadows. Otherwise, it is difficult to theorize what exactly, if anything otherworldly, graces the Ore House. “Nothing bad has happened here,” said Lowe. “I think the presence here, if there is something here, is a good presence. It’s kept this place around for almost 41 years now.”

The one unusual aspect of the Ore House is that attempts to change a routine are often disrupted. Attempts to shut the restaurant down early on a slow night may be met with an instant flow of customers. An under prepped item somehow becomes the most requested item of the evening. “It could be Murphy’s Law, but it seems there’s something particular here,” said Lowe. “The staff jokes, ‘It’s the ghost.’”

Originally posted on the Ore House’s website during October 2013.

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