A Bozeman Haunting
The moon had been up for hours. Its light shone dimly through the windows and danced upon the floor as a team of local paranormal investigators prowled through the Rialto. A cold spot they could not explain made the hair on the back of their necks stand up. The building had been closed for hours, leaving Eliese Adams and her team from Bozeman Paranormal completely alone to explore. Or so they thought.
The crackling of one of their recorders broke the eerie silence of their search. They were monitoring for electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs. The noise had come from the projection room. They raced upstairs, but no one was there. Playing back the data on their equipment, they heard a quiet voice utter the name Pablo three times. They raced through the Rialto in an attempt to find someone else who may have spoken, but no one was there. They were not alone, but there were no other people in the building.
Stories of hauntings at the Rialto are almost as old as the building itself, which was first built as a U.S. Post Office in 1908. In fact, stories of hauntings in Bozeman flow as freely as the nearby Gallatin River. The downtown area has several historic buildings, many of which come with rumors of their own ghostly residents. Not surprising for a city named after someone whose death is shrouded in mystery.
John Bozeman, the pioneer who established the Bozeman trail as a shortcut to Alder Gulch gold country, was allegedly killed by Indians on his way to Fort Smith in 1867. However, historians continue to debate his actual cause of death. Many think he was killed by his traveling companion, Thomas Cover, according to Montana State University Library’s John M. Bozeman collection. Some even speculate that several men conspired to have Bozeman murdered because of his reputation as a ladies’ man. Could John Bozeman be one of the many spirits rumored to be haunting our quiet mountain town?
Local Ghost Stories
Bozeman Paranormal has been investigating the stories of specters throughout the downtown area. Several employees at the Ellen Theater have reported seeing the apparition of a man in a black suit on the balcony and in the ladies’ room. Others have gotten the spooky feeling that someone is behind them when they are sitting alone in the theater at night. But, when they look behind them, no one is there. According to Adams, some believe the man in the dark suit is one of the first owners of the building, the Story brothers. Nelson Story’s sons built the Ellen in 1919, and named it after their mother.
Just down the street, in the Baxter Hotel, a ghostly bride is rumored to haunt the ballroom. Caterers and wedding guests have seen dinnerware spontaneously fly off the tables, Adams said. Some brides have also reported the sensation of someone holding on to their waist as they descend the stairs.
Strange events across the street in the Masonic Lodge attracted well-known author of Haunted Montana, Karen Stevens. Her extensive research of Montana’s most haunted places have brought her to downtown Bozeman, where at the Lodge, people have witnessed a long-broken elevator open all on its own. Perhaps the secrets of an ancient, fraternal society attract spirits.
Several paranormal occurrences have been reported at the Eagles’ Lodge on the east end of town, according to Adams. One family reported watching a crowded room and seeing an invisible force move through the crowd, bumping into and pushing people as it went. Some employees have reported seeing glasses and dishes move by themselves after the bar closes. Old tunnels weaving beneath downtown Bozeman are rumored to start here. Could they be a conduit through which ghosts can travel around the city?
The existence of tunnels beneath Bozeman has not been confirmed. However, tunnels do exist beneath Montana State University. The tunnels were built to house water pipes and electricity lines, but stories of other phantoms occupying the tunnels run through campus. The tunnels aren’t the only place at the University rumored to be haunted. Stories of hauntings at the Strand Union Theater (now the Procrastinator) began to circulate after a theater director committed suicide in the office in the 1970s.
While all of these stories of spirits can be hard to verify, those that have had paranormal experiences insist that they are true. One thing is for certain; if the storm clouds begin to gather on Halloween night while you are walking home from downtown’s restaurants and bars, do not seek shelter in one of Bozeman’s older buildings. You never know who, or what, you could be sharing that space with.
Who You Gonna Call?
Adams and her best friend founded Bozeman Paranormal two years ago, after an eerie dream Adams had. “We try to debunk things,” Adams explained. “But when we can’t, our goal is to try to document the paranormal.” Not every bump in the night is a ghost, she added. Often, problems with pipes or wiring can cause strange happenings that people misinterpret as the paranormal.
However, when creepy noises can’t be easily explained, Adams and her team will perform cleansings to rid areas of ghosts and spirits. They have recently formed a demonology group that deals with negative, scary, and violent specters as well. If your home is starting to feel creepy, contact Bozeman’s very own ghost hunters to investigate by visiting their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BozemanParanormal.