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Sinister sounds and a smoking lounge: Welcome to the Patterson Inn 

According to Chris Chiari, The Patterson Inn is only the second most haunted hotel in Colorado. That’s pretty impressive in a state full of haunted hotel properties, including the Stanley Hotel (in Estes Park), which Stephen King used as the creepy inspiration for The Overlook in the horror classic The Shining.

“We’re not trying to be number one,” Chiari laughed. “But this is probably one of the most haunted properties in Denver.”

With its splendid façade, stained glass windows, turreted towers and fairytale spires, and attached carriage house, the red sandstone mansion is a unique example of Chateauesque style architecture in Colorado. The house was commissioned by  Senator Thomas B. Croke, a wealthy merchant and experimental plant breeder, and completed in 1890. Croke lived there for only two years before selling the building to Thomas H. Patterson and his wife Katherine. Patterson was a US senator, as well as being the publisher and editor of the Rocky Mountain News until 1913. 

Over the long years, the Croke-Patterson mansion went through several owners and states of decline until the 1970s, when it was saved from demolition by a real estate agent who purchased the then-abandoned property and converted it to apartments. 

That’s when stories started about strange things happening on the worksite. During remodeling, construction workers claimed their work on the house would be tampered with overnight and suspected transients of causing the problems. Security dogs were brought in to guard the property but two were found dead after apparently hurling themselves out of a third-floor turret window — as if driven mad by unseen forces in the middle of the night. Later, the tenants complained of strange voices, phantom footsteps, the wailing ghost of a baby (who may have been buried in the basement), and drawers being opened and closed. The owner reportedly had difficulty getting renters to stay.

At some point, a visiting psychic said they sensed up to twelve entities on the property. Room No. 9, Chiari said, is well-known for loud conversations that can be heard in the hallway – though the room is unoccupied. According to another story, the wife of a previous owner committed suicide in the house and still lingers at the top of the central staircase. The hauntings have been documented in a 2011 book, a 2013 documentary “The Castle Project,” and in 2019 on Travel Channel series “Portals to Hell” with ghost hunters Katrina Weidman and Jack Osbourne (rocker Ozzy’s son). After staying in the DaVinci Room, reputed to be the inn’s most haunted room, Osbourne told Chiari, “There could definitely be a portal, man.”

Chiari is fairly certain that the ghosts of Patterson and his wife Katherine are still around. The Senator’s presence is often felt in his old downstairs smoking room, which is now the inn’s 12 Spirits Tavern. 

Speaking of smoking rooms, a new smoking lounge is about to open at The Patterson, which will be the first licensed indoor cannabis lounge on a hotel property in the US. 

The inn’s carriage house has been extensively remodeled to comply with local cannabis lounge regulations. Hopefully, all the activity hasn’t stirred up the ghost of the Irish caretaker that is said to inhabit the carriage house. Perhaps the Irishman will be appeased by the presence of overstuffed club chairs, exposed brick, warm woods and the social conviviality that’s sure to abound when the lounge opens to inn guests toward the end of the year. 

Chiari has been waiting a long time for the day to come. Ten years, eleven months and fifteen days, to be precise, until March, when he obtained licensing allowing him to open the facility. 

“I remember the day that I stood on the lawn and told the building – March 7, 2011, was the first time,” he described. “I stood there and pointed at a third-floor window and said, ‘I want to turn you into a marijuana bed-and-breakfast.’ Just everything came into context – the street address, the curb appeal, the draw of the property itself and everything about it that could work for what I had envisioned.” 

At the time, he hadn’t realized that a mother-son team was already under contract to buy the property with the intention of turning it into a bed-and-breakfast (as documented in “The Castle Project”). Nonetheless, Chiari was enchanted by the neighborhood’s grand architecture and in 2013 relocated from Fort Lauderdale and purchased a Victorian home only nine blocks away from the object of his desire. 

The mansion came back on the market in 2018, and Chiari wouldn’t miss his chance. By then, he’d had a long time to think about his ideas for cannabis hospitality.

“If I wanted to open a cannabis lounge, it would have been much easier to do in an unincorporated area of the county, but that’s not what I’m doing. I’m not opening a [stand-alone] cannabis lounge. I’m creating the model for what I hope will be a chain of a dozen boutique properties that offer cannabis hospitality bundled with overnight accommodations for guests looking for that level of sophistication. I think the guests we attract now and professionals will appreciate a licensed, secure setting and sophisticated experience.”

Chiari’s strategy for this first facility is detailed and specific. The inn currently accommodates guests that are twenty-one-and-over only, which avoids issues with any underage individuals. The lounge will accommodate up to thirty guests that will pay an access fee for use, with a special key for the locked entryway. An ID check will occur when guests check into the lounge. No smoking is allowed in guest rooms, the tavern, or main parts of the inn–primarily because it would require a costly redesigned HVAC system for the entire building (for ventilation and filtration of smoke), as opposed to installation of specialized ventilation only in the carriage house space. Another regulation requires Denver’s cannabis lounges to close from 2 a.m.-7 a.m. daily; the lounge will be inaccessible to guests during those hours, while hotel operations continue uninterrupted.

An equity crowd-funding campaign on private investment platform Republic.com helped fund renovations in the lounge and attracted nearly $192,000 from 274 investors before closing in September. Chiari said he plans to attract more investors with additional campaigns as the inn and The 420 Hotels chain expand. 

For the business model, he prefers to avoid the moniker “cannabis-friendly,” used by hotels and short-term rentals that allow guests to smoke cannabis in designated areas of the property, typically without a consumption facility permit from local authorities.

“As much as I love ‘cannabis-friendly,’ we’re not cannabis-friendly,” Chiari said. “What we’re building is not that. I want this to be the first hotel that bundles overnight hospitality and cannabis, where overnight guests can enjoy food and drinks in the tavern if they like, and now we’re going to have the lounge in a separate part of the building – they’ll be able to go there and enjoy a licensed, safe indoor space – not out on your balcony or patio area like in cannabis-friendly hotels. Here, they’ll be able to visit the lounge, stop for a drink in the tavern, go back to their room and spend the evening, then wake up the next morning and have breakfast.”

Weekly events, open to the public, are planned for when the lounge opens. Cannabis and cuisine pairings featuring local chefs will be hosted in the lounge. On Sundays, an outdoor brunch on the inn’s lush quarter-acre grounds will serve the tavern’s savory hand pies and strawberry shortcakes and allow access to the lounge for guests.

Weekends are typically busy at The Patterson, Chiari said, often booked up by paranormal-curious visitors and haunted house enthusiasts. With Halloween in a few days and all the recent goings-on, he didn’t mention any increased paranormal activity… lately. 

The Patterson Inn is at 420 East 11th Avenue in Denver. 

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