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Yellowstone Ghosts: The Light Above Mammoth Hot Springs

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By Jen Mignard, columnist

On a hill overlooking Mammoth Hot Springs, you may be able to see a faint light that shines at night. The light isn’t always visible, but both employees and visitors have reported seeing it even on moonless and overcast nights.

On July 21, 1891 a despondent Ed Wilson made the long climb to the top of the rise and contemplated how he came to this place.

Ed arrived in Yellowstone about 1885, at the age of 34. Ed was hired as a “Mountaineer Assistant” by the Park Superintendent. A very experienced trapper and hunter, Ed was primarily tasked with finding and arresting wildlife poachers within the park, which flourished during this time period.

Not a particularly likable man, Ed had a large frame and foreboding appearance. He preferred to spend time alone, was superstitious, and believed in the unseen; traits not very becoming during this era. Ed was comfortable alone in the dangerous mountains hunting armed poachers in the dark while avoiding predatory wolves and bears.

Ed’s popularity also suffered because of his repeated arrests of soldiers stationed in the park. Poaching was common among soldiers tempted by the large amounts of wildlife that had been previously inaccessible. A close eye was kept on the soldiers, something they did not appreciate.

Mary Rosetta Henderson was a mere girl of 16 years when Ed Wilson first arrived in Yellowstone, less than half his age. The youngest daughter of hotelier George L. Henderson, who owned and operated the Cottage Hotel in Mammoth Hot Springs, Mary was described as a lovely girl who matured into a beautiful young woman.

Living and working around Mammoth Hot Springs, and having meaningful interactions with Mary’s father George, Ed had developed a deep love for Mary as she matured into a woman.

However, Mary was smitten with another man who lived and worked in the park, Henry Klamer. Henry was a popular and successful business man with connections in Livingston, Helena, and Great Falls, Montana. Henry was a livestock buyer and provided cattle and sheep to Yellowstone so residents and tourists had fresh sources of beef and mutton. Henry was well-traveled and frequently made trips around the United States.

During the summer of 1891, Mary, now a woman of 20, repeatedly rebuffed Ed’s attempts to court her. She was not interested in the mountain man. Not only was Ed rough and imposing, he was almost twice her age. To Ed’s dismay, Mary’s heart was already set on the much more worldly and refined Henry.

Now, in the heat of a late July evening in 1891, Ed Wilson sat atop a tall rise overlooking Mammoth Hot Springs. He spun the glass bottle of liquid morphine around with his calloused fingers while looking down on the small bustling frontier city. His eyes darted between the roof of the Cottage Hotel run by Mary’s father, and the street where Henry resided. His heart ached for a young woman who did not want him, but he also believed he could not live without.

Ed opened the bottle of liquid morphine and swallowed all of its contents.

A massive search party was arranged once it was realized that Ed Wilson was missing. The party consisted of citizens and soldiers, the same soldiers who resented Ed’s presence and meddling in their poaching. Perhaps those soldiers weren’t as diligent in their search as one would expect of a missing park employee, but Ed’s skeletal remains weren’t found until a year later on that hill above the city, along with the empty morphine bottle.

Mary went on to wed the more refined Henry Klamer on March 28, 1892. They moved to California shortly thereafter and would spend summers in Yellowstone National Park while tending to their businesses, which included Klamer’s Curio Store, now the Lower Hamilton Store at Old Faithful.

If you find yourself in Mammoth Hot Springs after dark, look all around the horizon at the hills. You may be able to spot the light of Ed Wilson’s unrequited love for Mary Henderson, a love that endures still today.

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Wyoming Ghosts: Runaway Train, Haunting Horse Among 30 Years Of Spooky Tales On Frightseeing Tour

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Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily

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By Renée Jean, Tourism and Business Reporter
Cowboy State Daily

In the still night air after most folks have gone to bed, the sound of a horse pawing at her stall is sometimes heard, insisting on one last midnight ride.

This is what some have reported hearing in the vicinity of what was once a mansion on Cattle Baron’s Way that belonged to one of Cheyenne’s most famous cattlemen, R.S. Van Tassel.

Van Tassell, a friend and riding partner with President Teddy Roosevelt, was known for keeping a great riding horse named Gypsy. At night, he was in the habit of taking Gypsy out for a ride, and there are some who believe the sound they’ve heard is her ghost begging for one last midnight adventure.

Haunted History

The tale is just the latest in a 30-year-long series of ghost stories unearthed by Cheyenne’s own ghost whisperer, Val Martin, and her late father Bob Morgan. Both served as drivers for the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley tour. 

Martin wrote this year’s Frightseeing Trolley Tour and is working on next year’s, which has already been themed “The Story I Heard Last Night.”

Gypsy’s tale will likely be told as part of that as well, construction allowing. 

The ghost tours are different each year, drawing on old and new tales to keep things fresh and fun.

