View of Deadwood, in South Dakota, in its heyday, as photographed by F.J. Haynes, showing store fronts and a group of men in Deadwood, South Dakota, USA, circa 1877. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).
View of Deadwood, in South Dakota, in its heyday, as photographed by F.J. Haynes, showing store fronts and a group of men in Deadwood, South Dakota, USA, circa 1877. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).

7 of the Creepiest Ghost Stories From the Old West

The Wild West was one of the most storied times in American history. From gunslingers and shootouts to stagecoaches and train robberies, the Old West was full of crime, notorious outlaws, and the heroes that brought them to justice.

We've rounded up some of the spookiest ghost stories of the Old West that are just as scary as any haunted house you could visit.

1. Jesse James' family farm

Perhaps one of the most legendary outlaws of all time was the notorious Jesse James. His family farm in Kearney, Missouri is believed to be a hot spot of paranormal activity. It is the place where James met his untimely death, where his younger brother Archie was killed by the Pinkerton detectives and where James was initially buried so that his mother Zerelda could protect his body. 

For over 100 years it's believed that spirits reside all of the property. It makes sense when you consider the property dates back to the Civil War. Visitors have claimed to witness flickering lights and hear the sound of horses hooves in the dirt, gunshots and cries in the night.

2. The hell dogs of Nevada

The Eldorado Canyon had an incredibly rich history during the days of the American West. In the 19th century, there were tales of miners who had lost their lives in addition to spirits of Native Americans who previously lived in the area. But one of the spookiest stories is about the spirits of the "hell dogs" that still reside in the Nevada canyon. Back in the days of shootouts and gold mining, prospectors were known to have their canine companions guard their personal belongings while they were working. These dogs became vicious in order to scare off potential thieves. Sadly, many were left in the area or shot after the gold ran out. Now, visitors have claimed to see dog apparitions roaming and have heard their vicious growls protecting their land.

3. The legendary Tombstone, Arizona

Due to its prominence during the days of the Wild West, Tombstone is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the state. The legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral made Wyatt Earp a household name and put this little town on the map. Visitors have claimed to see the spirits of cowboys long past inside the O.K. Corral, many wearing cowboy hats and drawing their guns only to have them disappear before their eyes. Even the main streets of Tombstone are believed to be haunted by some of the most iconic cowboys to ever come to town. One well-known spirit is the town's first lawman, Marshal Fred White, who was accidentally shot in the street by Curly Bill Brocius. White has been seen lingering around the area where he was shot in the groin, which killed him two days later.   

4. The ghost town of Bannack, Montana

The town of Bannack was created back during the gold rush days. A man named Henry Plummer came to town and was soon elected as sheriff by the local miners in the area. The legend says that Plummer hired a group of gang members who robbed and murdered people traveling between Bannack and the neighboring Virginia City. In 1863, the Montana Vigilantes were formed by the local miners, and over the next month and a half, they hanged 24 gang members and even Plummer himself. Some believe the story was made up as an excuse for the rampant violence that occurred in the area during that time, but people swear that the ghost of Henry Plummer still haunts the area, which has since become a ghost town.  

5. The headless horseman of Texas

During the days of the Old West, it was the Texas Rangers who protected the Lone Star state from outlaws and gunslingers. It was two Rangers, Creed Taylor, and William Alexander Anderson "Big Foot" Wallace who would create the legend of El Muerto, "the headless one." In the 19th century, they were hunting a criminal known as Vidal along the Mexican border. Vidal had been wreaking havoc all over Texas so when the Rangers caught them, they wanted to set an example. They beheaded him, tied his head to his saddle, and sent his horse with his headless body running off into the night. It is said that the headless horseman has still been seen riding the area at night even over 100 years later. 

6. Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota

When Wild West legend Seth Bullock first moved to the town of Deadwood, he opened up a hardware store with his longtime partner Sol Star. Following the death of Wild Bill Hickock, he was even appointed sheriff and was able to clean up the once wild town. After their hardware store burned down, Bullock and Star built the finest hotel in town, the Bullock Hotel. After Bullock passed away in 1919, his beloved hotel turned into a ghostly hot spot. Many believe his spirit remained behind to ensure things are running smoothly. Guests have been known to see his spirit in the halls or restaurant, felt a tap on the shoulder, or even heard their name called out. Staff members have seen an increase in paranormal activity any time they are standing idle — no doubt Bullock telling them to get back to work.

7. Ship of Death in Wyoming

Along the Platte River in Wyoming, people have been seeing what is known as the Death Ship since the 1800s. According to stories, the ship is covered in heavy fog and the skeletal crew members stand around a corpse lying on the deck. When they pull back the canvas covering the corpse, it is believed that the witness will see the face of someone they know, foreshadowing their imminent death. According to all eye witness accounts, the person they saw on the deck died the same day they saw the ship floating in the Platte.

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This article was originally published in October of 2020.

READ MORE: 8 Notorious Outlaws Who Became Wild West Legends