This story was originally published in The Bismarck Tribune on April 12, 2010.
A team of paranormal researchers who spent a weekend in Marmarth found some sounds and orbs of light that can’t be explained. But they say whatever exists in the fourth dimension there is peaceful and may have loved the town too much to leave it, even after death.
Six members of Black Mountain Paranormal Research were in the far southwestern railroad town in mid-March with a van-load of high-tech audio and visual equipment to look for ghosts in old buildings and cemeteries.
Since then, they’ve run their data through computer programs and had photographs reviewed by outside experts. They claim what’s left are some images and recordings that neither their own technology nor humans can explain away.
“I would not say that this town is haunted,” said researcher Westin Dent, of Elgin, who is the self-described diehard skeptic of the group. “If anything paranormal exists in Marmarth, it is friendly and at rest.”
The Black Mountain group found orbs of colored light inside the historic Mystic Theater, which was built in 1914, later restored and is sometimes used for community plays and performances.
In a series of photographs taken in the long-abandoned Barber Auditorium is one — and weirdly only one — picture frame filled with fog.
Audio of decibels far outside the range of human hearing recorded one spike of unexplained sound. An electromagnetic field detector hooked to a motion detector yielded some readings not attributable to a human source, and extreme shifts in temperature were recorded, according to the researchers’ official report.
Marmarth Mayor Patti Perry was mildly interested in the report, but a little irritated with the guys, too.
“They left the lights on in the theater, the fools,” she said.
Adrian Wilson, a researcher from Billings, Mont., said unlike Dent, he relies on his own physical reactions and said he felt and heard a few strange things while he was there.
The crew slept in the old railroad bunkhouse, and Wilson said he had odd and vivid dreams during the night.
“I also heard a whisper at my door in the bunkhouse clear as day,” he said. He described hearing knocking sounds, like a hammer hitting a wood post, near the cemetery.
He said the group found enough to make a return trip in warmer weather.
“It seemed like a nice, quiet place for things to be left alone,” he said.
Wilson said some Marmarth folks were helpful in recounting stories and odd events from the town’s history, like the gypsy camp outside town and talk of a mass burial of Chinese workers who died in the flu epidemic. He said one woman hollered out at them, “They ain’t bothering nobody, so don’t bother them.”
Other than that, Wilson said the team did not encounter “one aggressive or angry person, living or dead. Sometimes, when someone really loved where they lived, they stay with the town.”
Perry said she’s glad the researchers found something that intrigued them in her town.
“I don’t really want to be known as a spook, but does it hurt anything? No,” Perry said. She said the local reaction was divided between “more kooks in town,” and “Let ’em look, but they aren’t going to find anything.”
Wilson said the researchers divided into three, two-man teams and recorded hours of audio and shot hundreds of photographs and hours of video equipped with night-vision lenses.
Dent said paranormal research is an interesting pastime for the group.
“Some people like to go tailgating and have a barbeque,” he said.
“We go out and look for things that go bump in the night.”
Here are some details from Dent’s report: “Marmarth did present with one electronic voice phenomena and several pictures of spherical orbs. The EVP was unexplainable but not significant. The majority of the orb activity can be attributed to dust.
“However, there were photos that cannot be as easily disregarded.
The pictures show blue colored lights dancing in the distance.
Another picture, taken in the theater, shows a bright shiny ball of light. The light is located on the wall (and) it was not discovered until the pictures were reviewed.
“At that time, the team attempted to reproduce the light and was unable to do so. Several unusual orbs were found.
“Pictures were taken in several locations with different cameras; in these pictures orbs were present with definite patterns and colors within them. One series of pictures has one frame of fog in it.
“There was nothing of significance in the video footage. Electro-magnetic fields were logged in several locations. Two electro-magnetic field readings of plus 60 mG were recorded. The readings were unable to be attributed (to) a physical source. Significant temperature changes were also observed.”
Wilson said he and his researchers are interested in other North Dakota locations, and may go to San Haven, a tuberculosis sanitarium that was converted into an institution for the mentally disabled and closed on the order of a federal judge in 1987.
The abandoned structure has become a “dare-you-to-go” place for some local kids who share creepy stories of their outings there on the Internet.