Lee Kerrison lives with the ghosts of St. Elmo.

Like Freddie Gilcrist, the daft young man who thought he was a train and ran around town, blowing his whistle.And French Pete, a "horrible looking man" who rented burros to miners and ate some of the animals when he got hungry.

Robert Caskie left more behind than his ghost. Caskie was killed when he got caught in a machine at the Ohio Mill and he was cut to pieces.

Mill officials left his leg and foot along with his boot hanging in a rafter to remind other workers of the dangers, according to Charlotte Merrifield, a resident of St. Elmo who died in Buena Vista this spring at the age of 92.

The mill has long since disappeared, but many original buildings remain along the town's dusty streets. Half of the west side of the street is vacant, victim of two fires in the late 19th century. Surviving buildings include City Hall, built in 1882, with two small jail cells and an iron ball and chain attached to a boulder, and the school building, built in 1880.

Kerrison said he bought the miner's exchange, built in 1886, nearly 20 years ago to find solitude and "get so far away from my relatives it would cost them $3 to send me a nickel postcard. This was the place."

He turned it into a home, then a general store catering to the hundreds of tourists who stop by in the day and leave town at night.

A former trucker, now 53, he's the only year-round resident. He says he knows the ghosts firsthand.

"I do believe there are ghosts up here," he said, standing on the boardwalk outside his gray, weath-er-beaten store. "I can feel the spirits. I can hear them."

He said it's especially eerie when the snow is 15 feet deep, other shops on the boardwalk are buried to the roof and he's the only person in town, and he hears people moving around.

That the town even survived at all is a miracle. Located up Chalk Creek Canyon at an altitude of 10,000 feet, it became a thriving town in the 1880s as a railroad hub and mill town for the Mary Murphy Mine, which produced more than $60 million in silver and gold. It was named after a nurse at a Denver hospital who took care of one of the founders.

The town officially died on Sept. 30, 1952, when the post office closed, but most residents left after the mine closed in the 1930s.

It survived that long because of Tony and Annabelle Stark, children of a railroad worker who moved there in the late 1880s. They guarded the town at gun-point and subscribed to every periodical they could find to keep the post office from shutting down.

Some visitors have claimed to have seen the ghosts of Tony and Annabelle prowling the hotel, keeping their vigil. They describe a young woman in a white dress, matching the description of Annabelle as a young woman.

Kerrison now carries on their battle to protect the town.

After a story appeared on the unique door handles, someone came into town one night and stole them.

Others caught in the town's snow have ripped out boards from buildings and the boardwalk to support their tires.

Kerrison has a gun, and a radiotelephone to keep in contact with town. The sheriff's department also gave him a radio to report troublemakers.

Most of the year, the town protects itself, offering limited access and few amenities.

IF YOU GO: From Denver take I-70 west 21 miles to I-470 and head south three miles. Turn right on Colorado 8 and drive south two miles to U.S. 285. Turn right on U.S. 285 and drive southwest for the next 116 miles. Turn right on Colorado 50, heading west, for 11 miles into St. Elmo. The trip, which covers 154 miles, will take nearly three hours.