Moment in Oddity - The Legend of Tamarlane's Curse
Suggested by: Michael Rogers
An expedition led by Tashmuhammed Kari-Niyazov and Mikhail Gerasimov began excavations in the Gur-Emir in June of 1941. The goal was to open the tomb of Tamerlane the Great. The only problem was, such a deed would unlock a curse. The men hoped to prove that this actually was the tomb of Tamerlane. They discovered remains of much of the family and then on June 19th, the heavy stone was removed from Tamerlane's tomb. Muslim clerics and local residents tried to stop the process. A scent was released with the opening of the tomb and people declared that it was the curse escaping, but the truth was that it was just the scent of the embalming oils. World War II was already underway, but many believe that it was not a coincidence that Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union without a declaration of war only two days after the tomb was opened. To back up the theory that the invasion was spurred by the curse, the Battle of Stalingrad was won by the Soviets and was a turning point in the war and this came a month after Stalin ordered the return of the remains of Tamerlane and his dynasty. They were buried again with full honors. Was a curse really at play during World War II? We'll never know, but the theory certainly is odd!
Haunted Deadwood (Suggested by Lindsay Heisel and Karri Roling)
Deadwood, South Dakota was a rough and tumble mining camp at its beginnings, but it soon became a bustling city built on the wealth of the gold found nearby. Western luminaries visited and are buried here. Natural disasters and destructive fires ravaged the city on several occasions, but like the little city that could, Deadwood always bounced back. Prohibition and outlawing gambling did not stop some of the illegal activities and opium dens, gambling halls, saloons and brothels thrived. Despite the city moving forward into the modern world, Deadwood is forever a permanent fixture in the lore of the American West. Many historic buildings still exist and Mt. Moriah Cemetery holds the remains of many famous western legends. The buildings and cemetery hold more than just history, spirits reputedly haunt many locations in Deadwood. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Deadwood, South Dakota!
In April of 1868, ownership of the Black Hills was signed over to the Lakota Sioux Nation via the Fort Laramie Treaty. As was the case with all U.S. Government and native tribes, that ownership would not last long. particularly when gold was discovered. The last major gold rush would come to the Black Hills in 1874. An expedition arrived in the area led by General George Armstrong Custer who was tasked with finding a good location for a fort. Two Prospectors came along and they discovered gold at French Creek, near the future Custer in South Dakota. Prospectors rushed for their chance to find some gold. Eventually, more gold was found in a nearby gulch and tents filled the sloped hills. The gulch was given the name Deadwood Gulch because the trees that covered the hillsides were dead pines. A town quickly grew up and in April of 1876, the city of Deadwood was officially laid out.
|Photo Courtesy of Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs|
Al Swearengen arrived in Deadwood in May 1876. He was great at running entertainment businesses, but he was a horrible man to women. He was married and divorced three times and all three women accused him of abuse. Within a week of arriving, Swearengen had set up a temporary dance hall. That hall was replaced with the Cricket Saloon. Prize fights between miners were set up here in a 5' x 5' space. On April 7, 1877, Swearengen opened the Gem Variety Theater, which was considered a very fine entertainment establishment. Performers ranged from singers and dancers to comedians and prize fights continued here as well. The theater provided a different type of entertainment as well. The main purpose was to serve as a brothel and it was one that no woman would want to ply her trade within. It gained a reputation for the debasement of women, which is not surprising considering that Swearengen was a wife beater.
Al Swearengen had a devious way of attracting women to come work for him. He would put out word to eastern hotels that he had a great opportunity for women to work as stage performers at the theater. He would buy a one-way ticket for interested women. It was only when they arrived that they realized that the kind of performing expected of them was not acting. They had no way to get home and they were stranded. They either worked for Swearengen or they were thrown into the street. They would be forced to dance with men for a dime and there were little curtained rooms behind the main theater for other forms of entertainment. The women were routinely beaten and many of the desperate ones committed suicide. It wasn't just Swearengen that beat them. The bouncers and Dan Doherty, the general manager, all participated in brutalizing the ladies. The girls were referred to as the Gem's "Painted Ladies." The Gem Theater and Saloon was a brutal place and bullets would fly. One of the prostitutes named Tricksie shot a man who beat her, in the head. He didn't die and a doctor stuck a probe in his head to figure out how he survived. He died thirty minutes later.
E.B. Farnum was a businessman and he was elected the town’s first mayor. He and the commissioners drew up the first city charter and established the town limits in 1876. Seth Bullock would become another well known resident of Deadwood and he arrived in August of 1876. He and a partner, Solomon “Sol” Star, opened Star and Bullock Hardware. They sold mining equipment, lumber and other supplies. Eventually Bullock would become Marshal and he and Swearengen would have multiple run-ins. The two men drew an imaginary line down the middle of Main Street. This is when the term "Badlands" came into use and that was left for Swearengen to run, while Marshal Bullock controlled upper Main Street. Bullock was a man that commanded respect and it was said that he had such "piercing gray eyes that his gaze could stop fights."
