Kulm Ghost House

Sam Henke has no clear answers for the mysterious slamming door at Kulm's "ghost house."

Tribune file photo

This story was originally published in The Bismarck Tribune on March 14, 1991.

KULM — In the country around Kulm are a few abiding mysteries that flavor the present with questions about the past.

There is, for instance, the matter of the door inside the old Jacob Heidinger place southwest of town.

The Heidinger house was built in the Homesteader style, of clay-and-straw bricks covered with wood. Abandoned about 1945, it has become a popular stop for Sunday motorists, who enjoy exploring the history lesson of its little rooms, including a corner room that requires them to force open a stiff interior door.

Most leave the door open when they are done. Then, on their way back to the car, they hear it being slammed shut behind them.

Or so some have said.

Sam Henke has known the Heidinger place for 59 years. His wife, Tina, granddaughter of Jacob, was born and raised there. All but two of her six brothers and sisters died in infancy, but Henke knows of no other unhappiness connected with the house.

Henke says the house's reputation as a "ghost house" may have started years ago, when young men took their dates there to scare them, sometimes having a friend planted to provide ghostly sounds.

Folks around Kulm would also like to know who E.A. Benjamin is. A granite boulder with his name scratched in it, followed by the letters "USS" lies in a pasture southeast of Kulm. There is no grave connected with it as far as anyone has been able to discover.

No Benjamin homesteader ever owned the land. Its present owner, Roy Nill, thinks his father discovered the name on the rock sometime after he began farming it in 1930.

A possibility is that Benjamin belonged to the forces of Gen. Alfred Sully that tangled with the Sioux at the Battle of Whitestone Hill, several miles to the south, in 1863.

Numerous country graves in the area have no markers. They belong to people - mostly children - who died during the homesteading years. In a small pasture on Henry Miller's old farm 12 miles south of Kulm are the graves of four or five children. Miller learned about the graves from a neighbor after he narrowly missed them while digging a pit silo. The children, all from the same family, died during a diphtheria epidemic and were quickly buried because of contagion.

Miller's son, Erwin, is on the farm now. Erwin owns some other land that has three graves outlined with a rectangle of rocks. When he bought the land, he was asked to leave that area alone and farm around it.

Now the land has been eroded in the Conservation Reserve Program, and grass has grown over the rocks.