Near the South Dakota border with Minnesota, there sits a natural rock formation that many say is haunted. Nestled in a quartzite canyon, the gulch stands tall above the water, with two giant rock formations causing a gap between them that would be nearly impossible for anyone to jump across. Nearly. Let’s check out the haunting and wild legends of Devil’s Gulch in Garretson, SD.
Today, the formation has a metal bridge spanning the rocks, giving a bird’s eye view of the sheet drop to the ravine below and the length of which one would have to jump to clear the gap between the rocks. All this culminates in a legend about a wild west outlaw, the infamous Jesse James. The most famous story about this outdoor marvel is that of Jesse James’ escape from law enforcement after the famous Northfield, Minnesota bank robbery in 1876.
Legend says that Jesse James was being pursued by a posse of sheriffs deputies and townsfolk, tracking him down after his bank robbery scheme, when the group came across Devil’s Gulch. It seemed like the infamous outlaw had finally been cornered and the posse prepared to apprehend him. That’s when James spurred his horse on faster towards the deadly gulch and jumped the entire length of 18ft, landing safely on the other side. His would-be captors watched on in horror and surprise that he’d survived. The chase was over as no one else had the fortitude of stomach to try the death-defying jump.
Now, that’s a fascinating story and one immortalized in dozens of western films and series, but the real horror of the gulch comes from the assertion that it’s haunted by the spirits caught in a tragic situation. The water in the gulch is supposedly bottomless, with a 600 ft line being lowered and not finding an end in sight to the depth of the gulch’s pit.
There is a tragic tale about two lovers whose spirits might haunt the beautiful natural formation. Legend says that a young woman was kidnapped by local Native Americans and taken to the gorge nearby. When her fiance came to rescue her, he was able to slay all of her captors, but the injuries they both sustained from the conflict would take their lives anyway. It’s said they died in each other’s arms in the water of Devil’s Gulch.
Visitors to the gulch have reported seeing faces in the water in photographs, and ghostly voices echoing in the canyon. Some also say they hear the screaming and moaning of the couple, perpetually caught in time before their death, while crossing the metal bridge that now spans the expanse. Paranormal Investigators have asked for permission to stay the night in the haunted location, but were turned down by the state park staff, as the gulch is closed to visitors after sundown. One only wonders what kind of activity happens in the Gulch when the crowds die down and the park is silent.
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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.