Exploring the Unknown

Deadwood, SD

Photograph courtesy of the Denver Public Library

Background and History:

  • Deadwood, South Dakota was settled in the mid 1870s after gold was found near there during an expedition by General George A. Custer in 1874.  Almost immediately, the Black Hills Gold Rush began and the notorious town of Deadwood was born.
  • What started as a small camp quickly boomed into a city of almost 5,000 and became the destination of choice for miners, gamblers, prostitutes, gunslingers, and those seeking their fortunes in gold.  The Gold Rush brought with it a slew of characters forever immeshed in Amerian Wild West Lore, such as “Wild Bill Hickok” and “Calamity Jane”.  Deadwood gained a reputation of being virtually lawless, and it is said that for a time during it’s boom days, Deadwood averaged a murder a day.
  • As the gold was beginning to peter out, and after 3 fires since 1879 had all but devastated the city, Deadwood was close to becoming just another forgotten old west ghost town.  Because of this, the city began “The Deadwood Experiment,” which tested the viablity of reintroducing gambling for revenue purposes.  In 1989, gambling was legalized in Deadwood, becoming the first small community in the US to do so.  Today, Deadwood, SD is a thriving tourist town and the only place in America in which the entire city is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Investigators Present:

  • Scott and Vicky

Equipment Used:

  • 2 Sony Digital Audio Recorders, Sony Handycam, Nikon Single Lens Reflex (SLR) digital camera, and a Canon SLR digital camera.

Strategy:

  • Two locations were investigated.  The site of the assisination of “Wild Bill” Hickok and the Bullock Hotel.  Wild Bill was shot in the back of the head while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood in 1876.  The original saloon that the murder took place in burned down in the fire of 1879, which virtually wiped out all original wooden structures in the town. The current saloon on the site does include a mini-museuem at the basement level dedicated to the event, and touts it as the “original site of the killing of Wild Bill Hickok, August 2, 1876.”  It is believed, however, that the exact spot was actually several yards further back off of the road then where the building stands now.   Therefore, evidence was gathered outside of the saloon, as well as a shorter investigation inside.
  • The Bullock Hotel is the oldest surviving hotel in Deadwood.  It was built in 1895 by Seth Bullock, the 1st Sherrif of Deadwood, and his business partner, Sol Star.  It has been extensively renovated over the years, though still contains 28 original rooms. The Bullock is said to be one of the most haunted places in Deadwood, with claims of paranormal activity reported frequently.

Evidence Captured:

  • Weak to Moderate.
  • For Deadwood’s reputation as being one of the most haunted locations in America, the energy emanating from it’s notorious glory days, although undoubtedly still remaining, is surprisingly low.  Visual evidence turned up no conclusive results.  Audio evidence was abundant, though not strong.  Many EVPs were captured, though most remained entrenched in the white noise and static.  When listened to with high quality headphones, the evidence becomes much clearer as EVPs seem to respond to questions and speak in language relevant to Deadwood’s old west days.  However, the strength of the audio evidence is relegated to mostly whispers and drowned-out voices.

Note – Headphones are recommended when listening to EVP sound samples.  Spirits do not speak at the same frequency we do.

“Hickok was murdered.”  Captured at saloon site at very beginning of EVP session.  Scott is heard asking “Is there anybody with us tonight?”  Immediately before, a voice is heard stating, “Hickok was murdered.”

Sound of Piano : Vicky is heard requesting signs of a possible presence.  After Vicky says, “Maybe you could make a gunshot sound,” the sound of a piano playing is heard, with singing.  Scott, hearing this, immediatley states, “Interesting noise to be heard right above us.”  There was no music in the area.  All businesses were closed.

“He fell quickly…He could’ve hit me.”:  Saloon site.  Is this the voice of Jack McCall, the drifter who was put to death for murdering “Wild Bill” Hickok?

“Well, he’s not there.”:  Scott is asking to speak with Wild Bill.  Scott is heard saying, “We’re trying to communicate with you.”  A female voice responds, “Well, he’s not there.”

“The redbone!”:  Random voice caught during EVP session.  “Redbone” was a slang term used in reference to someone of mixed racial heritage. A very light whisper can be heard after, inaudible though sounding like, “We’re not here.”

“Shot in the back of the head…too weird.”:  Vicky is asking how they died.  A whisper responds, “Shot in the back of the head.”  It continues and says what sounds like, “Too weird,” or possibly “Two here.”  There is also some curious clicking noises, eerily similar to the sound of a 19th century six-shooter being cocked… The clip of just the EVP here.

“Yes sir.”  Caught at the Bullock.  Scott asks, “If you’re here with us tonight, Seth,” a light whisper responds, “I am.”  Scott continues, “We’re trying to learn about…” and another whisper interrupts, “Yes, sir.”

Conclusion:

  • Deadwood, SD is one of the best embodiments of the American old west that we have yet today.  It’s tales of outlaws, gunslingers, and gamblers have been told countless times in the annals of American Folklore.  Due to this history, it is also known as one of the most haunted locations in America.  The MPI Network investigated the 2 most purportedly haunted locations in the city, with mixed results.  Evidence was captured, though it seems the energy of those bygone days has been supressed somewhat.  Although further investigations of this town and it’s notorious history are always warranted, perhaps the recent revitalization of Deadwood as a family orientated tourist attraction has convinced those from it’s past to simply move on out.
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