St. Elmo – The Story of Annabelle

Annabelle was the oldest of the three siblings, children of Anna and Anton Stark, some of the most prominent people in town. Her mother was convinced they were better than the other townsfolk. She might have been right! After all, the typical mining town of that time consisted of miners, prostitutes, railroad workers and prospectors – not the friendliest bunch.

Therefore, Annabelle and her siblings were sheltered from social life. They worked hard at their parents’ hotel and store, which were considered the cleanest and best managed in town.

After Anton Stark’s death, Annabelle continued to work with her overprotective mother, who eventually sent her attractive young daughter to work in a telegraph office in a nearby town. Feeling lonely and alienated, Annabelle eventually married and escaped with her husband to Trinidad. However, the marriage didn’t work out and Annabelle returned to St. Elmo.


As with every other mining town of that time, the good times had passed, the people had left and the town was reduced to just two occupants: Annabelle and her brother Tony. Cut off from the outside world, without plumbing or electricity, Annabelle stopped bathing and taking care of herself and the buildings. Rotten food, garbage and the smell of tobacco become the norm at the store and the hotel. No wonder that locals started to call her “Dirty Annie.” She was known to walk around with tangled hair and a rifle at her side to protect the town. With the closure of the post office, St. Elmo died in 1952 (The name St. Elmo was chosen by Griffith Evan, one of the founding fathers, who was reading a novel of the same title).

Soon after, Tony and Annabelle were sent to a mental institution for their own protection. A family friend convinced authorities that both siblings were harmless and they were let go. Tony died soon after and Annabelle died in a nursing home in 1960.



But did she? After Annabelle’s death visitors reported numerous strange events. On one occasion, some children were playing in the hotel. Suddenly all windows and doors banged shut and the temperature dropped 20 degrees. The children never went to play there again. On another occasion a visitor noticed a young woman in a white dress standing at a window in the hotel. The legend says that Annabelle continues to protect the hotel from vandals and trespassers.


As with other Ghost Towns we have visited, St Elmo provides plenty of history, fascinating characters and visual appeal. We didn’t see Annabelle but we did walk around this fascinating place, soaking up the scenery and the unusual vistas. Here are the images we captured with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S. The Classic Chrome film simulation suits the subject well.



On the way to St. Elmo. 


We also drove nearly 12km to see another Ghost Town, Hancock, but only found an old cabin and the following remains of the Alley Belle Mine.


…and truly yours on the other side of the camera.



2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.


10 thoughts on “St. Elmo – The Story of Annabelle

  1. Huh… a far cry from he story of Annie… I was a friend and spent many time with Annie & her brother!

  2. The colours on the hills are great. I particularly like the fourth photograph looking out through a window at the houses and hills. Looks pleasantly like an old-fashioned film photograph of the area.

  3. Kasia, your photo taken through a window frame of the aspens and a bright window in a shadowed structure is just perfect. I’ve gone back to see it again five times. Wow!

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