Ghostly Times in Big Sky Country
It’s easy to put aside history—especially dark history—in the presence of natural beauty. We don’t always like to talk about such sour events, but some beings never seem to let things go, and this is the time of year for such mysterious recollections …
Virginia City: Bonanza Hotel
Virginia City is one of Montana’s most famous ghost towns. The town got its start in the 1860s, when gold was discovered in a nearby creek. Even in those days, word traveled fast and it was only a matter of weeks until thousands of people made their way to the then-lawless Virginia City in search of fortune. This economic boom, combined with a lack of law enforcement, set the stage for corruption, resulting in robberies, murders and eventually an equally-violent vigilante uprising that ruthlessly and indiscriminately prosecuted those in power by way of public hangings.
Given its bloody past, it’s no wonder that Virginia City is one of the most haunted towns in Montana. One of the most famous haunted places in town is the Bonanza Inn. The building was originally built in 1866, with the intent that it would serve as the courthouse. When a new courthouse was built in 1876, the building was purchased by three nuns and operated as a hospital for miners. Then, in 1879, when the gold dried up, the hospital closed and remained vacant until 1949, when it was converted into the Bonanza Inn. While it was operational, guests who stayed in the hotel would regularly report having encounters with ghostly figures from the past. One of the most unsettling tales is a reoccurring report from guests who stayed in Room 1. Here, there are multiple accounts of folks being awoken in the night by loud taps on the window. Those who dared to get out of bed and investigate were often surprised by a tall, dark figure donning a wide-brimmed hat and a duster jacket, supposedly a miner who once occupied the building during its time as a hospital. The occurrences became so regular that in 1975, the room was finally locked. It remained that way for over 20 years, until the state of Montana bought the property.
Bozeman: Bear Canyon Campground
When you’re in the woods, it’s important to stick together. Having a clear understanding of this basic rule is no more important anywhere than it is at Bozeman’s Bear Canyon Campground. As the name would suggest, there are bears that live in the woods around this area, which is one reason to never venture out alone. But unlike most campgrounds in the Rockies, the most dangerous neighbor at this one might not be an animal at all.
Bear Canyon Campground is also home to one of Bozeman’s most popular and most often recurring ghost stories. As the tale goes, there is a ghost of a little girl occupying the campground. Like many ghosts, she appears at night, and it’s unclear if this little girl is friendly or menacing, but her goal is always the same: To gain the attention of female campers and lure them into the woods. Is she trying to show them something, or is she trying to make them lose their way from camp? Nobody is sure and there’s only one way to find out.
Big Sky: Deer Lodge Condos
Compared to Bozeman or Virginia City, Big Sky is a relatively new community. Until the 1970s, the resort’s present-day location was no more than a few logging roads and large tracts of untouched wilderness.
As goes the story with many modern day real estate booms, the building that went on in Big Sky’s early days was as unregulated as the day is long. Back then, a pickup truck and a tool belt were all a guy needed to be considered a qualified builder. The demand for construction was simply bigger than the pool of contractors the developers had to pull from and, as a result, some of the early condo complexes were put up rather hastily. Consequently, the owners of these condos ended up suing the developers for the sub-standard conditions that were seemingly found around every corner of every unit, and a site recorder was sent out to assess the situation. One day while a developer’s employee was waiting to get into one of the units, he was met by an apparition of a traditionally-dressed Native American man, who told him that he wasn’t supposed to be there, and instructed him to leave immediately. The employee reported the encounter to security and the guard told him that he, too, felt the presence of a supernatural being. The guard elaborated, admitting that he always dreaded going inside the condos because every time he did, the furniture inside would always be inexplicably rearranged. To make it even spookier, the guard was the only one in the small town with a key to that building.