The dark side of Deadwood

The Historic Adams House in Deadwood was the subject of a recent Black Hills Paranormal investigation, which revealed many unexplained sounds, including voices, footsteps and whistling. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

DEADWOOD — Deadwood definitely has a dark side -— in many different veins and venues. 

For all intents and purposes, evidence points to paranormal activity in Deadwood. Armed with old newspaper articles, historical photographs and the latest and greatest in ghost hunting equipment, the team at Black Hills Paranormal Investigations set out to dispel rumors of spirits and sightings. Too real to debunk, some stories just stuck and others … well, others will now go down in history, as well.

“We never left a place without finding something,” Josh Wennes of Black Hills Paranormal Investigations told the crowd of nearly 100 gathered at the Homestake Adams Research & Cultural Center recently, for the team’s presentation of its findings during its Deadwood investigation.

Starting with the history of several reported local hauntings, Wennes and partner Mark Shadley, also of Black Hills Paranormal Investigations, said that researching the historical aspects helps tell the whole story of a location and may give insight into some of the claims of paranormal activity reported.

“The Adams House was locked up for nearly 50 years and hardly anyone messed with it. Now why is that? Could it be that people avoided the property because it was rumored to be haunted?” Shadley said. “And Mary Adams stayed at the Franklin Hotel when she was in town from California. Was that a coincidence?”

The group’s findings may give the answers.

Deadwood’s first reported haunting

On Dec. 6, 1877, the Lone Star Building on lower Main Street was the site of a grisly murder/suicide. Kitty LeRoy, a popular dancer, poker dealer and probable prostitute, was shot and killed by her jealous husband, Samuel Curley. Curley then shot and killed himself. 

As a result of this double killing, a Black Hills Daily Times article dated Jan. 16, 1878, reported a haunting taking place in the Lone Star building:

‘Haunted House’

“To tell our tale briefly and simply, is to repeat a story old and well known – the re-appearance, in spirit form, of departed humanity. In this case, it is the shadow of a woman, comely, if not beautiful, and always following her footsteps, the tread and form of the man who was the cause of their double death. In the still watches of the night, the double phantoms are seen to tread the stairs where once they reclined in the flesh and linger o’er places where once they reclined in loving embrace and finally to melt away in the shadows of the night as peacefully as their bodies’ souls seem to have done when the fatal bullets brought death and the grave to each,” reads the story.

In 1883, the Lone Star building, which was formerly located in the parking lot between the Mineral Palace and Tin Lizzies, was wiped out by the Whitewood Creek flood. Hence, paranormal investigators could not debunk this myth.

Siever Street ghost and Deadwood’s first ghost hunters

In October 1888, the Black Hills Daily Times reported that several people living near the Deadwood Street Bridge had seen the ghost of a woman.

Chinese residents living in the neighborhood reported this same female ghost taking on the form of a goose. The Chinese placed slices of apples on their doorsteps to appease the spirit.

Others living near Whitewood Creek and Siever Street reported this same ghost speaking, demanding to be fed.

Black Hills Paranormal investigators joked that this Black Hills Daily Times newspaper account dated Oct. 12, 1888, documents Deadwood’s first ghost hunters.

“A party of ladies has been on the watch for several nights for the purpose of hearing the other side, but it appears his spookship seems to be taking a rest.”

Siever Street formerly ran behind the Adams Museum in the alley. Again, Whitewood Creek wiped out much of Deadwood during the flood, so this myth also was unable to be debunked by Black Hills Paranormal investigators.

The Badlands and the Brothels don’t disappoint

Wennes prefaced the findings from this investigation by explaining that Wild Bill Hickok was killed here in the original location of the Saloon No. 10, while much other lewd, ruthless behavior took place in this Deadwood district, as well.

Ongoing claims of activity in this location include employees of the casino claiming to hear footsteps walking on the second floor; one employee was shoved against a wall; while working in one of the rooms, another employee smelled the fragrance of perfume; some employees refuse to enter the second floor because of the strange feelings they have; one employee witnessed an apparition of a small child.

