Haunted Journeys

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Could one of the most haunted towns coincidentally have a morbid name? There is no doubt that Deadwood in South Dakota is one of the most supernaturally spooky places in the United States.

Do you think the original citizens intentionally named their hometown to honor death, that which creates souls?

Deadwood's History

Deadwood was established in 1876 during the Black Hills Gold Rush, bringing in all kinds of people to this growing city in South Dakota. It attracted pioneers and prospectors seeking their fortune, along with lawless, unsavory types. These characters only brought murder, mayhem, establishing Deadwood’s heralded status in Wild West lore. Back then, the business district comprised largely of saloons, dance halls, card parlors and bodacious bordellos. They were all were hungry for gold and did whatever they had to in order to get them some! The businesses did whatever they could to service the gold-diggers, and sometimes that led to a little bit of conflict!

The Gem Variety Theater and Dance Hall in Deadwood    Credit: Wikipedia

But why would a city ever have such a morbid name to begin with?  Of course, it all started with gold!

In 1875, a miner named John B. Pearson found gold in a narrow canyon in these Northern Black Hills. This Canyon became known as “Deadwood Gulch”, because of the many dead trees that lined the canyon walls at the time. Could these dead trees have been a forecast of what was to come for this naughty city?

Practically overnight, the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. At its height, the city had a population of 5,000, attracting larger-than-life Old West figures. Some of these included Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok.

Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, on August 2, 1876, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights – forever after known as the Dead Man’s Hand. 

To add to the haunted history flavor, in 1876 Deadwood survived a Small Pox epidemic that nearly wiped them out. There were so many infected, that multiple tents were erected to quarantine the stricken. In addition, it suffered three major fires.  One devastating fire occurred on September 26, 1879, destroying more than 300 buildings and consuming the belongings of many inhabitants. Many numerous economic hardships also followed, pushing it to the verge of becoming another Old West Ghost Town.

Deadwood in 1880   -  Credit: Pinterest

But this town new what it had to do to survive. In 1989 limited-wage gambling was legalized and Deadwood was reborn into the destination naughty town it is today, full of history, playful entertainments …. And haunts!

City of Deadwood   -   Credit: Black Hills and Badlands SD

Deadwood has many unique and interesting acclamations. For instance, do you know it is the only US town to be named a National Historic Landmark? This landmark is alive and kept well by the stories of its dead residents which are still haunting present-day hotels and saloons.

Deadwood Comes back from its Ghost Town Days   -  Credit:  Travel South Dakota

The Dead of Deadwood

Deadwood is one of the few places on earth that has kept history on the first reported hauntings.

On Dec. 6, 1877, the Lone Star Building on lower Main Street was the site of a grisly murder/suicide. Kitty LeRoy, a popular dancer, poker dealer and probable prostitute, was shot and killed by her jealous husband, Samuel Curley. Curley then shot and killed himself. 

Kitty Leroy    Credit: History Witch

As a result of this double killing, a Black Hills Daily Times article dated Jan. 16, 1878, reported a haunting taking place in the Lone Star building:

“To tell our tale briefly and simply, is to repeat a story old and well known – the re-appearance, in spirit form, of departed humanity. In this case, it is the shadow of a woman, comely, if not beautiful, and always following her footsteps, the tread and form of the man who was the cause of their double death. In the still watches of the night, the double phantoms are seen to tread the stairs where once they reclined in the flesh and linger o’er places where once they reclined in loving embrace and finally to melt away in the shadows of the night as peacefully as their bodies’ souls seem to have done when the fatal bullets brought death and the grave to each,” reads the story.

Historic Bullock Hotel

Historic Bullock Hotel -  Credit: Travel Channel

While visiting the Historic Bullock Hotel, don’t be alarmed when you smell cigar smoke, yet there is no one present enjoying a stogie. For this may be Deadwood’s first sheriff himself, Mr. Seth Bullock, known for his heavy cigar smoking. His apparition also appears in photos that are on display at the hotel.

But he’s not the only one lurking about in the hotel he built in 1895. Bullock took in many people during a cholera outbreak and the small children who fell victim to this dreaded disease are today seen roaming and playing in the last place they knew as home.

Another haunting is associated to a historical claim of a hanging in Room 211. Guests have seen a faint figure still hanging there … so we will never forget. (How could we ever!)

The Adams House

The Adams House    -    Credit  TripAdvisor

In 1925, W.E. Adams lost his wife, daughter and infant granddaughter within 48 gruesome hours. Later in 1927, he remarried a woman 44 years younger, called Mary Vicich. On June 16, 1934, W.E. Adams died in his beloved home. Soon thereafter, Mary shut and locked the home up, claiming the home was too haunted to be lived in. The Adams House remained vacant for more than 50 years.

Past claims of activity have included people hearing voices coming from other rooms in the house, very much like a party. You may hear footsteps (especially on the back stairs) or see a tall shadow of a man in an upstairs bedroom window. One previous staff saw the apparition of W.E. Adams and another employee witnessed the rocking chair in Mary’s room rocking on its own!

The Fairmont Hotel

Fairmont Hotel   -   Credit   Highway Byways

The history here is intense, explaining why this hotel is so spooky!

On Aug. 28, 1907, Maggie Broadwater, one of the upstairs girls, jumped from a third-story window.  In another scene, in 1907, Prentice Bernard, aka Vinegar Rowan, in a jealous rage, shot and killed the client of his girlfriend. In the process of shoving the pistol in his pants, the gun went off wounding him. Rowan ran from the hotel, where he eventually collapsed and died.

Throughout the years, there have been numerous claims of third floor activity at the Fairmont Hotel. Several who have slept in the third story room, which can be seen from the exterior of the building, as the fourth window from the back on the third floor, report seeing a woman with red hair and a green dress standing at the foot of the bed watching them.

There are no known photographs Broadwater, but many Paranormal investigators wonder if the apparition people are seeing is that of her ghost. Others have claimed to have the feeling that someone is running past them on the stairs in the Fairmont Hotel. Could this be the desperate Rowan running to save his life?

By the way, did you know the Fairmont Hotel participated in 2018’s World’s Largest Ghost Hunt?  Ho

Mount Moriah Cemetery

Wild Bill Hickok’s Grave at the Mount Moriah Cemetery   -   Credit  Travel South Dakota

Here, at the Mount Moriah Cemetery, when you pay your respects to the famous Deadwood’s dead, you may get something much creepier than you bargained for! Here lies the graves of Wild Bill Hickok, James Butler Hickok and the trick shooter Calamity Jane. Oh yes, let’s not forget, Deadwood’s first sheriff, Seth Bullock is also resting here … or is he? 

The Mount Moriah Cemetery also contains a mass grave, in which eleven men were buried after having tortuously burnt to death in their boarding homes during one of Deadwood’s great fires.

Visitors claim to have feelings of uneasiness and of being watched.  Many say this is one of the most haunted cemeteries in the USA.  These tombs are certainly worth a bit of challenging exploration!


We thank our Resources:
Black Hills Pioneer
Travel Channel
Scattered Souls Paranormal


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