Spooky Sights and Big Sky Frights
As the days grow shorter and the Halloween season approaches, history lovers and families alike begin searching for their next spooky adventure. Turn away from haunted houses this fall for an eerie Big Sky getaway. Montana’s cities and towns are home to a rich history, filled with intriguing backstories and a wealth of secrets to uncover. With a number of well-preserved ghost towns and historically haunted hotspots, these informative and entertaining trip ideas are sure to get the entire family in the Halloween spirit…and maybe give them a spooky sight along the way.
GARNET GHOST TOWN & COLOMA
The Garnet Mountain Range is home to two prominent ghost towns. Known as the “Mystery Camp,” Coloma is still shrouded in secrets, as little is known about the settlement beyond its mining roots. Visitors will see mining shafts, ventilation systems, and railroad tracks left abandoned high in the mountains. Also in the area is Garnet Ghost Town, Montana’s best preserved ghost town. Named one of America’s coolest ghost towns by Travel + Leisure, visitors can take to the trails and explore the vacant structures that now sit as reminders of a time long since passed. Scenic hiking trails through the area lead past abandoned cabins, long-lost gold mines, and the eerie silence of a real-life ghost town.
OLD MONTANA PRISON IN DEER LODGE
In the small town of Deer Lodge, travelers can visit the Old Montana Prison. This infamous landmark is known as one of the most haunted places in Montana. The prison is now a museum, and employees have witnessed a number of unnerving occurrences, including hearing voices from empty cells and the unused piano playing phantom music. In 2010, Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab featured the Old Montana Prison, and the paranormal investigators who spent the night noted that it was their favorite location to explore. Take a late night ghost tour through the halls of the prison and visit a number of its spine-tingling locations, such as the solitary confinement quarter known as “The Hole,” the maximum security cells where visitors are warned not to explore alone, and the site of the 1959 riot. This tour is not for the faint of heart, but for those looking for a truly spooky experience, the Old Montana Prison is a must-see.
PARIS GIBSON SQUARE MUSEUM OF ART IN GREAT FALLS
Spend the day exploring Montana’s most impressive artwork at the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art in Great Falls, a historic building that’s as beautiful as the art it houses. In addition to a number of traveling exhibits, permanent collections of famous Montana artists, and an outdoor sculpture garden, “The Square” is also known to be haunted. The museum was built in 1896 as a high school, and visitors today have been known to hear the sounds of children in the halls and sometimes even see the ghost of a young girl. Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art is a perfect fall destination, with plenty of masterpieces and mysteries to uncover.
GRAND UNION HOTEL IN FORT BENTON
Known as “The Birthplace of Montana,” Fort Benton is one of the oldest settlements in the west. One of the town’s many historic landmarks is the Grand Union Hotel, which is the oldest operating hotel in Montana with 135 years of service. Visitors will know why this luxurious getaway was once called the finest hotel between Chicago and Seattle, because walking through the doors is like taking a step back in time. Rumor has it that the hotel is haunted by a number of spirits from the past, and visitors may even hear the stomping hooves of a phantom horse.
DALY MANSION IN HAMILTON
The Daly Mansion is a sprawling estate in the southwestern town of Hamilton. Once owned by the “Copper King” Marcus Daly, visitors today can take guided or self-guided tours through the halls of this intriguing mansion. Along with 50 stunning rooms and 46 acres of land, visitors may find themselves face to face with a truly supernatural sight. Many people have reported smelling the scent of cigar smoke near Marc Daly’s office, while others have noted that one of the paintings in the music room can’t seem to stay on the wall. Some have even claimed to have seen Mrs. Daly walking the halls.
DUDE RANCHER LODGE IN BILLINGS
Visitors to Billings this fall should book a night at the Dude Rancher Lodge, which is well-known for its charm, comfort, and hauntings. Many staff members have noticed a number of paranormal events since the passing of the lodge’s owner in 1983, including mysterious knocks at the doors, lights turning on and off on their own, and more. Those interested in sleeping with the specters can stay in rooms 223, 224, or 226, which are known as the lodge’s most notoriously haunted spots.
BOULDER HOT SPRINGS IN BOULDER
Can a haunted adventure also be a relaxing getaway? At Boulder Hot Springs, it can. Opening in 1881, before Montana had even become a state, this inn was a popular resting place for local miners, ranchers, and businessmen. Travelers today can enjoy a soothing soak in the geothermal waters of the hot springs, which are kept at a perfect temperature of 100 degrees. With other activities such as massages, hiking in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and wildlife viewing, Boulder Hot Springs is perfect for both family vacations and girlfriend spa retreats. Visitors can also book the Simone Suite, which is said to be the home to the inn’s most famous ghost, Simone. This bright and comfortable room includes beautiful views of the surrounding hills, all the accommodations needed for a relaxing stay, and maybe even a ghastly guest.
FORT PECK THEATRE IN FORT PECK
Come see a show at one of the most haunted theaters in the west. Fort Peck Theatre was built in 1934 to entertain those working on the construction of the Fort Peck Dam, and has continued to be a state hotspot for live performances. Travelers looking for a night out at the theatre will be treated to a number of well-known shows, including the Million Dollar Quartet, Grease, Mary Poppins and more. But the stories don’t end on the stage, because the theatre has been known for its spooky sights and hauntings, including strange sounds in the dressing rooms and sightings of a male ghost wearing 1930’s style clothing.