Bullock and Teddy Roosevelt were very good friends and when Teddy Roosevelt was elected Vice-President, he appointed Bullock as the first Forest Supervisor of the Black Hills Reserve. *Fun fact: 30 miners held a strike at the Keets Mine. The miners said they wouldn't budge until they got back pay. They were violating property rights and Marshall Bullock was tasked with taking care of the problem. He was very resourceful and bought sulfur in Chinatown. He lit it up and dropped it into the mine's air shafts. The miners came out sputtering and surrendered to the sheriff and his deputies. This may be one of the first uses of tear gas.*
The Gem Theater and Saloon caught fire in 1879, but was quickly repaired. On September 26th of that year, a fire rages through Deadwood destroying over 300 buildings and leaving 2,000 people homeless. A bakery on Sherman Street is where the fire originated. It took the citizens six months to rebuild and they decided to use more brick than wood this time around. The fire starts in a bakery on Sherman Street and quickly spreads through the boom town. Citizens rebuild the town in six months, replacing most of the wooden buildings with brick and stone structures.The Gem burned down again and was once again rebuilt. A third devastating fire in 1899 would finish the gem for good and Swearengen would leave town. He would end up murdered in Denver. The local paper referred to the Gem as a place of "harrowing tales of iniquity, shame and wretchedness; of lives wrecked and fortunes sacrificed; of vice unhindered and esteem forfeited, have been related of the place, and it is known of a verity that they have not all been groundless." Although it had been a place of entertainment for the miners and considered one of the finest theaters around, the press would continue to refer to the Gem as the "ever-lasting shame of Deadwood." The Mineral Palace Casino stands on the location today.
In 1894, Bullock and his partner Star would decide to try their hands at running a hotel. They wanted their place to be classy and upscale.They built it along Main Street, but it burned down shortly thereafter. They decided to rebuild, but in a better location. They chose to build their new place up and over a large, fireproof store and warehouse built in 1876, which had already survived two previous fires. The Bullock Hotel opened in 1896. It was built from pink and white sandstone in the Italianate style with a tin roof and there are three stories with 64 rooms. The rooms were steam heated and each floor had a bathroom. There was a parlor and library and the first floor featured a restaurant serving luxurious tastes. The downstairs was carpeted in red velvet and adorned with fine oak and fir wood trim. Brass chandeliers hung from the ceilings and there was a beautiful Steinway grand piano. Guest rooms had iron and brass beds with furniture made of oak. Future renovations would change the rooms from 64 to 28 as each had its own bathroom added and the actual rooms were expanded.
The hotel passed through various hands, but held onto the original furnishings until 1976 when the owners at that time, the Ayers family, decided to sell and they auctioned off the furniture. The Bullock was refurbished to its former glory in 1990. Many of the historic properties were bought up and refurbished at this time. The Historical Bullock Properties Company also bought the Homestake Mansion ( B& B), the Town Hall, which is now an inn, the Branch House and the Franklin Hotel. Gambling was brought to town and the revenue was used to renovate everything.
The Bullock is reputedly haunted by Seth Bullock. Bullock loved the hotel and died there in 1919 in room 211. Staff and guests both claim to have had paranormal experiences. The front desk keeps track of all the stories. The hallways on both the second and third floor have a heavy feeling and staff claim that if they are idle for too long that things start to move about and that they get a feeling that they are being watched. Showers turn off and on by themselves. Pictures taken in Room 211 show a white vapory mist above the bed sometimes. Bullock seems to be angry about slot machines in the lobby. The man who supervised the installation, stayed overnight in the hotel. Or at least, he tried to stay. In the middle of the night, he was awakened by a violent shaking from something he could not see. He was so terrified that he ran from the hotel and he would not stay there any longer. A female teller at the gambling check-in cage turned her back and her drink was thrown across the room and crashed to the floor. Children were taken in during a cholera outbreak and several succumbed to the disease. They are heard running the halls and like to arrange change by denomination. The hotel was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
A reviewer on TripAdvisor wrote, "Before we stayed at this hotel I read about most of the "paranormal" activity. I honestly do not believe in this and thought it would a fun place to stay. After my stay at the Bullock Hotel, I am now a believer! I was standing outside the door to our room (305) and I heard a male voice whisper to me, "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" I turned around and no one was on the floor but me! I freaked out! Needless to say, I didn't sleep much the last night we were there. When we returned home and developed pics, I do have a "mysterious blur" next to the Seth Bullock picture on the 3rd floor. The staff is AWESOME and very friendly and helpful! We love Deadwood and hope to return someday, but I think I may opt to sleep somewhere else simply because it totally freaks me out!"
