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October 31: Archives Month - Stack Monster

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Today we conclude our October series on Archives Month. In North Dakota, the State Archives are part of the State Historical Society.

Today is Halloween, a perfect time to talk about scary stories, ghosts, and old legends! The North Dakota State Archives holds many items that speak to such things. After all, history is rife with stories of the unexplained, and North Dakota is no different.

UFOs were reported as early as the 1950s. Stories of ghosts appearing and disappearing occurred much earlier. In 1879, the Bismarck Tribune reported on the supernatural, stating: “among the other attractions which are rapidly carrying Bismarck to the front row as a metropolis, is the most remarkable spiritualistic circle of the age.” This was in regard to a local medium. The paper said her revelations were “so astounding as to completely mystify even the most profound believers in the creed she expounds.”

Among similar records in the state archives is the historical society’s own ghost story. It comes from the late 1960s and early 70s. While located in the Liberty Memorial Building, the society’s employees began to feel they weren’t alone. Sometimes they heard footsteps, sometimes coughing, and the sound of people clearing their throat—but no one appeared to be around. They named this presence the “Stack Monster,” because they figured the ghost lived in the library shelving, or stacks, where the being could roam free.

Was this the ghost of a past employee? Someone involved with Historical Society collections? Maybe.

Or could it be Bruiser, a huge gray-and-white tomcat who liked to sneak into the building? Some dismissed the Bruiser theory, noting that the cat would find his way in during the day, not at night when the sounds were frequently heard.

Despite the spooky situation, there was actually good will toward the Stack Monster and Bruiser the cat. When the Historical Society moved to the Heritage Center, they were both given security passes.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


  • Bismarck Tribune, December 30, 1878, p1
  • Bismarck Tribune, January 6, 1879, p1
  • KXMB: Revisiting the Legend of Bismarck’s “Stack Monster”
  • Text Interview with Jim Davis, September 26, 2022

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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