October 13, 2008
Haunted Happenings Abound
Remains of A Ranch Building Near Isabel
South Dakota has its share of reputedly haunted locales. Among them, the historic Bullock Hotel and Saint Ambrose Cemetery in Deadwood may be among the most notable. Thunder Butte country has seen its share of ghostly happenings, as well. Perhaps it’s the isolation that plays tricks on your mind. When you live in a place like this, chances are that the nearest people are miles away. You’ll often find yourself alone with only the murmur of the wind for company.
The mind has a natural tendency to imprint human features on its surroundings. In a lonely place, in isolation, this tendency helps fill in the gaps in the mind’s processing of its environs with things that are familiar. This goes a long way to explain some of the strange things people might experience from time to time – like one moment seeing someone and the next not, or occasionally hearing voices on the whispering wind.
Some of the things that people experience in this country are beyond simple explanation, though. For example, I’ve talked about the “spook lights” that people have reported since the country was opened up to white homesteaders here. Odd prairie lights also were reported by my family when they lived here, and I’ve talked about them here, and here. There were other strange occurrences that happened when the Crowleys lived on Thunder Butte Creek, which I’ve talked about here. My Dad recalls that kids used to tell stories about ghostly apparitions seen in the vicinity of Boggy Draw in nearby Perkins County – and he reports on his own nightmarish experience there as a kid here. Finally, my Dad tells one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever heard in my life here, based on an experience that happened while watching over a neighbor’s ranch late one night.
Other people tell stories, too. With just a couple of hundred residents, the nearby town of Isabel has a more ghostly reputation than most other towns in the region. Sites such as The Shadowlands, Ghost Traveler, and Release Me tell some of these tales. Among the most notable are the following:
• Some people tell of a spook light that sometimes can be seen in the vicinity of the old rodeo grounds, and which is known to chase the unwary once in awhile.
• The Burress Feeds store may be haunted by the ghost of a little girl who died in the early 1900’s from smallpox, and who cries for her mother from time to time.
• People see strange figures reflected at night in the windows of the Post Office from time to time. One person reported frantically trying to get out, finding the doors locked one night after picking up their mail.
• A boy who suffocated in a janitor’s close at the Isabel School is reported to be seen by people on occasion.
Now, I’ve only visited Isabel only once, and I can’t vouch for these stories. Suffice it to say, though, that the area around Thunder Butte has had its share of stories of the strange and the unusual – something that often piques our interest as Halloween season approaches.