The year was 1915; Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park had been completed a decade before. A stubbornly lovestruck young woman had fallen in love with a servant in her wealthy family’s household. Undeterred by her family’s threats to cut her off financially, she married the man who was just as in love with her — or so she thought.
Their honeymoon included a stay at the Old Faithful Inn. One night, the couple argued loudly, and the husband stormed out, never to be seen again. When staff entered to check on the abandoned bride, the scene they found was shocking: the room in disarray, the bride murdered, her head missing. A week later, the staff make a gruesome discovery in the lofty Crow’s Nest in the lobby: the bride’s head.
Legend says if you find yourself in the Inn’s halls after nightfall, you may bump into Yellowstone’s most famous ghost, clad in her flowing wedding dress. Of course, she’ll be carrying her head.
While the veracity of this — like most ghost stories — is unclear, it’s far from the only potentially haunted location across the valley. With such a lengthy and colorful history, it’s no wonder that some characters continue to linger.
The iconic Wort Hotel holds some macabre secrets of its own. In the summer of 1964, a heart wrenching act of violence took the lives of two young girls. Guests of the hotel, the 12- and 8-year-old McAuilffe sisters were asleep when a dishwasher climbed through the window and killed them. The murderer was brought to justice, but more than once guests have reported hearing children giggling and running down the long hallways at strange hours.
The sisters aren’t the only spirits reported in the downtown hotel. Staff have reported multiple encounters with Bob Tomingas, the benevolent former engineer who cared for the hotel’s heating, water and other systems in the 1950s. Understood to be a playful and even helpful specter, stories include mysteriously placed tools in particular locations to draw attention to mechanical problems and, less helpfully, rearranging items in the maintenance office.
Uncle Jack — one of the valley’s more obscure paranormal inhabitants — has been glimpsed along the bank of the Snake River, panning for gold. After unintentionally killing a man in a bar brawl in the early 1900s, Jack became a hermit along a creek in the Snake River Canyon, devastated by what he had done. Alone in the woods, the wildlife around him became his family. Legend says that in addition to refusing to hunt or eat meat, Jack took the door off his cabin to let bluebirds build nests in his rafters. After his death, legend says, he’s stuck around his old homestead — keeping a watchful eye on all of the wild things that he loved so deeply.
Of course, the list of other unsettling and unexplainable events goes on, told in hushed tones around the crackle of a campfire. Those felled during gunfights amongst the dusty sage, those whose greed for land and gold eclipsed their better judgment, and those who met tragic ends in the sweeping beauty of the Tetons — you wouldn’t be the first to sense their enduring connection to this place, and you certainly won’t be the last.
GHOST HUNTING IN THE HOLE
Does your curiosity get the best of you? Are you craving an encounter with the otherworldly in the Tetons? Here are a few locations that you can add to your own ghost tour. Suggested, of course, with the reminder to enter with respect — both for the living and for those who may linger.
Aspen Hill Cemetery — Located at the base of Snow King Mountain, this is the oldest established cemetery in town. With over 600 marked burials, it is the final resting place of some notable and influential locals from the town’s earliest days.
Elliot Cemetery — A half-mile up Teton Pass, this cemetery holds some of the earliest homesteaders and pioneers to settle in the Wilson area.
Deadman’s Bar — North of Moose, this is now a popular launch for scenic floats on the Snake River. However, mys- tery shrouds the events in 1886 that led to multiple murders and the grim discovery of a skull along the river.
John Sargent’s Grave — With a reputation as a shifty and cruel man, John Sargent lived along the edge of Jackson Lake on what is now the AMK Ranch. Though his cabin is gone, his gravestone can still be found. Determined sleuths can also find Edith’s Tree — a relic of his wife’s tragic descent into mental illness where she played her violin.
Wort Hotel — Though significantly rebuilt after being ravaged by fire in 1980, the Wort is reputed to be home to the murdered McAuliffe sisters as well as Bob Tomingas, one of the hotel’s early heating and systems engineers.