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Grave Hunter: Mistress of the Macabre Digs Up Stories of the Dead

In the new web series Grave Hunter, macabre history aficionado Malia Miglino goes graveside to dig up forgotten stories before they’re gone.

Malia Miglino, host of Macabre Mondays, is going cemetery exploring to exhume the bizarre and fascinating stories of the past in her new web series “Grave Hunter.”

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“‘Grave Hunter’ was honestly born out of a desire to tell people’s history and raise awareness about the growing epidemic that is the disassembling of pioneer cemeteries,” Malia said of the show’s origins. “My first show, ‘Macabre Mondays,’ which will always be my first baby, was a much more vague topic on creepy locations, which I loved, don’t get me wrong, but I when I started realizing how much of our history was disappearing and the countless stories attached to it, I felt like I needed to do something. ‘Grave Hunter’ is the quest to bring humanity back to our past and hopefully make people care about preserving it.”

In the premiere episode “Soiled Doves and Gold Mines” (above) Malia visits the unique ghosts and dark Wild West history of two Colorado pioneer towns – Victor and Cripple Creek – where it quickly becomes clear that her journey, as well as her passion and excitement for the subject matter, is just as fascinating as the stories she digs up.

“It was a really strange experience from beginning to end, honestly,” she told me. “The whole episode started with learning of the serial killer-themed hotel in Victor, The Black Monarch. I reached out to Adam (the owner) about filming a bit there and he was super on board. So it went from being an idea to a reality in a VERY short period of time. I found a cheap flight to Colorado and started researching the hotel which then led me to researching the gold mines and it all snowballed from there.”

A taxidermy wolf at the Black Monarch Hotel in Victor, Colorado
Even this taxidermy wolf at the Black Monarch Hotel has a story

During her stay in Victor Malia spent the night at The Black Monarch, with rooms named after historical figures and folklore such as Nikola Tesla, Elizabeth Bathory, and the Black Annis. It stands to reason that the room someone chooses to stay in probably says a lot about them, so I had to know – which room did she choose?

“All the rooms were awesome,” Malia said, “but the H.H. Holmes room was only ever going to be my choice, haha!”

The Black Monarch, a casino and brothel in its past life, has its share of history and ghosts, but in Victor, where serial killer Harry Orchard committed one of his most notorious crimes, and hundreds lost their lives to disease and war, Malia found much more in Victor than she expected.

“I’m not sure I was prepared for the amount of history that I was about to experience and I feel like I only scratched the surface,” she said. “Literally everywhere in Victor is a blast from the past; demolished mines and their parts are everywhere, pretty much all the buildings are original and everyone in town wants to talk about it. Personally, I have a love affair with all old brothels and both Victor and Cripple Creek are full of them so that was really exciting for me because I got to stay two nights in one, got to explore another and was given a private tour and allowed access to document at the Old Homestead in Cripple Creek where Madam Pearl de Vere used to live and work so I sort of fangirled out a bit. If anything my 2 days in the area just made me really eager to go back, spend more time exploring the cemeteries and researching more of the people buried there. These towns are literal gold mines of history (cheesy pun intended.)”

Sunnyside Cemetery in Victor, Colorado
Sunnyside Cemetery in Victor, Colorado

Fangirling about brothels? That’s all part of Malia’s intrigue.

“Oh man, my love affair with brothels is a deep rooted thing,” Malia confessed. “Honestly, I think a lot of the reason I’m fascinated by Victorian and early 20th century brothels has a lot to do with the women who ran them. From my perspective, these women who built and ran these high class parlours were taking charge of their lives. In a time where women-owned businesses were VERY rare, they capitalized on the most precious commodity, sex. When so many women were forced into prostitution by men for pennies, these Madams built and ran houses that paid their women well, helped give them an education and made sure they had medical attention. Many of the women that worked in these brothels had flourishing almost high society lives once retiring from the parlours and that was in large part due to the money they were able to save while working and even in some cases, because they got married to one of their millionaire clients.

“Pearl de Vere for example charged $9,000 in today’s money to stay a night in her parlour and that was after you had been approved by her after she’d received proof of your income. Lastly I will say in many cases, like with Pearl; she was one of the richest people in town and contributed handsomely to the towns development. So to put it short – these women were badasses.”

The grave of Pearl de Vere in Cripple Creek, Colorado
Malia at the grave of Pearl de Vere in Cripple Creek

The horrors of Victor and the final resting place of Pearl de Vere are just the beginning for Malia and the series. What does the future hold?

