Have you ever heard of Virginia City?
Long ago, in 1864 Virginia City was a relatively large, sprawling community of 10,000 souls, fueled by the massive influx of gold rush prospectors, merchants, prostitutes and families willing to try their luck in the new city in Montana. At one point in time, the city was even declared the capital of the Territory of Montana.
Today the outlook for the town is slightly bleaker. There are currently only around 132 residents in this old, mostly wooden ghost town. The only industries that are practiced in this ghost town are tourism and very limited gold mining operations. These days, the capital of the State of Montana is Helena, a metropolitan city nestled in the mountains.
We’ve all heard of profit-minded hotel owners which create or perpetuate ghost legends in order to attract excited ghost hunters, which in turn bring money to the local economy. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Virginia City, a town which has experienced a variety of strange phenomena. Many of these occurrences have been reported by both permanent residents and travelers alike.
The Bonanza Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted buildings which still stands in Virginia City today. According to a History Channel interview with Lizz Parrish, a Virginia City resident, there are some presences which seem to plague the residents of the hotel.
While she was working at the Wells Fargo bank, she took up room and board at the Bonanza Hotel. One afternoon, as she was coming into the hallway of the hotel, she was suddenly overcome with a feeling of dread, a sense that she was being watched, and immediately her hair began to stand on end. She turned to see a black draped figure standing in the corner, which she said instilled an imminent sense of dread and fear in her.
On another occasion, while she was sleeping in the famed ‘room number one,’ she awoke to see a strange shadow cast on her window, as though a man with a wide-brimmed cowboy hat was looking into her window. She pulled the covers over her head and eventually went back to sleep. Later on that night she was awoken by a sensation that someone was jumping on her bed, not long after she began hearing giggling of small children, presumably the laughter of a little boy and a little girl.
In the Fairweather Hotel, similar ‘invisible’ residents have plagued guests there. The Fairweather hotel was previously a butcher shop, and a bowling alley before being converted into a Hotel. According to Marge Antolik, a longtime resident of the city and a worker at the hotel, these invisible guests are around more often than most people would like to believe.
One afternoon, while doing the laundry in the basement on a bright sunny day, she heard a person coming down the creaky wooden stairs, and heard the footsteps come up to her from behind, suddenly she felt a hand grab her on the back. She believed it to be one of her friends who was around at the time, but as she turned around nobody was there, she described the experience as “pretty unsettling” in an interview with the History Channel.
On another occasion Jeff Cleverly, a preservation specialist with the Montana Heritage Commission, was doing some renovation work when he noticed that door number ten would not stay open. He decided to prop a tool in the door to keep it open so that he wouldn’t have to continually open the door again. A little while later, while doing work in the bathroom, he suddenly heard a slamming noise. As he looked up he saw his nail gun, which moments before was holding the door open slide with excessive force across the floor into the wall. Immediately thereafter door number ten slammed shut. Jeff decided it was time to leave the spirit in peace for the weekend and to come start his work again on Monday.
In the former Wells Fargo building (currently Bandidos Restaurant), there have also been reports of an apparition of a woman in a blue gown. Amy Kelley, the owner of the restaurant said that the building had also served as a mortuary in its formative years. One morning while doing some paperwork in the back (the former location of the morgue), she heard a female voice singing, she believed it to just be her mind playing tricks on her. She said it wasn’t disturbing at all until a friend asked if she had heard the woman singing also.
A while later, while working in the back, Amy looked up to see a woman in a blue dress, with a white bonnet on, walk through the restaurant, straight through the tables as if they weren’t there. One of her chefs also reported a short time later that he saw a strange lady in a blue dress hanging outside the back door of the restaurant. Amy said that these days, she likes to keep those doors shut when she's working back there as she gets goosebumps just thinking about her first visual encounter with the apparition.
What the causes of these ghostly encounters will likely remain a mystery, however the majority of the speculation centers on hangings, murders, and tragic deaths which occurred in the city.
Virginia City Website
History Channel Interviews