Wild West Tales

In the early days of the tour, Martin said she and her father were really only telling Wild West history. But as they would stop along the way, passengers on the trolley would tell them oral history about houses they had lived in or neighbors they had known.

Sometimes a story could only be explained as something supernatural.

Eventually, Martin and her father had so many supernatural anecdotes there was only one thing to do – create a Trolley Ghost Tour.

A full trolley is regaled with spooky stories on a recent fright seeing tours. (Renee Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

An Uncertain Experiment

The first year, it was an uncertain experiment. 

“We didn’t know if it would last or if one year was all we’d get,” Martin said. “So, we went to our bosses and said, ‘We will offer you two truck drivers at the price of one.”

Martin’s father wore a top hat and a villain’s cape for the occasion — a perfect match to his handlebar mustache. Martin, meanwhile, wore an ivory-colored Victorian gown she had made.

The tour was wildly successful and has been a popular feature of Cheyenne’s Halloween scene since. 

Tours are held each weekend in the Halloween season and Oct. 31. Tickets must be bought in advance online.

Stories Researched

While the tours are fast and fun, Martin admits she has spent hours at the Wyoming State Archives researching stories she’s been told to understand any history that might lie behind the tale.

“After somebody gets done telling me about their ghost in their home, and it does this or that, I want to know why you have a ghost in your home,” she said. “I’m at the State Archives. I’ve even made friends go with me.”

Martin also has researched the theories behind ghosts, though she’s careful about what movies or shows she watches. She doesn’t want a fictional show to influence her retelling of local ghost stories. 

“The history just fascinates me,” she said. “I keep a list on my phone of things to research, and I just keep adding to it.”

Many of the stories Martin collected for the tour also appear in books by Jill Pope, who was Martin’s trolley boss for a time.

Train That Never Sleeps

Among the many stories on this year’s ghost tour is that of a ghost train, which travels the city every year on the same night at the same time. 

“Lights flash, bells ring, but no train’s ever actually seen,” says the guide, who bills himself as “The Ever-Eccentric Tucker.” He speaks in a hushed one on a recent tour.

The story goes that late on the night of Aug. 3, 1950, from 10 miles up the line, a big steam engine known as No. 820 slowly began to roll away down Sherman Hill. Its brake lines had been slowly bleeding off and now the locomotive was loose. The runaway train rapidly picked up speed and was soon rolling at 70 mph or more.

There was a tower 10 minutes west of Cheyenne where railway workers hoped to derail the engine. Otherwise, it would be running loose until Archer, well east of Cheyenne. 

But much to their dismay, No. 820 had picked up much more speed than expected and, before they could reach the tower, had already passed it by.

“In the confusion, no one had time to think about Al and his crew with train Engine 1148 pulling boxcars off the tracks,” Tucker said.

Fateful Crash

The runaway train smashed into the men and No. 1148. 

Parts of bodies and the engine went flying, and there was a horrendous sound that reportedly woke children as far as 3 miles away.

“Tom was thrown from the 1148 with great fury and Bill was standing in the middle of the track, until his body was found 500 feet away,” Tucker said.

Meanwhile, Al and his fireman, Jim, perished alongside the 1148 “like captains going down with their ship,” Tucker said. 

After everything settled, all that could be heard aside from the hissing steam of the now still and broken No. 820 were bells ringing and lights flashing as the railroad crossarms finally came down.

The spot is still haunted, some say, as the crossarms continue to warn without provocation.

“Lights flash, bells ring and no train is ever seen,” Tucker said. 

Other Unexplained Happenings

From there, the tour winds around the town, telling tales of the Hynds Building, or what used to better known as the Inter-Ocean Hotel. Tellers on one floor tell of money being moved around drawers; never taken, just moved from where it had been the day before. 

Others recounted missing dental tools, finally found for no reason in the building’s elevator.

George Gets Busy

Perhaps one of the spookiest tales Martin has been told recently is from a friend who moved his art gallery across the alleyway near the Mendocino Brothers Building on 17th Street. 

“He was in there getting everything ready, and he had gotten his phone system hooked up and had the recorder and everything ready to go,” Martin said. 

With everything just so, he went home. But while Martin’s friend was home, he decided to test his new setup. He called the new phone system to make sure everything was working.

“He got a busy signal,” Martin said. “And he knew he shouldn’t get a busy signal, because he had hooked up the voice recorder.”

He immediately returned to the studio and checking the building’s security, which ensured the building could not casually be accessed by pranksters, he found that the phone cord had been wrapped around his office chair and the phone receiver sitting on the chair.

That happens to be exactly what used to happen at Wyoming Home, Martin said, which was across the alley, by a ghost known as George.

“So I was wondering, you know, ghost does the same thing, it’s right across the alley, is it traveling? Is it George?” Martin asked.

There may never be a way know for sure, but one thing is certain. Wherever there is a new ghost tale to research, you may well find Martin turning the pages of history to track down obscure dates and facts as she records yet another Cheyenne ghost tale to share.

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Wyoming Ghosts: Theatre Teacher Still Haunts Cody High School Auditorium

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wynona Thompson spent 30 years teaching speech, theater and English at Cody High School. From 1943-73, she led hundreds of students in developing a lifelong love of acting, including brothers Al and Pete Simpson.  

But if you ask some of the staff who spend significant time in the auditorium that now bears her name, Thompson may not have ever left the building. 

Ghostly voices coming from drains, lights turning off and on by themselves and a startling vision have convinced several people there’s something inexplicable happening at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium in Cody. 

The Wynona Thompson Auditorium in Cody in 2021.

Something In the Plumbing 

When Larry Munari started his job as the choral director at Cody High in 1997, he’d been warned that, from time to time, strange things happen in the auditorium, in the same part of the building his office would be. 

“People would tell me all these ghost stories and everything,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And I’m just going, ‘Yeah, right. It’s all in your head.’ I thought that that wouldn’t happen to me, that those people were just freaked out.” 

That was until it did happen to him. 

“I used to hear voices coming from that sink in the prop room,” he said. “I’d get up from my desk and I’d walk in there, and I’d walk up close to the sink. And I thought, how is that even happening?” 

Munari said that phenomenon happened more than once.  

“And it was never just one person,” he said. “It was like conversations going on, and I never could figure out if it was male or female or whatever.” 

Another recurring oddity was a randomly flushing toilet in the restroom across from his office door – when he was the only one in the building. 

“That always just kind of gave me the chills,” said Munari. “There wouldn’t be a soul in the bathroom. Like, the lights are off.” 

He said that phenomenon would happen every few months or so in the years before and after the toilets were upgraded with motion-sensor hardware. 

“Even when they were the old bathrooms and everything was manual,” Munari said. 

Getting Her Attention 

If you talk to Wynona, though, she appears to listen.

That’s the opinion of another staff member at Cody High School, who has experienced strange goings-on at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium. 

“There was one night in the middle of rehearsal, the kids were on the stage and I was standing on the stage,” said Kennedy Corr, assistant drama club director. “And all of a sudden, everything went black. The fire exit signs came on. It was like somebody had just flipped all the breakers at once.” 

Corr clarified that to turn out all the lights in the auditorium, there are several switches that have to be manipulated, so it wasn’t as if someone accidentally hit a button. Additionally, she said the extinguishing of the lights was not related to a fire alarm or maintenance work. 

“So I said, ‘Hi, Wynona – can you give us the lights back?’” Corr told Cowboy State Daily. “About three seconds later the lights came back on, and it did not happen again the rest of the rehearsal.”  

Ghostly Apparition 

By far the most disturbing of the unexplained occurrences happened to Donna Lynn Murray in December of last year. 

Murray has directed a number of productions at the Wynona Thompson Auditorium in the last 10 years as one of the leaders of the Cody Community Theatre group.

Less than a year ago, while preparing to put on the musical “Annie,” Murray said she experienced something that rattled her – something she has no way to explain. 

“My friend and I were sitting on the stage, it was after a dress rehearsal,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “It was getting late, probably after 11. And I just looked up where the spotlight sits, and I saw this figure standing at the spotlight in a long, black dress.  

“She looked at me, and then swirled her dress and walked into the old sound booth,” said Murray, who stressed that she is not one who puts stock in ghost stories.

But she has no other explanation for what she saw. 

“It was not one of those things, like sometimes you’ll see something out of the corner of your eye that just flickers and you just think, ‘Oh, it’s just a shadow, whatever,’” she said. “No, this was a figure – a human figure.” 

“And then I turned to my friend and I was like, ‘I think Wynona just told us it was time to go home,’” Murray said. “And we got out of there as fast as we could.” 

Random Happenings 

Both Munari and Murray say they have never felt threatened in the presence of the unexplained occurrences, just a little unnerved. 

And despite their own experiences, neither said they are true believers in ghosts. 

“I’m just not a real big believer in in ghosts and stuff,” said Munari. “But I mean, gosh, I guess I haven’t ruled it out. Someone’s spirit could still come back and reside somewhere.” 

Murray has put a positive spin on the idea that Wynona Thompson still haunts her theatre. 

“I just think she’s a very friendly ghost and loves the fact that we’re all there doing theater still, and she gets to still watch,” said Murray. “I’ll probably join her after I’m gone, and we’ll watch together.” 

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Yellowstone Ghosts: Mattie Culver Died But She Never Left…

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By Jen Mignard

Tucked behind a small copse of trees, and a picnic area vault toilet, lies a solitary unmaintained grave marked by a weathered white marble headstone.

