Bannack Ghost Town: Ghosts and Gallows
The 19th century mining boom town of Bannack has been meticulously preserved, part of Bannack State Park. After gold was discovered there in 1862, the town quickly grew. The Visitors Center provides a numbered guide to help visitors explore its 60 buildings, structures, mining artifacts, and cemetery. There are churches, a school house, stores, and a Masonic lodge. But there are also sites of the antics of the Hurdy Gurdy Girls, and the hasty justice of the Vigilantes. Reports abound of hauntings and ghost encounters.
Of particular historical note is the crude original gallows standing behind the saloon. "Hangin'Sheriff" Henry Plummer had it built in 1863 to dispense of convicted murderers. He was on the job less than seven months before he swung from the gallows himself (along with two of his deputies), after it was revealed he was leader of a criminal killer gang that called itself "The Innocents."
After the gold petered out, the area went into decline, but retained residents into the mid-20th century. The town was purchased by preservationists, and donated to the state in 1954 with the stipulation that it had to remain a ghost town, and could never be developed into a tourist attraction that might compete with Virginia City, Montana. As a result, the boardwalks and streets of Bannack are often deserted, or at least not crowded with many tourists.
Bannack is open year-round as a park and tourist attraction, but off-season visitors should dress warmly. In February 1989 it was 62 degrees below zero in Bannack.