Fairmont Hotel Ghost Tour Review, Deadwood, SD
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Deadwood is both literally and figuratively the wild wild west. It’s a town with a ton of history, and it is also considered to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S. The town uses that history and reputation all summer in the very best way: as a tourist trap. But it’s also a town where the bachelor and bachelorette-type parties get ridiculous. If you’re not a drink-til-ya-puke-at-the-casino kind of tourist, the ghost tour at the Fairmont Hotel is a quieter, more cerebral experience not to be missed. Read on for my review of this spooky ghost tour experience.
Site history of one of the most haunted places: Deadwood
When the Fairmont was built in 1895, everything was legal in Deadwood. The rough settlement of gritty pioneers and miners prided itself on being completely lawless. The only rule was the fastest gun. You’ve probably heard of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Well, I wasn’t too familiar, but Amber was excited to share all the cool Wild-West history with me.
Although there were legitimate lodgings at the Fairmont, it was also once a lively brothel. Remember, wild wild west; I think every building that could fit a bed was a brothel in some way. Hookers would flock from all over to earn a legal living in the pioneer town for the next century! No kidding, prostitution was technically legal in Deadwood from 1876-1980.
The Spooky Ghost Tour of the Fairmont Hotel
The Fairmont has been called one of the most haunted places in the state of South Dakota (certainly one of the most haunted places in Deadwood, SD), and investigated by many paranormal teams. it was even featured in an episode of Ghost Adventures. The ghost stories we heard involved tragic tales of murder, jealousy, suicide, and above all, prostitution. The tour spanned what used to be two separate brothels, one above the gaming room and one above the oyster bar. The most famous haint is that of Jack McCall, murderer of Hickok.
We were able to buy last-minute tickets from the bartender right before the tour. But this was during the off-season, so I’m not sure we’d have gotten so lucky on some nights. Tours are really only available on weekends in the Summer, since winter tourism isn’t so big in chilly South Dakota. We felt the quality of the 1 1/2 hour tour was fair at $20 a ticket.
The town does have handy public transportation, at least in the warmer months. The bus goes all the way to the campgrounds on either side of town. During the tour, there are several stories of stairs to climb. When we took the tour in 2018 we didn’t notice an elevator, you’ll have to call and check if you can still participate if you cannot do stairs. The entirety of the tour took place upstairs of the 3-story building. These floors were unfinished and under-construction at the time, which lent to the spooky, abandoned, behind-the-scenes vibe. The last staircase was steep and only wide enough for one-way traffic, but we were the only living souls upstairs so it wasn’t crowded.
We did get to sit for the initial history of the hotel, which is always lovely. Mannequins dressed in garish old-timey lingerie looked on as our tour guide told the tale she was obviously quite familiar with. It was a little difficult to hear this part, since we were on a balcony over the busy casino below, so don’t be late like us and have to sit far from the guide.
Tour guide at the Fairmont Hotel
Please keep in mind that we took this tour in 2018, and many things including the tour guide may have changed. Our guide had a down-to-earth attitude but some wild and crazy stories to tell. Some of the stories were actually quite frightening! There were definitely a couple rooms I didn’t want to be the last to leave.
Our tour was special because the tour guide had spent some time living in the hotel. On the tour, she recounted her own personal ghost stories of what happened to her in her room at the Fairmont Hotel, and while she worked in the bar downstairs. But our favorite part about the tour was that it made us feel like active participants. Every time the guide told a ghost story, she’d give us 5-10 minutes to poke around and take photos before moving on. I personally prefer this type of interaction over just being a passive listener to a long history lesson.
A not-so-paranormal photo
While we were on the tour, there was a part of the upper floors above the bar that was unfinished due to some damage that had slowed construction. The guide said this was a great place to take potentially-paranormal photos, so we split up and snapped away at random. I thought I was hot stuff for catching this orb…
But a few frames later, the image manifested into a full apparition of someone rightly see-through! After dozens of uneventful ghost tours, I thought I’d finally caught a ghost!
But the tour guide just laughed and pointed to a very solid lady in a pink shirt. My ghostly photo was just one of the tour participants moving quickly. To be fair, my phone screen was pretty tiny in those days.
A real paranormal experience on this spooky ghost tour?
From the front room of the upper floor, we looked out at Main Street below through huge windows. The tour guide explained that the windows were used for advertising. The prostitutes would stand in the windows, dressed in low-cut lavish hoop skirts. They’d get attention by waving and calling to the gentlemen passing below. The patron would head up to this sitting room to chat up a lady of the evening.
While we were listening to this tale, I kept absentmindedly reaching down to scratch an itch on my legs. The feeling continued, so I turned to see if a curtain was billowing against my legs, or if I had a bug on me. Nope. I shifted a few feet to the side, in case it was a draft. No matter where I stood in the room or which side I had towards the windows, I felt it on the backs of my ankles. This continued to annoy me until we left the room. Then, some time later, I became aware it had stopped.
Later, walking back to the bus stop, Amber asked me if I’d experienced anything odd on the tour. I recounted the strange sensation of fabric brushing back and forth against my calves. She said she’d felt it, too, and in the same room! What she described was identical to what I’d felt! Specifically, she’d felt something like soft fabric gently brushed against just the backs of her legs.
I stopped walking. “We were in a room where a ton of women used to wiggle it in front of those windows. Women dressed in hoop skirts, most likely.”
What are some of the most haunted places (Deadwood, perhaps), that you have been to? Let us know on our Facebook page, or DM us on Instagram if you have stories or photos you’d like to share with us for our blog.
2 thoughts on “Fairmont Hotel Ghost Tour Review, Deadwood, SD”
Glad you were able to get so much out of your experience in Deadwood and particularly your Fairmont Hotel tour! It makes me wish I had spent more time inside some of the well-preserved buildings rather than soaking up the ambiance as I walked around outside on a long summer night. This little tour makes me recall a few things about that part of South Dakota: what a well-kept secret the Black Hills really are (there’s so much more to see and do than just Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse), and how quickly the temperature drops from blazing hot during the day to jacket weather after dusk, even in July (the high elevation is key).
And what stunningly brave ankle photos! It can’t help make me wonder if that’s a reference to the hotel’s role as a bordello, since 19th century West is definitely still a time when women showing their ankles would have been a signal of–well, you know.
Oh! You think the ghostly ladies were teasing us about our risqué bare ankles? I hadn’t thought of that, and I love it.