During their investigation, Black Hills Paranormal investigators experienced hearing disembodied voices, seeing shadow figures, smelling perfume, hearing footsteps, unusual noises, numerous electronic voice phenomenon (EVPs) and unusual electromagnetic field (EMF) spikes.

“I walked into a room and had someone whisper right in my ear. I spun around and nobody was there,” Wennes said. “The EVPs were pronounced and prominent. Once, we heard the same voice at the same time on two different recorders.”

During a series of audio clips picked up as EVPs during their brothel investigation and played by the Black Hills Paranormal investigators at the end of their presentation, a female “sing-songy” voice can be heard saying what investigators think is, “Madame Gwendolyn?” Another female voice sounds riled up and angry, exclaiming “Anna Mae Clark!” and also saying what sounds like the word, “negro.”

On yet another EVP clip, a woman can be heard exclaiming “woo-hoo!”

The Fairmont Hotel

Throughout the years, there have been numerous claims of third floor activity at the Fairmont Hotel.

On Aug. 28, 1907, Maggie Broadwater, one of the upstairs girls, jumped from a third-story window.

In 1907, Prentice Bernard, aka Vinegar Rowan, in a jealous rage, shot and killed the client of his girlfried. In the process of shoving the pistol in his pants, the gun went off wounding him. Rowan ran from the hotel where he collapsed and died.

Several who have slept in the third story room, which can be seen from the exterior of the building, as the fourth window from the back on the third floor, report seeing a woman with red hair and a green dress standing at the foot of the bed watching them. There are no known photographs Broadwater, but Black Hills Paranormal investigators wonder if the apparition people are seeing is her ghost.

Many have claimed to have the feeling that someone is running past them on the stairs in the Fairmont Hotel. Investigators wonder if it could be the energy of Rowan running from the hotel after killing a man and accidentally shooting himself.

The Adams House

W.E. Adams lost his wife, daughter and infant granddaughter within 48 hours in 1925. In 1927, he remarried to Mary Vicich, 44 years his junior. On June 16, 1934, W.E. Adams died in the home. Soon after, Mary Adams closed the home and made comment to friends the home is haunted. The Adams House remained vacant for more than 50 years.

Past claims of activity have included people hearing voices coming from other rooms in the house, very much like a party; hearing footsteps; seeing a tall shadow of a man in an upstairs bedroom window; a past employee seeing the apparition of W.E. Adams; an employee witnessing the rocking chair in Mary’s room rocking; hearing footsteps coming up the back steps.

During their investigation, Black Hills Paranormal officials did, in fact, hear footsteps on the stairs, saw shadow figures, had the experience of being touched, hearing doors slamming, voices and whistling and documented numerous EVPs.

While in the house, Shadley heard three footsteps, felt someone walk right up behind him and when he turned around, no one was there.

“I tried to debunk it, but I couldn’t,” Shadley said. 

Investigators also experienced being touched, with a shirt sleeve tugged and the feeling of a hand cradling an elbow.

Wennes heard someone whistle, so he echoed back.

“The whistling responded,” he said.

On the steps to the smoking room, an EVP captured what sounded like children playing.

Another EVP revealed a woman screaming what sounded like, “Fire!”  

In the library Shadley and Wennes both saw a shadow figure.

EVP clips played back by Black Hills Paranormal Investigators reveals a male voice shouting, “Hey!” as well as a woman humming in Lucille’s room.

“This is a man who went through a lot of pain,” Shadley said. “You have to take into consideration the energy of the people who were once here.”

 “Whatever I’ve experienced, it’s never been something malevolent,” Shadley said. “Frankly, I’m still waiting for the day I walk around the corner and see something standing there.”

Shadley and Wennes recently released their book entitled, “Haunted Deadwood, A True Wild West Ghost Town.” 

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