Intro and Beall Park by Sonja Benton
House on Church by Matt Williams and Nate Orlowski
Bear Canyon by Pat Hessman and Logan Henke
While the majority of the year is devoted to avoiding the spooky, scary and terrifying, Halloween emphasizes exactly the opposite. Watching horror movies with friends in the middle of the night, huddled together for protection; reading Stephen King novels by a solitary bedside lamp, panicking because of a shadow in the corner of the room; embellishing the yard with fake dismembered limbs and glow-in-the-dark eyes — this time of year inspires the morbid spirits within everyone.
In the spirit of finding the ghoulish and getting adrenaline pumping, Exponent writers were sent to three supposedly haunted locations in the dead of night. All three haunts are located in Bozeman: Beall Park, Bear Canyon and the abandoned house on S. Church Street. These locations aren’t the only ghastly hideouts in Bozeman: the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, where the deceased owner John Q. Adams and a maid roam the hallways; the Gallatin Gateway Inn, where a young housekeeper who was murdered by her boyfriend in one of the upstairs guest rooms, as well as the Bridegroom Ghost, continue to lurk; and, of course, the infamous Story Mill. Bozeman has no shortage of ghosts and ghouls to frighten the bravest of hearts and inspire curiosity about the afterlife.
With this in mind, the reporters set out to document any specters they could find. The following stories provide some insight into what the reporters found…
Ghost Hunting Tips:
1. Be skeptical, but also keep an open mind– If you go out dead set on finding a ghost, chances are you’ll think every little thing you see or hear is a spirit, when most of it has a completely logical explanation. Every once in a while though, you may find something that defies all imagination, and at that point you need to acknowledge it.
2. Don’t be a dick– If someone on your group starts the night off by pulling a jump-scare, it will ruin the rest of the hunt. It’s no fun when you spend the rest of the night on edge because a troll in your group decides to be facetious.
3. Bring something to document your adventure– Whether it be a tape recorder (or voice recording on a smartphone) or a camera, it’s great to have something to document what you find. It also helps when your friends don’t believe you saw an actual ghost and you can freak them out with creepy pictures or eerie audio recordings.
3. Don’t expect to find something bad, because you will find it– According to many ghost and spirit hunters, bad spirits are attracted to the people who expect to find them. Save yourself the trouble and try to keep your sights set on something a little less malevolent.
4. Don’t follow something that beckons you– If you see something, or someone, that tries to lead you somewhere, never follow it. Whether it’s a genuine ghost or a bum living in the woods, nothing good will come from following something you don’t understand.
5. When you feel like you shouldn’t be there, get out– Sometimes you or someone else in your group will get the feeling you just shouldn’t be there. Trust your gut, and get out of there. On the same token, if something commands you to get out, listen and hightail it out of there.
House on Church
On South Church, at a sharp bend in the road, lies an awful little house. The abandoned two-story structure crouches under gnarled leafless trees and its asbestos sides are enshrouded in overgrown ivy. The house is old, constructed in 1883. We arrived on a cold and stormy night, the temperature hovering around 28 degrees and the winds howling. Leaves rustled about and our only company was three deer that watched us furtively. A crooked screen door on the front of the house slowly swayed in the wind, hitting the frame with unnerving rhythm.
Walking around the property we had our first odd experience. Just in front of the door, surrounded by bushes, we heard a primordial male scream. It didn’t appear to be from any particular direction but rather surrounded us. Rethinking our decision of being there, but eventually undeterred, we continued and found an open back door. As we pushed our way through the shattered blue door, our flashlights instantly came upon a rolled up sleeping bag and a mysterious black trash bag in the corner of the would-be living room.
The condemned house smelled like mold and rot. The floor had sunken in spots, leaving soft wood that gave with every step. We made our way into the first of the few rooms the house had. Instantly, our lamps landed on an odd sight. Hundreds of car windshields littered the two downstairs rooms, perfectly intact.
Next we slowly made our way to the second story, the stairs groaning with every step. Stopping near the top, the door upstairs suddenly was pushed shut and something thudded against the ground. Drawing his handgun, Nate slowly pushed the door open with his foot and peered inside. Inside the room was a scene from every horror movie ever made. Glass littered the ground from a single window on the far wall. Through the broken window, wind whistled and a white curtain fluttered into the room as the house groaned and the door opened and closed. Half eaten apples and cores littered the wood floor. Someone or something has been living here, and not just the rats that had nested in the corner.