The grave is surrounded by a nondescript fence made of wood and metal pipe. On occasion one may even find sun faded plastic flowers at the base of the headstone intertwined with the grass and weeds that grow there. The inscription on the marker reads, “Mattie S.; wife of E.C. Culver; died March 2, 1889; aged 30 years.”

One hundred and thirty three years ago this spit of land at the confluence of the Firehole River to the west and Nez Perce Creek to the east was the location of the Firehole Hotel. It consisted of two roughly constructed primary buildings, one built in 1880 and the other in 1885, cottages, and several small out buildings.

The hotel itself was not opulent or especially comfortable according to historic accounts. The Yellowstone National Park Superintendent described the hotel’s construction as “rude” in 1886, and followed this in 1887 by reporting it was “needlessly ugly,” and “all the buildings at this place are of poor and mean construction.”

A particularly scathing review of the Firehole Hotel was printed in London, England’s 1887 Every Girl’s Annual, “A Lady’s Trip to the Yellowstone Park” by O.S.T. Drake:

“The hotel was primative [sic], being an unfinished log-hut, the daylight peering through every plank. My room was about six feet square sufficiently filled with two beds. It boasted neither drawers nor a table and a door that declined to shut. The walls were stretched over with canvas. It could not be described as luxurious and every snore was audible.”

New Family

Summer of 1887 found Mattie Culver joining the love of her life, husband Ellery, with their newborn baby, Theda, at the roughly made Firehole Hotel. Ellery was carrying out his duties as appointed “Master of Transportation” for the newly formed Yellowstone National Park. That fall the family returned to Billings, Montana where they had been living prior to Ellory’s appointment. They would overwinter in Billings until summer 1888, when they would again go back to the Firehole Hotel.

The second summer spent in the hotel saw Mattie’s health begin to decline. She was infected with tuberculosis, a deadly bacterial disease that wouldn’t have a cure for another 56 years. Theda was only a year old, and it was commonly believed that the nearby thermal features would improve Mattie’s illness. Ellery, desperate to prolong his wife’s life, made the decision to remain in the rough Firehole Hotel as the winter keeper.

Mattie’s health continued to deteriorate and her unfortunate fate was sealed. She passed away in the late winter of 1889 at age 30.

Frozen Pickle Barrels

The heavy Yellowstone snowpack and frozen ground made it impossible to immediately bury Mattie, so soldiers from a nearby outpost placed her body in two pickle barrels arranged end-to-end. The barrels were then covered in snow until an adequate hole for burial could be carved out of the frozen ground behind the Firehole Hotel a couple weeks later.

That winter would be the last time the family would be together. Theda, not even two years old, was sent to Spokane, WA to be raised by her aunt. She died of pneumonia in 1906 at the age of 19 and was buried in Spokane. 

Ellery continued his service to the park and was appointed to US Court Commissioner for Wyoming in 1892, where he served in that position at the courthouse in Mammoth, WY. Ellery retired to an Old Soldiers Home in California where his final wish was to be buried next to his beloved Mattie along the Firehole River. He passed away in 1922 and the National Park Service denied his burial request. Instead, Ellery was interred at the National Soldiers Home Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

All That Remains

The Firehole Hotel was closed, razed, and burned in 1891 and never rebuilt. Mattie’s solitary grave is all that remains.

It is said that Mattie can be seen fretfully wandering alongside the Firehole River at dusk looking for her lost family when the veil between our world and the spiritual plane is the thinnest. She is supposed to be mourning the baby she was not able to raise, and she yearns for the husband whose earthly body wasn’t allowed to share eternity next to hers.

Visitors to Ellery’s California grave report that it does not feel like he is still there. That his spirit has left to find his wife.

And some say if you are quiet and listen carefully in the quiet of the evening at the Nez Perce picnic area, where Mattie’s grave is located, you may be able to hear her singing and calling for her family.

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Wyoming Ghosts: 144-Year-Old Laramie Civic Center Actively Used, And Actively Haunted

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By Eve Newman, Cowboy State Daily

With more than 140 years of history and covering 167,000 square feet, the Laramie Plains Civic Center is bound to have secrets – some benign and others supposedly supernatural. 

Whether those secrets tiptoe into the realm of the paranormal is a question that’s up for debate. Over the decades, the sprawling, maze-like stone building has grown since it was built in 1878. It’s been expanded several times and has been a civic center for the past 40 years.

And across the decades the building also has continued to build its reputation for being haunted.

Screaming, Crying and Drumming

People who have spent time in the Civic Center, which takes up a full city block at 7th and Garfield Streets near downtown Laramie, have reported seeing shadowy figures follow them at night. 

They’ve heard noises that sound at different times like screaming, crying and drumming. They’ve seen items move on their own with no explanation. Toys that were put away for the night are in different places the next morning. 

Lights flicker on and off, the smell of rose-scented perfume wafts down hallways, locked doors stand open and the sound of bouncing basketballs echoes from an empty gymnasium, according to civic center lore. 

