There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy (Hamlet, I.5)
Here on the blog, there are a variety of opinions about ghosts and the like. More opinions than there are writers, in fact, because my skepticism/belief in ghosts has a good deal to do with how dark the night is and how creepily the wind is blowing.
Whatever you believe about ghosts, there’s no denying that Southwest Montana has its fair share of stories of the dead-but-not-yet-departed. The tales of these ghostly denizens range from the tragic and terrifying to the touching and sweet.
Whether you’re the sort of person who thrills in experiencing the spectral or prefers to loudly (if unconvincingly) declare that you are don’t believe in superstitious nonsense, you’ll want to check out the sites and stories below.
One of the more tragic stories on this list is that of Dorothy Dunn, who lingers around the Hotel Meade in Bannack. Sixteen-year old Dunn drowned in a nearby dredge pond in 1916. Not long after, he closest friend saw an apparition in the Meade garbed in Dorothy’s distinctive blue dress.
From the specific to the uncertain, we head towards the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. A family ranch from 1859 to the 1970s, multiple generations lived and worked on the land before the National Parks Service took up stewardship in the 1970s. It’s not clear who exactly might be haunting the ranch or why, but workers and visitors report unexpected smells, the sounds of conversation when no one is around, doors opened that had been locked, and more…
The beautiful stained glass window in Helena’s Grandstreet Theater is the site of a peculiar type of haunting. The window of the former church was commissioned as a memorial to Clara Bicknell Hodgin, the minister’s wife who died in 1905. Although she only lived in Helena for a few years, Clara was a force of comfort and joy to many–especially children–in the community. Today actors and patrons frequently comment on the haunting presence of the window.
In the words of my boss, the Dumas Hotel in Butte is “super haunted, that place is terrifying.” The famous Dumas was a brothel from 1890 until 1982 and was the entrance to the notorious Venus Alley–Butte’s crime-ridden red light district. As a site of crime, suffering, and desperation, any visit to the Dumas carries with it a sense of weight. But over the years–both before and after the brothel closed–visitors also frequently report seeing the apparition of a woman descending the stairs.
As a gold rush town, Virginia City has its share of gristly tales and hauntings. But, one story stands out to me because it is something quite different. Visitors regularly report seeing a black-robed figure walking the streets of town, and guests at the Bonanza Inn encounter unexplained noises and ‘cloying’ smells. This might not be as terrifying as it first sounds. The Bonanza used to the hospital of the Sisters of Charity. Ellen Baumler, one of Montana’s premier public historians and ghost aficionado thinks the figure is probably Sister Irene, a nun beloved of the community who was one of the most active in looking after the welfare of the town’s residents. There is something comforting in thinking that the good sister is still making her rounds.
If you visit any of the places on the list, let us know what you felt, unless, like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, you prefer to distrust your senses because “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.” And shout to the spirits “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
If you choose to travel through Southwest Montana, make sure you are up-to-date on the latest travel information for the State!