The Denver Spiderman (Theodore Edward Coneys)
On Oct. 17, 1941, 73 year old Philip Peters was found dead in his bedroom, a quaint home in the highland district of Denver, Colorado. Near his body was a walking stick, broken in half, the butt of a pistol, and a stove shaker. Upon investigation, police reported that these three items were used to bludgeon Peters at least 30 times. But that’s only the beginning of the strange murder of Philip Peters by Edward Coneys, the man who would be known from then on, in life, and in legend as “The Denver Spider Man.”
Theodore Edward Coneys was raised by a family of Canadian immigrants. After his father died, Coneys moved to Denver with his mother. His health was always bad…so much so that he was not expected not to live past his 18th birthday. This created- a strange mental space for Coneys. He didn’t finish high school, was gaunt and tall and kind of lived every day like it was his last…in a not so great way. Coneys was sick and homeless most of his adult life, mistreated by the public because of his sickly appearance. He roamed the Denver highlands area, intermittently working, finding temporary living situations and trying to survive…his health worsening and worsening.
Philip Peters was almost…Coneys’ opposite. Peters was in good shape, friendly, dependable and well-respected person in Denver society. He worked for Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad for 40 years until his retirement in 1930, where he lived with his wife Helen and had a close relationship with his son and daughter in law who lived in Grand Junction, about 250 miles away. He was social, even playing in a local mandolin band after his retirement.
The one thing Peters and Coneys did have in common- aside having pluralism last names- was that both had money problems. Though Peters was financially independent, all of his money was going to his wife Helen’s care- she had been hospitalized two weeks before with a broken hip. Coneys, was particularly hard up- desperate for food and shelter.
On a walk by his home one evening In September 1941, The 78 year old Peters ran into Coneys, who was then 59. While Peters thought it was just coincidence, it was not- Coneys was tailing Peters, and asked him for money. Peters, off-put, but knowing he couldn’t help politely declined Theodore’s request and kept walking. Coneys, however, wasn’t satisfied. While Peters went on with his walk, Coneys walked up the drive, broke into Peters’ home and stole food and money.
But before he left…Coneys discovered a small trapdoor in the ceiling of a closet that led to a narrow attic cubbyhole. So he decided to just…go up there and live in the attic. For approximately five weeks, Coneys remained in the attic, coming downstairs to grab shit when he needed it, living undetected in the house.
On October 17, 1941, Coneys believed Peters was out visiting his wife in the hospital so he snuck into the kitchen. In what would be anyone’s worst nightmare, Peters awakened from a nap, and walked to the fridge for a snack. There, he discovered Coneys at the refrigerator. Peters struck at Coneys with a cane he carried, but Coneys clubbed him with an old pistol he had found in the house. After the gun broke apart, Coneys continued to beat him with a heavy iron stove shaker, killing him. Coneys then returned to the attic cubbyhole.
Peters was discovered an hour later by his neighbors after he didn’t show show up for a dinner, and the Denver Police were called. They searched the house but the doors and windows were locked, and found no evidence of a murderer, let alone a break-in. Eerily, the police did notice the trapdoor, but believed no person could fit through it.
In April 1942, Peters’ wife Helen came back to 3335 Montcreif Ave and hired a live-in housekeeper. Both women would often hear strange sounds in the house, and it got so bad that The housekeeper eventually resigned, convinced the house was haunted. Helen Peters eventually moved to western Colorado to live with her son, and the house was considered vacant. Of course, the neighbors would see lights going on and off, and once a while would attempt to knock on the door just to see if someone was inside.
Of course, Coneys was inside. He stayed in the house undetected as Police continued to make routine checks. On July 30, 1942, during one of these checks, an officer heard a lock click on the second floor. Running upstairs, the police caught the sight of Coneys’ legs as he was going through the trapdoor to the attic. and pulled him down. He was arrested and quickly confessed to Peters’ murder.
Of course, media loved it. Local newspapers dubbed him the “Denver Spider Man of Moncrieff Place” after the Denver police detective said “A man would have to be a spider to stand it long up there.” Coneys was tried and convicted, then sentenced to life imprisonment at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City, Colorado.where he died on May 16, 1967.
Of course, now this murder is kinda the stuff of Denver legend, especially around Halloween. It’s referenced in CSI, the Simpsons and lots more. It’s not much to look at, but this dark history on a cute, historical block is how Denver does weird history. And boy is it terrifying.