Haunted Deadwood – Gambling and Crime in the Original Gold Rush Town
Deadwood, South Dakota
As the original site of the Black Hills Gold Rush of the 1800’s, as well as the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, Deadwood, in South Dakota, has become a part of American folklore. Being in the Wild West, Deadwood offers a unique historical snapshot of cowboys, gambling and crime in the 19th century, and whilst visitors often head to the region to catch a glimpse of Deadwood’s unique past, they often see more than they initially bargained for. As part of our series on haunted casinos in the United States, we spoke to Black Hills Paranormal Group’s Lead Investigator, Mark Rowland, about the ghosts of Deadwood.
If you haven’t heard of the Black Hills Paranormal Investigation group, they specialise in investigating hauntings in and around Black Hills. Having performed 8 hi-tech investigations so far, the Black Hills group prides itself on its professionalism and impartiality. When asked about how a typical investigation will go, Mark suggested that the group “try to do as much research on the location prior to an investigation” and “then go into the investigation looking for reasonable explanations to their claims.” Whilst they “go into an investigation as sceptics” and “listen to the client’s claims of activity” the team maintains a clear head and judges each case on the activity they experience. Once the investigation is over, the Black Hills team “advise and educate the client to the activity”.
Not only does the Black Hills Paranormal Investigations team advise and help with home hauntings, they also tackle commercial and historical buildings, such as The Lucky Nugget Casino in Deadwood. As the first group to investigate the casino, the Black Hills team admit that they weren’t sure what to expect, but “started the investigation with just the claims of activity made by the staff”. Interestingly, the group weren’t contacted directly by the Lucky Nugget Casino. Mark, who is an “avid poker player” often frequents the casino and overheard the staff discussing recent paranormal activity. From there, the Black Hills group arranged an investigation and, with the permission of Lucky Nugget, set up shop at the casino and began researching the employees’ claims. Whilst the Lucky Nugget Casino doesn’t have a particularly colourful history, the location of the casino is steeped in tales of violence and crime. Mark notes that the Lucky Nugget was close to where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, clutching what’s now known as a dead man's hand in poker and the second floor of the casino housed several brothels, which operated illegally until 1980. Whilst the investigators tried to maintain a clear head throughout their time at the Lucky Nugget, Mark admits that “being influenced by a location’s past, especially that of the Lucky Nugget, can be tough to overcome.” However, the team soon learnt “to set that aside and give our client the best possible investigation to either prove or disprove any activity.”
Lucky Nugget Casino, Deadwood
The Black Hills group heard several claims of activity, from strange noises, as well as glasses and ash trays flying off the bar and an apparition of a Chinese man, in 19th century clothing walking through a full-length mirror. With so many sightings, noises and generally strange phenomenon’s to contend with, the Black Hills team certainly had their work cut out for them. Fortunately, the Lucky Nugget investigation proved to be a fruitful one, as the investigators experienced not only reoccurring and answering knocking sounds from a locked and uninhabited room; they also recorded electro-magnetic field spikes which were difficult to explain away through non-paranormal reasoning. The group also recorded what’s known as “Electronic Voice Phenomenon” (EVP), which in paranormal circles refers to communication, or voices, of deceased entities. It’s believed that EVP can only be referred to by this title if it’s not heard by human ears, but only picked up during a playback recording through a device such as a digital voice recorder. Whilst the team are still compiling their evidence, which includes video footage of a shadowy figure, the team have revealed an EVP which appears to say “Madame”. You can check it out on the Black Hills website, bhparanormal.com.
When asked about another casino the team would like to investigate in Deadwood, Mark answered that it would have to be the Franklin Hotel and Casino. However, it’s not just the Lucky Nugget and the Franklin which are alleged to accommodate spectral visitors; the Bullock Hotel and Casino is also said to be the stomping ground of now-deceased owner, Seth Bullock. In 1876, Bullock arrived and began building a business in Deadwood. In 1894, a fire ravaged his hardware store and Bullock decided to set up a luxurious hotel. The Bullock Hotel was a huge success and in 1919, Seth Bullock died a successful businessman. However, it’s alleged that even his death hasn’t put Bullock off running the hotel and looking after business, as staff report that in moments of idleness, paranormal activity often occurs. Employees have noted that if they spend a moment “slacking”, then glasses begin flying from the bar and electronic appliances will turn themselves on and off. It seems that even in death, Bullock is a stickler for hard work.
The Black Hills Paranormal Investigations group specialise in paranormal activity within the the Black Hills area. To arrange an investigation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Image of The Lucky Nugget Casino has been kindly reproduced from the group's investigation files.