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Wyo has its share of ghost stories

Wyo has its share of ghost stories

Wyo has its share of ghost stories

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SHERIDAN - At first glance, Wyoming might not seem to be a breeding ground for ghost stories and haunted houses.

These are often associated with medieval castles or Victorian mansions, but in reality, the state's vast, wind-swept plains and the rugged mountains - both often shrouded in mist and mystery - support an array of eerie tales.

Following is a sampling of some of Wyoming's most haunted places:

* Sundance Mercantile, Sundance: The presence of spirits or ghosts is often attributed to the untimely death (i.e. a murder, suicide, or accident) of someone closely tied to a particular place. This certainly seems to be the case at the Sundance Mercantile.

On the morning of Oct. 14, 1983, tragedy struck the town of Sundance. Paul Sharp was brutally murdered in the hardware store that he had operated for 33 years. His widow, Ethel, courageously continued to run the store for the next 15 years, but it eventually became too much for her. In the late 1990s, Rocky Courchaine, who had grown up in Sundance and knew the Sharps, bought the store. He recalls that Ethel (who has since died) would often say that she was never alone in the store. It didn't take Courchaine long to start feeling the same way.

After Courchaine bought the property, he renovated it and turned it into a Western gift and antique store, complete with a workshop in the back where he makes his own jewelry. One night, Courchaine says, he was working in his shop when he had an unexpected visitor. It was late, after 11 p.m.

"All of a sudden, I looked up, and there was someone walking through my store," he said. He knew he had left the front door unlocked, so he figured someone had just wandered in. After checking the store, though, he found no one there. This happened a few more times throughout the evening - even after he had locked the front door.

Then he heard the sounds of boxes or furniture moving on the second floor, where he kept his storage (this had been the Sharps' apartment for many years). Finally, Courchaine says he had enough, and went home.

"I figured I was seeing things," he said.

But it kept happening. He soon recognized the strange visitor as Paul Sharp, dressed in the outfit that Sharp always wore: dark pants, white shirt.

He also began to understand the path that Sharp would walk.

"For fifty years," Courchaine said, "the register was in the middle of the store." According to Courchaine, the man he sees walks from where the office was to where the register used to be.

Though Courchaine is the only one who says he has seen the ghost, others have felt an unexplainable but distinct presence in the store as well.

"I never believed in ghosts, but I do now," he said.

* The Sheridan Inn, Sheridan: Historic inns and hotels often spawn legendary ghost stories. With their aging architecture, creaking floors and faulty electricity, these buildings create a perfect stage for imaginations to run wild. Still, sometimes, a place warrants a closer look.

In 1901, a young woman from Virginia got off the train in Sheridan. She crossed the dusty road and found herself within the welcoming confines of the Sheridan Inn, where, as it turned out, she would live and work for the next 64 years. "Miss Kate," as she was known in Sheridan, died in 1969 - though there are some who say that she still hasn't left the inn.

Miss Kate loved the inn. She began as a seamstress, but, during her more than six decades there, she performed a multitude of tasks. According to Carla Hagger, who has worked at the inn for five years and is familiar with its history, "Miss Kate would do anything it took to keep the inn going."

Despite Miss Kate's best efforts, the hotel began to fall into disrepair, and she was said to have longed for its glory days.

In the 36 years since Miss Kate's death, the events attributed to her supernatural presence are too many to count. In fact, the employees have been keeping a log since 2002 of the bizarre incidents at the inn.

Employees and guests alike have reported seeing lights in rooms where there shouldn't be, doors opening on their own, and wine glasses mysteriously breaking.

"Miss Kate seems to have a fascination, or an agitation, with wine glasses," Hagger said.

According to Hagger, a guest at the restaurant claimed that her wine glass practically flew off the table - moved by some unseen force. The customer said the glass moved so fast that she didn't have time to grab it, Hagger said.

Miss Kate appears perturbed when there are changes at the inn that she doesn't approve of, Hagger said. She thinks that Miss Kate is just doing what she did all of her life: looking after the inn.

* Fort Laramie: The only place in Wyoming that may be more haunted than the Sheridan Inn is Fort Laramie. Employees of the fort, which is managed by the National Park Service as a historic site, have reported seeing strange lights on in buildings, doors inexplicably open or locked when they shouldn't be, and other potentially paranormal activity.

According to Steve Fullmer, a park ranger at the fort for 25 years, the Park Service does not publicly endorse most of these claims, but there is one phenomenon the Park Service will discuss: The Lady in Green.

According to Park Service documents, in 1871, a young Lt. Allison, fresh from West Point, was stationed at Fort Laramie. Not long after he arrived, he joined in on a wolf hunt. After becoming separated from the rest of the party, Allison dismounted to remove a stone from one of his horse's shoes. He noticed a rider moving at a gallop toward him. Confused at first, he quickly realized that it was a young woman. She was wearing a long, green riding dress and a feathered hat.

Allison wanted to warn the woman that riding this far from the fort could be dangerous, but she raced past him, as if he wasn't there. He gave chase, but once she gained the rise, she vanished. Stunned, the young lieutenant looked for hoof prints, but found no trace of the young woman at all.

Later, back at the fort, he reluctantly recounted his experience with the vanishing woman, and was duly informed that he had seen "the Laramie Ghost."

Fort Laramie began its life as a fur trading post. The story goes that a manager of the post brought his daughter out to stay with him. An expert horsewoman, she had recently attended schools in the East. She quickly grew restless in the confines of the trading post and often challenged her father when he told her not to ride out on the plains. One day, when her father was away, she seized the moment and rode out of the post. She was never seen again.

As the years passed, a legend grew around her disappearance that the Lady in Green would return every seven years to ride again.

Lt. Allison is by no means the only person to have seen the Lady in Green. Many others, including a national parks superintendent, said they witnessed her ghostly image riding through the plains.

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