Little Girl Ghost Trixie

Tammy Aumiller has worked in the Civic Center since 2009 directing a program that’s part of Albany County School District 1 called Transition Academy. 

“I’ve had some weird experiences there,” she said. “A lot of people have.”

While working in the evening, she’s noticed dark figures in the shadows that were creepy enough to scare her away for the night. Items in her office have moved, seemingly on their own. 

She describes seeing the lid to a coffee can suddenly fly across the room one day. 

“I tried to come up with a scientific reason behind it, but I couldn’t really think of one,” she said. 

Aumiller said she thinks a ghostly little girl is behind some of the mysterious events, and she’s given the ghost the nickname Trixie for her mischievous personality. 

“She does play tricks on you,” she said. 

Laramie’s Violent Beginning

The Laramie Plains Civic Center was built a few blocks from Laramie’s downtown district 12 years before Wyoming became a state. It was originally called the East Side School and is the oldest school building in Wyoming.

Laramie’s first years were a rough time to be a resident. 

Even before Wyoming became a territory, the first settlers of Laramie City began establishing churches and schools. At the same time, gunfights often broke out on city streets in broad daylight and criminal violence abounded. 

After the provisional government collapsed in 1868, a vigilance committee was dispatched to bring order.

Had To Move Bodies Before Building

According to some rumors, victims of vigilante killings were buried throughout Laramie, including on the future site of the civic center, and these bodies had to be moved before proper construction could begin a decade later.

Two major additions were added to the civic center in 1928 and 1939, adding complexity and size to the original structure. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

The building was used as a high school and then a junior high until 1978 before transitioning into its current life as a multi-use facility a few years later. 

These days, the Laramie Plains Civic Center covers an entire city block and is a confusing place for the uninitiated. 

It has two gymnasiums, a theater and a ballroom, but don’t go in the wrong door or you’ll spend time wandering up and down long hallways and climbing unending staircases. 

The cavernous basement features a swimming pool that was reportedly never filled because it’s too far underground to drain properly.

Photo Courtesy Wyoming State Archives

Varied Experiences

The Civic Center is home to dozens of tenants, including art studios, professional offices, nonprofits, school programs, martial arts centers, a radio station and a church, among other entities.

A.J. Johnson runs a nonprofit called Pointguard Ministries that has its headquarters in the Civic Center. Johnson said he’s never encountered phenomena he couldn’t explain, but he won’t rule out the existence of a spiritual realm.

He’s fascinated by old photographs that hang in some hallways, which testify to the facility’s center’s century-long life as a public school.

“It’s got a lot of history,” he said.

‘Hey, Ghosts! I’m Here Today!’

Anne Mason runs Relative Theatrics, a theater company that performs in the Civic Center’s Gryphon Theatre. She describes herself as “agnostic” about paranormal activity, while her colleagues have differing opinions.. 

“I definitely work with some actors, designers and artists who are absolutely convinced that it is fully haunted,” she said. 

She’s had a few late nights in the old building, sometimes with just a single light to illuminate the darkened theater, when she’s heard strange sounds and seen flickering lights. 

“It naturally does have its own creaks and quirks to it,” she said of the building. 

Perhaps to assuage any lurking specters, she’s occasionally found herself addressing them directly.

“I’ll sometimes give a little shout out, tongue-in-cheek: ‘Hey, ghosts! I’m here today!” Mason joked.

Ghost Rumors on the Stage

Rumors of hauntings at the Laramie Plains Civic Center have even inspired a theater production of their own. 

Several years ago, Laramie resident Carole Homer wrote a play titled “A Ghost’s Tale,” which was performed by a senior theater group called the Unexpected Company. 

Homer, a longtime Laramie resident, drew on the ghostly stories she had heard over the years in writing the play, which imagines that a historic injustice has marred Laramie’s past for more than a century. 

“A relative of mine was working in the Civic Center, and he and his daughter went up to the third floor just to explore,” she said. “They heard some really strange noises, and they couldn’t figure out where the noises were coming from.”

In Homer’s story, characters from Laramie’s past narrate an incident when a student encounters a ghost in the girl’s restroom. 

Like Laramie’s actual residents, the characters in the story have a range of opinions about the truth of the story. Some are open to the idea of ghosts, while others decide there’s no such possibility. 

While the fictious experiences in “A Ghost’s Tale” confirms the convictions of true believers, truth in the real world is harder to come by. 

Aumiller said spooky happenings ebb and flow, and lately things have calmed down. But she still wonders what’s really happening. 

“It’s one of those things where you’re just questioning — what just happened?” she said. “Was that real? It’s not to the point where you don’t feel safe, it’s just you wonder about things.”

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Ghost Stories: Wyoming’s Cigar-Making Prison Poltergeist

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By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily

Creepy creaks, unexplained footsteps, whistles and even capturing a full-body apparition on night vision video are all signs some believe bolster claims the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie is haunted.

