The Fitzsimons Building stands in stately fashion in the center of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Its art-deco stylings from the ’40s sharply contrast with the campus’s gleaming, state-of-the-art research buildings. Its walls could tell a million stories — and, at times, it seems they eerily do.
Just in time for Halloween, David Turnquist and Del Quiel, both of Facilities Management, shared a few anecdotes of spooky moments from working in the Fitzsimons Building over the years. Some of the descriptions could give a horror aficionado a queasy stomach, or at least an unsettled feeling.
Relic from the past
Formerly known as the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, when it was located at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, the campus has seen a new location and a myriad of new faces. However, the new location came with a relic: the Fitzsimons Building, formerly known as Building 500.
The building opened in 1941 as a fully operational Army hospital, treating a variety of patients, including those wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The towering eight-story structure was complete with two suites, one used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower after he suffered a heart attack in 1955, and another used by his wife, Mamie.
Tunnels were created to connect buildings on the hospital campus.
“You could move around under the roads with these tunnels,” said Turnquist, associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management. “Some of these spaces get a little spooky. They can get so small that you have to crouch.”
Creepy steam tunnels
There were also tunnels that connected many of the buildings on the campus to a steam plant. The steam was used for a variety of reasons, including heat and sterilization. The majority of the pipes have been removed, but some still remain.
And though the tunnels are no longer in use, they still see their share of life.
“One time we had some staff venture down into the tunnels,” said Turnquist. “All they could see were glowing little eyes. All the while being surrounded by roaches and other creepy crawlers. Little bugs were falling on top of them.”
The occasional shiver of heebie-jeebies is not uncommon when the Facilities crew works in the Fitzsimons Building into the evening hours, according to Turnquist and Quiel.
Turnquist told a story of two caretakers of Mamie’s eighth-floor suite. They would go around the former hospital at the end of the night, closing all the doors and turning off the lights. On multiple occasions, the caretakers found doors inexplicably unlocked and opened.
‘All of a sudden – shadows under my door! I sprang up and opened the door. No one was there.’ – Del Quiel, director of Facilities Management
Turnquist continues to exercise a healthy level of caution when working in the Fitzsimons Building at night.
“My office was on the second floor, and I always had that feeling at night that you weren’t alone,” he said. “And not in a good way either. Any time I have to run back into my office, I ensure it’s for the least amount of time possible and that I take the stairs. I don’t want one of those spirits getting in the elevator with me and turning it off.”
Spooks on a snowy night
On a stormy night in 2005, Quiel, director of Facilities Management, was tasked with removing snow from campus.
“Around nine or ten o’clock, I went to my office at the northeast end of the second floor and closed the door,” he said. “I took a seat in my chair and noticed that the hall had a dim little light. And all of sudden – shadows under my door! I sprang up and opened the door. No one was there. As I made my way back to my chair, there the shadows were again. My hair stood on end.”
Quiel hopped in his car and went home.
“The roads were so bad, but I just didn’t care,” he said. “I had to go home. When I came back, I asked the other workers if they were in the building (the previous night), but they said no.”
So, the question must be asked: Do you believe in ghosts?
“I really don’t want to believe in ghosts,” said Turnquist, “but I do have a healthy fear.”
Added Quiel, “A fear of something made me run away from that building. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and I’m not quite sure I’ll ever want to.”