Chasing Ghosts in Bannack, MT

During our trip last weekend up to Virginia City, we stopped to visit one of my favorite ghost towns, Bannack, Montana. Like Virginia City, it stands as a living monument to the pioneers and settlers of the west but unlike Virginia City, there are no working saloons, hotels or cafes.

It’s truly a ghost town.

It’s even been featured on some of the ghost hunting shows like Ghost Adventures and of course they offer ghost tours around Halloween (which I wouldn’t mind going back for!). It wasn’t our first time there, we’ve been to see it several times and even camped there one summer, but it was the first time we went without our kids, so it was a little bittersweet.

The town was founded in the 1860s and the last residents left in the 1970’s so it had a pretty good run, considering how remote it is. Bannack is a state park now with a visitor’s center and an RV park nearby, but in its gold mining heyday it was a bustling community and boasted a population of around 10,000 people, which was quite impressive for the era. They had three hotels, three bakeries, three blacksmith shops, two stables, two meat markets, a grocery store, a restaurant, a brewery, a billiard hall, and four saloons.

Today there are about sixty buildings left and you can explore them inside and out, which we did. My favorites are the hotel Meade which used to be the courthouse before it was bought and turned into a hotel…

…and the schoolhouse…

…which was built by the local Freemasons who held their meetings upstairs…

…and the Methodist church…

…and the few houses that are still standing…

You can almost hear the chattering of voices that used to fill the saloons…

And the cries of anger coming from the jail…

There’s a lot more, including the old cemetery, the mine and other places of interest that the park guides are happy to point out.

Back in 2013 a flash flood hit Bannack and nearly wiped it out, destroying the assayer’s office and injuring twenty visitors. You can still see the effects of that today but they did a great job of fixing it back up so that people like you and me can walk the boardwalks and chase the ghosts of the past.

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