For many, though, the clincher is the smell of cigar smoke.

“People say there are footsteps, creaks and whistles – you know, you hear someone whistling when there’s no one there,” said Renee Slider, curator at the state historic site and herself part of a paranormal investigation team.

“We’ve experienced some interesting things,” Slider said about what was once home for some of the most notorious and genuinely evil men in the West. “We’ve heard a female laugh, almost like a singing, when there’s nobody there.”

People who visit the popular tourist draw also have reported hearing noises coming from the prison’s second floor, which housed the mess hall and areas where much of the at-times harsh discipline was meted out, Slider said.

Those who smell the cigar have perhaps come closest to meeting the prison’s only ghost.

The Murderous Cigar Maker

History knows him as Julius Greenwald, a 38-year-old cigar maker from Poland who found a brisk market around the region for his high-quality cheroots. As an unwilling resident of the Wyoming Territorial Prison, he was simply prisoner No. 338.

He’s also one of only two of the estimated 1,000 prisoners kept there during the facility’s time as a penitentiary from 1873-1901 who died while incarcerated, Slider said. The other was a convict who came to the prison suffering from leprosy and died a short time later of pneumonia.

Now known as its lone ghost, Slider says she doesn’t disbelieve Greenwald’s spirit haunts the halls of the prison. But she’s also not a believer. 

She wonders why he would haunt the prison, referencing Greenwald died of natural causes (a heart attack) and his body was sent to his sister in Utah, so his spirit shouldn’t be tied to his remains.

Maybe he still has some unfinished business with what landed him in one of the frontier West’s most infamous prisons, Slider said.

One day in 1897 while on a sales trip selling cigars, Greenwald visited his favorite brothel in Evanston and was shocked to find his wife, Jennie, working there. Enraged, he shot her on the spot.

Convicted of second-degree murder Sept. 25, 1897, he was sentenced to life doing hard labor. In prison, he persuaded the warden and guards to allow him to continue making cigars.

In 1989, his was one of a number of cells that were removed during a major renovation of the historic site, and one theory is the noise and elimination of his cell riled up Greenwald’s spirit.

Harsh Punishments

Built in 1872 and taking in prisoners the next year, the Wyoming Territorial Prison quickly became known as a hard place for Western outlaws to do time. 

From the start, prisoners were held to a restrictive behavior code where they weren’t allowed to talk, had to wear black-and-white-striped uniforms and were called by numbers, not their names. 

And the punishments for violating the rules were equally stiff, Slider said.

Speaking while working would get a prisoner put in isolation and on bread and water, while anything that rubbed the warden or guards the wrong way could mean cuffing someone to his cell door for days.

Perhaps the most-punished prisoner was Kinch McKinney, the charismatic leader of a crew of cattle rustlers who continually ran afoul of authorities, Slider said. He also may have been one of the first American bad boys to have groupies.

“He was just a cocky guy,” she said. “He was a cattle rustler and a very confident guy. One of the newspapers at the time reported how if his jury had been all women, he would’ve been acquitted. Women were lining up for his trial.”

Sentenced to eight years in 1892, McKinney spent much of his time behind bars in trouble. 

• He was cuffed to his cell door for eight days for threatening guards.

• He was cuffed to his cell door for 10 days when he brutally beat a guard and participated in a prison riot, then was forced to wear a ball and chain for 14 weeks.

• After an escape and recapture, he was locked in “the dungeon” for 16 days and wore a ball and chain for 12 weeks.

• Twice he was put in isolation on bread and water for stealing food and talking while working.

• And for another escape attempt, perhaps his most brutal punishment was five days in the dark cell (completely blacked out) cuffed to the ceiling. 

“Yeah, they could be pretty bad,” Slider said of the punishments prisoners were put through.

But Is It Haunted?

As a former prison from a time before there were many laws protecting prisoners from cruel and unusual punishments, there are plenty of other incidents that could lead someone to believe the Wyoming Territorial Prison would be haunted.

One recounts how a prisoner once smuggled a large rock in with him, then one day put the rock in one of his socks and assaulted a guard with it, Slider said.

Then there was the prisoner who was allowed to be a barber and took advantage of a guard’s inattentiveness. When the guard turned his back on the prisoner, he slashed the guard’s neck.

“Luckily, he missed his jugular and the guard survived,” Slider said.

In fact, during its active prison years, there were plenty of assaults on guards but none killed, she said. And two natural deaths were the only inmates who didn’t finish their sentences alive.

Whether the prison site actually is haunted remains a mystery, Slider said, but not for lack of trying. A number of paranormal investigative teams have scoured the grounds over the years, including one Slider’s a member of, ParaFPI.

“Stuff has happened here while we were here, for sure,” Slider said.

The most convincing evidence is a grainy image captured on a night vision camera that shows what may be a shadowy male figure in the prison when nobody was there.

