Fake News or Storytelling

Post (c) Doris McCraw


In the 1870s the Signal Corps decided they would place a signal station on the top of Pikes Peak. Once the building was completed, the hardy men who lived up there set about doing their job. Since no one in the United States had lived at the altitude of 14,000+ feet, the stories the men told of finding animals living that high were met with wonder.

One story from the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette told of a ‘monster’ swimming in the lake just down from the summit made the editorial from December 12, 1873. The piece further stated that the Ute’s who lived in the mountains had a “Tradition of the lake being inhabited by a large and terrible demon, which has devoured several of their number in years gone by, and whose anger and evil influence they are always anxious to appease; it is almost impossible, in fact, to get to you to pass near the shores of Lake. Be this as it may, Mr. S declares that the animal is positively there, and that his statement will yet be verified by others.”

pikes peak signal station usgs image
Pikes Peak Signal Station from USGS files pikespeak.us.com

From these humble beginnings, which started out as information from the men stationed on the Peak, one Sargent O’Keefe built stories that enthralled a nation and perhaps the world in 1876 and onward. To this day, there are still photos and stories from his writings that catch people with their believability.  He told of  fighting off rats along with his wife, but they were unable to save their baby.  He later told of killing seventeen deer with a .32 caliber Smith & Wesson and then tying them to his mule Balaam who with the Sargent went through 20′ drifts of snow on the way to the summit. The worthy Sargent continued his stories, to include the Pikes Peak Volcano erupting, his donkey going on a bender, etc. 

For those who would like to read the complete ‘stories’ you can find them at this link: The Pikes Peak Prevaricator  (Scroll down to this title)

Even though editorials were run denying the truth of O’Keefe’s story, explaining his Rat Story was merely a ‘clever hoax’, people who traveled to the top of Pikes Peak wanted to know about the rats and see the grave & monument.

When Sargent O’Keefe was released from service, there were those who wrote editorials that he was being let go because he was more popular than anyone else in service at the time.  When he passed away on 1895 the following ‘obituary’ was a carried in the local Colorado springs newspaper: 

“Sgt. O’Keefe, once famous as the officer in command of the Pike’s Peak signal station died in Denver Saturday night of stomach trouble. At the time of his death was serving as the stoker of a fire engine in Denver and leaves a wife and son. He was about 40 years of age. O’Keefe spent two years at the Naval school in Annapolis, was discharged for hazing: then he joined the signal service and was sent to take charge of the Pike’s Peak station soon after it was located; after leaving the service about 1882 he went into the railroad railway mail service, in which he served for years and was very a very efficient man. O’Keefe is well remembered by the older residents of this city with whom he was a great favorite. He it was concocted so many “fake” stories about the old Peak. It was his custom to come down off the hill and spent his time loafing around the newspaper offices. He was a great favorite with old Major Price, who conducted a paper here in the early days and he it was who gave them circulation mostly, although many of them appeared in the Gazette. It was O’Keefe who started the story about a volcano in the peak and the possibility of an eruption. It cause so much comment that even the Scientific American discussed it. His rat story is too well-known for comment, and to this day [1895] the fiction of the grave of “Bryn O’Keefe” is kept on the summit of the Peak.”

At the time of the story of the “Rat”, many articles were published by scientists to disprove his story. None the less people seemed more ready to believe a good story rather than ‘dry truth’.

Hope you enjoyed this story from the past that still echoes today. As you know I have a story in the anthology “One Yuletide Knight” and watch for a new novel coming out the beginning of the year. That is a story of chasing a chance to reclaim a dream. It is a historical western romance.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and rest of the Holiday season.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Angela Raines – author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Every step you take should be a prayer.
And if every step you take is a prayer then you will always be walking in a sacred manner. 
Oglala Lakota Holyman.


Post (c) Doris McCraw


Disasters! You may be thinking I’m out of my mind, especially with all the media covering the events of the last few years. Well, that’s exactly why I am writing about disasters.

You see, the local library district released their book “Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region”, based on the history symposium that took place in June of 2012, just before the Waldo Canyon fire devastated a portion of the northwest section of Colorado Springs. This was followed by the Black Forest Fire of 2013, and the flooding in Manitou Springs.


The book’s publication was delayed to include the above incidents. My chapter discussed an 35 million year disaster, which was the volcano that created the Cripple Creek/Victor gold. That event created so much good or bad, depending on what you want to focus on.

Let’s take a look at that phrase, “what you focus on”. I am not saying that disasters are not devastating, but they usually are not all-consuming. When both Waldo, and Black Forest occurred, many people asked if I was okay. Yes, I was. Both were a good 10-25 miles away from where I lived. The possibility of it coming to where I lived was remote at best. 

When I and my neighbors lost our basements due to flooding, was the rest of the area impacted. No, just select areas. You see that is the thing about media and disasters, they tell the story of the worst part of the event, as they should, but we as listeners should remember, it’s what they focus on.


Writers, when telling their stories, it’s the events they want to tell about, it’s the disasters, challenges, that they focus on. Is it wrong? No. But remember, it’s what we chose to focus on that keeps us in that space. So, chose your focus wisely and remember, there is a large world out there in which disasters are a part, but not the whole picture. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines – FaceBook: Click Here



What Happened?

This post is by Doris McCraw

doris curiosity

What makes your muse sit up and take notice? When the fickle lady decides she wants to go somewhere other than by your side, how do you get her back? Believe it our not, I go read. Yes, you heard or should I say read correctly, I read. From there it is all easy sailing, with a major dose of work.  You thought I was going to say it was easy.  You still have to do the work, I write as I smile.

From those readings I can find so much to make me wonder, WHAT HAPPENED?  Let me give you some examples that I found fascinating. Maybe you will too.

1. From the poem Emigravit by Helen (Hunt) Jackson

With sails full set, the ship her anchor weighs.
Strange names shine out beneath her figure head.
What glad farewells with eager eyes are said!
What cheer for him who goes, and him who stays!

As someone who loves tall ships I wonder who went, who stayed and how were their lives changed.  What about you? How do you see the people involved?

2. A man was recently hanged for taking vengeance on one who had practically disputed his property in a girl.

I just found this statement so odd and somewhat disturbing.  Still working on this one.

3. The new road though the Ute Pass is completed, and is now alive with traffic.

Imagine using this as your first line. What kind of traffic? When was this opened? This simple statement can take you anywhere.

Summit of Ute Pass, by Chamberlain, W. G. (Wil...
Summit of Ute Pass, by Chamberlain, W. G. (William Gunnison) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Another mystery, discovered the remains of a man near the head of the gulch. They were found under a pile of rocks. Two bullet holes were found in the skull. They were about forty feet from where the remains of another man was found six weeks ago.

Although this incident took place in 1872, the crime itself is timeless. Who are the victims? Were they related? Is it the work of a serial killer or in the case of the Old West, outlaws?

5. And finally my last and favorite are the last lines to the poem “Last Words” by Helen (Hunt) Jackson

And when, remembering me, you come some day

And stand there, speak no praise, but only say,

“How she loved us! T’was that which made her dear!”

Those are the words that I shall joy to hear.

Helen Hunt Jackson portrait
Helen Hunt Jackson portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope someday to use these words as the ending to a story.  I know they remind me of my mother and her love of her family, her friends and those whose lives she touched.

Whatever you do to bring the muse into your life and writing, know she wants to help you tell the story of What Happened, so listen. Hear the call? She is whispering in your ear. Now sit down and write, I say with a smile.



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