Retired Montana librarian Karen Stevens became fascinated by ghosts as a child while living in her family’s haunted home.
Stevens has investigated haunted places throughout Montana, has written several books outlining her paranormal investigations, and has been a frequent lecturer on the topic of Montana’s haunted places.
At a lecture in Billings, Stevens mentioned not everyone is susceptible to seeing a ghost. When I went on ghost tours with my friend, she saw a ghost — I didn’t. If you’re in tune with the paranormal like my friend, you might feel like you’re being watched or feel a presence.
Having never seen or felt a ghostly presence, I thought I was oblivious until Stevens mentioned a common sensation is feeling a cool breeze or stepping into a cold spot in a room. And I was transported back to a moment when I felt an unexplained cool breeze touch my cheek in my mom’s house after she passed away. Thanks, Mom.
On that note, here are eight places in Montana that have high levels of ghost activity:
1. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Crow Agency
Lt. Colonel Custer and his Cavalry were wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors on several battlefields near the Little Bighorn River. Ghosts from both sides haunt the battlefield, the Stone House, and the visitor center.
Ranger Steve Adelson recounted following a man in an 1876 U.S. Cavalry uniform that appeared on the battlefield after the park closed for the day. As Adelson followed the man, he noticed the man wasn’t leaving a trail through the tall grass. He disappeared before his very eyes.
Other park employees and rangers have noticed lights turning on and off in the now uninhabited Stone House, which was once used as the superintendent’s home. Footsteps, turning door knobs, and apparitions are commonplace.
And visitors report seeing a bloodied soldier wandering the battlefield and hearing war whoops and an army bugle rallying soldiers. Custer himself inspects the visitor center.
Pro Tip: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is wheelchair accessible. It closes before dark, but you may sense spirits any time of the day.
2. Old Prison, Deer Lodge
A rough crowd, ghost-wise, inhabits the Old Prison. The prison operated from 1871 to the 1970s. Not only did poor conditions lead to the demise of prisoners, but also murders and a deadly riot in 1959. Visitors have reported being touched or feeling as if they’re being choked in the most active parts of the prison.
Lisa, a ghost tour guide, became temporarily possessed on one tour. When tour participants took her outside, they noticed her face appeared completely white with black eye sockets. Several minutes later, she returned to normal and the anger she felt while she was possessed faded.
She is a brave soul and continues to lead tours.
Pro Tip: The Old Prison Museum offers overnight ghost tours from April through October. On the first half of the tour, you’re guided to the most haunted parts of the prison. During the second half, you can explore on your own and investigate the paranormal with ghost hunting equipment you have to bring yourself.
Most sections of the Old Prison are wheelchair accessible.
3. Moss Mansion, Billings
On a lighter note, the ghosts are playful and mischievous in Moss Mansion in downtown Billings. Little Virginia Moss died when she was 6 years old. Sherri, a docent at the museum, saw three small children in the home’s upstairs windows one evening while she waited at a stoplight across the street. Within the home, lights turn on and off — a phenomenon I experienced on a recent visit.
After hours, staff members report hearing footsteps in the hall and paranormal investigators hear a little girl’s voice or laughter when listening to playbacks of their recordings.
Pro Tip: Take a photo on the grand staircase in the entry. If your phone or camera shows a box around each face before taking the picture, don’t be too surprised to see a box hovering around the height of a six-year-old.
4. The Dude Rancher Lodge, Billings
Annabel Goan, the former owner of the Dude Rancher Lodge in Billings, still keeps an eye on her property despite passing away in 1983. And the long dead former cook still rattles pans in the kitchen. Disembodied footsteps pace the halls late at night and the shadowy figure of a woman in a nightgown lingers at the end of an upstairs hallway.
Room 226 and the kitchen seem to be the main hotspots for ghostly activity. Paranormal investigations have picked up unexplained shadows on photographs taken in Room 226 and trouble getting into the empty room because of the deadbolt. One guest awakened to see a dark figure standing near the bed.
Pro Tip: If you’re interested in staying in Room 226, reserve it well in advance. Rooms 223 and 224 also have plenty of ghost activity.
5. The Dumas Brothel, Butte
This is the last brothel standing in Butte, Montana’s once bustling red light district. Now a museum, the Dumas Brothel is haunted by Elinore Knott, a former madam who committed suicide in the building in 1955. But she’s not the only one.
Photos have captured the image of unseen otherworldly inhabitants and the smell of cigar smoke wafts through the rooms occasionally. When I asked the owner her favorite ghost story, she said during a tour, a ghost sneezed. A living guest said, “oh great, this means I could still have allergies in the afterlife!”
Pro Tip: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, museum tours cover the entire building from the basement to the top floor and include information about the ghosts that live there. Additional tours may be offered; contact the Dumas Brothel Museum for more information. The ground floor is wheelchair accessible through a rear entrance, but the tour includes climbing several flights of stairs to access everything from the basement to the top floor.
6. The Opera House Theatre, Philipsburg
Photographs have revealed funnel-shaped clouds of white mist around people getting their pictures taken in the auditorium. Like other highly haunted places, this building’s ghosts present as apparitions, with disembodied footsteps leading from the theater to the former actors’ residence, and in scents like cigar smoke and perfume.
Locals who are tuned in to the paranormal report activity in the building and plan on leading ghost-centric tours in the future. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming tours.
Pro Tip: Bring extra batteries for your camera and make sure your cell phone is fully charged if you’re hoping to record your paranormal experiences. Stevens had both her camera and audio equipment fail during her paranormal investigation of the theatre. She said that’s not at all unusual for ghosts to energize themselves with your device’s battery power.
7. The New Lobby Bar, Great Falls
Located at 518 Central Avenue in Great Falls, the New Lobby Bar isn’t new at all. It’s located in a 1914 building. From speak-easy and brothel during Prohibition to a jazz club in the 1940s, the current bar continues to be haunted by ghosts that have been around during each of the bar’s iterations.
A lean cowboy can be seen looking out from the second-floor window in the afternoon and, despite hearing footsteps of someone wearing cowboy boots, no prints are seen across the dusty upper floors that are closed to the public. Recordings catch the screams of prostitutes who likely perished in a building fire in 1925. Some paranormal investigators catch a whiff of charred wood on the upper floors.
The ghost of an elderly woman wearing a beaded 1930s dress and hat frequents the bathroom. Her perfume and the sound of running water announce her presence.
Pro Tip: Be sure to ask the bartender if he or she has had any encounters with the New Lobby Bar’s ghosts. With the amount of activity and proof provided by paranormal investigators in the way of recordings and photographs, you’re likely to hear some ghost stories.
8. Boulder Hot Springs Inn, Spa, And Retreat Center, Boulder
At the base of the Elkhorn Mountains, the Boulder Hot Springs Inn, Spa and Retreat Center is a destination for relaxation and rejuvenation. This is its G-rated version.
In its early days, a back staircase led to a brothel. Simone, the ghost of a young prostitute murdered by a mining executive, wanders the halls wearing a white dress. Staff used to find the stove turned on until they made Simone a cup of tea one day. And visitors report smelling Simone’s perfume in the hallways. Perhaps the most common paranormal experience visitors report is seeing Simone watch them from a window in an unused wing of the hotel as they soak in the outdoor natural hot springs pool below.
Pro Tip: These places are just the tip of the iceberg, with the chance of feeling an unexplained patch of frigid air in scores of places throughout Montana. If you’re interested in exploring the many places Karen Stevens has written about, pick up a book from her Haunted Montana series and plan your ghost hunting trip today.
For more ghostly adventures outside of Montana, visit these articles: