6 Spooktacular Big Sky Experiences

Montana’s abandoned mining towns, historically haunted hotels, and legendary Wild West past make the state a frighteningly cool place to channel your inner ghostbuster. Conjure up a Halloween vibe with six eerie activities sure to send chills down your spine.

1. Tour a haunted prison after dark.

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Even if it doesn’t make you jump, the history here will engulf you.

For more than a century, the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge housed some of the state’s most notorious criminals. While no actual inmates remain, their ghosts are thought to haunt the empty halls. See and hear for yourself on a terrifyingly fun night tour of the creepy prison confines, such as Cell No. 1, home for 49 years to convicted murderer Paul “Turkey Pete” Eitner. Adding to the fright factor is the tour’s timing—it starts at 9:30 p.m. and ends in the dead of night, about 2:30 a.m.

2. Explore a pair of well-preserved ghost towns.

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Can you keep your cool touring the ghost town of Garnet?

Montana’s abandoned mining towns stand as eerie monuments to the state’s Old West mining and pioneer days. Two of the state’s most intact ghost towns are Bannack State Park south of Dillon and Garnet, west of Drummond. Bannack has over sixty structures, most open to visitors during daylight hours. The town is at its spookiest during The Bannack Ghost Walk, an eerie guided tour (reservations required) held Friday and Saturday nights the last weekend in October. Garnet, a frozen-in-time gold camp has self-guided walking tours. Hike the Warren Park Trail to visit the cabin and take a swing on the swings built by miner and Civil War veteran Edward Brook Warren.

3. Sleep in a spooky hotel.

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Spend a night at Grand Union Hotel and you might encounter a spooky surprise.

Fall asleep (if you dare) in a room you could be sharing with a ghostly guest. Paranormal events, such as the sounds of phantom children running in halls and unexplained door knocks, have been reported at multiple Montana hotels. Regularly topping the list of haunted hotel hotspots are the historic (operating since 1882) Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, the Boulder Hot Springs Inn and Spa in Boulder, The Pollard in Red Lodge, and rooms 223, 224, and 226, in particular, at the Dude Rancher Lodge in Billings.

4. Discover the mysteries of Daly Mansion.

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You may feel the presence of Margaret or Marcus at the Daly Mansion.

Formerly the summer home of Butte copper magnate Marcus Daly, the Daly Mansion in Hamilton has over 50 rooms and a history of mystery. Daly’s widow Margaret died in the mansion in 1941. After her death, the stately residence was boarded up for over 40 years. In 1987, the doors reopened and visitors regularly began reporting unusual sights and scents, such as the smell of cigar smoke near Daly’s office. Look for signs of the supernatural on a Daly Mansion tour (appointment required during the off season, mid-October to mid-May) or at the estate’s annual Haunted Mansion Hayrides, Oct. 27 and 28.

5. Ghost hunt in a historic sandstone museum.

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Step into history and learn more about Montana’s past.

An old man dressed in a plaid shirt and a little girl named Priscilla are among the spirits thought to haunt the Western Heritage Center, a regional history museum in Billings. The museum occupies the former Parmly Billings Memorial Library, built in 1901 with blocks cut from the Rimrocks - the sandstone cliffs north of town. During the day (closed Sundays and Mondays), tour the Western Heritage Center’s exhibits to learn the history of the Yellowstone River Valley. On the night of Saturday Oct. 28, hunt for ghosts at the center’s annual Raising Our Spirits: Paranormal Encounters at the Haunted Museum event.

6. Descend deep into an underground mine.

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Watch your step, and maybe your back, as you tour the Orphan Girl Mine.

At the World Museum of Mining in Butte, don a miner’s hard hat and—closely—follow your guide (and the light of your cap lamp) into the old Orphan Girl Mine. During Butte’s boomtown days as “the richest hill on Earth,” thousands of miners worked the 2700-foot-deep silver and zinc mine. Walk in the footsteps of the long-gone miners and hear their sometimes-harrowing stories on the 90-minute 100 Foot Level Tour. Open April 1 to October 31.

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