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Old Montana State Prison

Old Montana State Prison

Freaky Friday

I have always loved Montana. I think it goes back to when I was a child in grammar school and we learned the song, “My Home’s in Montana,” an old cowboy ballad. I lived in Chicago, so anything that spoke of ponies, cowboys, open ranges and campfires was AWESOME!  This week my husband and I have been enjoying old seasons of “The Dead Files” and they had a story based in Great Falls, Montana. I thought about creating a Freaky Friday about that one, but when I was Googling more information, the Old Montana State Prison kept appearing on my searches.  So, I followed that path – and I’m glad I did!

According to the website, Only In Your State, the prison opened its doors on July 2, 1871. From the website, “Some of the worst criminals of their time were brought here, and soon the facilities became overcrowded. The living conditions were pretty appalling even for prison standards. Numerous riots broke out, the most notorious being the infamous riot of 1959. Three prisoners seized rifles from the guard, took 26 prison employees and inmates hostage, and shot and killed a deputy.”

A year after the prison closed down, in 1979, the inmates were moved to a newer prison and the Old Montana Prison because a museum and the paranormal activity started right away.  I’ve found two different websites where people who didn’t believe in the paranormal toured the site and had their minds changed.

The first, and I think my favorite, is from a reporter from the Montana Standard who just thought she was going to be doing a Halloween feature story. Here are some excerpts from her story:

“I went there to spend the night.

For the past few years, museum director Julia Brewer has let the public participate in occasional “investigations,” which she’s conducted for eight years, with assistance from teams of experts specializing in paranormal matters. It’s something she started looking into after smelling burning flesh in her office on a regular basis.

About 20 other individuals had gathered for the Saturday night excursion, and it quickly became apparent that their motives were far different than mine. In the prison’s visitor center, they strapped on headlamps and rummaged through the gear they’d brought along. This included luminal, a chemical commonly used in forensics because it can detect areas where blood was shed; electromagnetic frequency detectors, a popular ghost-hunting tool used to pick up on any changes in the energy of a room; and standard digital recorders, since playing back over recordings can capture electronic voice phenomena, sounds that some believe to be of unearthly origin.

I should note that – at the time, at least – I was firm in my skepticism about the existence of ghosts. My concerns about the night extended no further than the foreseeable liability issues associated with opening up a prison full of uneven staircases and narrow catwalks in the dark.”

“For most of the night, my experiences were the opposite of hers. I’d been warned about maximum security, told that people often sense evil there and can’t bring themselves to walk inside, but as I stood there in the dark, listening to David ask the ghosts questions in his civilized northern-London dialect, I didn’t feel that there was any reason I shouldn’t be there. I found it almost peaceful to walk through the silent, narrow hallway on the third floor of the main cell block, peering into the barred enclosures and looking out at the night through distant windows.

But I admit that I expected one of our fellow investigators to join us in the room where inmate riot-leaders Jerry Myles and Lee Smart were found dead. I’d heard footsteps coming up the stairs, but didn’t see anyone as I was walking down them. Throughout the night, Valerie showed me orbs captured on her digital camera, particularly around the gallows that have been moved into the W.A. Clark Theater, which had been deliberately set on fire in 1975. The small spheres of light indicate that there is energy in the room, she said.”

“Still, I didn’t sense that I’d experienced anything unusual until we went to the automobile museum adjoining the prison gift shop. Valerie has spent a lot of time there, along the rows of more than a hundred classic cars. It is not part of the prison, but it’s considered haunted nonetheless. Valerie has seen apparitions there, heard car doors slam when nobody was around and frequently interacts with a young spirit named Billy. She said a paranormal team had recently been through the museum and got a little girl ghost to play with a flashlight. Valerie wanted to try for herself.

She set an electromagnetic frequency detector and a small Maglite flashlight on the ground, then flipped on her digital recorder, starting the session the way she always did – introducing the three of us before telling any spirits that might be around that they could talk in the digital recorder or walk in front of the electromagnetic device if they wanted. This time, Valerie added that the spirit could turn on the flashlight to indicate that she was there.

We all stared down at the floor in silence. The flashlight turned on.

For the first time that night, a shiver ran down my spine. I tried to rationalize what I’d just witnessed, but before I could start to comprehend it, I heard Valerie telling the ghost to try turning the flashlight off this time and watched as the beam of light flickered, as if the little girl were struggling with the task.

“If that’s too hard, why don’t you try moving this chain over here?” Valerie said.

When I looked over at the chains cordoning off the shiny cars, I noticed that it was swinging back and forth. I wondered how I was supposed to react.

Valerie asked a few more questions of the ghost and then told her we were going to leave her alone, but made sure she knew that she was allowed to follow us or touch us to let us know she was there. I started to feel uncomfortable about the darkness.

It seemed like a fine time to call it a night and head home, but Valerie wanted to have one more go. We had yet to hit the Administration Building, which had ended up being the most active site of the night. Valerie had heard someone hissing at her when we’d walked through on our initial tour; Julia and Jaime were growled at there and captured some inky black shadows on camera.

The building has its fair share of grim history. In 1908, two inmates attempted to escape, killing a warden and seriously injuring another. The prisoners were hanged. During riots 50 years later, a deputy warden was shot and killed in his office. As we walked through the night air, I couldn’t help but think that it was nearly 3 a.m. and the witching hour was about to begin.

This didn’t seem to be of any particular concern to Valerie, who sat at the old desk in the deputy warden’s office, turned on the recorder and jumped into a series of questions. David snapped photos. I stood tense, waiting for anything.

The room was cold and I heard footsteps in the hall. Valerie invited whomever it was to come inside, but nobody appeared. She kept following dark shadows with her eyes and, even though I couldn’t see them, I was apt to believe her by this point in the night. The flashlight flipped on from its resting point on the desk. I noticed it before Valerie and David did, but I didn’t want to say anything.

Valerie asked the unseen being in the room to turn the light off again and, this time, it did. I’m not sure why, but I felt compelled to commend the ghost for this effort. Then Valerie said she was feeling uneasy and I agreed, perhaps too eagerly, that it was time to leave.

As we walked away, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I kept shivering. Valerie said she sensed that somebody was behind us. She turned around and snapped a photo with her digital camera. A hazy mist appeared on the screen.

“We were being followed,” she said, smiling.

I was struck by the difference in our perception of this situation. I was, decidedly, freaked out. She was enjoying herself. But I also understood why. The history of this prison – history in general – is full of unknown motives and shadowy theories. A lot of people accept that there are a lot of questions that will never be answered once the people involved are gone. But Valerie and Julia and the rest of the people who’d come for this investigation believe there are still ways to get answers.

I can’t explain everything I saw and heard that night. I don’t know whether it was enough to make me rethink my belief in ghosts. But I do know this: As I walked out the front door of the museum, I heeded Julia’s advice and whispered a prayer of protection. I said that nothing could follow me home.”

For some reason, the song “I’m A Believer,” keeps running through my mind after reading the reporter’s story.  I encourage you to go to the link and read the rest, it’s really good.

So, I’m beginning to love Reddit for personal accounts of ghost stories.  This one is from the “No Sleep” forum.

“One summer after I had completed my first semester of college I decided to head to the old Montana State prison with my mom, my grandparents, and my siblings. Now before I go on, I need to say that this prison is one of the most haunted areas in Montana. I’ve always enjoyed creepy stuff and had a fascination with the paranormal and things that can’t be explained. So needless to say, I was looking forward to it.

After paying admission I entered the courtyard, and immediately I felt weird. You know that feeling when you walk into a room or something and everyone stops what they are doing, stops talking and they all look at you? That awkward feeling? That’s how I felt. Not to mention it was rather quiet. I mean this old prison is in Deer Lodge Montana, it’s in the city and it’s been turned into a museum so it’s going to be quiet, but the silence was just unsettling. I was actually walking with my brother and looked at me and goes ” you hear that?” ” I responded with ” I don’t hear anything” and he goes ” I know.”

This prison has a long history of violence that I will let you Google at your own discretion. If you like reading about murders, suicides, and even riots, you’ll enjoy it. Anyway, I walked about the prison with an awkward feeling, I honestly felt like I was intruding. I tried shaking off the feeling telling myself that I was letting the prison get to me. And me listening to Creepypasta narrations of YouTube on the drive up here didn’t exactly help. As I walked through the cell blocks, I noticed something on the floor in the building that contained the mess hall. After closer inspection, I realized it was a dried-up blood splatter. I actually thought that was rather cool, perhaps it came from the riot that occurred in the 1950’s or it was from one of the many violent attacks? I can’t be sure, and it may be a little odd, but I was excited seeing an old blood splatter in a building such as this

Next, I walked to a certain cell block with my sister and entered cautiously. As my sister and I walked around, the feeling had intensified, and I kept looking over my shoulder. It honestly felt like someone was glaring at me, you know that feeling you get when someone gives you a glare full of malice and ill intent? That’s the feeling I had. What happened next I would like to think has a logical explanation. A cell door swung open right in front of me and my sister. needless to say, we ran out of that cell blocks like bats out of hell.

We hung out in the courtyard until we calmed down. From here I walked over to the gallows they used to hang people from. Now the gallows are locked behind a gate, so you can’t go up to there and mess with them (why would you want to?) And I swear to God I started hearing noises. At first, I thought they were just the far-off voices of other visitors but soon realized that they were coming from the other side of the gate, where the gallows were. I couldn’t make out what was being said but from the tone, it sounded like someone was speaking with ill intent. I backed up, goosebumps on my arms, hair standing up. I didn’t need to be able to make out what was being said to know

Finally, I walked into the male cell block and they had open cells where you could go and could actually go and sit on the beds. I walked into a random one and sat on the bed, creeped out. I was about to stand up and leave when the cell door slammed shut and didn’t budge when I tried opening it. All of my bravado left, I mean I was already a little scared as is, I was in this cellblock by myself and now I was trapped in this cell. I couldn’t get the door open, so I start banging on the door, yelling for someone to help. I was beyond terrified at this point when I feel a burning sensation on my right arm. I didn’t bother looking at my arm to try and find out what was causing it, all I wanted to do was get the f*** out of the cell. After a few moments I was finally able to open the cell door and I ran as fast as I could.

I was done after that. No way was I staying in the prison after that. That night when I was taking a shower I looked at my arms to see four long jagged cuts on my arm. I don’t know what happened on that day, but I don’t see myself going back to the old State Prison. Getting trapped in an old cell once was enough. I will say this. Before this trip, I was skeptical if things such as ghosts and malevolent spirits actually existed. Now, let’s just say I am no longer skeptical. I leave you with this. Something was there that day. So, if you end up ever going to the Old Montana State Prison, prepare to encounter something not of this world.”

Happy Friday!

Like what you read?  Find more stories by Terri Reid here.

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