South Dakota doesn't have a whole lot of ghost stories. After reading a little about South Dakota, it seems to me that anyone hardy enough to brave the winters in this unforgiving climate is probably just too tough to be afraid of much - and it has no doubt been that way for a long, long time.
But for you scaredy-cats who are passing through to visit Sturgis or Deadwood, I've managed to dig up a few stories ...
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Deadwood - The
Most of the legends of this locale revolve around Sheriff Seth Bullock, the western legend who was said to have such piercing gray eyes that "his gaze could stop fights" and "he could outstare a mad cobra or a rogue elephant". One of the mustachioed founding fathers of the rough and tumble mining town, Bullock's hotel still stands today as a popular attraction. He and his partner Sol Star came to Deadwood to sell mining equipment to the growing masses there, and the Bullock Hotel sits on the spot that they built the hardware store on upon their arrival. (The hardware store was lost to a fire in 1894) Struck down by cancer, Bullock died in room 211 of his hotel in September of 1919. Since then, dozens of guests and employees alike claim to have seen his apparition in the building. The ghost was even said to have helped a lost little boy find his way back to his guest room. A stickler for idleness, the activity is said to increase when staffers are being lazy, or if they whistle or hum. The apparition of a little girl has also been reported. Lights and showers turn themselves on and off without explanation. The sounds of footsteps, of a man calling out their name, and of whistling has been reported by various visitors to the hotel, as has a tapping sensation on the shoulder when no one is near. Toilet paper has been known to unroll itself in bathrooms. In room 305 the "Bullock Suite", a clock that has been broken for many years will occasionally chime, and many photographic anomalies have been reported in room 211. Rooms 211, 205, 209, 305, 315, 313, 207, and 302 have all had paranormal occurrences reported by guests. 633 Main St.
Smoking hot actor Timothy Olyphant (left) plays sheriff Seth Bullock (center) on HBO's "Deadwood". However the real choice, to me, would've been Ben Garant (right), who plays officer Travis Junior on Comedy Central's "Reno 911". Tell me you don't see the resemblance.
Springs - The Toal House
(Formerly Villa Theresa Guest House B&B) Built originally as an exclusive spa for Midwestern business men, the "full service" offered included visits by local whores at the turn of the last century. The family who lived in the mansion in the 1970's and 80's prior to it's conversion into a guest house reported many odd occurrences. The staircase seems to be the focal point of most sightings, including the apparitions of an elegant young woman in a long archaic gown with her brown hair pulled in a bun, and a man and woman dressed in 1950's attire. The man, according to one of the former owners, argued with then threw the petite Latina woman from the landing. The whole scene then vanished. Also on the staircase was seen a malevolent, mean looking man who clutched the banister and stared at the living owner as she looked on in shock. A pet dog reportedly "floated" down the staircase. In the living room, a blue spook light was seen immediately followed by an apparition wearing a dark suit. A red spook light was seen in the cupola room. A former owner of the inn reported odd things as well, such as seeing the disembodied face of former owner F. O. Butler of Chicago floating above the bed. Perfume is smelled in the dormer rooms where prostitutes once worked. 801 Almond
Rapid City - Alex Johnson Hotel
This Germanic Tudor style hotel , built in the 1920's, is said to be haunted by the original owner, railroad tycoon Alex Carlton Johnson. The 8th floor is said to have the most activity, including ghostly piano music, the sounds of a woman sobbing in a room where a bride to be once jumped to her death, and of a female apparition. Another version of the suicidal woman is that she was a hotel manager there in the 1930's. An apparition has been seen at the foot of the bed in one of the guest rooms. Objects are also reported to move themselves, especially on the top floor. This floor, used primarily for storage, has had alleged "poltergeist activity" and employees state that furniture has even been hurled through the air by unseen forces. 523 Sixth Street.
Deadwood Ghost Tours - Bullock Hotel: 633 Main St. Monday thru Friday at 4:20 p.m. Adults $3,Children under 12 $1
Deadwood - Green
Door Brothel Museum
Used as an actual brothel until it's close in 1980, unfortunately it looks as if this very cool piece of Americana has closed it's doors in the past few years. Hauntings include unusual noises of footsteps in empty rooms. Just FYI, four brothels were finally shut down in 1980, including the "Purple Door" "Beige Door" and the "White Door". One industrious Madame, Pam Holliday of the Purple Door to be exact, wasn't deterred by her new status of unemployment. She auctioned off many of her brothel's "souvenirs" - including kitchen timers and vibrating pillows. If anyone has any info (including the address) on this building or if it is up and running under a different name, I'd love to know. Please email me. It might possibly be located here, but I'm not really sure.
Morbid Tourist Tip: Visit the Wild West Casino in Deadwood, SD to see the Wild Bill Hickok Death Site, complete with wax figures. Located in the basement of the casino, which was built over the infamous #10 Saloon. 622 Main Street. Free.
Fort Pierre -
Near the monument, placed where French explorers claimed the area for King Louis XV next to the Missouri River in 1743, spook lights are reported as well as strange voices and other activity. Call the SD Historical Society at (605)773-3458 for exact location
Lake City - Fort Sisseton
Spook lights have been reported by visitors to the fort
Keystone - Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Photographic anomalies have been reported at the worker's cemetery at Mt Rushmore
McLaughlin -Bingo Hall
The noises of a crying baby are heard by employees, and objects
seem to move themselves around. Locals say it is built on a burial site.
The story originally listed the mane of the hall as "Jackpot",
but the only bingo hall in town seems to be called "Bear Soldier Bingo", located
on Sale Barn Rd.
Midland - Midland Pioneer Museum
The town's old bank building comprises part of the museum. Locals report fresh footprints in the dust when no one has visibly been walking through, phantom voices and footsteps. call 605-843-2150 for location.
Lyon County, IA - Gitchie Manitou State Preserve
Actually located in Iowa on the South Dakota border. The huge Quartzite boulders here were used by the Oneota and Yankton Sioux tribes as medicine. They tapped into the rocks and ground the particles into herbs mixtures to be used as mystical medicines. On the farthest northwest tip of the Iowa border.
Sioux Falls -
Memorial to the Pioneers of Minnehana County
This tall stone monument is dedicated, among other settlers, to Judge J.B. Amidon and his teenage son, who went out to cut hay one morning in 1862 and were later found in a cornfield - their dead bodies filled with bullet holes and arrows. Their exact burial site is still unknown. Spook lights are reported here. US 77 in Sioux Falls, on hilltop before the intersection with North Cliff Ave.
Brookings - Doner
Auditorium at South Dakota State University
A janitor in 1919 was said to have fallen to his death into the orchestra pit from above the stage. The organ, as folklore tells it, would play by itself - until the school had it removed. Today it is reported that the haunting involves electrical problems and actual appearances of the janitor's apparition.
Custer - Black Hills Playhouse
This building started life as Camp Lodge, a facility that housed unemployed men who were in a program to work on the newly formed national park system just after the Great Depression. The costume room is said to be haunted by a worker's daughter who lived there. Actors and staff report that certain costumes will be laid out by invisible hands during the night and found the following morning.
Sioux Falls - Sioux Falls Community Playhouse
The playhouse is comprised of a mix of old structures and new construction, with the oldest building being a former vaudeville venue. The Actor's Studio portion was the "Rainbow Bar and Grill" at one point, and is said to be haunted by a man who was murdered by a returning WWII soldier whose wife he had taken up with at the bar. He is said to whistle "twinkle, twinkle little star". The stage's resident ghost, nicknamed "Larry", is said to in the 1950's have manifested himself in the balcony as a male apparition surrounded by a bright blue light. In the 1970's, a stage hand was sweeping the stage when a late 1800's tin type photograph of a 30-ish year old man appeared seemingly out of nowhere on the stage. Reports of self flushing toilets and sinks that turn themselves on. 315 N Phillips Ave. Unfortunately, the last news clipping I can find on the building indicates that it has been closed for lack of funding since 2002. Please email me at the link below if you have any new info.
Sioux Falls -
Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science
Hauntings are blamed on a construction worker who fell to his death down an elevator shaft. Phantom footsteps and a general feeling of unease are reported. 301 S. Main.
Custer - Steak and Ribs
Scottie was nice enough to send this submission : "This email pertains to your South Dakota Section, mainly Custer. There is a restaurant on main street called Steak And Ribs, I worked there for 3 months, and although I did not see anything I could feel that I was being watched, in the basement area where the kitchen is at and a downstairs dining area. Out of 5 employees, myself and one other have been the only ones to feel the presence of this spirit. It had only happened to us once, but it changed his tune, and made me more of a believe in the afterlife. Thanx for taking the time to read this" No problem, Scottie.
Hill City - The
High Liner Eatery
Formerly a train's dining car, it is reportedly haunted by a man in a brown suit who vanishes into thin air. A concession stand type of establishment, located at the 1880 Train attraction.
Hill City - Alpine Inn
Voices, unexplained footsteps and flickering lights have been reported on the second floor. 225 Main St.
Hill City - Mount
Rushmore Brewing Company
Locals say this National Register of Historic Places building used to be a funeral home, and that the crematorium is still located in the basement. Employees are said to be frightened of the 3rd floor, which has a lot of odd noises - including billiard balls that roll themselves around the tables. 349 Main Street
Deadwood - Wild
This little bar located in a campground is said to have a pinball machine that "plays itself" for "hours on end". Other arcade machines turn off by themselves, and the lights flicker. 6 miles south of Deadwood on Highway 385
Former owner Seth Bullock is said to rattle dishes and throw objects when staff is being lazy, whistles or hums. Barstools are said to turn by their own accord. Located in the Bullock Hotel.
Hill City -
Poltergeist activity is reported, including forks and spoons that are tossed about by unknown forces. This place seems to be closed. If you know if it is still open, please drop me a line at the email link below.
Morbid Tourist Tip: Be the executioner at the Do It Yourself Hanging at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. If you put your coin in, you're treated to an old fashioned hanging, complete with a comical and cartoonish stretching of the dangling cowboy's neck
Deadwood - Mount
This cemetery holds the decrepit remains of such notables as James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock (who incedentally was born very near where I was also born - in Troy Grove, IL), quintessential cowgirl Martha "Calamity" Jane Canary, and noteable Methodist preacher Henry Smith. Also joining these unmistakable characters of the western expansion are the unsettled spirits of many miners, and a mass grave containing the 11 faceless victims of a boardinghouse fire. Visitors claim to have a feeling of unease and "feel watched". Once you enter the city of Deadwood, drive north on the main street and you will see it off to the right, on the hillside, near the edge of town.
Deadwood - Cowboy
Deadwood has been said to be "so tough, that their babies teethes on guns". This statement was not entirely false. In an article by S.E. Schlosser, he recounts a story from old Deadwood: A woman was preparing her husband's dinner when she saw a mean looking drifter heading for her dwelling. To her dismay, her pistol was out of bullets, and she haphazardly dropped it into the baby's crib, preparing to defend herself and her husband's dinner. When the drifter walked in with ill intentions, he looked over and saw the tot chewing on the handle of a revolver. Reportedly he turned tail and left, unwilling to stay in a place where even the babies were packing heat.
Eagle Butte -
A woman who froze to death by the baseball diamond one winter is said to whisper your name as you walk through the park. Screams and moaning are also heard, as well as her apparition. Located on hwy 212 northwest of Pierre
Firesteel - The Coal Mines
A mine explosion that killed dozens of miners in the 1930's is said to be the reason for phantom voices heard by the mine shafts. Firesteel is a village northwest of Pierre on hwy 20
Howard - Between
the courthouse and the high school
In the 1920's or 30's, a local businessman who had bought an airplane took up two local boys for a ride. Something went wrong, and the boys were dropped from the plane into a thicket of trees by the high school from many feet up when the plane did an aerial flip. Both boys were killed, reportedly one was impaled with a branch from a tree. Locals reported afterward that the trees sometimes glowed and that they would see the apparitions of a boy in the underbrush there. Northwest of Sioux Falls. The high school that these trees are near is located at 500 N. Section Line St.
Isabel - Burress
The agricultural feed store is said to be haunted by a little girl who died of small pox a hundred years ago. Her cries for her mother are heard at night. Northwest of Pierre. 224 N Main St
Isabel - Post
Someone getting their mail one night was said to have seen the reflection of a person behind them in the window, although they were alone. A local says that they were then locked inside the building for the rest of the night and unable to leave.
Isabel - Rodeo Grounds
A spook light is reported here.
Little Eagle - Little Oak Road
say that part of the road was built over a cemetery. Stories about a tall man
with glowing red eyes who dances and jumps in the air, then vanishes, are told.
Little Eagle is about halfway between Bismarck, ND and Pierre.
McLaughlin - Various Roads
Locals tell of a man who died in a horrific car accident decades ago nearby. His decapitated head was later found in a pond on a pasture. His headless apparition has been seen. McLaughlin is on hwy 12 near Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Mission - Rock Hill Road
The apparitions and screams of Native American women and children are said to haunt this dirt road. They were said to have been slaughtered by westward pushing settlers. Located off of a stretch of gravel road 1 mile north of Mission (2 hours by car from infamous massacre site at Wounded Knee).
