The National Historic Preservation Act was created fifty years ago, and among the treasures preserved are many older buildings that come with interesting histories, superstitions, and… this being Halloween… things that go bump in the night.
The Former Governors’ Mansion in Bismarck is a large, Victorian mansion built in 1884. Some have claimed to hear ghostly footsteps on the stairs, and doors closing on their own. Skeptics noted that those who resided in the house frequently complained about it being drafty, and, it was also noted that older, non-insulated structures often creak and groan. But spiritualists have attributed these manifestations to the ghost of Governor Frank Briggs, who died in the master bedroom in 1898. Did he have unfinished business?
Downtown Bismarck, in the Historic District, some occupants of the buildings between Main and Thayer Avenues along Fourth Street have occasionally reported feeling a presence, especially in the KFYR and Bismarck Tribune buildings. Perhaps it was not the events within the buildings themselves, but the ground upon which they are built. Populated with saloons, brothels and gambling houses in the 1870s, this area was known as Bloody Fourth and was at the epicenter of a violent period in the history of Bismarck. Gamblers, soldiers, and prospectors played the odds, and many were buried on the large knoll at the upper end of Fourth Street in Bismarck’s first cemetery. However, the notorious element soon moved on and this area became quiet and respectable. Maybe some remained, at least in spirit.
In the early morning hours in late August of 1883, two policemen sitting on a bench at the south end of Fourth Street noticed a figure of a woman dressed in white approaching them. As she neared the center of the street she suddenly vanished. Not a sound was heard, nor a footprint could be found in the dust of the street. A few nights later, several men, including a reporter for the Bismarck Tribune, stood spellbound as the figure of a man emerged from the shadows and, without the sound of footsteps, proceeded northward towards the cemetery. It then returned, only to vanish among the shadows of the buildings that occupied the ground where ten years earlier Dave Mullen had been gunned down in the doorway of his saloon by members the 7th Cavalry seeking vengeance. Could it be that Mullen desired to converse with his former patrons whose souls were bound to the cemetery to the north, having then returned to protect his property from the ghosts of the 7th Cavalry? … Have a Happy Halloween!
Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis
Source: The Bismarck Weekly Tribune August 31, 1883 Page 5