Hysterical History
of Colorado

Severed Heads Haunt the Capitol

The Colorado San Luis Mountain Range was the scene of grisly battles between revolutionaries and the militia in the 1860's. When the tide turned against the insurrectionists, they began massacring the traders, trappers, miners and merchants of the San Luis Valley in sneak attacks. The government placed a bounty on the heads of two brothers, Felipe and Vivian Espinoza, who were the leaders of the guerrilla fighters.

A bounty hunter named Tom Tobin killed the Espinoza brothers, severed their heads and sent them to Denver for the reward. Governor John Evans did not pay the bounty; neither did he throw the macabre heads away. Evans was one of the founders of the Colorado Historical Society, and the heads ended up stored in the tunnels under the Capitol building along with other artifacts destined for installation in the Colorado History Museum at 13th and Broadway. By this time the heads were submerged in alcohol in large jars, but they never found their way to the museum.

They disappeared after a Capitol building renovation in 1894. One speculation among historians is that the heads of the Espinoza Brothers floated up to the legislative chambers to consult with the lawmakers and the governor, thereby explaining the strange occurrences that have happened at the Capitol over the years.
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