“I really would love to see Grave Hunter find a home on a network,” she says. “To tell the stories I want to tell and to do them justice would take a larger budget than I have personally, not to mention the lack of a proper crew has gotten almost impossible at times. So pitching and shopping the show around are immediate goals that will hopefully lead to an awesome and larger future for the show.

“As for locations – really the sky is the limit but most pressing I would love to feature Sunnyside cemetery in Long Beach, CA which is currently in threat of being disassembled. Long Beach and the South Bay Area are home to some of my favorite historical people like the Banning family (who are coincidentally buried in my favorite LA cemetery) so that’s probably first up.”

Grave Hunter

Watch future episodes of Grave Hunter and catch up on Macabre Mondays on Malia’s Youtube channel.

Frozen Dead Guy Days: Colorado Festival Celebrates a Frozen Corpse in a Shed

Bredo Morstoel is Nederland, Colorado’s most famous resident…because he has been dead and kept frozen in a shed since 1989.
Frozen Dead Guy
Sarcophagus of the Frozen Dead Guy. Photo by Bo Shaffer.

Every month a designated caretaker known as “The Iceman,” a position currently held by Nederland resident Brad Wickham, hauls 1,700 pounds of dry ice to the “Tuff Shed Cryogenic Mausoleum” where the corpse of a man born 115 years ago has taken up residence. Grandpa, as the locals call him, lies inside a steel sarcophagus entombed within a homemade freezer of plywood and insulation. He’s been there for over 20 years awaiting technological advancements sufficient enough to reanimate the dead.

When Norwegian man Bredo Morstoel died of a heart attack in 1989, his grandson Trygve Bauge put the body on ice and transported it to the United States. It was stored at a California cryonics lab in liquid nitrogen until 1993, when Bauge and his mother Aud decided to build their own facility in a shack behind their Nederland home.

Bauge was eventually deported due to issues with his visa, and Aud was later evicted from her home for not having electricity and plumbing. Fearful of a thaw, Aud decided to tell someone that the body of her father, as well as two other individuals, were being kept frozen on the property.

Despite new municipal legislation outlawing the keeping of a dead body, the publicity bought Grandpa Bredo a pass, and he was allowed to remain. Bauge enlisted the help of a man named Bo Shaffer, whom he paid monthly to procure the ice and keep the temperature around 60 degrees below zero.

Shed where the frozen dead guy is stored
The Tuff Shed Cryogenic Museum. Image via Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, due to a disagreement over pay and the fact that Bauge didn’t think Shaffer was using enough ice, the Iceman duties changed hands. At that time, Bauge told media he planned to move his grandfather to a cryogenic facility in Michigan in 2015. Since the festival is now celebrating it’s 16th year, it seems that move hasn’t yet come to fruition.

Since the body is not visible, and the dry ice does not keep it frozen at the same temperatures achieved with liquid nitrogen, there has been some concern that there may be too much cellular damage to revive Grandpa. According to an article over at Live Science, Bauge is still hopefully Bredo could be cloned and brought back to life, but a psychic who spoke with Shaffer believes Grandpa’s spirit has moved on.

See the shed in this 2010 video:

Frozen Dead Guy Days

Frozen Dead Guy Days

The inaugural Frozen Dead Guy Days kicked off in March of 2002 in honor of the March 6th deadline Aud was given to remove her father’s body from Nederland in 1995 after she was found guilty of building-use and zoning violations. It wasn’t long before a local Tuff Shed dealer and a radio station teamed up to build a new home for Grandpa – the “Tuff Shed Cryogenic Mausoleum” also known as the International Cryonics Institute and Center for Life Extension, or ICICLE.

Annual festivities include the Royal Blue Ball, tours of the shed, live music, coffin races, hearse parade, frozen t-shirt contests, The Newly Dead Game, Rocky Mountain Oyster eating contest, an Ice Queen and Grandpa look alike contest, and much more.

More info at frozendeadguydays.org

Was Snippy the horse mutilated by aliens?

Was Snippy the Horse Killed by a Flying Saucer?

Was Snippy the horse murdered and mutilated by forces not of this world?

Eaten by mountain rats on Pike's Peak

Eaten By Mountain Rats on Pike’s Peak

The supposed grave of John O’Keefe’s (non-existent) daughter, whom he claims was eaten by mountain rats on Pike’s Peak.