From ghost stories to haunted houses, many of us enjoy the thrill of the supernatural—especially in the fall. We share scary tales to invoke feelings of fright at the unknown, but the most unnerving thing about these stories is they are often based on true events and real locations. Several historic places in Montana are known for their own spooky legends and tales of paranormal activity. As you step back in time and discover the past, you might find some of these ghost stories are more than just fiction.
One of Great Falls’ oldest and most beloved landmarks, Paris Gibson Square Art Museum, has stood for more than a century. The towering structure’s history includes its days as a school in the 1920’s, but from the stories of people who have wandered the halls of Paris Gibson Square, it would seem the building is home to more than just learning. Students who once attended school at the now art museum can recount seeing the apparition of a young boy who supposedly drowned in a pool in the basement. It is believed that he haunts the property to this day. Others have heard the sounds of children playing and seen the ghost of a blonde girl roaming the basement.
“There are a number of people who won’t hang out in this building at night or alone,” said Keern Haslem, Project Coordinator with Paris Gibson Square Art Museum. “This building has some history.”
Travel north of Great Falls and you’ll find Fort Benton, the town known as the “Birthplace of Montana” and home of the oldest operating hotel in the state. Over the years, the Grand Union Hotel has been renovated and restored to its former glory, but some say the living aren’t the only guests staying here.
“We had the paranormal society here, and they’ve been able to pick up a figure in the windows,” said Cheryl Easley, owner of the Grand Union Hotel.
The hotel opened its doors in 1882, a time when the west was wild and laws were kept through gunfire. Legend has it that a drunk cowboy rode his horse into the hotel bar and was shot by the bartender. Both men are believed to haunt the hotel, and if one listens closely, the subtle sound of hooves can be heard as the cowboy roams through the halls.
“I always say it’s extra if you want a ghost in your room,” Easley added with a smile.
While a town may have a unique or eerie element to its history, it isn’t every day you find a story quite like Havre’s. More than a century ago, a horrendous fire destroyed the town and the residents needed somewhere to continue their lives while they rebuilt. Today, Havre Beneath the Streets takes you on a walking tour of the unique underground community. Several stops on the tour, including a bordello and opium den, give visitors an eerie glimpse into the preserved town. After Havre was rebuilt, many of the controversial businesses continued to operate in the shadows, leaving a dark energy behind.
“I feel a great deal of sadness in this space,” said tour guide Mary Schubring. “I do believe there’s something down here.”
If you’re looking for travel that includes both fright and delight, the newest Discover Your Montana Moment video can give you great ideas to plan your trip. Spooky Montana follows one couple’s autumn road trip as they explore a few of Montana’s historical spots known for their ghostly legends. From a haunting tale at Paris Gibson Square Art Museum to the eerie city under the streets of Havre, the couple learns the history of these mysterious locations while experiencing the spooky history for themselves.