Every town has a spooky side, and Bozeman is no different: In more ways than one sometimes we get visitors who just won't leave. Here are some places that might have you saying, "I see dead people."
The Northwood Office Building
Fifty years ago, local veterinarian Albert McChefney tried to save his neighbor, Anna Nickles, from her flaming home. The house survived. Anna Nickles did not. Nowadays the old farmhouse is the Northwood office building at 7th and Griffin, and it belongs to McChefney's daughter, Joal, and her husband, Harlan Olson. According to Harlan, "Anna is still there."
Office renters at Northwood agree. On late nights, physical Therapist Eric Shelkey sometimes detects "this sudden odd smell and a rush of colder air—it just feels like a female." Harlan describes the smell as musty. Joal says it's like ozone. Both agree that it's accompanied by a prickling sensation. Besides that, Anna only manifests herself in playful mischief, moving anything from coffee cups to cars in the parking lot.
Genise Park has witnessed the ghost that once haunted her former century-old northside home. Park remembers lying in bed one night, "I could feel something coming down the hall and I heard feet on the carpet." A young woman in turn of-the-century garb floated across the couple's bedroom to gaze out the window. Thinking she was just exhausted, Park never told anyone, not even her husband, of the ghost's occasional visits—until the night her husband arose from bed and politely asked the ghost at the window, "Can I help you?"
Chico Hot Springs
In 1990, security guard Larry Bohne posed that same question to a lost hotel guest in a vacant wing at Chico Hot Springs Hotel. "She didn't seem to be walking—she just drifted away." Following the encounter, Bohne found only the lingering scent of jasmine, although the guest should have been trapped by a hallway of locked doors." The scent was strongest near room 346," he reports. That's the room where Chico's original owner, Percie Matheson, spent her declining years until her death in 1940. When Bohne peered inside, Percie's old rocking chair creaked in the silence. Percie legendarily haunts Chico, crashing about in the kitchen, hiding things such as important papers and coins from the employees, and appearing occasionally to night staff. In 1986, security guard Tim Barnes photographed the apparition.
Mary Capusci, maintenance manager for the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, admits there are a few nonpaying guests there as well. "When it's empty and quiet in the winter, that's when we hear footsteps on the third floor, or the radio coming on at 2 am," she says. Once, a chambermaid found a bed blocking the only door to a room from the inside —on the third floor. With help, she managed to move the bed back, but when she returned to the room, she again found it blocked. Guests innocently mention seeing a "very tall man with a white beard and white hair—a KFC figure." Former owner John Quincy Adams (not the president) fits that description.
Norma Halen at the Three Forks Chamber of Commerce dispels rumors that the Sacajawea was once a brothel where a madam was murdered. Apparently a madam named Laura Adams (no relation to John Quincy) was murdered in Three Forks, but she operated the Western, a brothel a few blocks away. Helen Backlin at the Pioneer Museum in Bozeman confirms the Sacajawea has only ever been a hotel since it was built in 1910. However, the Western burned to the ground in the 1960s. Perhaps Adams is the "Lady in Red" haunting the Sacajawea dining room, just staying as a guest.
Montana Ale Works
Longtime Ale Works employee Jen Dehmer has often closed the restaurant late at night alone. That's when she sometimes encounters a chilly presence that turns on the radio and opens and closes locked doors. One night, Dehmer and a fellow employee couldn't shut down the security system because it detected motion in the completely empty restaurant. "Finally, out of frustration, we started yelling, "We just want to leave, go away!" Immediately there was "a deafening crash in the kitchen" and the motion disappeared. Dahmer and the other employee hightailed it but returned the next morning to survey the damage. "Nothing was amiss," she says. Patrons occasionally glimpse the ghost floating above the pool room in a red-and-black-checkered shirt. According to rumors, he is a former employee of the Little Montana Freight Company (now Ale Works) who was killed by a falling pallet.
"What's incredible to me," remarks Genise Parks, "is that you have so many families who have had encounters with ghosts. It opens up the fact that there are limitless opportunities for everything. Being defined by just this physical world is a very narrow view."
If you know of any other haunted buildings in the Bozeman area, tell us! Send your story to [email protected] Chico information from Big Sky Ghosts: Eerie True Tales of Montana, by Debra D. Munn. You can also visit ghostsofamerica.com/5/Montana_Bozeman_ghost_sightings.html for more scary sightings!
Downtown is Spooky
When I was a kid, Halloween meant trudging through two feet of snow in my moon boots, snow pants, and heavy coat which, incidentally, always covered up my princess / fairy / Cindy Lauper costumes. Today’s kids get it so easy. This year for the first time, downtown Bozeman will be the place for all the ghosts and goblins to hit. From 3-6 pm on Wednesday, October 31, downtown businesses will open their doors to all the little trick-or-treaters. Costumes will be judged and businesses decorated. The Downtown Bozeman Association (DBA) is spearheading the event and will offer hot drinks at the visitor center.
After taking in all the candy that the downtown businesses have to offer, kids and parents can head to the Emerson Cultural Center to do more trick-or-treating and to enjoy other Halloween activities, including music, drumming, and junior carpentry.