The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits. A friend and I recently stayed at the Bullock Hotel on a trip through South Dakota, and although we didn’t experience anything unusual, we did learn a lot about this historic place.
When you enter Deadwood at night, down the brick street lined with softly glowing lamps, it is easy to feel transported back in time. The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. In 1976, the Aryes family purchased the hotel and turned it into a hardware store. Unfortunately, they auctioned off all the antique furnishings. 15 years later, a company called Bullock Properties purchased the building, began reconverting it into a hotel, and tried to restore its former glory.
Seth Bullock is the most well-known person believed to be haunting the hotel. According to legend, Bullock died in 1919 in Room 211, but in fact, he died in his home at 28 Van Buren Street in Deadwood. Perhaps he has returned to watch over his beloved hotel and make sure the travesty of 1976 is never repeated. Whether it is the scent of his cigar, the sound of his boots in the hallway, or seeing his image in the mirror, many hotel patrons have reported feeling his presence. A mysterious “tall man” matching Bullock’s description has been seen strolling down the hall on several occasions.
Some encounters are frightening. A woman staying in Room 313 reportedly awoke during the night to see a cowboy standing at the foot of her bed. She ran out of the room, and was so shaken that the hotel staff had to retrieve her belongings for her. Other encounters are more helpful. In one story, a child became lost in the hotel and was returned to his room by a mysterious stranger. When his family and he passed by the portrait of Seth Bullock, he exclaimed, “That’s the man who helped me find my way back to our room!”
Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, restaurant staff have heard the piano playing an old ragtime tune without the aid of human hands. Glasses, dishes, and other items fall or are tossed through the air without any explanation. On one occasion, a decoration on a wedding cake repeatedly fell off, despite being carefully returned to its position. Guests reportedly heard the laughter of a young girl while this was happening.
Next to Tombstone in Arizona, Deadwood is one of the most legendary boom towns of the old west. Because fire devastated the town in 1894 and most of its original buildings were destroyed, the Bullock Hotel is just about as close as you’ll come to actually standing on the same floor as legendary figures like hard-nosed lawman Seth Bullock. If you’re lucky, some say you just might catch a glimpse of him late in the evening as you return to your room. At the very least, your nose may detect the scent of his cigar.