Historian talks about Montana ghost stories

Posted at 12:27 PM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-11 14:27:29-04

This time of year, Montana ghost stories are not hard to come by.

Much of the credit for that goes to Ellen Baumler of the Montana Historical Society, who is preparing for the release of her fifth book of Montana ghost stories.

The interpretive historian and author has a knack for bringing a good ghost story to life.  

“I take these little threads and make them into coherent stories… getting the flavor of the historical background.”

And while she’ll start telling parts of some of the stories in her new book, she’s not giving it all away.

In her latest book, "Ghosts of the Last Best Place," Baumler travels the state to put some previously unknown stories into historical context.  

There’s the one of a Missoula family who had no idea the ghost in their house was famous Montana artist Edgar Paxson.

“He had a habit of calling his muse the ghost.  And so it’s kind of interesting that he seemed to return, at least for this particular family,” says Baumler.  "And that’s a really great story.”

Then there are the reports of sightings of a bright light in an area named for a man that some believe still wanders the place to this day.

“An old cowboy supposedly still carries his lantern on top of this butte named after him and he was quite a character.  He had a four-foot long beard, and these glittering eyes that people still remember stories about him.”

Even though these stories took Baumler across the state of Montana investigating ghostly occurrences, there are still a couple that are close to home, including the story of two people who were killed during construction of Montana’s state Capitol.

Baumler says, “I think a lot of time when energy happens in a place, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad or indifferent, sometimes that energy does replay, and we can’t really explain why that happens.”

She thinks whether you’re a believer or not, most people are open to the possibility of ghostly beings and occurrences – and you can certainly discover them by opening up her latest book.

It’s available now in the Montana Historical Society book store.