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6 The Tribune

October 31, 2012


History of Gottlieb Fluhmann’s ghost Ghosts are particularly restless if left to wander in the shroud of mystery — and when an acutely wicked deed goes without answer, explanation or justice — for years upon years. Such was the case of the tiny immigrant from Switzerland, Gottlieb Fluhmann, murdered in the Puma Hills above Lake George in 1892. “Fluhmann was a small stocky man scarcely 5’4” tall and was subjected to much ridicule because of his height and broken English,” writes author Midge Harbour in her 1982 book “The Tarryall Mountains and the Puma Hills: A History.” “In 1890, on one of his infrequent trips to town, he stopped off at a bar,” according to Harbour. “While sitting at the end of bar, he became the subject of Ben Ratcliff’s attention. Ratcliff had long been suspected of stealing some of Fluhmann’s cattle and now taunted Gottlieb with the prospect that he was eating a juicy steak from one of his missing cows. Since Gottlieb Fluhmann had each of his cattle named, and had made each a special pet, this was indeed a humiliation.” Later , two of Ratcliff’s sons extended the insulting behavior as they rode near Fluhmann’s home. “Gottlieb’s anger had become an obsession and he awakened at night hating the name Ratcliff. When he saw the two boys, he ordered them off his land. The younger lad taunted him as he had previously seen his father do. `You can’t make us do anything!’ Gotlieb waved his pistol, which he always carried with him. `You can’t shoot us. We’re only kids.’ … The older boy rode up to the corral rode and spit tobacco juice in the face of Fluhmann’s horse. This triggered Fluhmann’ temper and he began firing over the heads of the boys and they rode rapidly away,” writes

Harbour. “When Ben Ratcliff heard of the incident, he sent his daughter to warn Gottlieb that he would be the target of her father’ bullet when he came hunting in October.” According to another account of the exchange in Celinda Kaelin’s 1999 book “Pikes Peak Backcountry: The Historic Saga of the Peak’s West Slope,” Ratcliff’s reputation insured the danger of actually carrying out such a threat, so the little Swiss man decided to create and emergency plan. “He would relocate to a cave he had found in the rocky cliff about a mile above his home. He secretly made a new home within this five- by fifteen foot cavity, installing a strong door at the entrance for added protection and a glass window for surveillance,” says Kaelin’s book. “When Fluhmann first disappeared, everyone, including the local sheriff assumed he had returned to Switzerland. But not Rattcliff. He knew his prey would never leave his beloved animals unattended. When they still appeared well-cared-for after several months, he began a systematic search for the little foreigner.” He eventually discovered the cave one evening after months of searching. “Ratcliff waited on the ledge above the cave until early the next morning. As Fluhmann cautiously opened the heavy door to greet the new day,Ratcliff fired sending a

fatal bullet through the stock of Fluhmann’s gun and into his chest. He then climbed down to his victim and dragged him back into the cave,” writes Kaelin. The little man and his mongrel dog’s skeletons were found more than 50 years later by a hunter in the fall of 1944. “Master Sargent Francis Brahler of Peterson Field discovered the old cave while he was hunting,” reported the Nov. 1, 1944 Gazette Telegraph. “He spotted the old window frame on the ledge and upon investigating, found the cave entrance. The big dishpan was still suspended with the letters, pipes, and other items including two gold inlaid flintlocks. He took many of the items back with him to his campsite and returned the next day. This time he found a human skull and the bones of what appeared to be the skull of a dog.” Kaelin notes that Ratcliff never did pay for this particular diabolical transgression but was called to account for other misdeeds. “…Fate did collect him from killing three school board members on May, 6, 1895. His children were again the catalyst for his dangerous temper, and he unleashed his fury when he learned they were having a special meeting to discuss them. He rode up to school house, dismounted, and walked in, shooting Samuel Taylor, Lincoln McCurdy, and George Wyatt… He later turned himself in to the sheriff at Como, was tried, convicted, and later hanged at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City,” wrote Kaelin. Perhaps, the ghost of a sawed-off Swiss immigrant, befriended by his own livestock and his loyal mongrel dog, still wanders in the hills and hides in the caves in the Puma Hills above Lake George. I recentlty was sent the following communication from a descendant of Benja-

min Ratcliff. “Several Colorado residing descendants of Benjamin Ratcliff report that they have never heard the tale of Gottleib Fluhmann. The references cited seem to be based on exaggerated local commentary and contain inaccurate facts. So without proof, they feel that Benjamin has been unfairly accused of the serious charge of being Gottleib’s killer.” “However, in the matter of the Bordenville school board, this is the account from Benjamin’s oldest child - and Only son - as told to his grandson: Some time around 1875 Benjamin and his wife moved from Missouri to Park County, Colorado, and established a farm about seven miles from Bordenville. Their son and two daughters were born there. His wife died there in 1882 while the children were still very young. Benjamin raised the kids there until 1895. He had a running battle with the local school board in 1894. He wanted them to provide a summer school program, allow the school books to be loaned out, or set up a school closer to his ranch. He taught his children at home, and wanted some help with that. Winter weather was too bad to make the trip to school. Late in 1894 unsupported gossip spread that incest involving Benjamin and his older daughter spread around the local area. He became enraged. The man most responsible for spreading the gossip was on the school board. Benjamin’s temper escalated and he ended up shooting all three members of the board as they met together at the school May 6, 1895. He turned himself in the same day as the shooting. Eight months later, on the evening of February 7, 1896, he became the ninth execution by hanging (out of 45 in the history of the state) at the prison in Canon City. “

