Ghostless in Montana

First an admission: I am not a big believer in ghosts. I’ve been in many places which, by all accounts should be haunted, yet I’ve never encountered anything unexplainable (one of my favorite photography outings was to a graveyard by myself at midnight to photograph a star wheel above some tombstones). The experience I relate below was actually a blast, and the hosts of which I will speak were gracious and genuine in their beliefs. But still…

Recently I visited the Old Montana State Prison for a weekend ghost tour, one of the top haunted places in America, so the curator claimed. As the others in our group assembled after nightfall, our hosts freely distributed EMF detectors and informed us about an app which would magically turn our cell phones into sensitive paranormal detection instruments, with no explanation as to how our microphones or tiny cameras were being augmented. Many folks eagerly accepted the devices and/or downloaded the dubious app–I, of course, politely declined.

At this point I must admit that I don’t recall all of the rooms our little group was escorted in and out of, nor do I remember the names of the various prisoners who met violent deaths in those places. The stories and people described to us that night are part of Montana’s history, and are true, and the atmosphere of the prison was deliciously gothic. I, however, was far more interested in the holistic experience of the event, as well as in the reactions of my companions. Just before we set out, we were introduced to a trauma dog who would accompany us in case we needed comfort. Nice touch.

After hearing about the prior week’s exploits, during which a skeptic had been pushed about, and other members of the party had been scratched by an unseen entity, we proceeded onto the prison grounds. We were informed as to how our app would behave if a spiritual presence drew near. Sure enough, seconds later someone exclaimed excitedly, “My screen is turning red!”

“Something is close,” replied our guide. “Keep an eye out for orbs.” She then took us into a room and had everyone turn off their flashlights. The darkness was nearly complete, interrupted only by little green dots of light from the EMF meters around the room. Our host produced an odd little box with a large red glowing top and a small antenna. It buzzed for a moment. I don’t recall what this device was called, but our guide informed us the buzzing was a calibration function. Then we all sat silently staring at this red light while our guest called out to various spirits, beseeching them to communicate with one blink of the light for ‘yes’, and two blinks for ‘no’. After a few attempts at identifying the particular spirit she believed resided in this room, the box turned green. “Is this —-?” (I don’t recall the individual she was trying to contact). The box blinked three times. “Please blink once for yes and twice for no,” admonished our guide. The box turned red and buzzed.

We sat for a while more as our guide reached out to various entities, but with no luck, so she ushered us along on our dark voyage. Soon, we ascended several narrow stairs to the “death room” where the 1959 prison riot ended with the violent deaths of prisoners  Jerry Myles and Lee Smart. Our guide graciously passed around a wooden box with a plastic cover. Inside was a section of a skull and a fragment of bone with several upper teeth from one of the men. “I’ve luminesced this wall where [I think Lee] blew his head off, and even though they’ve painted it, I still see blood.” I thought, Damn, I forgot my UV light. Another attempt to make contact with spirit entities yielded another long, hot session in a cramped, dusty room with disappointed visitors.

“One more place, then I’ll let all of you explore on your own.” This time, we were going to Max. Our guide informed us on the way that the spirits in maximum security were particularly violent and did not like her. This was where the skeptic had been pushed, and where just on week prior, our guide had, herself, been scratched. As we gathered in front of a black, gaping rectangular entrance, we were informed that an imp is commonly sighted here–a being with the body of a beast and the head of a demon. In addition, two other ghost hunters had, that very night, been told by a voice to ‘Get out!” After that story, we’re all really primed for something special.

Now, I could spend another paragraph describing my enthralling entanglements with spirits in this particular bloc, but I’m pretty sure you’d figure out I was bullshitting you. Not a single hair on my neck was pushed about by any spirit there, and the little box our guide toted refused to cooperate.

As I said at the start, I’m not a big believer in ghosts, but the tour was fun, the buildings are both gorgeous and foreboding, and our guides seemed to genuinely believe danger was afoot. But if there are eternal spirits trapped on earth, what happens to them in a few billion years when the sun expands and devours the planet? That must suck for an eternal spirit. Guess they can always haunt Pluto. Here is a photo of one of the guard turrets, and the only orb I managed to capture that night: the full moon.


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