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Deadwood's haunted history

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Siouxland Heritage Museums
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Deadwood South Dakota has a rich history. Some of that history perhaps includes visitors from the past. Rose Speirs, Communications Director of Deadwood History talked with SDPB's Megan Feighery about some of Deadwood's haunted history.

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Megan Feighery:
It's been said that the early settlers of Deadwood, South Dakota may still be around, albeit in a different form. Several attractions around this western town may be of the haunted type. Rose Speirs is the communications director for Deadwood History and she joins us on with a few stories. Hi Rose, thanks for being here.

Rose Speirs:
Hi Megan. How are you?

Megan Feighery:
I'm doing excellent, and I am so excited to talk with you about this. I know Deadwood has such a rich haunted past. It's almost hard to know kind of where to start. Could you give us an overview of some of the most famous kind of haunted places in Deadwood?

Rose Speirs:
Oh, sure. In particular, I worked for Deadwood History Inc. So we do paranormal investigations at the Historic Adam's house. So we do know that is one of our haunted sites in Deadwood. Also, the brothels in Deadwood are known to be haunted, the Bullock Hotel, and then there's a few other buildings in Deadwood that all have stories that go with them. But I'm more closely tied to the Deadwood History properties.

Megan Feighery:
Okay. So you do tours of the Adam's house every Halloween or the month of October, and they always sell out so quickly. I've never been able to get tickets. So for anyone who doesn't know or anyone like me who hasn't been able to secure a spot, let's talk about those tours, those paranormal investigations. What happens on them? What do you do?

Rose Speirs:
What they get to do is be a real paranormal investigator and researcher. So we have a team from Rapid City, Black Hills Paranormal Investigations, and they come for three weekends and they help us host this event at the Adam's house. And they do a fabulous job. They continue every year, Megan, to add more and more equipment. So, this year we had equipment that nobody had ever used before. So they get to use it, they get to do an investigation just like we would if we were doing a private investigation on our property. And they get to have a great time doing it and learn a little bit of our history at the same time.

Megan Feighery:
What's some of the equipment that you use?

Rose Speirs:
So they have a periscope, and that's the circular typo electric field meter that has the pretty colors. So it's static based. So if something comes in its direction, then it will light up and it will follow that static charge. They have a Ovilus which is a little, it's a programmed, pre-programmed dictionary and it responds to an electromagnetic field. So, it has to also be in a static position. So if you set it all on one of the beds in the house or on one of the dressers, words will come up and they'll sometimes answer questions or give you names of things or random words. It's pretty fun piece of equipment.

And then they all use digital audio recorders so that they can see if they can get EVPs, something that we wouldn't hear with the naked ear. So, a disembodied voice is something that nobody in the room said, but we all hear it. And then the EVP would actually pick up things that we don't hear, but it only plays back when you play it back on the recorder.

And then they have electrical or laser grids where they can set up this there, it's like a green light curtain. And then if something walks through it, like a shadow or something, it would pick that up. They have key two meters, they have millimeters, they have a mag light, which is super fun when it works, it's a flashlight. They barely turn it into the off position, so if something interacts with it can either answer yes or no questions and answer questions if it's directly asked to turn the light on to answer yes.

And then they have a paramusic box, which is a lot of fun. It's one of those creepy looks like an old organ or a piano. And if something goes in the light in front of it will go off and it plays the creepy music. And that worked really well this year. And then one of the bigger things that they've added this year, Megan, is defining rods, dousing rods. So it would be like what scientists would use when they were looking for water. But the paranormal end of the world has taken on dividing rods and they can answer yes and no questions. They can point the rods at somebody specific or say who they're communicating with in the room. It's so many great pieces of equipment now.

Megan Feighery:
Yeah. And tell me a little bit about when you're in the Adam's house, I guess the appropriate way to ask it would be, who are you looking to communicate with? Let's talk about some of the ghosts and the spirits that still reside at the Adam's house.

Rose Speirs:
Okay. Well, there were two main families that lived at the Adam's house. The Franklins were the builders. So we had Harris and Anna Franklin. They built the house in 1892. Then they sell the house to their son, Nathan and his wife Ada in 1905. And their daughter lives with them. So they have a daughter named Mildred. And then Nathan sells the house to William Emery Adams, W.E. Adams in 1920. And he and his wife Alice, purchased the home. There's a tragedy that happens with his whole family in 1925. He does remarry in 1927, and his second wife, Mary, is also part of the picture. So we're interacting with all of them.

But the two families also hosted lavish, great parties at the Adam's house. So we interacted on all three weekends with Seth Bullock, because his house was actually located right next door to the Adam's house at one time. Now it was moved in maybe the 1950s. I'm not sure what time period it was moved, Seth's house, but it was moved up a block over on Jefferson Street. But we interacted with Seth. We were interacting with other Deadwood notable people. But a lot of times it's the families and some of the devices actually say their names, like the Ovilus actually said names, like it said Mary one time. Really incredible things.

Megan Feighery:
And what do people report seeing or experiencing or hearing on some of these tours? What are the most common things that come out of them?

Rose Speirs:
A lot of things, Megan, are emotions. Some of the rooms have a lot more emotions in them. W.E.'s bedroom, for one thing is a very emotional room. The library in the house is also a very emotional room. And it's based on the stories that come to life in those rooms. There's smells throughout the house. The top of the tour of the home had a gentleman smoking room. And during the Franklin era, all the men, it was a man cave at the time, and men would go up and drink their whiskey and scotch and smoke their cigars. So we have cigar smoke, we have pipe smoke that people smell, that people smell perfume, just incredible. They'll have feelings of hot and cold sensations. They'll feel like somebody touched them when nobody's next to them. They'll feel like somebody grabs their hair. Somebody may feel like something small walked by their leg or is leaning against their leg and the families had pets, they had dogs. So a lot of it really coincides with the history of the home.

Megan Feighery:
Now, I'm so curious to know do you get skeptics that come on this tour?

Rose Speirs:
Oh yeah. Yeah. And I would say probably a majority of the team are open-minded skeptics is what they call themselves. But what they want to do is they want to know that the research is backing what they're finding. They don't get excited because they see an orb on a camera. It's more than that for them. They have to make sure that everybody on the team hears the same thing or they don't use it as evidence. And the people that come on the investigations, I'd say a lot of them are believers, but we also have the non-believers that are just there with their spouse or their girlfriend or their boyfriend, just as a support mechanism. And then some of those people leave as believers because then they get to see the equipment work or they've used that piece of equipment and it's substantiated something that was said about the house. And then of course there's always going to be somebody that you wonder why they bought the ticket, because gosh, Megan could have bought a ticket.

Megan Feighery:
Yes, Megan could have bought a ticket.

Rose Speirs:
Yeah. Next year I'll get ahold of you and we'll get you in it.

Megan Feighery:
So I want to know about your own personal experiences inside the Adam's house. Have you ever experienced anything otherworldly?

Rose Speirs:
Oh yes. And because we've been doing this event for 10 years, and then I've been doing private investigations with Black Hills Paranormal Investigations for 12 years now, so I've had a lot of experience with them. And I guess I'd have to say I was mostly a skeptic in the beginning. But there have been instances where they ran an EVP, the team leader Mo ran an EVP or he was working with his voice recorder and he asked me to step out in the hall, we were in the master bedroom. And then I came back in and he just, did I see anything? Did I hear anything? No. And then he played it back and there was an old lady's voice that said, where is Rose going? And nobody on the investigation fit that description, nor did anybody hear that with their own ears. So we take that as an EVP.

And then the police, Megan, here in Deadwood have had all kinds of experience. One officer in particular loves the Adam's house and he'll do spot checks because the property and the actual house belongs to the city of Deadwood and Deadwood History operates it, the collections belong to us. But he was just doing a property check and he'll hear doors slamming and the house is closed, it's nighttime. One time he was doing a check last summer with a new patrol woman, actually, a female police officer. And he was just checking the windows and he said, oh, I always walk by the front door and check it. And he was able to open it and he couldn't figure out why he could open it. And so he said he closed it again and then they were able to open it again and then it wouldn't open. So they had to call the person from the city that lets them in to check the house, because everything is secured, it's alarm based. So they came in into the house, they couldn't find anyone, and he's calling out Deadwood PD and checking everything. So, he goes by the front door and it was Deadbolted and the chain was on. There was no way that door should have opened for him. And that's a police officer. That's somebody that I highly respect.

He was so excited when he told me about it because he grew up in Deadwood and he just thought, what a great place this is, and he's come on to investigations before. And so when the police have experiences, I think that's even more exciting.

Megan Feighery:
Excited would not be my choice of word if that happened to me, but I totally get it. Well, if you want to go on one of these paranormal investigations, get your tickets early, you heard it here first. Hopefully I will be there next year. Rose, I want to thank you so much for joining me today. This has been an absolute blast to talk to you. Thank you so much.

Rose Speirs:
Thank you, Megan. Have a great day.