“It’s a pretty definite apparition,” Slider said. “Full body of someone standing behind one of the glass doors upstairs. The door is open, and behind it you can see it, and there’s nobody (physically) there at the time.

“There’s a pretty good outline of a person, you can see a head and shoulders.”

While reports of unsettling things happening at the prison “have all been pretty consistent,” Slider won’t go so far as to say the prison definitely is haunted.

She also won’t say it’s not.

“It’s up to you to decide if it’s haunted or not,” she said. “I don’t want to be pushing my opinions about whether it’s haunted or not. I think there’s a possibility, but I don’t want to say for sure. But we have certainly found some things scientifically.

“Can we say it’s haunted or it’s not? We’re not sure.”

This image from a night vision camera shows what some believe is a full-body apparition behind the open door. Photo Courtesy Renee Slider.

Decide For Yourself

The historic site is open for tours year-round and has a gift shop, but those who want to explore the spookier side of the prison can try to find a place in one of two annual Dark Cell Tours at the prison.

Conducted at night by lantern light, the most graphic and often untold stories of the prison are shared as people explore the prison’s dark cells, reserved for the harshest punishments. This year’s Dark Cell Tours are this weekend and sold out.

But there’s plenty of time to get in on one of the more family friendly Ghost Tours on Oct. 27, 28 and 29.

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Wyoming Ghost Stories: ‘Sophie’ Haunts Ivinson Home For Ladies in Laramie

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Since the 1930s, when Edward Ivinson and his wife first provided the ladies of Laramie a home-like atmosphere with hotel-like amenities, the independent living facility’s Victorian-style house has been home for hundreds of lively personalities.

But perhaps none so lively as “Sophie,” whose shenanigans are cause for puzzlement – but not alarm – for the staff and residents of the historic house on East Grand Avenue.

“The Ivinson home for aged ladies is currently home to 19 residents,” said Justine Castelli, executive assistant at the Ivinson Home for Ladies. “But the staff here are more than certain there’s one more resident who’s been lingering in the halls of this historic home, and her name is Sophie.” 

Castelli said doors on the second floor of the home open and shut on their own, and items in the butler pantry in the kitchen are found in unexpected places. 

“There have been multiple occasions when the dishwasher in the kitchen has been run when no one has been around,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “The laundry lights go off and on, as well as the washer and dryers being opened when the laundry isn’t quite finished.”

Ivinson Home for Aged Ladies

Dana Gaster has worked at the Ivinson Home for more than 20 years, most recently as its executive director. The house is not a nursing home, Gaster stresses, but rather a light assisted living residence.

“We actually have a couple of gals that still work outside the home,” said Gaster. “We provide three meals a day, once-a-week housekeeping and once-a-week laundry services. It’s that little niche that the elderly can use.”

And while the residents are free to come and go, there is one presence that stays close to home.

“Whenever we can’t explain something, we just say, ‘Well, Sophie’s been here,’” said Gaster. “We just call our mysteries ‘Sophie.’”

Unexplained Phenomena

Gaster said unexplained goings-on have been happening as long as she’s been there. And there have been many odd occurrences that defy explanation.

“We’d come in and the ovens are turned up to 500 degrees, a temperature that we don’t even use,” she said. “So, it’s kind of mysterious how it got that way.” 

Another time, Gaster recalled sitting in a room off the butler pantry, where a coffee machine was in use.

“I heard some noise out in the butler pantry,” she said. “And I went to see what that noise was, because I didn’t see anybody moving around that area. The coffee filter basket was pulled out and sitting on the counter. But if you see this layout, our coffee machine sits really close to the edge of the counter.

“How could it have come out of there and not spilled on to the floor? Why would it be taken out and not emptied?”

Castelli recounted a particularly peculiar instance in which a broom left by an employee was found standing up by itself in the middle of the kitchen. 

“It’s almost as if it was waiting patiently to finish the sweeping,” she said. 

A Female Specter

Sophie is not a harmful apparition, but she may have a thing against men, Gaster said.

“When we’ve had men here, that seems to be when it happens more,” she said. “So maybe Sophie doesn’t like men.”

And Castelli said the staff is quite sure the unexplained occurrences are the work of a female ghost.

“Have you ever seen a man care so much about dishes, sweeping or laundry?” she asked.

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Ghosts of Fort Laramie Haunt Wyoming Historic Site

in Wyoming Life/Wyoming History/Wyoming ghosts/Wyoming

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

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At the edge of America’s frontier, reports have come in over the years of apparitions. Among those are a blood-covered 19th century U.S. Army surgeon and a mysterious “Lady in Green” who disappeared on horseback more than 150 years ago.

Those who have experienced more than Fort Laramie’s lessons of its place in U.S. Western history know there may be more to the historic site.