Coming back down the narrow stairway as slowly as we could, we made our way out the car to grab a camera and tripod. Going back inside, a sledgehammer and painting supplies had appeared on the shelf in the living room, free of the layer of dust that coated everything else in the house. After exploring around the rooms, the gnawing curiosity of what was in the black garbage bag was starting to get the best of us. Yet neither of us dared to look inside, petrified of what we might find. Both of us accidentally kicked it in the dark and both of us agreed it felt like something we didn’t want to see.
Was it haunted? Probably not. But was it creepy as all hell? Absolutely. After exploring and snapping a few photos of the exterior, we hopped back into the car, blasted the heat and disappeared into the relative obscurity of the the dark Bozeman night.
Beall Park is not a place immediately thought of as terrifying. Children often run and play in the park, after all. No one has died there. Not even Rosa V. Beall, the first white female settler in Bozeman. She died in 1930, more than twenty years after selling her home to become Beall Park. In 1864, Rosa Beall arrived in Bozeman with her husband A.H. Van Vlierden and her two daughters, both beautiful young blonde women. Van Vlierden and Rosa eventually divorced and he stole her two daughters from her, never to be seen again. She was left with nothing.
Eventually, she remarried — to William J. Beall. He built their home on what is now Beall park. He passed away in 1903.
Many years later, two girls — six and seven years of age — were playing in the park when one of them noticed a lady crying in the grass. She had a ratty white nightgown and long messy blonde hair, along with chains dangling from her wrists and ankles. They heard her babble to herself; “He did it the men where are they…” Frightened, the girls turned away. Only to find that the distraught woman had vanished a moment later, when the elder one turned back.
While no such ghastly apparition babbled at us, there certainly was an eerie feeling of being watched that followed us around — perhaps from the eye-like windows peering down at us from the old Beall manor.
Perhaps Rosa V. Beall is still looking for her daughters, unable to rest in peace until she sees them again.
Rosa V. Beall
Mrs. Beall died on April 16, 1930 at the age of 92.
With her first husband, A. H. Van Vlierden and two daughters, she crossed the plains in 1864, arriving in Bozeman August 1 of that year. Van Vlierden and Rosa divorced in 1867 and in November 1868 she was married to William J. Beall, one of the founders of Bozeman. They lived in a home built by Beall in 1868 located on the ground now know as Beall Park until 1920 when the property, about five acres, was purchased through popular subscription for a recreational center.
Rosa and her girls, who were alone when a pack of wolves came around, hid in the wagon. But they could hear the wolves howling and see them leaping closer. Rosa’s husband Abram rushed into the melee and was able to save his family from the pack.
On Jan. 1, 1867, Rosa and her husband separated. A few months later he “stealthily stole (their children) and hurriedly carried them East.” Rosa never saw the girls again.
We were playing at Beall Park in Bozeman and I noticed this sad lady sitting on a hilly area in the grass. She wore a ratty white nightgown and she looked like she was crying. Curious my sis and I approached her, she had chains dangling from her wrists and ankles and long messy blond hair. We tried to talk to her but she seemed to be in a daze, she was sobbing and was babbling something like ‘they did it the men where are they?’ She didn’t seem to know we were talking to her. My sis got scared and demanded we get away from her so as we walked away. I turned around and she had vanished.
Outdoor hauntings are a tricky business. Unlike buildings or parks, where a ghost’s spooking grounds are limited, if a spectre chooses to make the woods its home, ferreting it out can be quite difficult since it has several hundred square miles of turf to inhabit. One such haunted location is the Bear Canyon trail, which lies about 10 miles to the east of Bozeman. Stories stemming from the campground, report encounters with an apparition of a little girl in a white dress who watches hikers and attempts to lead women off the trail. Unfortunately there is not much more to the tale than that; no grisly murders, no terrible accidents, just a spirit with no known story.
Seems like a nice setup for a ghost story, everyone loves creepy little girls after all, so does the legend hold up to reality?
The actual investigation turned out to be a bit disappointing. Perhaps it was because All Souls’ Day is almost a week away or the new moon is not until Friday, but our trip to Bear Canyon yielded no ghostly little girls. The spirit is said to target females specifically, which we unfortunately lacked in our party. We did however encounter some spooky sounds on our night hike. An ominous creaking of a far away tree’s branch echoed through the forest, along with a chilly tapping on tree bark. Woods are frightening to be in at night to begin with, but perhaps that’s more due to the night-cloaked threat of bears or moose than ghosts.
If you decide to seek out this little girl yourself, make sure you bring a female friend and bundle up — it’s freezing out there this time of year.