Exploring haunted Montana.
Back in the glory days of the Montana mining boom, hundreds of thousands of people occupied various cities and towns, from Bannack to Virginia City to Butte. Over time, folks trickled out, leaving behind dusty wagon roads, empty mine shafts, and creaky buildings. However, it seems not everyone left. Here are some ghost tales from two nearby towns.
In August 1916, teenaged Dorothy Dunn was wading in a pond near Bannack with her cousin and a friend. While wading, the three misstepped and fell into a deep section of water. None of them knew how to swim. Two were rescued in time, but Dorothy perished in the water.
Dorothy’s best friend, Berthie Mathews, mourned Dorothy extensively. At the time, Berthie’s parents operated the Meade Hotel, an elegant fixture in town. Berthie began seeing a figure in a long blue dress in a window of the hotel—a phantom of Dorothy. Berthie kept the sightings mostly to herself, but many others have reported feeling cool spots within the hotel, as well as children explaining how they met the girl in the long blue dress.
The Meade Hotel closed its doors in the 1940s, but it still sits in Bannack and is known as the most haunted building in town. People today continue to venture inside to see if anyone (or anything) is home. It’s been said that Dorothy still lingers upstairs, while shadows of old miners and vigilantes roam the town in search of their ever-elusive prey, fortune and justice.
Gold was first discovered in Alder Gulch in 1863. But it was a poorly-kept secret, and hundreds of miners flocked to the area shortly after. The Eiling family quickly became known for hosting parties, music, and other festivities in town. But when the family’s matriarch, Mary, passed away in 1924, she left the Eiling house abandoned—or, almost abandoned.
In 1972, the house’s caretaker, John Ellingson (who bears no relation to the Eilings), noticed windows being broken... but from the inside out. Suspicious of someone getting into the home, he decided to board up the ballroom door. Hammer in hand, he went to hit the first nail, when something grabbed his wrist. He tried again, flabbergasted, but he could not move the hammer. John scurried off the property, not returning to the Eiling house for many years.
A few years later, a couple bought the property. Their first project was to renovate the ballroom, and they brought with them a few books of wallpaper samples. Upon returning from running errands, they found one of the books flipped out to a page featuring a floral pattern. Not thinking much of it, they closed the book and carried on with their day. The following day, the same book was found with the same pattern open. Growing suspicious, they stacked the books together, leaving the one with the flower pattern on the very bottom. Upon returning, they once again found the book open to the exact floral pattern.
When peeling the old wallpaper and paint from the ballroom walls, they found the original layer of wallpaper, which was the exact same as the book’s floral pattern. Mary Elling seems to still want a say in her ballroom decor. Dare we say otherwise?
Southwest Montana is known for its trails, lakes, and wildlife, but it’s not everyday you hear about its ghost towns. However, a lot of history lies within these once-bustling locales. Take some time to poke around these oft-overlooked spots, and you might just run into apparitions of the past.
For more Treasure State ghost stories, check out Haunted Montana by Karen Stevens.