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All for some proper atmosphere to have a bit to eat, a bit more to drink, and of course the ghost. I find myself in South Dakota for the second October in a row heading once again to the middle of nowhere. Busy as usual with this ghastly month full of ghosts we just organized and presented at an Unexplained Conference in Sioux Falls the night before and were due in Rapid City only a few short hours from now. Where we were now, was in the Black Hills of South Dakota, turning off a small paved highway onto a gravel road that was clearly neglected. Oh, did I mention it had just stopped snowing after an early storm dropped over a half a foot of snow? Well it did and in poor form we were as a whole not prepared.
As long as the vehicle decided against all odds to stay on the road, the mountainous switch backs with hair pin corners all on slushy, icy, snow covered, pothole filled, narrow gravel roads was not helping our gas mileage of which our tank only read ¼ full. Only ten years earlier I was climbing up glaciers at 13,000 feet. A pale comparison to a rustic icy road, the glaciers offered a few thousand feet of slide should you loose your footing for only a moment. Where that glacier ends, the cliffs begin. It was this same glacier that three peoples lives ended only days earlier. Now the Black Hills of South Dakota are no glaciated, crevasse filled, cliff lined mountains, but they deserve a certain amount of respect in their own right. A respect that we are on the wrong side of the gray-area this trip. The perspective of walking in the same snow that took three lives is a constant for those who experience it. As I navigate the vehicle towards Moonshine Gulch I can’t help but feel very unprepared for many what ifs. As I did on the glacier, I do this trip too, reach my destination and back with a great adventure to share. But back to the ghost.
We are headed down this treacherous path to raise our glasses at an extremely colorful establishment that has been around some say in one form or another since the 1800s. Over those years it has been plenty of things, a private home, a general store and more recently a small grill and saloon. As with most things that have a lineage as such it has its fair share of ghostly history. During one small renovation in recent history an unknown grave stone was found under a portion of the saloon. It was this marker that listed a previous owner that has some theorizing to be the origins of the ghost. Items reportedly fall on their own accord, people bump into someone quite solid but reportedly quite invisible, along with some even reporting ghostly wailing and other unexplained sounds.
It’s hard to imagine the grit that these people have, and still that they would spend time on such luxuries as ghosts. But where are my manners? With me on this legend trip are Kevin Nelson author of Legend Tripping Wisconsin, Chad Lewis enjoying the different perspective of the road from the back, normally in the driver spot to over a hundred lectures a year throughout the country, and myself again in the driver seat and the proud new Director of ufoSouthDakota.com. It is a slow drive. The solitude and silence provided by the snow covered dense landscape is enhanced only by seeing no one else the entire drive on this ridiculous roadway. A tense while later, the road turns back into pavement. Not long after we reach yet another valley, this one dotted with rustic homes and our quarry, Moonshine Gulch. After parking on the local county road, as the three spots directly in front of the saloon were filled, one might notice the classic country western façade of the structure.
Image: Paranormal Investigator and renowned Occult Researcher Kevin Lee Nelson
A raised wood walk-way that doubles as a porch covered with a rickety small roof being supported by raw twisting posts made from the trunk of several young trees that blanket the surrounding hills. All the place is missing is the cliché swinging half doors remembered by any American who has watched a western. The thing to note about this place is that it really was from that time period. This isn’t something created next to the interstate to appease the car filled with traveling families stopping for gas. This structure actually held generations of people consuming their meals and drinks under conversations that have had to run the gambit of out right rumor spreading to sincere life altering ideas. Since this structure has lived several human life times it has also watched on as people purchased the goods that would help keep them alive through the harsh winters, and even held entire events that the town’s folk needed to have just like everyone else with a bit more space and a few more luxuries, birthdays, weddings, and yes deaths.
So if you make it past all that and through the front door, well the first thing I noticed was the aroma. It is that musty scent earned by structures that have lived for more than a hundred years. This very familiar fragrance was wonderfully mixed by the glowing wood stove burning strong to keep the patrons warm and to dry all from the early wet snow. Chad and Kevin, being old regulars both move to the counter to place an order with a smiling woman, me in tow. After getting several shocked responses on our age being far older on paper than our faces would apparently let on, we find an open seat in a booth that is awkwardly trying to blend in to the eclectic decor.
Image: Renowned Paranormal Author Chad Lewis
Kevin and Chad had both been here before though no ghostly sightings this visit either. One wall covered in the standard montage of license plates, another wall with animal heads, one sporting a camouflage bra that surely holds an interesting but not all that unique story. I even come across a few hints of UFO interests between masks and yellowed newspaper articles. The Black Hills can be a strange and mysterious place. The most unusual thing in a day of unusual things, I did not expect the liberal and insightful quotes scribbled all over the bathroom wall, it was an unexpected and pleasant find.
Some deep fried food and a round of drinks later we were forced to leave. Of course not by the owners, but rather our schedule. We were due in Rapid City where a few hundred people would show up to hear about our adventures, and insight into the paranormal and to share their own experiences.
From interstate and urban city life too an iconic looking real world cowboy, snow-filled ice-covered passes, too dress clothes and eager audiences, it is truly all in a days work for the adventurous legend tripper.
Until next time, remember, adventures come to the adventuresome!
Noah Voss (Bio)
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