Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Ghostly Ghost Town?

by Rain Trueax

In 2010, my husband and i were on a freewheeling trip through Montana, with no set destinations. He suggested we stop at Bannack. I wasn't that excited at the possibility, since I knew little of its history as a mining town. When we got there, I learned it was where Henry Plummer met his end, and I instantly got more interested.

Bannack was supposed to be Bannock, for the Native American tribe. When registering it, someone misspelled it. After stopping at the visitor center, paying the admittance and getting a small pamphlet explaining some of the buildings, we were free to wander through the town. It was very picturesque, perfect for the camera with structures in better shape than many other ghost towns  I have visited.

In several of the buildings, I wondered if there might be ghosts. Mining towns of that time had many sudden deaths with much potential for a spirit hanging around. I didn't actually feel any energy from a ghost-- despite being open to it. Maybe a nighttime visit would have a different result. Do ghosts have a preferred time to come out? Especially in the hotel, I took photos wondering if something more would show up-- it didn't.

One of the more likely possibilities as a ghost would be Henry Plummer. His story is filled with all the controversy as is found with other bigger than life people of that time. Was Plummer a murderous outlaw or in the end victimized by the vigilantes who were the real robbers and killers. Online, you can find many opinions as to who he was and his history. Here's one-- [Henry Plummer].

When I decided to write about Bannack, I went looking online for 'ghost hunters' who had been there. Although I have never seen a ghost myself, I have been places where I've felt strange energies. I can't say it was true at Bannack. When I return someday, which I'd love to do, and camp in the lovely campground with our vacation trailer, I would at least know who might have been unwilling to leave even after death.

Dorothy Dunn was in her teens when she drowned in the dredge pond August 4, 1916. Her friend, who had been with her that fateful day, was the first to claim she appeared to her as a ghost. Today, it appears children are most likely to see her wearing a blue dress. She has talked to some in Hotel Meade, which had been her home, as her father was hotel manager at the time of her death.

Supposedly, the hotel has other apparitions. An older woman haunts the second floor as well as Dorothy. Crying children are also supposedly heard by some. Are those ghosts or impressions left by past energies. The hotel was used for a time
as a hospital-- places very likely to have ghostly manifestations.  Saloons like the one alongside here have sudden death stories of shootouts and bullets gone astray.
Another building with ghostly stories is Chrismans' Store. It had offices at the back used by Henry Plummer. Some, who do this kind of research, claim to have photographed hauntings with fuzzy figures. This though is the kind of thing that always makes me wary, since photos can be so easily faked. Still, are there even today ghostly meetings there where the men chew the fat-- so to speak?

The Bessette House is another claimed location. Abed Bessette, who first owned it, was one of the vigilantes. He raised sheep and owned several buildings, including the hotel. He died in Bannack in 1919. Did he not want to leave? 

The possibilities for ghosts in his home go beyond him. During typhoid, diphtheria, and other killer epidemics, his home was used to quarantine patients and many died there. There is supposedly photo evidence of a ghost there.

In terms of becoming a ghost, one of the most exciting potentials has to be Henry Plummer. After a checkered history (read link above) in 1863, he had arrived in Bannack where he was appointed sheriff.  Was he using that as a way to also rob and murder with his posse, named The Innocents? Whoever was doing the violence, 102 people were murdered in mining camps and along the road between [Bannack and Virginia City]. 

On December 23, 1863, a vigilante committee was organized, formed a posse, captured him, put him in his own jail before they hung him on a gallows above the town, along with two of his deputies. That gallows is still there or so goes the story. He'd done a lot in his 27 years but was he trying to do right by Bannack?  Questions remain as to whether the real robbers were the vigilantes since the robberies didn't stop with his death. 

Was Plummer wronged, and he hangs around the town out of anger at a tragic miscarriage of justice, a desire to find vindication, or did he have nowhere else to go after a misused life? There are those who claim they have seen him in the Skinner Saloon, Chrismans' store and other buildings in the town. His grave, higher up the gulch with the gallows, has been robbed twice. The second time it is claimed his skull was taken and put in a saloon. That saloon later burned to the ground.

Do I believe in ghosts? I don't know. I have friends who claim to see them. I've watched a couple of the cable shows where they search for them, knew one of the psychics who was on a show when they went to Tombstone ghost hunting. I haven't been convinced ghosts are a reality-- don't know that they're not either. 

I've put ghosts in only one of my books, A Price to be Paid. It's an Arizona paranormal/metaphysical romance that goes into reincarnation and whether one lifetime is enough to pay for wrong deeds. The possible man needing to pay for his misspent life was in one of my Arizona historicals, where he met a fitting end.

For me, such thinking comes under the heading of speculation and mystery. I won't go ghost hunting... well, unless I head back to Bannack to camp in that lovely campground. 


  1. Who's to say ghosts don't exist...or that they do??? Rain, Thanks for a delightful exploration of Bannack and its history.

    1. Exactly, Alretta. I have friends who have claimed to see them. I like mystery :)

  2. Ghost stories intrigue me. I love finding out the stories behind them. Ghost towns are interesting, too, but I always feel a little sad that a town took hold, people lived-loved-died there, and then Poof!, something happens and the town fades away.

  3. At least this one still has the buildings to remind us. I know of two where they literally bulldozed the buildings because they were company towns. It's very neat to see the structures-- even if they were moved from where they were originally as many times happens.

  4. Really enjoyed your post, Rain. I love to read about ghost towns; they fascinate me so much that I have incorporated one in Book 3 of my Wheels of Destiny Trilogy that I'm writing now. Sadly, most of the ones I've had a chance to visit, there wasn't much left to see. I will put Bannack on my bucket list and hope I'm lucky enough to visit there some day.

  5. I'd love to visit Bannack. I have seen ghosts, though not at ghost towns I've visited.


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