If you're traveling the back roads of the Black Hills in South Dakota, beware. The restless spirits of Indigenous Americans and Gold Rush miners hide around every turn. People share their tragic stories as Black Hills legends, but ghostly encounters with apparitions and other paranormal entities prove they're more than legendary; they're real hauntings.
Ghost Bride of Room 812
Located in downtown Rapid City, the Alex Johnson Hotel is a member of the Curio Collection by Hilton. It's also home to a few ghostly residents, including that of the owner Alex Johnson, who apparently likes to stop the elevator from time to time. Guests and staff encounter him roaming about the hotel, still overseeing his business.
Hotel guests and staff hear phantom music and footsteps. In this haunted hotel, a ghostly woman in white roams the eighth floor. This is the spirit of a distraught bride who jumped to her death from Room 812. However, those who knew the young woman insisted she was murdered for her inheritance.
The windows in Room 812 open on their own, and when the eerie message "help me" appears in the shower-steamed mirror, it frightens guests. The spirit bride removes dresser drawers, dumps the guests' clothes onto the floor and returns the drawers to the dresser. She clearly doesn't want anyone else to be in her room! Guests often wake up feeling as though unseen hands are choking them, and their pets grow anxious as though watching something move throughout the room.
Another resident ghost on the eighth floor is a young girl that knocks on the guests' doors at night. When approached, she disappears but her light-hearted giggles continue to ring through the hallway. The hotel offers a Ghost Adventure Package that includes a booking in one of the haunted rooms and other amenities. The Hotel Alex Johnson is located in Rapid City.
Upstaged Ghosts of the Homestake Opera House
Phoebe Hearst built the Homestake Opera House in Lead in 1914, financed by her mining company. Four years later, it was temporarily used during the Spanish flu epidemic to care for the overflow of hospital patients, but many of them died. Today, the opera house has a number of resident spirits, making it one of the most haunted locations in the Black Hills.
Full-bodied apparitions that appear as wispy white figures haunt the building. Several spirits of women walk across the stage, and shadow people flit about in the darkened corners. Captured EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) of phantom footsteps and disembodied voices reveal an intelligent haunting. You may choose to buy a ticket to one of the regular shows, concerts, or performances. To get a better feel for the opera house, take one of the daily tours.
Armless Hooky Jack
The legend of Hooky Jack is the story of John Leary, who received the nickname after he lost his arms in an explosion and his hands were replaced with hooks. He eventually become a Rapid City police officer, but a car struck him in 1916, killing him. His ghost haunts his namesake restaurant, Hooky Jack's. The name was later changed to the Sports Rock restaurant but is now closed. Hooky Jack was so active that many of the restaurant staff refused to work alone at night.
Ghost of Sheriff Bullock
The Bullock Hotel is located in Deadwood, and the ghostly activities aren't limited to any specific area, since the entire hotel is haunted by a large contingency of spirits. Among the cast of spirits is the original owner, Sheriff Seth Bullock. Staff and visitors see his apparition predominantly on the second and third floors. Disembodied voices and misty forms are some of the paranormal activities, which also include showers turning on and off by themselves. In fact, there are so many ghostly happenings that seeing one of the spirit residents is a routine occurrence. There's a rumor Sheriff Bullock died in room 211, although it has never been confirmed. Historians claim he most likely died at his ranch. The staff encounter spirits in the basement. Other paranormal activity includes the piano playing on its own and glasses/dishes thrown by unseen forces.
The Dead of Deadwood
Sheriff Bullock isn't the only ghost walking around Deadwood. This town is so infamous it is a registered National Historic Landmark. Much of the original town burned down in the 1879 fire. There were subsequent fires over the years, so very few original buildings exist today. Signs indicate the original spot of Saloon No. 10 where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered.
The Old West historical figures who lived and died in the town are buried in the Mount Moriah Cemetery. The spirits of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Sheriff Bullock, Al Swearengen, Deadwood Dick, Potato Creek Jonny, and other colorful residents never let a thing like death stop them. Their ghostly presence is felt and seen. They still walk the streets and gamble and drink at the saloons. If you listen quietly, you may just hear phantom bootsteps stomping across the saloon floor, followed by the distinctive metal click-click of spurs.
Room 211 of the Historic Bullock Hotel, owned by none other than Sheriff Bullock, was the grisly scene of a hanging. The hanging shadow man is still seen silhouetted against the full moon.
Although Saloon No. 10 burned down, you can visit the Old Style Saloon No. 10 where that fated murder is reenacted. The smell of cigars permeates the air at the original location of the saloon. If you're lucky, you just might hear the phantom gunshot that killed Wild Bill while he was playing cards. Shot in the back of the head, Wild Bill hasn't let a little thing like being dead stop him from playing the next hand. The phantom sound of a piano, laughter, and disembodied voices are common experiences for visitors.
The Adams House was home to W. E. Adams and his wife. It wasn't long after W.E. died that his wife fled the house, terrified by his ghostly presence. She left everything behind and the house sat abandoned for 50 years. Today, the Adams House is a museum. It seems W.E. is still hanging around, making his presence known with a rocking chair moving on its own, phantom footsteps, music, disembodied voices, and the shadow of a man, aka W. E. Adams.
Spirit Guardians of Mount Rushmore
Mountain View Cemetery is located in Keystone and is the honored resting place for many of the men who worked on Mount Rushmore. Ghostly workers rise from their graves every night and stand watch over the monument they built. Other ghosts wander about the cemetery at night as pale translucent apparitions. Disembodied voices, low whispers, and laughter are heard in the cemetery.
Restless Ghosts Play Pool
The Black Hills Harley-Davidson building in Hill City was the former home of the restaurant Mount Rushmore Brewing Company. The building was originally a funeral home and crematorium. Restaurant employees saw strange phenomena, such as objects moving on their own, and heard strange noises. Many sounds came from the basement where the remnants of the cremation chamber (furnace) were located. At one time, the restaurant featured pool tables, and employees witnessed the balls moving on their own or heard the clacking of the pool balls when no one was playing.
Screaming Spirit of the Playground
The picturesque Shupick Park in Eagle Butte has a few ghosts roaming about. The saddest is a woman. One winter, this unidentified woman froze to death in the baseball field. If you walk past the park at night, her ghost whispers your name. Screams echo through the park at night, and apparition of the frozen woman wanders about the park.
Burress Feeds in St. Isabel is an agricultural feed store in Isabel. It's the home to the spirit of a little girl who died of smallpox over a hundred years ago. She searches for her mother. If you're out at night, and pass the store, you may hear her woeful cries for her mommy.
Hospital Ghost Children
The Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City was originally designed as a boarding school for Indigenous American children in 1898. The school was under-funded. There were many stories of abuse, neglect, and child suicides. To accommodate tuberculosis patients, the building was turned into a sanitarium for Indigenous Americans and later converted into the Sioux San Hospital in 1966. The spirits of children who died in the boarding school walk the grounds. Their apparitions vanish into the night. The apparitions of children roam the hospital halls with sad expressions before vanishing. Other paranormal activities in the hospital include disembodied cries, moans, whimpers, and groans.
Ghost Rider of Keystone
The 1880 train was the first steam engine in Black Hills. When you take a vintage ride, you'll be transported in time with a feel for of its historical significance to the region. Along with living passengers, there's a mysterious extra who rides along: the apparition of a man dressed in a brown suit. He likes to linger in the back car, but occasionally walks through the others. The train runs between Hill City and Keystone.
Stories of the all-male Wenonah Cook dorm at Black Hills State University in Spearfish will raise the hair on the back of your neck. The unearthly screams of a female spirit echo through the dorm. As if the banshee-like screams aren't enough to terrify the students, the overpowering stench of decayed flesh often accompanies the horrifying shrieks. No one knows who the spirit is, much less the rank smell that usually follows her presence.
Ghosts on Road
The silver mining town of Galena isn't just a shadow reminder of the past, thanks to the local historical society that restored many of the old buildings. The unincorporated ghost town is engulfed by a tall-standing Ponderosa pine forest. Caution signs are found throughout the town warning of ghosts on the road since the town if full of them. These include lots of saloon keepers, prospectors, school marms, shady characters out to make a quick buck mining for gold, and of course, merchants and many other spirits. Galena is located in the Black Hills of Lawrence County.
Sica (she-cha) Hollow State Park near Sisseton is haunted by evil spirits. The land offers some spooky sights, such as the bloody streams that are the result of natural iron deposits. Another natural anomaly is the green glow of rotting tree stumps, thanks to the abundance of phosphorous.
These natural oddities set the stage for the various paranormal activities that take place throughout the park. The phantom sounds of drums and disembodied war whoops drive many campers from the park. The warrior ghosts of Indigenous people shimmer in the dark, while strange phantom campfires are never found. A large creature lurks in the woods, spooking campers.
Pay Phone Ghostly Encounters
Fort Sisseton in Lake City is a history park teeming with the spirits of those who occupied the fort. The Lady in White appears in the Commander's Quarters, but she ventures out whenever there is a festival or event held at the fort.
Visitors who encounter spirits tell many ghost stories. An inmate using a payphone was interrupted when a little ghost boy hugged his leg. A guard talking on a payphone was tapped on the shoulder and when he turned around came face-to-face with a Buffalo Soldier.
Eerie Paranormal Tales in the Black Hills
It's no wonder the boom town history of the Black Hills of South Dakota fosters so many ghost stories. For many towns, it's a badge of honor to claim the title as the most haunted town in South Dakota.