They’ve encountered the ghosts of Fort Laramie.
But from what was an important outpost defining the early days of America’s Manifest Destiny in the southeast corner of Wyoming, only remnants of a once-bustling community remain.

America’s Most Famous Frontier Outpost
Fort Laramie in Goshen County (also known as Fort John or Fort William) was perhaps the mostimportant stopping place on the Oregon Trail. From its beginnings in 1834, Fort Laramie was a much-needed respite for pioneers on wagon trains that had traveled roughly 300 miles. There, weary travelers could replenish supplies, make repairs and relish the relative safety from the dangers of the trail.

For Casey Osback, chief of interpretation and resource education at Fort Laramie National Historic Site, it’s not surprising that spirits may still linger.

“With all of the years, from 1834 up to 1890 and beyond, this place has had a lot of folks through it,” he said. “There’s no doubt that there’s a certain sense of energy that this park has.”
Osback’s journey with the National Park Service began in 1989 as a 14-year-old living history interpreter volunteer at Fort Laramie. His career has taken him to Washington, D.C., South Dakota and other national parks, but just last month he returned to the banks of the Laramie River for his 10th service assignment, coming full circle.

Because of his long experience with the historic site, Osback told Cowboy State Daily he’s been privy to many tales told by visitors and other rangers about ghostly sightings.

“I’ve definitely heard from folks who have seen ghostly figures up in windows or ghostly folks like Portugee Phillips riding horseback across the parade field,” Osback said, referring to the famous rider who brought news of the Fetterman Attack to Fort Laramie in 1866.

Although he’s never seen any specters himself, Osback said he has experienced some unexplained phenomena.

The Case of the Balancing Quarters
In 1992, when Osback was a young volunteer at the Fort Laramie Historic Site, he was restocking sarsaparilla in the storage room of the enlisted men’s bar, one of the staged areas open to the public.

“I still had really good peripheral vision behind the bar,” he said. “And we used to keep a little tin cash box with change. The door was open, it was a beautiful day. I finished sweeping the floor and walked back toward the counter, and I noticed two quarters were right on the ledge of the open change box. One heads up and one tails up.”

Osback’s puzzlement was twofold – first, how did he not hear someone come in; and second, how would anyone have had time to carefully balance the coins on the edge of the change box?

“If you’ve been to Fort Laramie, you know that it’s pretty hard to be covert or sneak in somewhere because the floors creak,” said Osback. “I never once during that stocking process heard anybody walk into the enlisted men’s bar. I was right there around the corner. So who knows? Was it a ghost or a spirit teasing me? I don’t know. Maybe they had a root beer.”

Other Unexplained Occurrences
Over the years, many people have reported paranormal experiences at Fort Laramie.

There’s the tale of the Lady In Green, who in life was daughter of the agent in charge of the fort (in the 1840s known as Fort John). One afternoon, the young lady set off on a black stallion, wearing a green riding dress and a veiled hat, and carrying a jeweled whip. She mysteriously disappeared – but legend has it that her ghost appears east of Fort Laramie every seven years.

Other ghostly sightings have been reported at Fort Laramie over the decades. They include:
• A ghostly young man in a raincoat.
• The apparition of a cavalry officer who admonishes visitors to “be quiet” in the the bachelor officers’ quarters.
• The spirit of a surgeon in a blood-covered uniform.
• The sound of boots marching across the second-story floor in the cavalry barracks.
• Visions of a headless man near Deer Creek.
• Doors opening and closing by themselves in the old captain’s quarters.
Osback said he’s experienced two other strange happenings. Once, when going through one of the duplex officer’s quarters, he and another ranger were aware of a strong floral scent, like a woman in the 1800s might wear.

“It was a 19th century fragrance that you just do not see folks use,” he said. “It was like a flower water fragrance.”

Another time, Osback said he lost his keys and found them in the strangest of places.

“One night, during a moonlight tour, we had visitors out here and I had misplaced my keys,” he said. “I mean, we looked all over. And lo and behold, in the basement of the 1884 commissaries warehouse where our park visitor center is at, they were on top of a garbage can that we kept hardtack in. And it was 100% a place I had not been.”

Osback said he’s heard from other rangers about hearing faint music across the Fort’s parade grounds.

“We’ve come to the conclusion at times that these buildings, these historic structures, breathe with the wind,” he said. “So for many years, folks kind of felt that that was sort of like ghostly spiritual music, maybe the band playing out on the parade field.”

‘There’s A Presence’
Osback, who often will dress in period clothing to wander the buildings with visitors, said he’s never felt uneasy at Fort Laramie; rather, he feels as if the spirits that may still inhabit the grounds are companions.

“When you’re down in the post bakery, or you’re in the enlisted men’s barracks, you sometimes you get that feeling like maybe you’re not alone,” said Osback. “There’s a presence there with you. And I’ve always felt – whether it’s 2 o’clock in the morning or 2 o’clock in the afternoon – very, very at peace with this place.”

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