Deadwood South Dakota
The no-nonsense spectral owner disapproved
strongly of planned money-making additions. Uh oh!
His duties are done in a progressive way with enthusiasm and vigor. Watch out!
The Bullock Hotel was sturdily built to last, in the Italiante style, with three stories, and a tin roof often seen on Victorian houses. One can still see pink and white sandstone in the banded facade, which was cut from Andrew’s Quarry in Boulder Canyon, not far from Deadwood.
Historical – It originally had 63 luxury, steam-heated guest rooms, found on the second and third floors, with each floor having its own bathroom!! The Bullock had a restaurant on the first floor which could take care of 100 guest’s dining needs, serving exquisite choices such as lobster and pheasant. Near the dining room, was the kitchen, pantry, a room for salesmen to store their sample cases, a large hotel lobby and office. Besides housing the luxury guest rooms, the upstairs also had a library and a parlor off the balcony.
In the building adjoining the Bullock Hotel was known as the Gentleman’s Club, a place for “gaming enjoyment”; mainly poker; separate from the hotel, yet close enough to make it convenient.
The furnishings and decor throughout the hotel were first class. In the downstairs area, there was red velvet carpeting, brass chandeliers, fine oak and fir wood trim, and a glorious Steinway grand piano. Upstairs, the guest rooms had iron and brass beds and other furniture made of oak.
This classy hotel offered first-class service for many years, occasionally getting renovated.
By 1976, the hotel was again in need of a facelift and a new life. The Ayres family had run the hotel for many years, but decided to sell The Bullock Hotel and auction off all the original furniture. The spirit of Seth Bullock, who never left his hotel, must not have been very happy about this!
But not to worry, a plan was in the works to buy up the historical buildings and help to revitalize them and the local economy as well. By 1980, the population of Deadwood was 2,035. By 1990, the population had decreased to 1,830. The handwriting was on the wall if something wasn’t done quickly.
In an effort to boost tourism to stay economically alive, gaming came back to Deadwood in the form of limited-wage gambling.
In 1989, the people of South Dakota voted for slot machine gambling in Deadwood; the proceeds going to restore old buildings, as well as improve the economic climate in Deadwood. Many people come to Deadwood to play the slot machines which are located in most of the first floors of all the buildings which sit along the main downtown area of Deadwood.
In the Bullock Hotel, the visitor upon entering the extended lobby, sees a completely different sight than what was planned by the first owner, Seth.
Now the whole first floor lobby is full of a wide variety of slot machines, with the exception of the Gentleman’s Bar, Bully’s Restaurant and the cellar room.
The city of Deadwood received its name because of the dead trees which were prevalent in the narrow canyon (Deadwood Gulch) where the main streets of the city were built. Main and Sherman streets were built in the bottom of the canyon, while many other streets were built into the steep canyon sides.
Deadwood was officially incorporated in 1876, because of the discovery of gold. Deadwood during this period of time was described as being a “hell-roaring camp,” complete with an assortment of bad ones, people with low character and rowdies heard about in the wild west legends. There wasn’t even an elected, official sheriff. The incident which caused the demand for law and order was when ruffian Jack McCall became a cowardly hitman and shot Wild Bill Hickok in the back of the head while Wild Bill was playing cards at a gambling table. Wild Bill had cleaned McCall’s clock at the card table the day before, but had given McCall back some money for breakfast as an act of kindness. No deed of kindness goes unpunished, goes the old saying!
Seth Bullock (1849-1919)
Enter front and center: Seth Bullock, a straight-shooting, experienced, disciplined, brave businessman, conservationist, lawman and outstanding member of society who was appointed sheriff, on his second day in town. First thing he did was to deputize a team of some fearless men, who put the bad ones and trouble makers out of business without too much trouble at all. Seth Bullock was described as a tall, steely-eyed man of principle and high character with an imposing appearance that commanded instant respect. He had such “piercing gray eyes that his gaze could stop fights.” People knew he was a man of action who wouldn’t hesitate to uphold the law, and would haul offenders into a jail cell in no time of all. Looking at his picture, one can see why folks would think twice about getting into trouble! Yes indeed! He and his deputies whipped everyone into shape, making way for civilized society.
It isn’t surprising that under the leadership of Seth Bullock that this dangerous, wild gold town became civilized and lawful in a short period of time. Seth Bullock was born in Ontario, the son of a retired British Major George Bullock and his Scottish wife. Seth was strictly raised, and the concepts of right and wrong, being self-disciplined, the importance of making an honest living, fulfilling your potential and standing up for principles were all definitely drilled into young Seth. Seth may not of appreciated it at the time, but Seth would’ve made his parents proud of him by the way he lived his life and what he accomplished in his lifetime.
