Red Lodge Montana is a small town just north of the Wyoming/Montana border with an extensive and fascinating history, but one of it’s most historic hotels has rumors surrounding it of haunting presences that have been experienced almost since the hotel’s opening. Multiple spirits are reported, including a rare non-human apparition. Let’s learn all this and more about the Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge, Montana.
Before the building of the town of Red Lodge in 1884, the site where it sits was an important place of rest, hunting, and worship by the indigenous Crow peoples. In 1851, a treaty was signed with the Crow originally ceding the land that would become Red Lodge to the Native Americans. This would be rescinded, however, after the discovery of rich coal deposits and gold in the Montana mountains. Another treaty signed in 1880 with the Crow would allow European American settlement on the site beginning in 1882. Boundaries of the nearby Crow reservation would be redrawn yet again in 1892 to allow for more settlement in the region as trains were routed to the town for coal shipping across the US.
The very first building in Red Lodge to be built out of brick, the hotel was built with the intention of being around for a very long time. Originally named the “Spofford Hotel,” the structure was built in 1893 and was said to be “Handsomely furnished in hand-oiled pine at a cost of $20,000.” That sum would be approximately $674,140 in today’s money. In 1902, Thomas F. Pollard would purchase the hotel with 35 rooms and rename it the Pollard Hotel, the name which it has to this day.
The crown jewel of the Pollard was the exquisite dining room, which included a beautiful mahogany carved bar and nightly specials the locals and visitors alike could enjoy. During its early life, it became a place of respite and entertainment for traveling wild west personalities, including the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley, who regalled the lounge with tales of their adventures and sharp-shooting. It’s even alleged that in 1879, guests of the Pollard witnessed a bank robbery by the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in the bank just across the street from the hotel. In 1902, an annex was built on the hotel to accommodate 25 more rooms, making it one of the largest hotels in the proximity of Yellowstone National Park, which was accessible by the Beartooth Highway.
Originally set up as a mining town, Red Lodge would go through many changes as the advent of strip-mining replaced the common underground mines for which it was known. As the industry decreased, the population switched to the very lucrative business of making goods outlawed by Prohibition, calling it “cough syrup,” and shipping it to “patients” across the United States. While the mining continued to wind down into the great depression, a tragedy would end mining in the region for good when an underground explosion killed 74 men at the Smith Mine in 1943. Today, the largest industry in the region is not bootlegging, but tourism. With beautiful rolling hills surrounding the town, it became a destination for those traveling to see Yellowstone, many stopping along the way to experience the rustic small town with the old-world charm and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Pollard itself is still in the hands of the Pollard family, and still provides world class service for its guests in the historic commercial downtown area of Red Lodge. The spirits rumored to walk the halls are still a topic of conversation among locals and tourists alike. The first ghost which was named was that of the “Lady in Yellow,” who was said to be active on the third floor of the hotel. Many guests have reported that a light in a specific room on the third floor never seems to stay off for very long, legends saying the lady in yellow prefers to turn it on herself when guests leave the room. There is also the eerie smell of French perfume reported throughout the hotel with no earthly source. Still more sightings claim ghostly patrons at the bar who will leave their drink untouched and disappear into the ether when one isn’t watching. Sounds are also heard coming from the basement, but very few are brave enough to venture down there to investigate.
Finally, the most baffling haunting of the Pollard is said to be that of a pet monkey owned by the Pollard children. Word is that the monkey escaped during renovation and was never found again. Some legends say he was lost in the walls of the hotel while they were being rebuilt and that he never left the hotel, either physically or in the afterlife. Reports are made of small children-like hand prints being found on the windows with no children staying in the hotel. Still more reports have said the cries of a monkey were heard in the hallways outside of guest rooms, thoroughly confusing both guests and staff with the phenomenon. Is there a ghostly monkey roaming the halls of the Pollard Hotel? You might just have to stop in and find out for yourself.
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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.