House of miracles… and horror

This is an intriguing story about a tiny, non-descript home that was the scene (allegedly) of some incredible miracles, and more recently, some unfortunate stomach-turning events (allegedly).

If you are at all queasy, it’s probably best to stop reading here.

If you are anything like me, you will keep reading in spite of (or perhaps because of) the above warning.

I had heard reference to the Saint Rose Arveson Shrine on the westside of Colorado Springs, Colorado, but never really knew anything about it until I read an article recently in the Gazette newspaper by Bill Vogrin.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It all started back in August of 1963 with the death of a woman named Rose Ella Scott Arveson Simmons (November 8, 1897 – August 18, 1963). Her two grown daughters had placed six roses on her casket and of course the flowers withered and died. Apparently, the roses miraculously re-bloomed 10 days later and had special healing powers. The sisters – who were Catholic – claimed it was a bonafide miracle and soon after they built a shrine to their mother right beside their house and spent the rest of their lives petitioning the Vatican to have their mother nominated as a saint.

image from: http://www.stevegarufi.com/

image from: http://www.stevegarufi.com/

The shrine (pictured above) is at the top of the wooded hillside lot - the ornate iron archway is located down at the bottom of the path next to West Pikes Peak Avenue.

Sainthood was never granted to Rose Arveson, even though the sisters argued that several healing miracles over the years could be attributed to their mother’s shrine and the roses associated with it. They maintained the shrine and kept it open for anyone from the public to visit who was seeking a miracle or just wanting to send a prayer.

image from: http://land.elpasoco.com/

image from: http://land.elpasoco.com/

For decades people could walk freely onto the property from the street, past the Jesus statue and up the hill to visit the shrine right beside the little 1,068 square foot house. And the faithful came from all over the globe.

In time, the spinster sisters aged and quietly withdrew behind the walls of their small 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home, where they quite possibly lived their entire lives. Records state that the house was built in 1924 and the sisters lived there since at least the 1940′s, according to one long-time neighbor.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Sightings of the sisters became scarce in recent years and neighbors reported seeing a strange man on the property. Apparently the man was living there with the sisters but nobody knew who he was. All three were extremely reclusive. Both of the sisters eventually died – one in 2008 and the other one in 2011. It was reported that when the last sister died in 2011, the man at the house propped her body on the front porch and called authorities but would not allow them to enter the house.

Neighbors began complaining of a terrible stench emanating from the house so code enforcement officers and welfare investigators tried to gain entry to the home, but for reasons unknown to me, left without entering the premises when the elderly man told them to go away. I can only surmise that they figured he was still alive and it was private property so they were not permitted to enter without his permission.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

In any case, the smell eventually got so bad in recent months that the authorities finally determined they had enough probable cause to enter and search the home. They broke in through a back window and found a house full of dead animals, excrement, and rotting trash. They then found the elderly man who was alive but suffering from a nasty leg infection. He had to be carried out of the house. The man was hospitalized and charges of animal cruelty are pending against him.

Officials determined that the house could not be salvaged because it was too much of a bio-hazard and a risk to public health.

The little house next to Saint Rose’s shrine was condemned on January 28, 2013.

And what can House Crazy Sarah do but scurry up there to investigate the dilapidated house in person…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Yes I did, as you can see by the pictures. Don’t worry, I didn’t go inside.

I didn’t even have the guts to up to the shrine or the house, but if a person really wanted to, they could indeed walk right up to the house because the property was not roped off like I thought it would be. I took pictures from the car as we drove by… I didn’t smell anything unusual.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It could be argued that only morbid, ogling, bottom-dwellers would go seeking out such a home and photograph it after it had been condemned for being a cesspool. But as a chronic (now professional) house-peeper and former social worker I felt compelled to visit because the property has such an intriguing human story behind it.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The house at Rose Arveson’s shrine reminds me of the sad tragedy/public spectacle that played out at the infamous Grey Gardens in East Hampton, New York. Of course that was a much larger scale home (and story), but I see similar threads of poverty, mental illness, animal hoarding, societal apathy, and elder neglect issues woven throughout both sordid real-life tales.

Grey Gardens

Unfortunately, it would take more than a “coat of paint” to save the little house on West Pikes Peak Avenue, so it will probably not have a glorious, rehabilitated ending like Grey Gardens did.

Authorities are searching for next of kin or someone to take responsibility for the dilapidated house, but it doesn’t seem that anyone will be found.

The lot is huge – a double lot actually - and the mountain views from that block are excellent, so it is likely that some prudent investor will come along and redevelop the property once it goes through receivership in the court system.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

In a couple of years when the old house has been razed and the property probably scrapped clean of any hint of Rose and her daughters, at least it will live on in memory and local lore, and of course, in pictures here at House Crazy.

~~~

Sources and further reading:

http://www.gazette.com/news/vogrin-150983-arveson-rose.html

http://sidestreets.freedomblogging.com/2010/02/17/saint-rose-arveson-still-a-mystery-a-half-century-later/5481/

http://www.gazette.com/articles/city-150309-neighbor-condemned.html

http://www.westsidepioneer.com/Articles/013113/ArvesonShrine.html

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/26082

 

 

5 Responses to House of miracles… and horror

  • How sad. But the story of the roses and their petitioning the Vatican is quite different. I love that you drove out to see the house! You are so right…some investor will get it one day and turn it into something quite different. And this is one time when I would LIKE to see that done.

  • Sue says:

    A very good house peep and a great story about the sisters believing their Mom is a saint and petitioning the Vatican- who does that? Once, me and hubby dug up a dead rose and put it in a garbage can with I don’t remember what else it had in it. Upon opening the garbage can one day to our surprise there was the dead rose plant blooming in all its glory, so we replanted it and it had a long life blooming along the patio.

  • Derek says:

    This is unquestionably a case of elder abuse and neglect. I find it hard to believe that the authorities could do nothing in this situation before it got so bad. Shameful.

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Sarah Felix Burns

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