The Spooky Spots: As Halloween Approaches, Consider Some Of Western South Dakota’s Most Haunted Places | Black Hills Travel Blog

The Spooky Spots: As Halloween Approaches, Consider Some Of Western South Dakota’s Most Haunted Places

  • The Spooky Spots: As Halloween Approaches, Consider Some Of Western South Dakota’s Most Haunted Places
    The Spooky Spots: As Halloween Approaches, Consider Some Of Western South Dakota’s Most Haunted Places
By : 
Tom Griffith

In this ghoulish month of ghosts and goblins, we’re reminded that those of us who reside in the fabled Black Hills live among spirits and souls from the past, and a host of venues where strange sightings and happenings still reportedly occur on a regular basis.

Count me as a skeptic, but these relatively common accounts of run-ins with apparitions and poltergeists occur too frequently to be easily dismissed.

A friend and fellow skeptic told me of her personal experience years ago at Deadwood’s landmark Bullock Hotel, built by and named for Seth Bullock, a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt who became the town’s first marshal. She had brought a group of travel journalists to the Main Street hotel for an overnight’s stay and dutifully informed them that the Main Street guesthouse was haunted, though she didn’t believe it herself.

After retiring that evening, my friend bedded down with a good book with only her nightstand light as company. It was then that she felt a presence, just as the lamp next to her bed inexplicably turned off and a floor lamp across the room turned on. At that moment, she became a believer.

Too many other unusual occurrences have happened at the Bullock Hotel to be easily discounted. In fact, next to the hotel’s check-in desk, you’ll find a book giving guest accounts of unexplained encounters – including those who checked out of the hotel after awakening in the middle of the night to find a cowboy with a strange resemblance to Seth Bullock standing at the end of their bed, the spirit of the same man roaming the hallways on the second and third floors, and repeated times when a guest heard his or her name being whispered by a disembodied voice.

The frequency of these strange episodes even led television’s “Unsolved Mysteries” to devote an entire show to the Bullock Hotel in 2008.

But the Bullock Hotel isn’t the only place in western South Dakota with a reputation for hosting ghosts. Just across the street at the Fairmont Hotel, a former brothel, an abundance of paranormal activity has been reported, including photographed orbs and ghostly touches, as recounted in one episode of “The Dead Files.” Fairmont owner Ron Russo puts it all in perspective with nightly ghost tours.

Across town in the Presidential Neighborhood, the Historic Adams House has witnessed its share of success and tragedy, as well as numerous incidences of ghostly encounters. That’s why Deadwood History Inc. has partnered with Black Hills Paranormal Investigations to offer 90-minute Paranormal Investigation Tours Oct. 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20 at the historic home of one of Deadwood’s pioneering merchants.

BHPI co-lead investigator Maurice “Mo” Miller told me this week his group has conducted the tours for the past seven years using an array of sophisticated electronic instruments to capture evidence that ghosts at the Adams House are, indeed, present.

“We have on occasion seen shadows figures and we’ve picked up loads of audio or `electronic voice phenomenon,’” Miller told me. “For some reason, audio recorders catch things we can’t hear. In the smoking room at the top of the house, we had voices of children talking about chickens, and we don’t know why. We also had a female voice screaming, `Fire!’ and we know that at one time there was a fire in that house.”

Miller, a 53-year-old who caught the ghost bug long ago, said people the world over are transfixed by the unexplainable.

“I think it’s just the unknown,” he said when asked why we’re so captivated by ghosts. “There is definitely something beyond our level of understanding. Whether it’s a ghost-like Casper or something else, I don’t know. We’ve seen things, we’ve heard things, that are beyond our comprehension.”

If you’re interested in participating in the paranormal investigations at the Adams House, for which reservations are required, visit deadwoodhistory.com or call 722-4800 for more information.

Rapid City’s Hotel Alex Johnson is another venue with a long history of ghostly sightings and a reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in South Dakota, events that once drew the attention of the SyFy Channel’s hit show, “Ghost Hunters.”

Its most popular ghost story revolves around the “Lady in White,” a young woman about to marry who threw herself out the window of the hotel’s room 812 in the 1970s. Some said there was foul play, believing she never would have committed suicide yet, as the story goes, no one was ever convicted of her murder.

Fast-forward 40 years and some guests still contend the woman resides at the Alex Johnson, wandering the halls of the eighth floor searching for those responsible for her death. Still, others report that the window of room 812 is often found open in the morning, while dresser drawers of the guestroom have been taken out, turned upside down and returned to their place.

Eerily, concerned guests also have reported that the ghost of the young bride has knocked on their door, sometimes night after night, then disappears, giggling, down the hallway.

So, as Halloween approaches, be aware that there are places in our midst where ghouls reside, offering us a glimmer of the past, and still sending shivers down our collective spine.

About the Author

Tom Griffith is a fourth-generation South Dakotan who studied literature and drama at the University of London before graduating from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. An award-winning reporter, photographer and managing editor at newspapers in Arizona, Montana and South Dakota, Tom also has written or co-authored more than 70 books and his travel features have been published in more than 300 newspapers and magazines from New York to New Zealand.