Don’t let the kids turn up missing Take back our 59 minutes Every time we turn on the news or read an article on the Internet or in the newspaper there is another stranger danger incident or attempted abduction. And tragically some have been successful abductions. Just three weeks ago young Jessica Ridgeway of Westminster was abducted on her way to school, her remains found days later. On Oct. 19 a 9-year-old was walking through the parking lot at The Classical Academy when a man in a truck asked him to help find his lost puppy and on Oct. 21 a boy was approached in Woodland Park by a man asking him if he wanted a ride. And just this week I saw on the Internet that a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey disappeared

after riding her bike to a friend’ house. Her body was discovered two days after she went missing. These incidents are every parent’s worst nightmare. We try to protect our children from harm but at the same time want to allow them that freedom to walk to school or ride their bikes to meet up with their friends. So how do we protect our kids? We warn them to stay away from strangers but according to

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the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children this is something that has been done for decades but more often than not when a child is abducted it’s by someone they know. NCMEC would rather parents teach their children how to respond to a potentially dangerous situation than keep an eye out for a certain type of person. Jon Hudson, a police officer with the Monument Police Department, agrees adding that stranger danger is an outdated concept. He said kids need to know that they can trust someone in uniform like a police officer or a firefighter and turn to them if they are in danger. That said Hudson said parents should always remind their children what to do when approached by someone they don’t know. Most may get a lesson in safety once or twice at school and now with the recent Jessica Ridgeway incident parents might talk to their kids but Hudson said it should be something that is done often like a fire drill or tornado drill at school. Hudson said parents should reiterate to their kids that if they are walking to school or riding their bikes or going to the park they should walk or ride in a group. He said someone with bad intentions will prey on a child, or even an adult, when they are alone. If a child is approached they should run away and go to the nearest neighbor’s house. He said they should also scream and draw attention to themselves. He said someone attempting to abduct a child will commonly tell a child they are lost and need directions, they need help finding a puppy, they have candy or mommy or daddy’s been hurt and they need to take the child to the hospital. For more safety tips visit

Summer officially ended on Sept. 22 with the first day of fall, but for much of the world, the last day of summer is actually marked by the end of daylightsaving time or “summer time,” as it is called in many other countries. Daylight-saving time is abbreviated DST in the United States. Every spring we move our clocks ahead to add an hour of sunlight to the after-work evening. On Nov. 4 we take back that hour by moving our clocks back. My brother says we actually only get 59 minutes back because “the government always keeps something.” The idea of DST was first floated by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 when he was the U.S. envoy to France. According to “Benjamin Franklin: America’s Inventor” written by Seymour Stanton Block and published in the February 2006 issue of American History Magazine, Franklin calculated that “if all the families of Paris who caroused until late at night and then slept until noon would arise with the sun six hours earlier, 64 million pounds of candle wax would be saved in six months’ time.” He proposed to ring Parisian church bells at sunrise and, if that didn’t work, set off cannon fire in every street to “wake the sluggards.” Franklin’s suggestion was supposed to have been satire but this was Franklin so who knows? Whatever he meant, the idea wasn’t presented again until 1895 when New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson presented the idea of a two-hour time change to the Wellington Philosophical Society. The conception of DST as we know it is usually credited to English builder William Willett who, in 1905, presented

the idea of advancing clocks one hour during the summer months. After years of deliberation, daylight-saving time was finally adopted in 1916 to save energy during World War I, first by the Germans and then by most of the rest of Europe and the United States. DST went away after the Great War but came back year-round during World War II when, in the United States, clocks were moved ahead one hour and the result was called “War Time.” United-Kingdom clocks were moved two hours ahead for “Double Summer Time.” War Time went away in 1945 and DST didn’t come back to much of the Northern Hemisphere until the 1973 energy crisis. It’s been with us ever since. Residents of Hawaii, Arizona, Midway Islands and Wake Island don’t change their clocks and DST is seldom, if ever, used in most tropical countries (lucky them). After more than 35 years of twice-a-year clock changing, no one is sure that DST actually saves energy or if its advantages to some sectors of the public aren’t outweighed by its disadvantages to others, such as farmers whose day starts at dawn no matter what their clocks say (my chickens and cats are also unfazed by the time change.) One thing everyone is sure of is that the time change is a great time to change the batteries in our smoke alarms.

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