Like many wild west towns, Bannack has a long history reaching back to the first gold strike in the territory of Montana. At its peak, Bannack was home to over 3000 people, living and working near the local gold mine as a boom town. The first sheriff of the area had a dark secret, as he would lead a band of outlaws called the Innocents, to rob and kill dozens of people between Bannack and another boom town, Virginia City. His name was Henry Plummer, and his life would have as violent an end as his victims. In 1860, the miners formed their own vigilante group to bring the Innocents to justice, including hanging the sheriff for his double-life.
Many say that one of the ghosts that never let go of their unfinished business was the corrupt Sheriff himself, Henry Plummer, who may still be looking for revenge for his capture and lynching. While the streets of the town of Bannack aren’t as crowded today, with the settlement being primarily considered to be a ghost town. To this day, wandering the streets of Bannack late at night might attract an experience with the ghostly sheriff.
Bannack was first named the capital of the Montana territory before losing the title in the first of many political shifts in the region. The tall brick building that would eventually become the Meade Hotel was one of the first buildings to go up in the boom town with intentions of being a permanent establishment. At the beginning of its life in 1872, it was the courthouse in Bannack. Bannack was named the county seat after Montana became a state, though it would lose that status a few years later to the more established town of Dillon, MT. When the county seat status was lost, the building that had been the courthouse was empty and forgotten before being renovated into a plush hotel in 1891.
The hotel would open and close a few times during its lifetime and served a great number of purposes in the town, including the use as a hospital at the height of the Spanish Flu pandemic.
In 1916, a young girl named Dorothy Dunn and her friends were playing in a dredge pond near a local creek when the three of them stepped off a shelf in the water and were plunged into the depths. None of the children could swim, but two would be rescued by bystanders nearby. For Dorthy, however, help would unfortunately come too late, as she drowned in the pool and died, her bright blue dress soaked and heavy from the water.
But that wouldn’t be the last anyone heard from Dorothy, as her best friend was the son of the owners of the Meade Hotel. When he got back to his rooms, the young man claimed to have seen the apparition of Dorothy standing in the hallway. He recognized her from the bright blue dress and the smell of the creek.
Dorothy appears to this day, still dressed in blue with blue lips to match. There have been reports and sightings of the teen girl standing in the upstairs window where she first appeared to her friend. Young children are more likely to see her spirit, saying she was trying to tell them something– her lips moved but no sound came out. What could Dorothy be trying to convey? Maybe a warning against swimming near the creek, maybe kind words to calm their spirits.
While Bannack became a ghost town in the 1940s, the spirits never left and are still a huge draw for this ghost town. Who would have thought it, ghosts in a ghost town.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.