Rapid City -
Sioux San Indian Hospital
Said to have a history of being an "Indian School" (these places tried to 'civilize' the Native American children - essentially forbidding them to practice cultural traditions or speak in their native tongues) and a tuberculosis sanitarium. Locals say the outpatient facility now has phantom sounds of crying children, as well as the apparitions of little children, especially on the 3rd floor. Several children's graves are reportedly on the grounds. 3200 Canyon Lake Drive.
Rapid City - Dark Canyon Road
Kaycee shared this tale with me in 2011: "Last summer I heard about a road in Rapid City that was supposedly haunted. I should mention i've never really believed in ghosts before this. The road is Dark Canyon rd. A little history, the flood alone killed more than 200 people, the rumor is the flood hit the worst on dark canyon rd. if this is true or not I do not know. Here is a website I found some more info if you would like.
On this road there are 4 bridges, on each bridge you stop the car roll down all your windows shut the car off turn all the lights off and listen/watch. You have to stay for awhile and the best time ive seen/heard stuff is from midnight-3am. The one time ive seen/heard the most things was sometime last summer. There were 4 of us and we went down the road on the first bridge we only heard people talking and like someone was walking in the water, on the second bridge we really didnt see or hear anything, on the third bridge which is covered with trees 2 of my friends decided to get out of the car and walk around. I started seeing things move behind the car and hear people yell when my friends were standing in the front of the car. On the fourth bridge, which is down a spooky gravel road, we all started to feel like we shouldnt be there the feeling of we need to run we need to get out of here filled us all. It then got really cold and we saw someone by the gardrail moving toward us. we turned the car on and turned around. on the way back your suppose to stop at all the bridges again, as soon as we turned around we felt better we parked on the bridge again and that same feeling came over us again. this time we saw a man climbing the rocks and we heard people screaming to get away. we stayed there for awhile and then made our way to the third bridge again where we heard yelling and people walking again. On the Second bridge where it is said that a a little girl died and i strongly believe this now because when we stopped we saw a light shape sitting in the water and it appeared to be crying we listened and heard a soft crying noise. My friend asked if we heard that and at that moment the figured looked up at us giggled and disappeard we freaked out at this point. The little girl came back but it now looked like she was with someone else. It looked like they were dancing and we could hear little giggles. They then disappeard we went to the first and last bridge, my biggest fear is when we turn on the lights we will see someone standing in the middle of the road. well when we shut the lights off my friend looked over at me and asked if i could see the man sitting on the rock infront of us and it was a clear figure of a man rocking back and forth. we then heard more yelling and foot steps and we then said we had to get out of there and we left. That is my ghost story i've been on that road many times since then and everytime i see something different or hear more. I now believe in ghosts :)"
Dark Canyon Road is located off of
Hwy 44/Rimrock Hwy, across from the entrance to Crystal Cave Park
South Dakota - Custer State Park
Reports of a "hill of the little devils" that houses malevolent spirits is said to exist in Clay county - possibly the "Little Devil's Tower" located in Custer State Park. To Little Devil's Tower: One of two trailheads along trail #4. The trail starts at the Sylvan Lake Day Use Area and goes to the Little Devils Tower trailhead, then on toward Harney Peak. The trail is marked with blue diamonds.
In 1890 during the final battles of the steppe Indians near the Wounded Knee River, Native prophet Black Elk was said to have held a sacred, mystical bow in front of him as he led a group of un armed Indians in front of a troupe of soldiers. They were fired upon viciously, but it was said that the magic power they held, the "Vacan", kept any of them from being harmed. The "Vacans" walked toward the soldiers, and the bullets fell to the ground, flattened. Arrows bent and fell from their skin as pieces of straw would.
(Disclaimer: it is upon the reader of this site to use good judgment in frequenting the places listed herein; it is not the responsibility of the proprietor of ghosttraveller.com if a reader commits an illegal act, such as trespassing, based upon what he or she reads here. It is the reader's responsibility to research the given areas discussed in this forum prior to visiting, and to ensure that it is not illegal to visit said place prior to visiting, or to obtain permission from the owner prior to visiting)
The Shadowlands : an invaluable resource on the net for ghost hunters !!
Norman, Michael and Beth Scott. Haunted America. New York, Tor. 1994.