At the age of 18, in 1867, he left home and went to Montana. He was elected as a Republican Senator in the Territorial Senate of Montana from 1871-72 at the age of 22. Seth introduced the resolution requesting that the United States Congress establish Yellowstone National Park, which came to pass in 1872.
In 1873, Seth Bullock was elected Sheriff of the Montana territory in Lewis and Clark County. He became an auctioneer and a commission merchant in Helena. He and Sol Star started a partnership in the hardware business, as well as becoming the Chief Engineer of the Helena Fire Dept.
In 1876, when Deadwood sprung up as a gold rush town, Bullock and Star took their hardware business to Deadwood, though he had the good sense to temporarily send his wife Martha and their baby daughter back to Michigan as Deadwood wasn’t a place to raise children yet; just make some money. This deplorable state of affairs changed after Seth became sheriff! Martha came back to Deadwood, destined to be a pillar of the community and raise a total of three children, with her husband Seth.
Seth continued to be a mover and a shaker throughout his life. Here are just a few of his accomplishments. Bullock and Star established a thoroughbred horse ranch, tried his hand a little in mining and politics, while continuing to serve his community as Deputy United States Marshal. The Bullock and Roosevelt families got to know each other during this time. Seth and Teddy both shared a keen interest in conservation, and became close friends. When Teddy Roosevelt was elected Vice-President, he appointed his very good friend, Seth Bullock as the first Forest Supervisor of the Black Hills Reserve.
He was the first in South Dakota to plant alfalfa, which became an important crop then and now. Bullock founded the town, Belle Fourche, established the largest livestock shipping point in the U.S. when he persuaded the railroad in 1891 to build along the route of the stage coach which had stopped at DeMore Stage stop on his ranch land. Seth joined the Cavalry during the Spanish American War, becoming Captain Bullock.
In 1894, Captain Seth Bullock and his partner decided that Deadwood needed a classy, up scale hotel, which they built on Main St. Unfortunately, this hotel burned down. Undaunted, Bullock and Star decided to rebuild their hotel up and over a large, fireproof store and warehouse built in 1876, which had already survived two previous fires. In 1895, The Bullock Hotel reopened. Captain Seth Bullock loved this hotel, and he died here in 1919 in room 211. The Captain was buried on the high trail to White Rocks, directly above Mount Moriah Cemetery, with a once glorious view of Mount Roosevelt and Friendship Tower.
The Bullock Hotel continued to be an upscale place to stay throughout the years. When the owners in 1976 couldn’t keep the building up, they sold it, which opened the opportunity to revamp the hotel.
In the 1990s, The Historical Bullock Properties Company began to buy up the aging historical buildings, and began to very carefully renovate and meticulously restore these historic treasures to their original glory, with the idea of promoting tourism. They purchased not only the Bullock Hotel, but also the Homestake Mansion ( B& B), the Town Hall (became an Inn), the Branch House, and some other old buildings, like The Franklin Hotel, which became homes to the casinos, another money maker.
Though the hotel has had a couple of renovations over the years, by the 1990s, the inside once again was a little long in the tooth, badly in need of restoration. The structure of the building itself was in good shape, because Captain Bullock built his hotel to be solid and lasting. Using scraps of wallpaper and chips of paint, old stencil samples from the original hotel decor, the restoration work successfully recreated the original detail and the original floor plan was kept as much as possible. The entire process took two and a half years of careful work.
Present Description: The Bullock Hotel remains the most upscale hotel in the area, offering lovely rooms, fine dining experiences in their Bully’s Restaurant, gambling.(i.e. gaming) in the lobby area on the first floor. There is even a great place for special events in their event room, Seth’s Cellar.
While the upper floors’ guest rooms have the same charm and feel they had in 1895, the 63 rooms were reduced to 28, to make them bigger, with some of the rooms having unique charming shapes and angles, much to the delight of the guests.
The hotel began jumping with paranormal activity around 1989.
Near the hotel’s check-in desk, there is a large scrap book of guests’ experiences with the unseen/seen entities who call this building home. A lot of the experiences happened on the second floor.
When the hotel was reopened, restored to its glorious state, the spirit of Captain Seth Bullock (while thrilled about the renovation of His hotel, but not too happy with the slot machines set up in the lobby area), decided to become active and help the living run the hotel and keep an eye on things, becoming the observant unseen and seen host who looks after the guests and keeps a keen eye on the hotel’s employees as well.
