Harvey Deselms has never seen a ghost, but he has experienced what he calls “just weird stuff” at his Deselms Fine Art gallery at 303 E. 17th St. in Cheyenne.
The location is where missing filmmaker Allen Ross’ body was eventually found in 2000, five years after he was murdered by his wife Linda Green, who may have come to believe he was a zombie.
Another woman who was present during the murder helped bury Ross and was later convicted of being an accessory.
“These two women murdered Alan Ross and buried him in the basement,” Deselms told Cowboy State Daily. “It was right at 2000 when they found it. They shot him and they rolled him in a carpet and dragged him to the basement and buried him.”
Police had been to the home twice before looking for Ross, but hadn’t found any signs of a crime or a body in the basement.
But in 2000, at the insistence of a family member, they returned to the home one more time. And there was the toe of a shoe sticking up out of the dirt, as if that body had wanted finally to be found.
Deselms had not yet occupied the building as a tenant when the body was found. In fact, the sale of the home that was going to make it possible for him to move into the space was put on hold immediately after the body was found.
“They couldn’t sell a crime scene,” Deselms said. “They had to wait to finish the sale. Once they actually finished the sale and the family moved out, then I moved in here in 2001.”
A Home With History
As it happens, Deselms’ art gallery is housed in a home that had an interesting past long before the murder of Allan Ross.
“It was originally built in the late 1870s, early 1880s,” Deselms said. “The railroad built this for their doctor’s house and his office.”
The doctor’s last name was Barkwell, and historical documents Deselms later learned of also refer to the building as Cheyenne’s first hospital.
“So, people would come to the doctor’s and maybe stay overnight,” he said. “It was probably a little bit of a morgue, too, because we’re so close to the tracks. Lots of things could go wrong, and they would have brought them up here. So probably a lot of people checked out here.”
Doctor Barkwell himself passed away in the home, after which a ranch family bought the location to have as their in-town home.
“The kitchen here was added on probably before 1900,” Deselms said. “And there was a woman living here who ran what was one of the first soup kitchens in Cheyenne out of the back door.”
The family’s oldest child Jack Welch worked at a grocery store and was able to bring home a little produce. The woman would take that produce and whatever extra meat they had leftover from butchering a hog or other animal to make a stew.
“She would serve that out of the back door to the poor,” Deselms said.
Eventually, after the ranch family sold their in-town home, the building became a four-plex, and it was during that time that there was a rape and murder in one of the upstairs apartments.
“A 15-year-old raped and murdered an 85-year-old woman,” Deselms said.
Who’s Hiding Upstairs?
But Deselms didn’t know any of the building’s history at the time he moved in. He only knew about the body in the basement, which didn’t particularly worry him.
But it didn’t take long for odd things to start happening at Deselms’ new art gallery.
On an evening just before Halloween in 2001, Deselms was hosting a painting class in his art gallery. While the artists were busy sketching a silhouette of the model, Harvey was putting out Halloween decorations.
Everything seemed to be going well until, that is, he placed a battery-operated skull on the front porch. All the lights in the gallery suddenly went out, plunging the artists into complete darkness.
Deselms rushed inside to fix the problem, wiggling the breaker, flipping it on and off, all to no avail. The lights weren’t going back on.
On a hunch, one he couldn’t quite explain, he went back out to the porch, picked up the skull and put it away. The lights, inexplicably, turned back on, and there were no more issues. That night anyway.
After that incident, a friend of Deslems, who had a friend specializing in “cleansing” haunted spaces, offered to bring the medium to the art gallery.
Deselms didn’t feel that the house needed any “cleansing” but he consented to the idea.
“They were just chit-chatting in the gallery and so my friend asked, did you feel anything?” Deselms said. “And she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s an old house. They all have things going on energy wise.”
But Deselms art gallery had next-level energy going on, she added, and asked to go upstairs.
Deselms took her up the stairs, where there are two other apartments in the building.
“They were locked, of course, but she’s up there for a minute and she goes, ‘Who’s hiding up there?’” Deselms said.
“That was before either of us knew that an older woman had been raped and murdered up there,” Deselms said. “She picked up on that before we found that information out. So that was kind of interesting.”
Next, A Few More Grey Hairs
The truly disturbing, hair-greying event didn’t happen until after Deselms did a little remodeling work downstairs in the art gallery.
“So the way you go upstairs now is different than where you went upstairs before they put this little addition on the building,” Deselms said. When they did that “they just walled off the old stairs, which made this weird empty space.”
Deselms got the idea to
As Deselms was tearing out the sheetrock wall, he found this odd, little red half cape, sort of like a child’s Halloween costume, hanging from a nail inside the empty space.
No telling how old it was, or how long it had been hanging there. It was full of dust and moth-riddled.
“It fell off as I was trying to pull stuff out and scared the bejesus out of me,” Deselms said. “It was just really weird. But so, after it scared me, I didn’t really think much more about it. We threw it away in the trash.”