The Lawrence County government decided that another boot hill cemetery needed to be built. In 1878, this cemetery was laid out by Deadwood's Masons, higher up on the hillside of a rough mountain top. This is a classic Victorian cemetery set in the northern Black Hills. They named it Mount Moriah Cemetery because in Masonic literature there is a line that reads, "Bury him on the hill west of Mount Moriah." Also, the Bible and Jewish Torah served as inspiration and that is represented in the road names in the cemetery. The cemetery gateway has several symbols on it representing the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Freemasonry, and the Star of David. Around 3,700 people are buried here. There is a mass grave for eleven men killed in a fire at a boarding house near the lumber mill where they worked and there is a children's section because so many died from typhus, cholera and small pox outbreaks. In 1879, Colorado Charlie Utter supervised as Wild Bill's remains were moved to a new burial site at Mount Moriah. Calamity Jane returned to Deadwood in 1903 and died in August. She was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok. Seth Bullock is buried in Plot 99. It is on a high trail to White Rocks above Mount Moriah. (There is a $1 entrance fee.) *Fun Fact: The American flag flies here 24 hours a day based on tradition.*
|Photo courtesy of Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs|
|Photo courtesy of Tammie McCarroll-Burroughs|
People who enter the cemetery immediately feel as though they are being watched. Two female employees were locking up one night and did their standard walk through to make sure that no one was left in the cemetery. They saw a couple of shadows and when they investigated to see what was causing the shadows, they found nothing. Full bodied apparitions of Chinese workers have been seen in the Chinese section of the cemetery. The interesting thing about this is that nearly all of the Chinese bodies were disinterred and shipped off to China for burial due to religious reasons. The front gates open and close on their own at times. Voices have been heard in the cemetery and sometimes it is multiple voices that seem to be carrying on a conversation.
Harris Franklin arrived in America as a poor Jewish boy and he died a multi-millionaire. He came to South Dakota with the Black Hills Gold Rush and made Deadwood his home. He opened up a successful liquor store and then became a prosperous cattleman. He was one of the most prominent in the west owning up to 30,000 head at one time. He built many things that modernized the town from a bank to a chlorination works to a smelter. Franklin heavily financed the building of the Franklin Hotel in 1903 and it bears his name. It was four-stories with 80 rooms.
Harris and Anna Franklin built a lavish turreted Victorian mansion in Deadwood on Van Buren Street in 1892. Deadwood had never seen a house like this at the time. It had indoor plumbing, electricity and a telephone. The mansion was bought later by the Adams family and is known as the Adams House. W.E. Adams died of a stroke in the house. His wife claimed that his spirit was still in the house and she would hear him walking on the second floor. When she left the house, she left everything in it and it sat empty of people for 50 years. It became a bed and breakfast and then a museum that can be toured. There are haunted tours in October. Visitors and employees have seen a rocking chair rock on its own. A shadow figure that appears to be male has been seen standing at an upstairs window. Disembodied footsteps and voices have been heard throughout the house.
The woman who became the director of the museum, Mary Kopco, in 1995, lived next to the Adams House and she claimed to see a thin man pacing on the second floor. She thought about calling the police to report an intruder, but decided to investigate herself. She found the house empty. The doors and windows were locked up tight. Another night, she arrived at the house and saw a light on inside. She figured an employee had left it on. She entered with a couple of visiting family members and they all heard footsteps coming from upstairs. They checked the house and found no one there. One Christmas, a tree that was decorated in Mrs. Adams room would have all the ornaments removed and laying on the floor in the morning when employees would open up the museum.
The Fairmont Hotel opened in 1895 as a Victorian Brothel, Bar and Gaming Hall. Ron Russo bought the building in 1989 and renovated the hotel. It is not a hotel anymore, but a casino with a restaurant and tours are offered. Dead Files, Ghost Adventures and Ghost Lab both featured this location and there seems to be several spirits here. Amy Allan and Steve DiSchiavi of The Dead Files experienced paranormal activity when they investigated, particularly on the third floor. There was a spirit they identified as "Grumpy Man." It is thought that this is the spirit of a man named Henry whose girlfriend died of syphilis in the brothel. Another prostitute named Maggie threw herself from a third floor window when her boyfriend left her. People are touched by unseen entities on this floor as well. An apparition of a man in a black frock coat and top hat has been seen by patrons in the bar area. And the spirit of a young boy has been seen too near the Oyster Bay Restaurant. The original Saloon No. 10 where Wild Bill Hickok was shot is right next door. The chair he was sitting in is on display down Main Street at a re-creation of the saloon called Old Style Saloon No. 10.
Deadwood is a window into the wild west past of America. It had it all here from a gold rush to gambling to brothels to gunfights. That spirit carries on today as do some of the spirits from that era. Is the town of Deadwood haunted? That is for you to decide!