Montana’s Haunted Legal Places

The logic of the law doesn’t make it immune to strange goings on and perhaps even hauntings. The stories of Montana’s reportedly haunted places are interesting. Here are a few with legal ties.

photo of Hotel Meade in Bannack. Two story brick building.The Meade Hotel in Bannack was built in 1875 as the Beaverhead County Courthouse. When the county seat was moved to Dillon only a few years later, the courthouse sat empty until it became a hotel and, for a while, a hospital. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Dorothy Dunn, who drowned nearby when she was a teenager. She now appears wearing a blue dress, mostly to children. She isn’t the hotels only ghostly resident though and an older woman has been seen looking out a second floor window. The ghost town of Bannack, now a state part, is said to be haunted by a gang of outlaws, all of whom were executed there.

The Butte-Silverbow County Courthouse is said to be haunted by the ghost of Miles Fuller, who was executed in 1906 for killing a prospector. An odd happening with his casket left some believing he was innocent, the reason his restless spirit now wanders the grounds behind the courthouse where the gallows he was hanged on were erected. The old courthouse was torn down, but the current courthouse sits adjacent to the old grounds, still haunted by Fuller’s ghost. For more stories of haunted courthouses, see this photo gallery from the ABA Journal and this story from the Texas Bar Journal.

It’s a bit scary to be in the law school alone at night but it would be even scarier to be alone in the original law school building. The law school was originally housed in Jeannette Rankin Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the UM campus. With it’s seemingly floating floors, it is not hard to believe Rankin Hall is haunted. It is said to be haunted by a whole class of students attending a old lecture on one of the upper floors. There is no indication it is a law lecture, but maybe it was. Rankin Hall may also still be home to a professor who loved his job so much he didn’t want to retire. Closer to the current law school building, the basement of Brantly Hall is also said to be haunted by the ghost of a student who committed suicide there when her family lost their ranch in the 1929 stock market crash (it was a dormitory at the time).

Perhaps the most haunted of all is the Montana Territorial Prison in Deer Lodge. Both the prison and many of its inmates were notorious and the prison, now a museum (a really creepy one), has seen all sorts of paranormal activity. Two violent events may underlie some of the reported hauntings. In 1908, two prisoners attempted to escape. During the failed attempt, a deputy warden was killed and the warden was severely injured when he was stabbed in the back. Both prisoners were hanged in the prison. In 1959, another attempted escape, this time of about a dozen men, sparked a violent three-day riot. Again, the deputy warden was killed. The warden and others were held hostage while the riot raged. The riot was finally quelled by the National Guard but as the Guard moved in the two ringleaders died in a murder-suicide. Only possible prison ghost died not in a violent event, but of natural causes. “Turkey Pete” Eitner died in his cell at the age of 89 while serving a life sentence for murder. Turkey Pete was well-liked by the prison staff. His cell, (Cell #1) still contains photos of him, along with a few of his belongings– and perhaps his spirit.




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