Wyoming has her share of ghouls, ghosts, legends and lore that’s for sure. And here at the foot of the Bighorns we’re carving pumpkins and stockin’ up on candy for the little gobblins who will be knockin’ on our doors this Halloween. So, it’s a good time to share about those haunting voices carried on the Wyoming winds and the bumps in the night that has us pulling our blankets over our heads.
Here in Sheridan there are tales of Miss Kate Arnold still keeping watch over her beloved Sheridan Inn. Miss Kate arrived in Sheridan in the early 1900s and worked and lived at the inn until her death in the 1960s. She loved the Inn so much, she requested her ashes to be buried there and it’s said they were buried the wall of her room. Miss Kate is joined in her haunts by the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody who took his life at the Inn after a series of business and personal failings. There is some speculation, however, that he didn’t take his life, but it was taken from him. These are joined by many other tales from beyond from Sheridan to Buffalo and everywhere in between. Today, I’d like to visit the in between at Lake DeSmet.
|Lake DeSmet at sunset|
Lake DeSmet , named for Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet a Jesuit missionary priest to the Indians in the 1800s. The lake is a beautiful, tranquil lake attracting fishermen and tourists. Pioneers, however, reported horses and dogs wouldn’t go near the lake and strange noises echoed across the water at night. Hidden under this gem of blue water are legends and secrets best left undisturbed…but we’re going to disturb them.
The low moans of a heart breaking it’s said belong to a Crow warrior, Little Moon. His band was camped along the lake, when Little Moon asked his sweetheart, Star Dust, to meet him at the edge of the water once the others went to sleep. Little Moon arrived at the spot before Star Dust. While he waited a mist hung over the lake and in the mist was the face of a beautiful girl, more beautiful than any girl he had ever seen. The girl beckoned Little Moon with a smile.
Hypnotized by the water enchantress, Little Moon viciously pushed Star Dust aside when she arrived and tried to put her arms around him. He turned back to the face in the mist to see it gone.
Star Dust cast herself into the water when repulsed by her lover. The next morning Star Dust’s body was found drowned by the red bluff north of the lake. Her father demanded revenge against Little Moon. The men of the band bound Little Moon to the rock and left him there to watch for his mysterious maiden.
Now, when the wind moans over the lake it’s said to be the faithless lover caller; the howls of a disloyal sweetheart. His spirit destined to wander around the shore looking for his maiden.
Another legend is that of one of the first Indian bands to camp near the lake. They tried to use the water for drinking and cooking, but found it to be bitter. Nothing in the area explained why the water would be bitter, so they believed its bitterness to be due to the presence of an evil spirit.
That night, terrifying sounds echoed around them and suddenly the lake was infested by great hordes of sea gulls. Throughout the night they soared and cried and swarmed. At dawn the gulls disbanded and disappeared.
But the worst was yet to come. After breakfast the champion swimmer among the tribe ran to the lake’s edge, gave a happy whoop and plunged into the water. As the others watched he turned and opened his mouth as if to scream, his eyes widened in horror and he was sucked below the surface. They circled the lake, not daring to enter the water, but after a time when all was lost, they grabbed their belongings and fled the lake in terror.
Local ranchers and early pioneers reported a monster appearing the mist and rising above the waters. Smetty, because every water monster needs a truly terrifying name, is a legendary creature thought to dwell in the subterranean caverns of Lake DeSmet. These caverns are speculated to be a faraway outlet from the Pacific Ocean.
Those who have seen Smetty report a monster 30 to 40 feet long with bony ridges along the back. His head is said to resemble that of a horse and rises from the water in a swimming motion. Others report a large alligator like creature and still others compare Smetty to the legendary Nessie of Loch Ness fame.
One rancher, whose home was near the lake, rose early and went into the fields. He heard a strange noise coming from the lake and turned to see a huge sea serpent rise from the lake. It stayed only a second and then disappeared. His description of Smetty approached more of a dinosaur than any other.
Does a monster lurk under the waters of the lake? And does a Crow warrior still wail for his lost love? Well, guess you’ll just have to pitch a tent by the lake and find out for yourself. (I’d bring a fishing pole with ya cause chances are better of catchin’ a trout)
Just in time to join the other ghost stories in the area is the release of THE BALLAD OF ANNIE SULLIVAN. I had such fun bringing this ghost story to life. I fell in love with Hank and Annie and hope readers will, too.
Hank Renner enjoys summers and early autumns when he can escape his large family and spend time alone at the cow camp in the Bighorn Mountains. That is, until he starts seeing a beautiful woman with flaming red hair and brown eyes, who disappears as quick as the Wyoming sunshine. Questioning his sanity, Hank begins a search that just might lead him to his heart.
Annie Sullivan wants only one thing more than revenge for a rape and murder that occurred ten years ago…Hank Renner. Haunting the mountain, she’s kept watch over the handsome cowboy. But this year she did something she’s never done before, something that could change everything. She’s let the man see her—and exposed her soul.
Two lonely souls search for the truth that could solve a murder and a love that could resurrect their hearts.
Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she's not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian.