When it comes to chills and thrills, nothing beats a round of ghost stories — the scarier, the better — around a crackling campfire. And if you’re camping in Wyoming, there’s something about the wide open spaces, the smell of sagebrush and the rich pioneer and cowboy history that makes these stories come to life even more intensely.
Whether you believe in them or not, these Wyoming legends and ghost stories will make a fabulous addition to your camping adventure. And if you’re planning on camping in Wyoming, be sure to visit BookOutdoors to plan your next camping trip.
Yellowstone’s Headless Bride
There’s nothing like a good headless bride story to rev up your campfire and this one comes courtesy of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. In 1915, a wealthy woman from New York fell in love with a conman. Although her father threatened to disown her, he ended up giving her a large dowry as a wedding present, but warned her that his financial support ended there.
During their honeymoon at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn, the husband started gambling and drinking the money away, and soon there wasn’t a penny left to pay the hotel bill. The staff reported hearing the couple arguing constantly (no surprise there) and one night they saw the husband storm out of the hotel. When staff members finally went to check on the wife, they found her body, bloody and decapitated, lying in the bathtub. And after a gruesome search, they eventually found the poor woman’s head up in the Crow’s Nest at the top of the hotel. Since then, visitors say that they’ve seen a headless woman, walking down from the Crow’s Nest with her head tucked under her arm.
Sorry, history buffs — as good as this Wyoming ghost story is, it happens to be fake. It was made up by an assistant manager of the hotel, who shared it with a local newspaper in 1991 and since then it’s achieved local legend status. But it’s still a fabulous yarn to tell when you’re camping in Wyoming!
Death Ship on the Platte River
This one is really creepy. For more than 150 years, people have reported seeing a spectral sailing ship on Wyoming’s Platte River. According to reports, the first sighting occurred in 1862, when a fur trapper saw the ship rising out of the mists. As it approached, he saw sailors on board, watching over something that was lying on the deck. When they stepped away, he could see that it was the dead body of his fiancée. A few weeks later, the trapper returned home, only to learn that she had died on the very day he saw the ship.
The next recorded sighting occurred in 1887, when a cattle rancher saw the ship come into view and he watched as the sailors lowered a canvas-covered bundle from the deck. When they removed the cloth, the rancher saw the dead body of his wife. He raced home, only to find his home burned to the ground, with his wife’s dead body lying a few feet away.
Since then, subsequent stories have told of similar sightings foretelling the death of a loved one. The Cheyenne Bureau of Psychological Research tracks each sighting, which typically happens at broad daylight during the autumn months. If you see the ship approach, we recommend putting on your running shoes and getting out as fast as possible!
The Ghosts of Kirwin
If you believe the legends, ghost towns aren’t really abandoned — you just can’t see their residents. Once a busy mining center, the abandoned mining town of Kirwin is a popular destination for ghost hunters. Apparently, paranormal activity is off the charts here and experienced investigators have filmed and recorded everything from spooky noises to objects floating in thin air.
Locals say that one reason for the hauntings is that Kirin was a cursed town. Its bad luck culminated in a mine explosion in 1905, followed by an avalanche in 1907 that destroyed buildings and killed three people. At that point, Kirwin’s few residents decided to make like a tree and leave, abandoning it to the spirits that still roam freely there today.
If you’re camping in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, it’s worth taking a side trip to nearby Kirwin — but be prepared for the unexpected. And before you leave, be sure to check out BookOutdoors to plan your next adventure!
Terrors at the Occidental Hotel
Considered the most haunted place in Wyoming, the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo was once patronized by the West’s most legendary figures, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Butch Cassidy and President Teddy Roosevelt. Today, it still operates as a hotel — and it appears that some of its former residents have yet to check out.
For example, there’s Emily, who’s one of the hotel’s most popular (and frequently seen) ghosts. The child of a “lady of the evening” (yep, we’re using a euphemism) who lived on an upper floor, Emily died of cholera at a young age. Today, visitors report seeing Emily on a regular basis, dressed in a white gown and appearing throughout the hotel’s corridors. Guests say that Emily has a mischievous streak and she’s fond of pulling guests’ hair, grabbing their hands and tapping them on the shoulder.
Not all ghosts are as friendly as Emily. For example, when a party of hunters from Denver stayed at the hotel one night, one of them woke up screaming at 3 a.m. and said that he was shaken awake by a powerful force that started wildly throwing objects around the room.
Paranormal activity is taken seriously at the Occidental and teams of paranormal investigators show up regularly to make films and recordings of its restless residents.
If you’re fascinated by these ghost stories and legends, you’ll want to visit some of Wyoming’s historical websites and learn more about its rich Wild West history. And if you’re planning on camping in Wyoming, be sure to visit BookOutdoors to plan your next Wyoming camping trip!