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The Tale of Eugene Butler


Here is a true North Dakotan horror story for Friday the 13th:

Eugene Butler moved to Niagara, North Dakota in 1880, arriving from New York state. He bought a three-quarter section of land and farmed it well, becoming successful and building a good home for himself.

While he had friends, he mostly kept to himself. Everyone thought he was just a recluse. That is until around 1901, when reports began to come in of him riding his horse around at night and shouting. While people thought it was strange behavior, they wrote it off as a reaction to living alone for so long. They had no idea that this was only the beginning of Butler’s strange affairs.

A February 4 news article from the 1904 Grand Forks Herald reported that Butler had hallucinated that all widows and old maids in the country wanted to marry him. After this incident, he was sent to an asylum where he claimed the reason he rode his horse around while shouting was because a man came in at night and told him to. Butler proceeded to spend an uneventful seven years in the hospital where he finally died on October 22, 1911. However, Butler would haunt North Dakotans even in death.

Four years later in 1915, six bodies were dug up under Butler’s old house. One had been placed using a cleverly hidden trap door, the others were buried via a hole dug under the foundation from outside the house. They were so decomposed, no one could tell when they had been killed during the 20 years Butler lived there. A June 27 article from the Bismarck Tribune theorized that they were six workmen. However, later examinations raised the thought that five of the people were Butler’s family because they were buried apart from the sixth corpse. Still another theory pondered the idea they were Butler’s house servants. No conclusive answer came forward, and even in the age of DNA testing, the chances of finding an explanation is slim. Why? The townspeople raided Butler’s house and stole the bones! And no one knows where they might be. Perhaps it’s best that way.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas, taken from Troy Larson’s blog, “Ghosts of North Dakota.”