Mysteries in the Midwest: The Bullock Hotel

When I recently had an opportunity to sponsor a ghost tour at the Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota, of course I said yes. It was for Wild Deadwood Reads, a writing conference in my home state. As a mystery author, I’m intrigued by ghost tours. Any event that might turn spooky always gets my attention. Besides, I like old hotels. My husband cringes when I say “bed” and “breakfast” in the same breath because I like eating with strangers in rickety old houses. Luckily for him, we stayed down the street at a chain hotel that had a continental breakfast. We would just be taking the one-hour tour.

Bully’s Bar at the Bullock Hotel

Seth Bullock, the hotel’s namesake, was the first sheriff of Lawrence County and, according to the guide, could break an opponent with nothing but a cold stare. (This look is slightly less effective when you try it on your children.) Although Bullock was the sheriff of Deadwood during a time of lawlessness, he neither died a violent death, nor died in the hotel, as one rumor suggests. In fact, he died of cancer at his home. So why is he haunting a hotel he built in 1895?

Stairwell at the Bullock Hotel

According to the guide, the town is rife with discontented spirits who lived in a time of murder and mayhem. Bullock still might be policing the town–or at least the hotel. Guests have seen his ghost in the basement, in the bar, and on the main stairwell. On the day we took the ghost tour, the staircase filled suddenly with the smell of flowers. The guide said it was Mrs. Bullock’s perfume; my husband dismissed it as potpourri. But the scent came and went, not at all like pungent dried flowers. Very eerie.

I had another eerie experience in the basement. Here, the guide told us about the hotel’s original history, showed us a video, and invited us to take pictures. She claimed many guests’ photos turned out foggy and sometimes pink. My husband announced it must have been a girl ghost living in the basement, and now it was my turn to cringe.

Original foundation

The tour continued, and we entered the passageway to the original stone foundation. Listening to the story of an early fire in the building, I snapped pictures, forgetting about the guide’s initial prediction. But when I reviewed my pictures, one of them showed up just as she said it might: pink and distorted.

Ghost or flash feedback? You decide!

It was odd, but my husband explained it away, saying it was a flash from someone’s phone. It’s possible. But it’s also possible that a ghost is haunting the basement of the Bullock Hotel, and I just happened to catch it on film. I bet you can guess which theory this mystery writer decided to believe.

Readers, have you ever had a ghostly experience? Please share!


  1. Ruth on August 3, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    My first haunted tour with results occurred in the Bullock Hotel. I took over 200 pics. Lots of mirror shots, the Bully, the stairwell down into the basement. I have many pics of orbs and mirrors with odd images. In the pictures of the long mirror, the “A” looks upright in. In another, it is upside down. The mirror in the Bully looked clean and in others it was smeared in different places. Before the tour started, I smelled a nasty flatulent order next to a couple of slot machines across from the restrooms. I had just been in there and there were no odors. The smell went away just as quickly. I didn’t think too much about it until our tour guide mentioned the smells that could appear. Later that night, I took my son on the unofficial your. We both smelled then. I had so much fun.

    • Mary Angela on August 3, 2018 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Ruth! Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your experiences. It sounds as if you had some creepy moments in the hotel, too! The tour was great. I hope to stop by again when I’m in the area. I’ll be sure to watch out for those smells!

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