Rain pitter-pattered on windowpanes, and the group’s short breaths rose into the night sky as they stepped out of the atrium and into the cold dark night, embarking on Bonanzaville’s ghost tour.
It was not immediately apparent if they were shivering from anxiety and fear of the horrors ahead or if it was simply the cold.
The pavement shimmered with reflected light from the narrator’s flashlights, illuminating the path to the first destination.
Shuffling into the Brass Rail Hotel and Saloon, the group saw three child actors from a local high school. Two men were playing cards and boozing heavily while they still could.
The third was cleaning glasses and trying to sell as much alcohol as possible before North Dakota entered the Union as a dry state. One way or another, the bar was about to run dry.
A couple, apparently weary from travel, entered the saloon. They asked for a room and the women behind the bar told them there was only one available. Room 105.
The women behind the bar went upstairs to prepare the room while the couple stayed behind for a nightcap. “I don’t want to be tellin’ no tales,” one of the men playing cards said across the room, “but ain’t no one staying in room 105 ever comes out again.”
Thuds and clanks unheard by other guests keep you awake, the other man said. The smell of sulfur slowly creeps in through the night and just before dawn breaks, a “shrill shriek” too loud for a human to make is the last thing someone staying in room 105 hears before never being seen or heard from again.
The couple approached the men with wide eyes and trembling hands. They asked the men to tell them more as they reached into their jacket pockets.
But before they could answer, the couple slit the throats of the two men, looted the register and shot the women from behind the bar as she returned from preparing their room.
The couple left to catch a train and hit the next saloon.
Other scenes reenacted at Bonanzaville include the terrible consequences of a schoolteacher sending her students home into a blizzard in the late 1800s, the story of a jealous man who murdered his ex-wife in front of their children and the early American embalming practice.
All scenes acted and stories told were based on true events that happened sometime in North Dakota’s history.
Bonanzaville hosts these ghost tours every year and are run every weekend during the month of October. The cost is $15 and space is limited so tickets must be purchased in advance.