Something's Weird And It Don’t Look Good
That night, the alarm to Deselms new art gallery went off in the wee hours of the morning. Deselms rushed to the gallery to check on things.
It was a windy night, and sometimes Deselms would forget to make sure the door was truly locked in and shut all the way.
“I thought that’s probably what happened,” Deselms said.
But when he arrived at the art gallery, the door the alarm said had been opened was locked up tight, as it should be. Then he noticed that a side door inside of the art gallery, which leads to the vault, was locked, but standing ajar.
That was strange, because to engage the alarm system at all, that door in particular had to have been shut tight. Otherwise, the alarm system wouldn’t have engaged at all.
Deselms turned the light on, to see better and to shut the door.
“So, I was like well, that’s really weird,” he said. “And it was like 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, and I just had a bag of trash that hadn’t been taken out. So, I thought well, I’m just going to look at the back and see if anything’s weird back there and I’ll take the trash out.”
Deselms didn’t find anything weird out back, but, when he returned to the gallery, the light he had turned on was off, and the television was now on, inexplicably on.
“It couldn’t have been someone hiding in there, because the motion would have caught them,” Deselms said. “My security system includes a motion alarm, so if there’s motion, it would go off. And the door alarms are all identified, east door, back door and front door.”
The mystifying on and off lights and television are something weird that Deselms has never been able to explain, though he admits there’s been nothing strange since that.
“I guess they just made their presence known,” Deselms said.
Even so, it made Deselms even more glad he’d gotten rid of that strange, red cape.
“I wouldn’t have brought that cape back in for anything,” Deselms said, laughing.
Not His First Ghost
The space he moved from, 215 W. 17th Street, also had a lot of ghosts, or at least, weird things happening, Deselms told Cowboy State Daily. One of those incidents is retold as part of Cheyenne’s haunted trolley tour which takes place every year throughout the month of October.
“The weirdest thing with me in that other location, the alarm went off in the middle of the night,” Deselms said. “So, I had to go down to the gallery and look around.”
When he got there, the doors were all still locked, though, and no one was there.
“So, I walked upstairs, I had an upstairs office,” Deselms said. “And there was my telephone. It had been taken off the receiver — and this was back when telephones had cords on them, right — and it had been wrapped around my chair and placed on my chair.”
That alarm system at the time also had a motion sensor, and it was keyed into all the doors. None of those had been triggered. It was just the fact that the phone was off the hook that triggered the alarm.
But, with no one in the building, and no door alarms or motion sensors triggered, it was a complete mystery how the phone ended up wrapped around his chair.
That wasn’t the only strange thing that happened at the location while Deselms was there.
“There was also this light cord that I had thrown away like three different times in the dumpster out back,” he said. “And it just kept coming back in.”
Each day he would throw it out, and the next day, the cord would be right back where it had been when he’d picked it up to throw it away.
“There were no doors or anything opened, and the motion detector never went off,” Deselms said. “But somehow the cord was back.”
Happy Among The Artists And Weirdos
There’s another story about his present art gallery that Deselms didn’t know at the time he moved into the space. The story was uncovered by Cheyenne trolley driver Val Martin, and is retold in the book, “Haunted Cheyenne” by Jill Pope.
A man who had worked for 20 years at the building next door to the art gallery told Martin that for the five years leading up to the eventual discovery of the filmmaker, Ross’s body, the worker had been hearing a moaning sound coming through a sealed off tunnel that connected the two buildings.
It was so prevalent, he had even told his wife about it, though he didn’t himself know what to make of it. It was not frightening, but just unusual.
The moaning stopped, however, the day Ross’ body was finally unearthed by police.
One of the details of the crime may point to a bizarre motive for the murder. Police said Ross’ genitalia had been cut off, and he’d been shot in the back of the head.
As police investigated the case, more came to light about Ross’ wife Linda Green and her state of mind at the time.
She had been convinced she was a vampire, and friends said she was drinking excessively, trying to quiet all the voices in her head. She died of liver disease, before Ross’ body was found.
Included among her writings were some instructions on how she believed zombies could be killed. Those instructions included cutting off the genitalia of the individual.
Green died before she could be held accountable for the murder, but she’d had an accomplice, Julia Williams, who was found guilty of being an accessory to the crime by helping Green bury the body in the basement.
“Alan Ross’ twin brother and older brother came for (the Williams) trial, which was Novemberish,” Deselms said. “And we became pretty friendly. Over the weekend they were here during the trial.”
While there, they kept asking questions that circled a central question for them. Could Deselms sense their brother’s presence in the home? Was his ghost haunting the place?
By then, Deselms felt the art gallery had calm energy, and that there was nothing unsettled about any of the spirits, including Ross, that might reside there.
“Well, if he is, you know, he likes it,” Deselms told them. “And then the twin brother said, ‘You know, in Chicago where they grew up, he really liked the artists and the weirdos. So, he’s happy here.’”
Deselms laughs about that memory when he tells the story.
“I wasn’t sure which I was, but you know some of us are pretty odd,” he said. “I’m not very artistic, but I’ll take weird any day.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.