Photos taken in the room he died in, show photographic “anomalies” which appear after the film is developed.
One photo shows a white vaporous form floating over the bed.
Captain Seth Bullock as Protector
The spirit of Captain Seth sent a clear message about what he thought of the expansion of gambling in his hotel.
In 1990, a tall, 300 lb man was sent with his staff to oversee the set up of the gambling slot machines on the first floor, and spent the night in the hotel. In the middle of the night, he was shaken awake by a very angry presence of Seth Bullock, who saw the man as a wily rattlesnake, and would’ve thrown him out of the hotel, if only Seth was still alive.
Needless to say, the man got this clear message, and made a bee-line out of the hotel and refused to stay there. His staff also left, knowing that their “kind” were not trusted by the very active spirit of Seth Bullock.
A new female teller, who was sitting at the gambling check-in cage which was located in the lobby, turned away from the desk for just a moment. When she turned back, her drink, which had been sitting on the desk had been thrown, and had crashed with a force against the floor.
The spirit of Captain Seth Bullock has been seen in a solid form, walking the halls of the second and third floors. His intense stare is unforgettable, being his trademark feature.
When not seen by some, his strong presence is felt in some of the rooms and in the hallways. I was awakened by very cold air, and sensed a strong presence at the foot of our bed. I chickened out and didn’t look to see if Seth was doing a bed check. The coldness went away in about 10 minutes.
Guests have heard a friendly male voice call their name, when there is no one living there with them.
A man’s footsteps and whistling have also been reported by the living. A happy spirit I guess whistles when doing something he so enjoys in a place he truly loves!
A very young boy became lost in the large hotel trying to find his parent’s room. The entity of Captain Seth Bullock appeared and gently led the lad to his room, without scaring the child. Imagine his parents’ surprise when the boy told them innocently that an old-time cowboy had helped him find the room!
Captain Seth Bullock as Employee Manager
While alive, Bullock expected his employees to put in a good day’s work. The standards haven’t changed, even if Bullock isn’t alive! The spirit of Bullock blows the whistle in his own way when the workers are being what he thinks is lazy, or when they hum or whistle; Behaviors which they won’t get away with in his hotel!
His strong presence is felt in the hotel’s restaurant, Bully’s Restaurant/Seth’s Cellar
When employees stand around, doing nothing, or sing a tune or hum, odd things begin to happen. Plates and glasses shake and fly across the restaurant, sometimes crashing on the ground in front of witnesses. Kitchen appliances and lights have been turned on and off without any help from the living, as a signal to get to it! Stop goofing off!
Items in the kitchen and the restaurant have been moved to another location by their unseen manager, who seems to have other ideas of where these items belong.
Staff members have heard their names called by a disembodied male voice.
A staff member witnessed several barstools move by themselves in Seth’s Cellar, the basement dining area.
Occurrences observed by the cleaning staff taking care of the guest rooms:
The broken clock in room 305 sometimes chimes when the maids come in to clean the room.
Cleaning carts have moved by themselves.
One maid was sprayed by the shower which turned on by itself as she was cleaning the shower/tub.
A young girl, name unknown
She has been seen in the cellar area, where the victims of epidemics such as small pox and typhoid were quarantined. Children and the old were often killed by disease outbreaks.
An apparition of a young girl under 10 years old has been seen by guests.
Toilet paper has the habit of unrolling itself in guest bathrooms.
Lights and showers have been known to turn themselves on and off, without any help from the living.
Guests have felt a tap on the shoulder when no one was standing or sitting near them.
Guests’ personal belongings have been moved around the room or are found in odd places.
Lights, showers and water faucets have been known to turn themselves on and off, without any help from the living.
Electrical items in the rooms have been turned on and off, even when unplugged by the living. Entities are fascinated with electricity!
Out of the corner of the eye, darting shadows are seen, making the person seeing these occurrences feel they are being followed.
Visitors have heard their names whispered by soft voices.
Recently, a well-known paranormal investigation group set up a camera in the cellar, and caught on film paranormal activity.
Volumes of eye witness accounts from guests have been officially written down. We heard eye-witness accounts from staff members when we stayed at the Bullock Hotel in the summer of 2008.
Other knowledgeable sources experienced in paranormal activity who have visited the Bullock Hotel definitely claim that the spirit of Captain Seth Bullock and others still call the place their home.
633 Main Street
Deadwood, South Dakota 57732
This 1895 upscale Hotel can be found on Main Street, in the historical downtown section of Deadwood, along with other buildings from that same era.
- Adams Museum
- Staff of Bullock Hotel
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr