If you’ve ever seen the HBO movie Deadwood, you may not be surprised to find out that one of the buildings in the show’s namesake still has rough and tumble spirits walking the halls. You might be familiar with today’s subject, as he’s the main character in the aforementioned TV show. Seth Bullock rode into town to start a general store and eventually became an unlikely sheriff in the lawless town of Deadwood, SD. After his stint as a lawman, however, Bullock started a hotel on the main street and gave it his name. Today, we’re exploring the wild west hauntings of the Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, SD.
The first thing you should know about Deadwood is that the entire town is haunted in one way or another. Whether it’s haunted by an old outlaw, killed at the poker table, or the tourists invading the town to gamble at the casinos. Over a dozen buildings in the historic district claim some sort of paranormal activity- a basement no one wants to go down into, or a room that always seems cold, regardless of the weather outside. Footsteps can be heard on the second floor of one building that was once a brothel. Ironically, brothels wouldn’t be completely shut down in the town until the 1980s, not the 1880s.
The Bullock Hotel sits right in the middle of the vortex of hauntings, a tall stone building with stone masonry that spells out the name of the establishment. Built in 1879 as a hardware store, the Bullock Hotel survived the devastating fire that took many of the early settlement buildings, but it couldn’t escape the second fire that left it as a shell of brick architecture. That’s when the building that was once the center of Seth Bullock and Sol Star’s enterprising general store was rebuilt as the finest hotel this side of the Mississippi. The hotel boasted 65 state-of-the-art rooms, an elaborate restaurant, and a gentlemen’s bar.
Seth Bullock died at this ranch in Belle Fourche, SD in 1919. His body laid to rest in the Mount Moriah cemetery, near Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane’s final resting places, but his spirit would remain with his beloved hotel. Dozens of guests have said they saw Seth Bullock, seemingly in the flesh, long after he’d been laid to rest. A fixture of the early town’s development, it seems old Seth is still watching after his interests and playing host at the Bullock Hotel.
As the proprietor of the hotel, Bullock was a stickler for hard work– an attribute that still continues into his afterlife. Reports say that paranormal activity increases when the employees are idle or slacking in some way, reminding them that the former sheriff was watching them. Items fly off of tables and lights flicker on and off. Very few will even go into Seth’s Cellar, the whole lower floor being considered a hotbed of activity. Plates and glasses have been reported to shake and launch themselves at walls, appliances in the kitchen occasionally turn on or off by themselves, and cold spots are even reported in the boiling hot kitchen during lunch rush. It’s unlikely to be a welcome feeling, to know your boss from beyond the grave is watching all of your activities.
On the top floors of the hotel, more reports of ghostly activity are seen, including an unseen hand tapping you on the shoulder, saying your name, or even an apparition disappearing around a corner before the guest can get a good look at them. In the rooms, showers turn on and off unexpectedly and photographic anomalies are reported all over the hotel. Once, an alarm clock continued to go off in one of the rooms, despite it being unplugged from the wall. Phones ring and no one will be on the other end. Even an old, antique clock will chime occasionally, despite not having worked for decades.
The ghost of Seth Bullock continues to haunt his prized hotel on the Deadwood main street, and visitors still seek his spirit with a ghost tour every fall and various paranormal investigations. With as long and storied history as Deadwood, there’s bound to be some ghosts in the mix. A half-dozen other buildings also claim paranormal activity, making the former lawless town a hotbed for activity within the Black Hills of South Dakota. If you visit, you might just come face-to-face with a piece of that history– Or you could win a jackpot at the casino. One of them is significantly more likely than the other.
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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.