The Rushmore State can seem a little bland sometimes, but buried beneath that flat exterior is a complex history. That strange history makes South Dakota fertile ground for creepy tales. What follows is just a small teaser of what is out there.
The debate on which “Spook Road” is the real Spook Road has carried on for years. Though most say Spook Road is near Brandon, South Dakota. There are many theories about the road including one that claims if you drive away from town and count the number of bridges, then drive back and count them, you will end up with different numbers. Many cars have been wrecked on this road.
The entire town of Deadwood
The gold rush of 1876 brought all kinds of people to Deadwood, SD. It attracted pioneers and prospectors seeking their fortune, along with lawless, unsavory types bringing murder, mayhem and Deadwood’s heralded status in Wild West lore. The legendary locale — the only US town to be named a National Historic Landmark — is alive with stories of its dead residents haunting present-day hotels and saloons. Multiple paranormal events have occurred at famous sites in town such as the Mount Moriah Cemetery, Franklin Hotel, the Adams House, the Bullock Hotel and many others.
Gitchi Manitou is one of the places you always hear about but can never bring yourself to visit, at least not at night. Technically located in Iowa, the whispers of legends run rampant through Eastern South Dakota as well. In 1973, four Sioux Falls teens were brutally murdered while camping at Gitchi Manitou. If that isn’t enough reason to be wary of hauntings, add the fact that this park used to be an American Indian burial ground. The park is closed to the living after dark.
Orpheum Theatre Ghost “Larry”
The Orpheum Theatre in Sioux Falls is said to be haunted by a ghost named Larry. Larry is a man who was dancing with a woman whose husband was away at war. When the husband returned, he killed Larry. Thus the ghost of Larry in the theater was born. Hearing Larry whistling is considered a good luck on the opening night of performances at the theater.
“Little Devils” at Spirit Mound
Spirit Mound, located near Vermillion, has long been awed by Native Americans. It is said that when you try to hike up the mound, “little devils” with arrows will attack you. The Omaha, the Sioux, and the Otoes believe that the mound was occupied by spirits that killed any human who came near.
By the 1790s, when white traders came up the Missouri as far as the Vermillion River, reports of these “little spirits” must have been well known. The first written is from the journals of Lewis and Clark. On August 24, 1804, the day before they reached the mouth of the Vermillion, which they called the White Stone River, Clark wrote:
“Capt Lewis and my Self Concluded to visit a High Hill Situated in an emence Plain three Leagues N. 20º W. from the mouth of White Stone river, this hill appear to be of a Conic form and by all the different Nations in this quater is Supposed to be a place of Deavels or that they are in human form with remarkable large heads and about 18 inches high; that they are very watchfull and ar armed with Sharp arrows with which they can kill at a great distance; they are said to kill all persons who are so hardy as to attemp to approach the hill; they state that tradition informs them than many indians have suffered by these little people and among others that three Maha men fell a sacrefice to their murcyless fury not meany years since- so much do the Mahas Souix Ottoes and other neibhbouring nations believe this fable that no consideration is sufficient to induce them to approach this hill.”
The Hotel Alex Johnson
The Hotel Alex Johnson is one of the most haunted places in South Dakota. Numerous ghost sightings have been recorded over the years. One of the spirits is the hotel’s namesake, Alex Johnson himself. He comes around to make sure the hotel is still running well. There are also rumors that the hotel is filled with secret passages. Speaking of secrets, when you stay at the Hotel Alex Johnson, ask to see the Haunting Book, it chronicles all of the known paranormal encounters that have taken place at the hotel.
Originally a hunting grounds for the Dakota Sioux Native Americans, Sica Hollow literally has evil in its name. The name “Sica” was assigned to the area by the first Native Americans to visit the location and sica means ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. It is thought that a “big foot” type man inhabits the woods, corroborated by the fact that, in the 1970s, some people went missing from the area. Rumor has it there is also a Sioux burial ground at the site. It exists as a reserve area today because historically, people have been too afraid to live in the area. So locals say that if you show the Spirits respect, and they won’t harm you!
I know this only scratches the surface of creepy stuff in South Dakota history, let me know what your favorite Creepy tale of South Dakota is in the comments below.